Neighborhoods / Nob Hill

Nob Hill

From here, you see everything. You can see the downtown skyline (because you’re almost in it) to the cable cars crawling up and down the hill, making their Financial District, Union Square and Chinatown stops on their way.

Old San Francisco personified
You can see the grand hotels that replaced the grand mansions of San Francisco’s infancy, and if that’s not enough you can see the Flood Mansion, lone holdout of Nob Hill’s 19th-century gilded age. There are many hearts of San Francisco; Nob Hill is the only one that provides such a clear portal to the past, to a time when a few families ruled the west’s newest and most exciting city. It’s changed plenty over the years and continues to change but Nob Hill still stands for something – for San Francisco as a shining city full of promise and as a sepia-toned one proud of its glorious past.

Area Map

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Commute

Commuter Buses
All major tech company buses run north-south on Van Ness Avenue and with stops at Pacific Avenue and Sacramento Street.

SFMTA Buses
Only a few MTA lines run directly through Nob Hill, including the 1 (east-west on Clay and Sacramento Streets), the 49 (north-south down Van Ness Avenue) and the 27, which zigzags through Nob Hill on Jackson, Hyde and Leavenworth.

Cable Car
The Powell-Hyde line runs north-south on Hyde before turning east-west on Washington Street, where it meets the Powell-Market line on its way to its north-south route on Powell St.

Nearest MUNI Metro
Nearest MUNI Metro: Van Ness Station

Nearest BART
Civic Center

Estimated Commute Times
Financial District by bus: 15 minutes
Financial District on foot: 15 minutes
Financial District via cable car: 15 minutes
South San Francisco via auto: 25 minutes
Sillicon Valley via auto: 55 minutes

Around the Block

Who Lives Here
Once San Francisco’s premier neighborhood, Nob Hill is now a mix of high-end and entry-level, society names and recent immigrants, downtown workers and shop owners.

There’s room for everyone on this hill.
Once upon a time, Nob Hill was the favored address for San Francisco’s original bold face names, the railroad barons and gold rush kings who ruled the city from their perch atop its most central hill. Nob Hill is still a popular spot for the city’s upper class, who now live not in grand mansions but in high- and low-rise condominiums boasting breathtaking panoramic views and a smattering of comfortable Victorian and Edwardian-era single-family homes at the hill’s crest.

Along Nob Hill’s slopes, though, the story is one of diversity. Newcomers snap up the neighborhood’s renovated flats for premium prices even as long-time residents, some in place for generations, live modestly alongside. Nob Hill is an equally excellent neighborhood for Polk Street shopkeepers, downtown office workers, who enjoy a 15-minute stroll to work and business mavens whose commute consists of chauffeurs and towncars… or even helicopters.

How They Live
Nob Hill locals live in apartments and flats, walk up and down hills daily, shop at small, local markets (and trader Joe’s) and enjoy brilliant views of downtown and San Francisco Bay.

An elegant urban lifestyle
There is more than one way to live on Nob Hill, where much of the differences depend on geography. Those who live atop the hill enjoy a much quieter lifestyle than those who choose to set up camp near busy Polk Street, where dinner and drinks are just a short stroll away. Though only a few minutes away, the top of Nob Hill seems far from the bustle of Polk.

The streets, mostly residential, are narrower and the pace slower. The buildings are taller and most of the area’s modest vibe comes from its historic hotels – the Fairmont, The InterContinental Mark Hopkins and the Scarlett Huntington, all named after the 19th-century tycoons who once had homes in this neighborhood.

Further west the neighborhood changes: the high-rises are replaced with mid-rise apartment and condo buildings and the restaurant, shop, bar and club choices multiply seemingly by 1000. Polk Street still has its share of neighborhood fixture mom-and-pop establishments, but its growing inventory of night spots has made it a must-see for the young and active.

Housing Market
Nob Hill encompasses the highest of the highs (condos on top of the hill) all the way down to what passes for entry-level in San Francisco (unrenovated flats in the neighborhood’s southwest corner).

No mansions but plenty of options for mansion buyers.
Lets be clear about this: there aren’t as many opportunities to break into the Nob Hill market as there are in other San Francisco neighborhoods – if you’re looking to purchase a home. With all of its apartments and flats, Nob Hill is more of a renter’s neighborhood, though not an inexpensive one. Renters can expect to pay at least $3,000 a month for a one-bedroom unit in Nob Hill and almost twice that for a space with a second bedroom. Patient buyers can get into a one-bedroom home for under $1 million but be aware that Nob Hill properties – when they do come onto the market – can cost anywhere from that price point all the way up into eight figures.

In Nob Hill, as in most San Francisco districts, patience and a certain recalculating of reality is paramount.

What To Expect
The elegance of “old” San Francisco mixed with a bustle of “new” San Francisco; a changing restaurant and bar scene, re-gentrification and familiarity, cable cars.

For some, this is the only neighborhood in town.
It’s a coincidence that Nob Hill is home to Grace Cathedral, but it shouldn’t be. No other San Francisco neighborhood perhaps save for Pacific Heights is so awash in grace. From its high-rise, high-end towers to the urban serenity of Huntington Park to its classic historic hotels, Nob Hill is the epitome of old-world elegance. If that were all it were, that would be enough, but Nob Hill is much more than tall buildings and gorgeous hotels. It’s a lively, diverse neighborhood with all manner of resident, dozens of restaurants of all types, a growing retail scene and proximity to almost everything in San Francisco’s core — downtown, Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, Union Square — all are within a short walk of Nob Hill.

What Not To Expect
Single family homes, easy street parking, walking great distances without sweating, chain stores, plentiful contemporary architecture, too much fog.

Suburbanites beware.
Life on Nob Hill is similar to life on Russian Hill, life in the Marina and life in any urban core neighborhood: it’s vibrant and alive with 24-hour activity, especially on the streets surrounding Polk. Parking is difficult, especially on weekends and backyards are almost as rare as snow in San Francisco. Neighborhood residents find the clang of a cable car endearing and treasure Nob Hill’s parks — Huntington Park being the most prominent — because they provide enough green space for a warm afternoon or a starry evening.

Nob Hill is a place where you know your neighbors and your dry cleaner (or your doorman), love local history and know that you can get that rare cheese, wine or type of olive at the place around the corner. It’s not a place where you mow the lawn on Sunday, drive to the grocery store and live anonymously.

PERFECT FOR
People who love all the perks of high-rise city living including the joy of a day that begins with sitting on the terrace and watching the sun rise, lovers of classic Victorian and Edwardian architecture, fans of San Francisco history, especially those who like to actually visit historic spots, young singles who don’t want to take an Uber to go out on Friday night, young families who like to take walks downtown or to Chinatown, Marian and Vivian Brown, literature enthusiasts who want to trace Sam Spade’s steps in “The Maltese Falcon,” cable car riders, tiki bar fans (the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel is one of the best examples of this genre in the U.S.).

NOT PERFECT FOR
Suburban dreamers who need single-family homes, people who aren’t interested in local history, non-pedestrians, anyone who finds cable cars annoying, anyone who mows their lawn to relax, those with no patience for finding parking, San Franciscans who don’t feel right unless it’s foggy, people who don’t prefer going to the mall to shopping downtown, lovers of modern architecture and single-story construction, people who don’t like finding an inexpensive restaurant nobody’s heard of yet.

You’ll Fall In Love With
The cable cars, the views, the history, the famous hotels, the eclectic shopping district on Polk Street, the longtime neighborhood restaurants.

Grabbing a drink at the Top of the Mark just to enjoy the view, then retiring to the dark-paneled, clubby environs of The Big 4 for steak dinner the way it ought to be. Walking down the hill to Union Square for some shopping or to Chinatown to buy produce the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Taking visitors to the cable car museum. Drinks at the Tonga Room. Strolling Polk Street on a weekend evening. Romantic dinners at Venticello and the casual familiarity of the Nob Hill Cafe. Restoring your Victorian flat exactly the way you’d imagined. Riding the cable cars because why not? Even though they’re mostly for tourists, they’re still pretty cool, and they’re the quickest way to get downtown.

Places to go

Swan Oyster Depot
Swan Oyster Depot

You'll stand in line but you won't regret it; landmark, personality-filled casual raw-bar/seafood spot is a legend for a reason.

Acquarello
Acquarello

Housed in a converted chapel, this elegant Italian restaurant consistently ranks among the city’s best.

Venticello
Venticello
1257 Taylor Street

Classic Nob Hill Northern Italian tucked away on a side street and considered the neighborhood’s best option for romantic dinners.

The Big 4
The Big 4
1075 California Street

The oldest of old school with paneling, a piano and the kind of darkened bar in which business deals in the pre-Google world were made.

Miller’s East Coast Deli
Miller’s East Coast Deli
1725 Polk Street

A traditional New York deli featuring scores of sandwiches, matzo ball soup and even latkes.

Belcampo Meat Company
Belcampo Meat Company

A modern take on the butcher shop, featuring sustainable and humane practices, not to mention mouth- watering meat.

Playland Bar
Playland Bar
1351 Polk Street

This is the new Polk Street, with a curated beer list and two floors of space, named after San Francisco’s one-time version of Coney Island.

Hi-Lo Club
Hi-Lo Club
1423 Polk

Another high-concept Polk Street spot with a long and inventive cocktail list and beer menu, where “the hi-brow meets the low-brow.”

Hyde Out
Hyde Out
1068 California Street

A good example of what was once a fixture on Nob Hill but is slowly disappearing: the unassuming neighborhood bar.

Harper & Rye
Harper & Rye
1695 Polk Street

The newest entry to the Polk scene, Harper & Rye emphasizes rye whiskey and “love of our neighborhood and regulars.”

Tonga Room
Tonga Room

Long-time fixture located downstairs at the Fairmont with tiki torches, umbrella drinks and (often) a Hawaiian-shirted band.

Cookie Love
Cookie Love
1488 Pine Street

A recent addition to San Francisco’s competitive world of cookie-specific bakeries, Cookie Love offers traditional and new cookie flavors.

Lotta’s Bakery
Lotta’s Bakery
1720 Polk Street

Cookies not enough? Lotto’s Bakery has cakes, pies, pastries and, on Friday, Challah. And cookies.

Cheese plus
Cheese plus
2001 Polk

It truly is cheese - plus: this upscale corner market has cheese, charcuterie, specialty foods, wine, beer and truly exceptional sandwiches.

Lush Gelato
Lush Gelato
1817 Polk

Innovative and fiercely local, Lush Gelato will surprise you with its collection of unique gelato flavors, all made on-site.

Marine Layer Workshop
Marine Layer Workshop
1572 California Street

Marine Layer isn’t kidding when it calls its locally-created, sustainably-made clothing “super soft.”

Brownies Hardware
Brownies Hardware
1563 Polk Street

Though it now carries the Ace Hardware affiliation, Brownie’s is a longtime neighborhood favorite.

Wags
Wags
1840 Polk

You’re not the only one who needs grooming; Wags provides top-notch services for dogs, including grooming, pet washing and a pet boutique.

Terrasol
Terrasol
1742 Polk

Almost anything is possible at this boutique/landscaping/condo maintenance business that sells everything from soaps to Dia de Las Muertes art.

Picnic
Picnic
1808 Polk

Once a women’s boutique, Picnic has expanded to include home accents and unique, eclectic gifts.

High Trails Cyclery
High Trails Cyclery
1825 Polk Street

Get fitted properly, get your bicycle, get your gear, get all of that maintained and repaired when necessary.

Cable Car Museum
Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason Street

Learn all about the history and inner workings of San Francisco’s world famous cable cars, and watch the cables themselves turn.

Collis P. Huntington Park
Collis P. Huntington Park
California and Taylor Streets

Nob Hill’s best playground is also a serene green space with benches and a fountain for that much-needed break.

Polk Street Boxing Gym
Polk Street Boxing Gym
1436 Polk Street

Swap out your regular workouts for TRX, Boot Camp, circuit training and old-fashioned boxing, taught by a Golden Gloves champion.

Live Fit Gym
Live Fit Gym
1630 Polk and 1094 Bush Street

The Nob Hill locations of Live Fit Gym offer a full menu of fitness services including group classes and personal training.

CrossFit Golden Gate
CrossFit Golden Gate
1940 Van Ness Avenue

CrossFit combines gymnastics, weightlifting, calisthenics, plyometrics, rope climbing, rowing, running and “anything fun we can cook up.”

Mani Pedi Spa
Mani Pedi Spa
1545 Polk Street

Because it’s unacceptable to do lunch at The Big 4 with raggedly-looking finger and/or toenails.

Eclipse Salon
Eclipse Salon
2047 Polk

Another full-service salon with an excellent reputation for delivering fashionable hair styling without breaking the bank.

City Beauty Salon
City Beauty Salon
1610 Polk

This full-service salon has made its mark on neighborhood locals by offering quality work at a reasonable price.

Bird School of Music
Bird School of Music
1924 Polk Street

It’s “a recording studio, an art space, a performance venue, a school of music” and… a yoga studio.

Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral
1100 California Street

A landmark Episcopalian cathedral that also stages concerts, holds cathedral tours and has an indoor labyrinth that, on Tuesdays, becomes a yoga studio.

Nob Hill Masonic Center
Nob Hill Masonic Center
1111 California

Built in 1958, the Masonic Center hosts numerous large concerts every year. in its 3,165-seat auditorium.

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