Lombard Street: The Most Crooked Road in San Francisco
This post explains how to get to Lombard Street in San Francisco, also known as the “Crooked Street”, as well as pointing out some of the notable homes you will encounter. It’s #1 of our top 10 free things to do in San Francisco.
- Where is Lombard Street?
- Notable Homes
- Tips from Previous Visitors
- How to Ride the Cable Cars
- Free Tours by Foot
The hills of San Francisco have led to some fairly interesting architectural challenges. While most developers chose to create simple roads, others decided to take another route.
In the case of Lombard Street, its creator was met with the challenge of creating a road that wouldn’t be too steep for most drivers. The result has become known colloquially as the “most crooked street” in the city. Thanks to its interesting structural approach to the problem of traveling downhill, this location has become a fairly popular tourist site.
Whether you want to attempt a drive down Lombard Street or you’d rather just take a picture of this location, there are plenty of ways to see this historic site. As a fully functional public road, it’s free to visit this area pretty much any time. The only cost associated with this landmark comes from traveling to and from the area.
That being said, there are a lot of options to consider (some cheaper than others) and our goal is to help you figure out which opportunity best fits your needs.
WHERE IS LOMBARD STREET?
The famous crooked street is located just one block south of Russian Hill Park. This winding road is only a small section of the much larger Lombard Street.
This portion of the road is located at the intersection of Lombard St. and Hyde St. Since you will likely either be driving or taking a cable car here, we recommend starting from the top of the street.
Regardless of how you get here, we recommend this Google map for directions to the top.
As you may have noticed, this section of Lombard St. is located right next to a stop for the San Francisco cable cars. This is one of the easiest and most affordable methods for visiting the location.
If you would like to use the cable cars to see this landmark, hop onto the Powell/Hyde line, which begins in Fisherman’s Wharf, and be sure to read our post on how to ride the cable cars in San Francisco.
You can also reach this location via car. If you have access to a vehicle, you may even be able to drive down San Francisco’s crookedest street.
That being said, traffic to this street can often be very heavy, resulting in long waits. Although driving there is definitely a good option, it can also be somewhat frustrating. We recommend considering all your options before choosing to drive down Lombard street.
This site is also included on a few different tours. Although hop-on-hop-off bus lines do not take you directly to Lombard Street, they do make stops within a few blocks of the area.
We recommend checking out our post comparing the different bus tour services for more information.
Believe it or not, you can actually take a Segway tour of this crooked street. The Electric Tour Company offers a trip which runs from Fisherman’s Wharf to the hills of San Francisco which includes fabulous views of Alcatraz and a trip down Lombard Street.
If this sounds like a fun alternative, click here for additional details.
Although the crooked road itself is definitely a popular location, it hasn’t been featured in many films. That being said, there are some notable houses nearby which may be worth a visit.
Scottie’s Apartment in Vertigo:
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is easily one of the most beloved movies of all time. Set in San Francisco, the film includes a lot of scenery from around the city. James Stewart played the main character Scottie, and he lived in an apartment just down the road from Lombard’s crooked street.
Located at 900 Lombard Street, it’s actually very easy to reach this site on the corner of Jones and Lombard. Unfortunately, the entrance to this apartment was renovated in 2013 and no longer looks the same. That being said, it could still be an interesting visit for film buffs!
The Real World House:
Believe it or not, on this same road you will find the site of The Real World: San Francisco. Unlike Scottie’s Apartment, this location hasn’t seen as much renovation and still looks almost exactly the same after more than 20 years.
The third season of this notable reality TV show took place at 949 Lombard Street, right down the road from Leavenworth and Lombard.
The Montandon House:
Perhaps fittingly, this potentially haunted house is located right at the foot of San Francisco’s most crooked street. During the 1960’s, socialite Pat Montandon lived a fairly interesting lifestyle at this location.
After an unfortunate death occurred at her house, she began to feel as though it were haunted. Ever since it has become known as a hot spot for spooky activity. You’ll find a plaque dedicated to warding off evil spirits in front of the house on Hyde Street.
THE HISTORY OF LOMBARD STREET
As the famous saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. During the 1920s, San Francisco residents were beginning to use automobiles much more frequently. Unfortunately, many of the hills in this area were far too steep for the types of cars being built at the time. With that in mind, local business executive Carl Henry came up with the idea of a curved street. Although it would result in a road with several sharp turns, the design was necessary for vehicles to travel downhill.
After Carl Henry proposed the concept, a city engineer named Clyde Healy created the design which would eventually be used to construct the road. Construction was finished in 1922, reducing the hill’s grade from 27% to 16%. The result of these efforts would eventually become known as San Francisco’s crookedest street. Believe it or not, this was actually a two-way road until 1939. Once local residents were finally capable of traveling down Lombard Street, their property values began to rise.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that this crooked road actually made life easier for locals, they weren’t initially a fan of the plantings. Very few people wanted to pay for their maintenance, and eventually, the plants were replaced with Hydrangeas. At some point during the 1950s, a picture of Lombard Street was used for a San Francisco postcard, prompting tourists to begin looking for this oddly interesting location in the bay area.
Today, residents are more concerned about the number of tourists who visit the road, creating quite a bit of traffic and making it difficult for them to reach their homes. Local lawmakers have proposed building a toll road in response to the popularity, but none of these plans have come to fruition quite yet. If you’d prefer to make life easier for locals while visiting this location, we recommend using the cable cars or taking a tour to avoid creating unnecessary traffic.
Click here for more information about the history of Lombard Street.
With an overall score of 4 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor, it’s clear that most tourists love visiting San Francisco’s crookedest street. That being said, it’s difficult to know exactly what people think by just looking at a number. In light of this, let’s see if we can’t figure out why so many travelers are drawn to this location.
The Drive Down:
Several visitors suggest that a trip down this crooked road is an absolute must. Many reviewers state that it is very fun to drive on this section Lombard Street, but they warn that tourists will often step right in the middle of traffic to take pictures.
Despite the often long queue, most people really enjoy the experience of driving on this historic hill. Although a majority of drivers felt that the ride down was crazy, there weren’t many complaints.
Cable Car Access:
Several reviewers indicated that using the cable cars to access Lombard Street was the best option. Many visitors indicated that using this public transportation makes it easy to reach the top of the hill and walk down the crooked road, giving you the opportunity to take plenty of pictures from both the top and the bottom.
The only significant complaint about this service is that cable cars can sometimes get so full that catching a ride can be difficult. Nevertheless, most people who decided to take this route were very happy with their trip.
Quite a few reviewers mentioned that visitors often take photos from both the top and bottom of this hill. Although it’s not as easy, some people even attempt to snapshots from either side of the road.
According to some comments, the stairs alongside Lombard Street can sometimes get very busy with people taking pictures. If you’re coming for the photography, be prepared to wait a while for the best shots.
Hundreds of reviewers make note of the beautiful flowers planted along the side of this crooked street. Most of them are hydrangeas, and the road looks magnificent from any angle when they are in bloom. Some visitors even suggest that these are the biggest hydrangeas they have ever seen.
The Walk Up/Down:
Whether you decide to walk down the stairs from Hyde or walk up from Leavenworth, this is a steep hill to travel. The climb up can be difficult, and the climb down can be frightening. As you travel alongside the road, you may even get the opportunity to join in with other tourists as they cheer on the cars that drive down the crooked street.