Navigating Lombard Street
See “The Crookedest Street in the World.” It’s a San Francisco thing to do that makes any visitor’s list. Remember your camera!
Easy to find in the heart of the Russian Hill district, Lombard Street earns this nickname because of its eight sharp turns on a 27 percent grade slope. These sharp turns, known as switchbacks, were built in the 1920s as a solution to allow traffic to descend Lombard Street’s steep incline. It was never intended to become a tourist attraction nor a magnet for movie car chase scenes, although it’s been exceedingly successful as both.
Cable Cars and Stairs
The Powell-Hyde Cable Car passes by the very top of the residential street that zigzags around plantings of beautiful hydrangeas popping with colors, offering a lovely view of the bay and another of Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Hop out here for a close-up look.
Straight bricked stairways of 250 steps without curves on either side of the street are for pedestrians to navigate. Descent for the one-block brick paved section of Lombard Street begins at Hyde Street and ends at Leavenworth Street, where the best photo opportunity is looking up from the bottom of the hill.
An endless, slow-moving stream of cars take the winding street down, just for the experience, paying careful attention to the speed limit of 5 miles per hour. The residents’ committee has counted up to 2,000 cars per day on busy days. Naturally, tour buses and taxis are strictly prohibited.
For those continuing toward Fisherman’s Wharf on the Powell-Hyde Cable Car, it’s time for the steepest descent in the cable car system. When the light turns green, two long blocks downhill provide great vistas of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, Angel Island, Mount Tamalpais and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Did You Know?
- The best views from the Powell-Hyde Cable Cars are from the seats up front on the east side of the car when boarding at Union Square heading toward Fisherman’s Wharf.
- Lombard Street was a two-way street until 1939 and tour buses weren’t banned until 1980.
- Since the summer of 2014, on several June and July weekends the city closes the street to all but residents’ cars, giving some relief from the chronic gridlock.