San Francisco Neighborhoods
The Russian Hill neighborhood in San Francisco (see map) has got to be one of the best places to live in the world. And, I do know having lived there for three fantastic years on Union Street near Hyde. It’s a pleasant place to visit too.
Russian Hill has astonishingly beautiful city and bay views from many angles. Waking up at the top of the hill with warm gentle breezes, a beautiful view from your window, hearing distant cable car bells ringing is an experience never to be forgotten. And, even though reasonably secluded, Russian Hill is within comfortable walking distance to the great restaurant & sight seeing neighborhoods of North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, Cow Hollow, Union Street, the Marina, and Chestnut Street.
Below are some of the excellent things to see and do within Russian Hill. Also see our Russian Hill map of best things to do and Russian Hill walking tours for a couple of nice walking routes through the neighborhood.
THINGS TO SEE
Lombard St, between Hyde St & Leavenworth St — The “crookedest” and most famous street in San Francisco. Because there is often a long line of cars going down we usually just walk by and look up from the bottom, the Leavenworth end of the block. Parking is easier at the bottom as well.
Filbert St, between Hyde St & Leavenworth St — The “steepest” street in SF at a 31.5% grade (31.5 ft rise per 100 ft). It is a favorite spot for movie producers to take car action shots. We like to surprise guests by driving east down from Union St at about 25 mph then slowing down for safety as we look over the crest before accelerating again. It feels like you are falling off the edge of the city. Nice view, too, if you are not too busy hanging on :).
San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St & Jones St — This hidden gem covers almost half a square block. To your left, after you walk into the front patio, is the Diego Rivera room whose purpose is to show a mural he did covering one wall. Or, keep walking straight past the guard area until you get to the large courtyard overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf. It has an excellent view and a little student’s cafe that is open during school sessions.
LIVING IN STYLE
FormerMayor Gavin Newsom used to live in a 20th story penthouse at the 65-unit Art Deco style Bellaire Tower, 1101 Green St & Leavenworth St. The 2009 asking price for his 1700 square foot, 1 BR/1.5BA unit was a bit under $3 million or $1,765/square foot. Views from the street aren’t much but from where our friends lived, on the 11th floor, or at the top floor Mayor’s flat they are very impressive in all directions.
A couple of houses east of Leavenworth/Green on Green are two distinctive historical landmark houses: * 1067 Green, the “Feusier Octagon House,” built 1857-1859 which is one of the few remaining Octagon houses in the city. * 1088 Green, “Engine House #31,” built 1907 right after the big earthquake.
Also nearby is Macondray Lane, a cobbled pedestrian street with gorgeous views, flowers, trees and cottages. This street is famous for inspiring Armistead Maupin’s fictional 28 Barbary Lane boarding house in “Tales of the City.” Macondray Lane can be found mid-block on Jones St between Union & Green. Start at the wooden trellis & street sign on the east side of Jones Street and continue walking & stair climbing east down to Taylor St. Francisco St.
Between Hyde St & Leavenworth St, is a pleasant area where we would enjoy living. This is for those who like big residences which are secluded yet still close to the action. At the southeast corner of Francisco/Hyde (2545 Hyde St) is the handsome Norwegian Seaman’s Church, a pleasant place for expatriate Scandinavians to socialize and go to church on Sundays. The building is usually open to the public and has a reading room and place to buy goodies. The balcony gives great views and a feel for living on Francisco Street.
We also enjoy the Russian Hill-Vallejo Street Crest Historic District bounded by Jones, Vallejo, Taylor, and Broadway. This 40 acres contains 26 buildings, built 1853-1941, which are in the national historic register. The best part is Vallejo St, between Jones & Taylor, and its side streets.
One of the most beautiful unknown spots in all of San Francisco is the Vallejo Street Crest itself. Starting at Jones/Vallejo walk east on Vallejo to the east dead end. Sit on the banister and enjoy the beautiful view and peaceful grassy knoll. From the Vallejo Street Crest you can continue east down the Vallejo Street Stairway to the Ina Coolbrith Park at Vallejo/Taylor. The sharp Taylor St inclines on both sides of the intersection were part of the famous chase scene in Steve McQueen’s Bullitt movie.
NEARBY FOOD & SHOPS
You are within walking distance of a plethora of excellent restaurants in North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cow Hollow. As mentioned elsewhere, I ate out every night during the first year living in Russian Hill (on Union St near Hyde St).
Frascati, at 1901 Hyde St & Green St, is a top local American restaurant. Very pleasant, very nice atmosphere, food, and service. Of course there is Swenson’s Ice Cream, at the corner of Union St & Hyde, which was the original store in the Swenson’s chain. It still sells some of the best ice cream in the City.
For shopping go down to the small French Quarter around Polk St/Green St. Try out the delicious almond croissants at La Boulange de Polk, 2310 Polk St & Green St, where the mayor used to have his morning tea. Across Green St is Cole Hardware. A bit further south is Smoke Signals, 2223 Polk , with one of the best collections of newspapers and magazines in the city, plus several different coffee and eating places.
This Russian Hill neighborhood is definitely of the best spots to live in City. Tourists will enjoy it too!