Escape the Rush in San Francisco's Russian Hill Neighborhood

The charming neighborhood of Russian Hill in San Francisco is a melting pot for all things classically San Francisco — windy streets, cozy coffee shops, and parks with stunning views of the bay. Right in the heart of the city, Russian Hill is perched between Nob Hill and North Beach. This ideal location makes Russian Hill an easy neighborhood to walk around… that is if your calves are ready for the hills!

Russian Hill got its name when a small cemetery of Russian sailors was found on these hills over two hundred years ago. The Russian influence has since faded away with time, but what remains is a vibrant set of crooked streets and quaint parks just waiting for the curious traveler to discover. Ride an iconic cable car through the city and hop off at Russian Hill. There's a wealth of treasures to enjoy here.

12 Great Things About Russian Hill

1. Lombard Street

Lombard Street

The quintessential curvy San Francisco street, Lombard Street has been immortalized on postcards advertising the quirky heart of the city. Built to help the cars of yesteryear brave the 27% incline, the road is now known as one of the most crooked in the world.

Most tourists will sit in a long line to drive down, but you can walk it and enjoy the blossoming hydrangeas that flank the roads. Don't forget to snap a selfie in front of this iconic road when you reach the bottom.

2. Swenson's Ice Cream

Swenson's Ice Cream

Although Mark Twain famously said the coldest winter he'd ever spent was summer in San Francisco, this doesn't mean you shouldn't eat ice cream on your tour of the neighborhood. And what better place to grab a scoop than Swenson's Ice Cream?

Swenson's Ice Cream is now a global ice cream chain that got its start right here in the heart of Russian Hill. The décor is a blast from the past and will have you feeling like you're right back in the glory days of the ice cream parlor in the 1950s. Order up a banana split or a hot fudge sundae and feel like a kid again.

3. Ina Coolbrith Park

Ina Coolbrith Park

Ina Coolbrith Park sits right atop Russian Hill along Vallejo Street which is too steep for cars. Its hard to reach location makes it feel like a secret garden with twisting staircases. The best part about Ina Coolbrith Park is its stunning views of the Bay Bridge. Come early in the morning to watch the sunrise and join the locals doing tai chi.

4. Macondray Lane

Macondray Lane

Easily missed by casual passersby, locals know Macondray Lane as one of the city's great hideouts. Located on the southeastern side of Russian Hill, this lane is a cobblestone path that passes through a lush garden. On either side, you'll find quaint and picturesque wooden cottages. Macondray Lane is the perfect tranquil oasis to find peace and quiet in the bustling city.

5. Russian Hill Gourmet Food Tour

Russian Hill Gourmet Food Tour

Starting at Macondray Lane, this three-hour gourmet walk takes you to the butchers, cheesemongers, bakers and even a gelato maker that make Russian Hill a food destination… even for San Francisco! What are you going to taste at the seven food emporiums you visit? Everything from NYC pizza to Mexican fish tacos to cheese to gelato. Don't worry, though, any calories you take in will be used up in the walk!

6. San Francisco Art Institute

San Francisco Art Institute

Founded in 1871, the San Francisco Art Institute is one of the oldest art schools in the United States and its beautiful Spanish-style architecture makes it a great place to visit. Saunter through a student exhibit or break out your notebook and settle into the desks for an artist lecture.

The school is also home to a large-scale Diego Rivera mural that you can witness in person. The campus café also boasts a staggering view of the Bay.

7. Alice Marble Park and Tennis Courts

Alice Marble Park

At the corner of Greenwich and Larkin Streets, Alice Marble Park is the perfect place to take in marvelous views of Russian Hill's historical houses. Named after the famed tennis player Alice Marble who grew up in the area, the park is also a great place test out your tennis chops.

Rent a racquet for a few hours and work up an appetite before you continue trying all the great eateries in the area

8. Elephant Sushi

Elephant Sushi

The intimate and hip atmosphere make Elephant Sushi the perfect spot for a romantic evening. The sushi here is some of the best in the city. Locals love the sizzling mango sea bass that arrives at your table wrapped in foil and lit with blue flames. And nothing says San Francisco like ordering a classic California Roll!

9. Freme à Papier

Freme a Papier

This little shop is home to the artist Cat Seto who is a celebrity in the stationery world. She's known for her beautiful wedding paper, illustrations and designs. Inside, you'll find a wide mix of curios, jewelry, and clothing.

10. Za Pizza

Za Pizza

By far the most charming pizza joint in the city, Za Pizza is the perfect place to lay low with a beer and a NYC-style slice of pizza. The small and warm atmosphere is family friendly and you can catch a game on the TV.

Family-owned and operated, locals prefer to take their cheesy slices out on the street for some people-watching. By the way, an attic in a house only about a block away was where Jack Kerouac shacked up while he wrote his book Visions of Cody.

11. Russian Hill Bookstore

Russian Hill Bookstore

Speaking of books — located on many walking tours of historic San Francisco, the Russian Hill Bookstore is a taste of an authentic used bookstore from a bygone era. The shelves are crowded with everything from cookbooks to poetry and the service-oriented staff provides friendly assistance with a smile. The owner is a forty-year veteran of the bookstore business and her attention and love for the Russian Hill neighborhood shines through in this vibrant little shop.

12. Cheese Plus

Cheese Plus

For those interested in spending a lazy Saturday afternoon having a picnic in the park, stop over at Cheese Plus on Pacific and Polk. Artisanal cheese, buttered pickles, rye bread… this shop has it all! You can stock your picnic basket with all the sweet and savory treats to satisfy your every taste bud. If you're not in the picnicking spirit, you can also stop over at the window counter and order a coffee and sandwich from the sidewalk and bask in the sun at the outdoor tables.

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