Everything you needed to know about Lombard Street, “The Crookedest Street in the World," one of San Francisco's most famous sights.
Known as the “Crookedest Street in the World,” Lombard Street is one of San Francisco’s most popular landmarks. Every year, millions of visitors walk or drive down its eight sharp hairpin turns. Surrounded by Russian Hill mansions and perfectly manicured landscaping and flowers, it is also one of the city’s most scenic streets. Take a spectacular photo at the bottom looking up or enjoy the breathtaking view from the top looking out onto the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge and Coit Tower.
It wasn't until the 1960s, 30 years after the hairpin turns were added that it started showing up on postcards.
Why is Lombard Street Crooked?
It may look treacherous, but Lombard Street’s switchbacks were built to increase the safety of the street. The natural steep grade was thought to be too dangerous. In the 1920s, a property owner suggested creating a series of switchbacks which not only added to the street's scenic appeal but made it safer for pedestrians.
Lombard Street Fun Facts
- Although it is known as the “Crookedest Street in the World,” Lombard St. is not even the “crookedest” street in San Francisco. That title technically belongs to Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd streets on Potrero Hill. The Bring Your Own Big Wheel Race, held every Easter Sunday, that features people racing on big-wheeled plastic bikes started on Lombard St. before moving to Vermont St.
- Another fun fact: Lombard Street did not become an icon overnight. It wasn't until the 1960s, 30 years after the hairpin turns were added that it started showing up on postcards. Why? It didn't gain that monumental beauty that makes it such a well-photographed area until they planted the hydrangea bushes, which you'll now find in bloom for nearly the entire year.
- The name Lombard actually has no link to San Francisco history. It is named after a street in Philadelphia.
Tips When Visiting Lombard Street
- Avoid Rush Hour. Heavy traffic isn’t the reason we suggest avoiding Lombard St. during commuting hours. Rather, it’s because Lombard St. is lined with homes that actual San Franciscans live in, and many drive to work daily. If you and your fellow travelers are posing for selfies at the end of someone’s driveway at the start of the workday, you’re not being very considerate. Holidays and weekend afternoons are also times to avoid what can quickly become a very crowded block.
- Respect the neighbors. Showing respect goes beyond letting Lombard St. residents fulfill their daily routines. Walking up to their front doors or standing in their flowerbeds to capture the perfect photo is inappropriate. Similarly, being too loud, littering, or looking through windows are all behaviors that we strongly discourage. Put yourself in the residents’ place. Would you want a few strangers using your lawn as their own private park?
- Watch for cars. After seeing Lombard St. for themselves, many visitors are eager to try navigating its twists and turns behind the wheel. It’s not something we suggest for rookie drivers, which is why we advise pedestrians to be extra cautious. Stay on sidewalks, and be mindful as you’re taking in the scenery. Drivers have been known to hop a curb on occasion.
General Visitor Info
Although it’s a steep walk up Lombard Street, visiting doesn’t take much time. Once there, you are close to numerous other San Francisco attractions. North Beach, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf are all within walking distance. Lombard Street is also located just a few blocks from the San Francisco Art Institute, which sometimes features events, lectures and art shows.
How to Get There
The famous crooked portion of Lombard St. is located between Leavenworth and Hyde streets. There are a variety of ways to get there:
- Bus: You can take several city buses through North Beach, the most popular is the 30, which runs from Union Square. Get off on Columbus Ave. near Lombard St. From here, you will walk west (uphill) a few blocks to get to Jones St., the bottom of the hill where the curvy part of Lombard St. begins.
- Cable car: The Hyde Street cable car will drop you off at the top of the curvy part of the street. Also, The Powell-Mason cable car stops at Lombard St. and Columbus Ave.
- Car: Note that the curvy portion of Lombard Street only runs one way, towards the east. To drive, you’ll want to come to this street from Van Ness Ave., turning east on Lombard St. Experienced drivers only! And be sure to Park Smart if you're getting out and exploring the neighborhood.
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