Lombard Street

San Francisco’s Famous Lombard Street

Few streets in the world are more crooked or notoriously treacherous than the stretch of Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood. Bill Cosby wrote and performed a comedy skit about it. Steve McQueen abused a beautiful 1968 Mustang 390 GT Fastback in one of cinema’s greatest car chases down it in the film Bullitt. And today, many thousands of visitors make a point to visit and photograph the steep and sinuous Lombard Street while visiting the city. Property owners who lived on the street in the 1920s proposed the switchback design to make the steep descent more scenic and safer for pedestrians.

Although promoters have claimed for years that Lombard Street is “the crookedest street in the world,” many visitors are surprised to learn that it isn’t even the most crooked street in San Francisco. That distinction belongs to Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd Street in the city’s Portrero Hill neighborhood. This seems to matter little to visitors, as Lombard Street outdraws Vermont Street by a very large margin. Lombard may not be the most crooked street in the city, but it is certainly one of the most photographed. Its steep winding curves are framed by one gorgeous home after another, from grand Victorians with soaring gables to the clean lines of newer but no less impressive residences.

Very well maintained gardens also flatter the curves of this famous (or infamous) street, and city officials wisely made it a one-way street heading downhill many years ago. Intrepid walkers with stout hearts and tireless legs often scale Lombard from the bottom and walk all the way up, using the narrow sidewalk that flanks the street on both sides. But as you might guess, it is far easier to begin at the top and work your way down, stopping frequently during the descent to take photographs of the fantastic view.

There is no fee to walk up or down Lombard Street, and its location is ideal for visiting other important and interesting parts of San Francisco. Once you reach the bottom (or top) of the curves, you can head a few blocks north to Fisherman’s Wharf, chart a course east for a few more blocks to The Embarcadero and the piers, walk around ten blocks west to the Presidio or stroll southeast to Chinatown.

Although some parts of San Francisco are a bit challenging to walk, there’s no better way to see, hear and experience the city. As you can see, Lombard Street is a great starting off location for walking tours of San Francisco, and you’re seldom more than a few blocks from a café, where you and your fellow travelers can get off your feet and recharge with a light bite and a refreshing beverage. Lombard Street may not be as crooked as advertised, but it is definitely worth the trip. Put on your most comfortable sneakers, and check it out!

View Larger Map