Welcome to Nob Hill and Russian Hill

Top Reasons to Go

Macondray Lane: Duck into this secret, lush garden lane and walk its narrow, uneven cobblestones.

Vallejo Steps area: Make the steep climb up to lovely Ina Coolbrith Park, then continue up along the glorious garden path of the Vallejo Steps to a spectacular view at the top.

San Francisco Art Institute: Contemplate a Diego Rivera mural and stop at the café for cheap organic coffee and a priceless view of the city and the bay. It may be the best—and cheapest—way to spend an hour in the neighborhood.

Cable Car Museum: Ride a cable car all the way back to the barn, hanging on tight as it clack-clack-clacks its way up Nob Hill, then go behind the scenes at the museum.

Play "Bullitt" on the steepest streets: For the ride of your life, take a drive up and down the city's steepest streets on Russian Hill. A trip over the precipice of Filbert or Jones will make you feel as if you're falling off the edge of the world.

Quick Bites

Another Cafe. The name may not promise much, but this low-key, two-level café serves up yummy chicken-garlic and other panini, pours locally roasted Bicycle Coffee, and has awesome murals. 1191 Pine St., at Leavenworth St., Nob Hill, San Francisco, California, 94109. 415/857–5770; www.anothercafesf.com.

The Boy's Deli. Tucked in the back of a tiny produce market is a counter serving up some of the biggest, juiciest, best sandwiches in town—strictly to go—along with traditional sides. If you like yours spicy, go for the Sandlot, which features the deli's delicious rotisserie chicken. Polk & Green Produce Market, 2222 Polk St., between Green and Vallejo Sts., Russian Hill, San Francisco, California, 94109. 415/776–3099; theboysdeli.com.

Swensen's Ice Cream. The original Swensen's has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened in 1948. An antique sign still fronts the tiny shop, but concessions to the times include such ice-cream flavors as green tea and lychee. 1999 Hyde St., at Union St., Russian Hill, San Francisco, California, 94109. 415/775–6818; www.swensensicecream.com.

Getting There

The thing about Russian Hill and Nob Hill is that they're both especially steep hills. If you're not up for the hike, a cable car is certainly the most exciting way to reach the top. Take the California line for Nob Hill and the Powell–Hyde line for Russian Hill. Buses serve the area as well, such as the 1–California bus for Nob Hill, but the routes only run east–west. Only the cable cars tackle the steeper north–south streets. Driving yourself is a hassle, since parking is a challenge on these crowded, precipitous streets.

Planning Your Time

Since walking Nob Hill is (almost) all about gazing at exteriors, touring the neighborhood during daylight hours is a must. The sights here don't require a lot of visiting time—say a half hour each at the Cable Car Museum and Grace Cathedral—but allow time for the walk itself. An afternoon visit is ideal for Russian Hill, so you can browse the shops. You could cover both neighborhoods in three or four hours. If you time it just right, you can finish up with a sunset cocktail at a swanky hotel lounge or the retro-tiki Tonga Room.

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