How to Visit Lombard Street: San Francisco’s Famous Crookedest Street
Home to some of the country’s steepest and most unique streets, it’s no surprise that seeing Lombard Street is a top activity for what to do in San Francisco. The one-block section featuring an incredible eight hairpin turns makes the ‘crookedest street’ a sight to behold. Having been claimed as the ‘crookedest street’ in the world, the famous street has become an incredibly popular tourist attraction, seeing as many as 17,000 visitors each day during the busiest seasons.
Whether you’re driving, walking, or biking, the twists and turns of this remarkably crooked street in San Francisco is sure to make for a memorable experience. You’ll quickly realize why getting to Lombard Street tops many Bay Area travelers’ must-see lists.
History of Lombard Street, San Francisco
Named after Philadelphia’s Lombard Street by surveyor Jasper O’Farrell, the famed zigzagging stretch of Lombard Street, San Francisco wasn’t always a twisting and turning path. The one-block section between Leavenworth and Hyde Streets was initially a straight stretch of road made out of cobblestone and featuring an impressive 27% grade. However, in the 1920s, residents of this block, wanting to purchase vehicles, realized the road was too steep for cars to handle.
Carl Henry, a business executive who owned half the lots of the 1000 block of Lombard Street, is credited with first proposing the idea for this crooked street in San Francisco. Henry passed away and his widow sold the lots of property to pay debts, but the new landowners reached out to Clyde Healy, a city engineer, who indeed developed the design for this winding street.
In 1922, the switchback turns were installed, reducing the grade of the one-block stretch to 16%, making it a much easier path for automobile transportation. Additionally, the residents’ property values increased as their homes were now accessible by cars, and in 1939, it became a one-way road.
Attention to the crooked stretch of road didn’t become widespread until the late 1950’s when the curvy block was featured in an article in the news, and in 1961, the first postcard picturing Lombard Street appeared. Today, however, visiting the crooked street is one of the most popular choices for what to do in San Francisco.
How to Get to Lombard Street
To visit Lombard Street, you’ll want to access the winding single block located between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets. There are several different ways to see this famously crooked street in San Francisco:
By car. Since the curvy section of Lombard is one-way running east, you’ll want to access it from Van Ness Avenue, turning east onto Lombard Street.
By walking. While the road is meant only for vehicles, many people walk down the stairs along either side of the road. Walking down Lombard Street allows for plenty of time to admire the houses and views along the way. (Bonus points if you decide to walk up the impressively steep one-block set of stairs.)
By tour bus. Perhaps the easiest way to enjoy this uniquely crooked street in San Francisco is via tour bus. The Lombard Leap is our top tour pick, as it makes visiting the twisting street effortless and allows you to enjoy several other must-see landmarks in the city.
By bicycle. If you’re biking San Francisco, Lombard Street makes for an adventurous ride following the street’s twists and turns. You can even bike up the road if you’re looking to really get your heart pumping. You can also choose an e-bike rental to make biking this crooked street a breeze!
By cable car. If you’re wondering how to get to Lombard Street by cable car, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think. The Hyde Street cable car drops you off right at the top of the curvy one-block stretch of road.
By public transportation. San Francisco’s metro and bus system, Muni, can be used to access Lombard Street. The most popular route is taking the 30 bus from Union Square to Columbus Avenue, closest to the crooked street. You will then walk uphill westward for a few blocks until you get to Jones Street, located at the bottom of the hill of where the winding portion begins.
Tours to Visit Lombard Street
There are a variety of San Francisco tours that include a stop to visit Lombard Street, including hop-on hop-off tours and urban hikes throughout the city. However, the easiest option we’ve found to visit the crooked street is the Lombard Leap. On this 30-minute ride, you can easily see and explore some of the most iconic attractions for what to do in San Francisco.
The Lombard Leap takes you down the famously crooked street, as well as to Filbert Street, popularly known as the city’s ‘steepest street,’ and even up to Coit Tower, where you can enjoy particularly incredible views of San Francisco. You’ll even get to see the neighborhoods and locations depicted in several famous films, such as Mrs. Doubtfire, The Rock, Bullitt, and Dirty Harry.
Landmarks Near the Crooked Street
There are many notable landmarks nearby as you visit Lombard Street, San Francisco making for a full and exciting day of exploring. Here are some of the most popular attractions just a short distance away:
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Located in the popular Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park immerses visitors in the maritime history of the Pacific Coast. You can see some fascinating remnants of history firsthand such as a fleet of historic sailing and steam ships and at the Aquatic Park Historic District, the Maritime Research Center, and the Maritime Museum.
Fort Mason. Formerly a historic army post, Fort Mason sits at the edge of the San Francisco Bay and is now the headquarters of both the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The gorgeous grassy hills and hollows offer amazing views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Fisherman’s Wharf. One of San Francisco’s most popular tourist areas, Fisherman’s Wharf offers countless opportunities for sightseeing and entertainment. You can see the sea lions of Pier 39, play the antique arcade games at Musée Mécanique, or enjoy the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience at Ghirardelli Square.
Coit Tower. A defining staple of San Francisco’s skyline, Coit Tower offers some of the most remarkable views of the city. Standing tall atop Telegraph Hill, the lobby of Coit Tower features a series of murals created by over 30 local artists, and from the top of the tower, visitors can see incredible views of Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, the Bay Bridge, and even Lombard Street. (Hot tip: You can visit Lombard Street and Coit Tower on the Lombard Leap.)
Famous Homes of Lombard
While the street’s hairpin turns offer great appeal, there are some other unique attractions nearby. Just steps away from the winding stretch of the road are some famous homes you can see while you visit Lombard Street, San Francisco:
The Montandon House. This is the former home of 1960’s socialite Pat Montandon at 1000 Lombard Street. Over time, Montandon began to believe the house was haunted, and even wrote a book, The Intruders, in 1975 about some of the events she witnessed there.
The Apartment of Scottie from Vertigo. At 900 Lombard Street is the apartment of John “Scottie” Ferguson, the lead character in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 psychological thriller Vertigo.
The Real World House. The home the cast of ‘Real World: San Francisco’ stayed in during filming in 1994 sits at 949 Lombard Street, located between Jones and Leavenworth, right before you get to the bottom of the crooked block.
Movies Featuring the Crooked Street
The ‘crookedest street’ has long been a popular location for filming, and many movies feature the crooked San Francisco street. Here are a few of the movies capturing the famous street:
Good Neighbor Sam. The 1964 comedy Good Neighbor Sam, includes a lengthy montage of scenes of the title character driving all over San Francisco, including the famously curvy section of Lombard Street.
What’s Up, Doc? In 1972’s What’s Up, Doc?, a handful of characters fleeing in a stolen Volkswagen Beetle make their way through a parade taking place in Chinatown, down the twisting Lombard Street, then through wet cement and a glass panel, before ending up at the ferry landing of the San Francisco Bay.
Bullitt. Featuring what many consider to be the greatest car chase scene in film history, 1968’s Bullitt saw Frank Bullitt, played by Steve McQueen, flying through the streets of San Francisco in his green Mustang, including down the notable zigzag street.
Ant-Man and the Wasp. In the 2018 superhero film Ant-Man and the Wasp, one of the notable action sequences, where the character Hope (the Wasp) attempts to block her pursuers, is filmed on Lombard’s crooked stretch.
Hotels Near Lombard Street
There are many hotels nearby that make it easy to visit Lombard Street, San Francisco. Any of the hotels in either the North Beach or Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhoods are within a reasonable walking distance of the landmark street. Columbus Motor Inn is one of the closest hotels, located less than half a mile away. Another nearby option is the San Francisco Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf, just over a half mile away and only a 5-minute walk to Fisherman’s Wharf.
How Do You Get From Lombard Street to Golden Gate Bridge?
Lombard Street and Golden Gate Bridge are two of the most popular attractions that come to mind when exploring what to do in San Francisco. While there isn’t a direct route from one landmark to the other, there are a few options for getting from Lombard Street to Golden Gate Bridge. Driving is one of the quickest options to travel the nearly 4 miles between the two locations. However, if you don’t have a car, renting an electric bike in San Francisco allows you to explore both destinations to your heart’s content without having to worry about parking or tolls.
Is Lombard the Most Crooked Street in San Francisco?
While Lombard Street, San Francisco is the most famous crooked street in the city, it actually isn’t the crookedest. Vermont Street, located between 20th and 22nd Streets in Potrero Hill features seven of its own hairpin turns and is actually more crooked and steeper than Lombard. However, with Vermont tucked away in a tree-canopied alley, Lombard Street takes the cake when it comes to its picturesque setting, lined with lush hydrangea bushes all along the road.
Traveling down this famous crooked street is easier than ever with the Lombard Leap. BOOK NOW to save your spot to enjoy the wonder of Lombard Street!