San Francisco/Nob Hill-Russian Hill

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California San Francisco San Francisco/Nob Hill-Russian Hill

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Introduction

Atop the hills overlooking the bay and bustling downtown San Francisco are two adjacent neighborhoods famed for their wealth, panoramic views, and the historic cable cars which still climb the steep streets of the area. Nob Hill is an affluent neighborhood dating back to the gold rush, today renowned for its lavish hotels and charming shops and restaurants. Just to the north is Russian Hill, a quieter residential area most well known for its pleasant walks and the famous crooked section of Lombard Street. The district is bounded roughly by Van Ness Avenue to the west, Bay Street to the north, Sutter Street to the south, and Powell Street and Columbus Avenue to the east.

Nob Hill

Nob Hill is one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. The advent of the Cable Car made this hilltop accessible, and the city's early railroad and Gold Rush millionaires rushed to settle here, far away from the unruliness of the Waterfront and Barbary Coast. In fact the hill derived its name from a slang term used to describe men of wealth and prominence -'Nabobs'. Today, it is most renowned for its famous hotels and for city landmarks such as the impressive Grace Cathedral. At its peak is Huntington Park, with the Roman "Fountain of Tortoises" located at its center. The area was almost completely destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, but ensuring its survival were a host of luxury hotels that were built over their charred ruins. Given its lofty elevation, the hill has great select views over the city and bay.

Russian Hill

Russian Hill is a hilly residential neighborhood located west of North Beach (and Telegraph Hill) and north of Nob Hill. These three hills have largely given San Francisco its "hilly" charm. The boundaries of Russian Hill are generally considered to be Van Ness Avenue on the west, Pacific Avenue on the south, Columbus Avenue on the east (northeast), and Bay Street on the north. In spite of the hilly terrain, the streets of Russian Hill are laid out mainly in a grid pattern, resulting in some of the steepest grades in the city, e.g., Filbert between Jones and Leavenworth. Because of the steepness of the hill, several streets, e.g., portions of Vallejo, Green, Greenwich and Larkin are blocked to motor vehicles and replaced by staircases. There are also beautifully landscaped pedestrian-only lanes such as Macondray Lane and Fallon Place. The most touristy block in Russian Hill is the winding Lombard Street, between Hyde and Leavenworth, with eight switchbacks, beautiful landscaping, and an arresting view of Telegraph Hill, Alcatraz Island and the East Bay. The hill's name goes back to the Gold Rush-era when settlers discovered a small cemetery at the top of the hill which contained Russian colonists who had created a settlement here during the 18th century. The cemetery was removed, but the hill's name remains to this day. There is no significant Russian presence here as the city's Russian community is located primarily in the Richmond District.

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Sights and Activities

  • Cable Car Museum, 1201 Mason St (at Washington), ☏ +1-415-474-1887. Apr–Oct: 10AM-6PM daily; Nov–Mar: 10AM-5PM daily. Here you can see the mechanisms that drive San Francisco's famed cable cars, as well as plenty of cable car memorabilia and information on the history of the cable cars. Admission is free.
  • Lombard Street (between Hyde and Leavenworth). Do see the "crookedest street in the world", a one-block portion of Lombard Street that contains eight hairpin turns, created to reduce the hill's natural steep slope. The best time to see and photograph the winding street from the bottom (from Leavenworth St) is in the morning because Lombard Street runs east-west and slopes eastward. The best time to see and photograph the view from the top (from Hyde St) is in the afternoon. At night there are great views of Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. The wild parrots of Telegraph Hill frequently fly over head in the morning.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

By Cable Car

All three Cable Car lines cross at Powell and California. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason cable car lines run between Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. The Powell-Hyde line runs on Powell Street, Jackson/Washington Streets, and Hyde Street, running up and down Nob and Russian Hills and stopping at the top of the crooked section of Lombard Street. The Powell-Mason line runs on Powell and Mason Streets on the east edge of the district. The California cable car line runs east-west on California Street between Market Street in the Financial District and Van Ness Avenue.

By Car

Driving into this district is not recommended due to the steep hills, narrow and dead-end streets, lack of parking, and sometimes confusing traffic diversions. Avoid any street that is also a cable car line (Hyde between Washington and Fisherman's Wharf, Mason between Columbus and Washington, and Jackson/Washington between Powell and Hyde), as the cable cars stop at every intersection, and they usually stop in the intersection.

If you must drive in, the best streets to take are Van Ness Avenue (running north-south along the western edge of the district), Columbus Avenue (running northwest-southeast through the northeastern corner of the area) and the east-west Broadway Street, which becomes a tunnel between Powell and Larkin Streets. When parking in this hilly district, remember to always apply that parking brake and turn your wheels so that the tires are against the curb.

By Bus

MUNI bus routes #1-California, #10-Townsend, #12-Folsom/Pacific, #19-Polk, #27-Bryant, #30-Stockton, #41-Union, #45-Union/Stockton, #47-Van Ness and #49-Mission/Van Ness pass through the district. The #1, #10, #12, #41 and #45 run east-west through the district, the #19, #47 and #49 runs along the western edge of the district, the #30 runs on Columbus through the northeastern corner of the district, while #27 crosses across the southwestern part of the district.

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Getting Around

This district is small enough for walking, but being very hilly, it can be somewhat strenuous.

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Eat

  • Big 4 Restaurant, 1075 California St (between Cushman and Taylor), ☏ +1-415-771-1140. Breakfast M-F 7AM-10AM, Sa-Su 7AM-11AM, Dinner daily 5:30PM-10PM. In the Huntington Hotel. $13-35.
  • Crustacean Restaurant, 1475 Polk St (at California St), ☏ +1-415-776-2722, fax: +1-415-776-1069. Lunch: Su 11:30AM-3:30PM; Dinner: Su-Th 5PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 5PM-10:30PM. Mixed reviews about this Vietnamese restaurant, so make your own decision. However, the roast crab has consistently garnered good reviews.
  • Frascati, 1901 Hyde St (at Green), ☏ +1-415-928-1406, fax: +1-415-928-1983, ✉ frascati@pacbell.net. M-Sa 5:30PM-9:45PM, Su 5:30PM-9PM. A pan-European that is somewhat fancy but still relaxed and features local food.
  • Harris' Restaurant, 2100 Van Ness Ave (at Pacific), ☏ +1-415-673-1888, fax: +1-415-673-8817. Excellent steak house; luxurious dining (plush seats, table cloths, brass chandeliers, etc.).
  • Nara Sushi, 1515 Polk St (between California St & Sacramento St), ☏ +1-415-567-1515, ✉ lee@sfnarasushi.com. Su-W 11:30AM-midnight, Th-Sa 11:30AM-2AM. Popular with locals that rave about the freshness of the sushi here. Solid sushi at good prices, and large quantities too.
  • Nob Hill Cafe, 1152 Taylor St (between Clay and Pleasant), ☏ +1-415-776-6500. A north Italian bistro that serves lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch. edit
  • Okoze Sushi, 1207 Union St (at Hyde Street), ☏ +1-415-567-3397. Su-W 5:30PM-10:30PM, Th-Sa 5:30PM-11PM. A good sushi restaurant very near the cable car lines on Hyde Street. There is typically no need for a reservation. $25-40.
  • Ristorante Milano, 1448 Pacific Ave (at Morrell/McCormick, between Hyde and Larkin), ☏ +1-415-673-2961. M-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-10PM. Pleasant Italian restaurant. $9-23.
  • Zarzuela, 2000 Hyde St (at Union St), ☏ +1-415-346-0800. M-Th noon-10PM, F-Sa noon-10:30PM. Spanish tapas, hors d'oeuvres and appetizers. edit
  • Za Gourmet Pizza, 1919 Hyde St (between Union St and Green St), ☏ +1-415-771-3100. Su-W noon-10PM, Th-Sa noon-11PM. A good, cheap pizza-by-the-slice restaurant that is open relatively late. $5-10.
  • BurgerMeister, 759 Columbus Ave (near Greenwich St), ☏ +1-415-296-9907. 11AM-11PM daily. Excellent and varied selection of burgers at a reasonable price. Inside it has typical retro American-diner decor and the service is fast and friendly. This place is very popular and was voted "Best Burger 2007" in San Francisco by the readers of SF Weekly. $10-12.

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Drink

  • Bacchus Wine Bar, 1954 Hyde St (between Union St & Warner Pl), ☏ +1-415-928-2633. 5:30PM-2AM daily. Small intimate twenty-seat bar that is a good place to go to get a nice glass of wine or a sake cocktail.
  • Hi-Lo Club, 1423 Polk St (between Pine and California). M-Sa 4PM-2AM. A new venture by veterans of the Tenderloin bar scene. Nice, craft cocktails, signature house creations, and an impressive beer menu are set in a swanky new/old interior that intentionally has no TV.
  • Zeki's Bar, 1319 California St (at Helen between Hyde and Leavenworth), ☏ +1-415-928-0677. 4PM-2AM daily. A step up from the Nob Hill Tavern.
  • Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave (at Chestnut St), ☏ +1-415-474-0365, ✉ events@bimbos365club.com. Box office: M-F 10AM-4PM, Club hours: Vary. Bimbo's is a glamorous upscale event venue and nightclub that holds up to 700 people. It has three bars, a dance floor and stage. Robin Williams did his act here quite regularly.
  • La Trappe Cafe, 800 Greenwich St, ☏ +1-415-440-8727. 6PM-midnight daily. A great beer bar and restaurtant hidden in the lower part of North Beach. Out of the way of most tourists because of its low profile. Huge Belgian Beer selection, and other craft brews from around the world. Restaurant offers mussels and frites - classic Belgian combo. Be prepared to splurge if you go, you can easily drink your way to a hefty bill. $15-20.
  • R Bar, 1176 Sutter St (at Polk St), ☏ +1-415-567-7441. M-F 6PM-2AM, Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 10AM-2AM. A rumbly, simple dive-esque bar in the upper Tenderloin neighborhood. Popular with the bar crawl crowds that make their way around the corner from Polk Street.

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Sleep

Hotel Mithila, 972 Sutter St (at Hyde), ☏ +1-415-441-9297, fax: +1-415-441-2379, ✉ mithilahotel@aol.com. Established in 1920, this is a relatively clean hotel and reasonably priced. Average price $115.
America's Best Inn, 2850 Van Ness Ave (between Chestnut and Lombard), ☏ +1-415-776-3220, fax: +1-415-921-7451, ✉ info@vannessinn.com. Check-in: 2PM - $50 deposit and credit card required upon check in, check-out: 11AM. Nothing fancy, but a clean and comfortable hotel, situated a few blocks south of the Wharf. Average price $180.
Cornell Hotel De France, 715 Bush St (at Powell), ☏ +1-415-421-3154. A small and historic hotel with a French theme. $80–180.
Golden Gate Hotel, 775 Bush St (between Mason and Powell), ☏ +1-415-392-3702, fax: +1-415-392-6202, ✉ info@goldengatehotel.com. A charming budget hotel in an old Victorian. $95–150.
Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Hotel, 1500 Van Ness Ave (at Pine), ☏ +1-415-441-4000, fax: +1-415-776-7155, ✉ service@goldengatewayhotel.com. A Holiday Inn with more amenities than the typical location and nice views of the city.
Columbus Motor Inn, 1075 Columbus Ave (Columbus and Francisco), ☏ +1-415-885-1492, fax: +1-415-928-2174. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The Columbus Motor Inn is in the nice part of North Beach, on the border of the Fishermen's Wharf district, within easy walking distance of all Fisherman's Wharf attractions, and from Washington Square. Public transportation is very convenient, with the No. 30 bus stopping at the door, and the Bay and Taylor Cable Car Turntable a short walk away. Rooms are spacious, with good views and balconies on most Columbus Side rooms. Parking is limited, but covered: the first two floors of the building are parking, with all guest rooms above. No on-site food, but nearby restaurants cater to every budget and taste. $90-295.
Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St (at California), ☏ +1-415-772-5000, fax: +1-415-772-5013, ✉ sanfrancisco@fairmont.com. One of the most famous hotels in the city, having been gutted in the 1906 earthquake and fire, and rebuilt. The lobby is fantastic, and many rooms have fantastic views. The grandest suite costs $10,000 a night, but you can get a nice room for $300-400.
Huntington Hotel, 1075 California St (at Taylor), ☏ +1-415-474-5400, fax: +1-415-474-6227, ✉ reservations@huntingtonhotel.com. A former apartment building-turned-luxury hotel with individually decorated rooms.
Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, 1 Nob Hill Pl (at California and Mason Streets), ☏ +1-415-392-3434, fax: +1-415-421-3302. Historic hotel atop Nob Hill. Convenient for walking tours of the city.
10 Petite Auberge, 863 Bush St (between Taylor and Mason), ☏ +1-415-928-6000, fax: +1-415-673-7214. A French provincial style inn. Cozy parlor with fireplace, afternoon wine and hors d'oeuvres. Many of the 26 guestrooms offer fireplaces. Breakfast buffet each morning.
Stanford Court Hotel, 905 California St (at Powell), ☏ +1-415-989-3500, fax: +1-415-391-0513. Another 4-star hotel with marble baths and free limousine service.
White Swan Inn, 845 Bush St (between Taylor and Mason), ☏ +1-415-775-1755, fax: +1-415-775-5717. A lovely small hotel with a fireplace in all 26 guestrooms. Dark wood paneling, floral carpets, comfy furniture, and English art and collectibles set the tone. Evening turndown service, breakfast buffet, and evening wine and hors d'oeuvres served fireside.
Hotel Vertigo, 940 Sutter St (on the corner between Hyde and Leavenworth), ☏ +1-415-885-6800, ✉ Reservations@PersonalityHotels.com. A hotel with lots of bright colors and relatively few amenities compared to other splurge hotels in the area, but with nice rooms and a friendly staff.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 9:43 on Sep 18, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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