One of the original “Seven Hills” of San Francisco, Nob Hill, located at the intersection of Jones and Sacramento Streets, is one of San Francisco’s steepest and most famous hills.
Nob Hill, still one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, is aptly known for its wealth, both in terms of iconic real estate and rich history. Descend the hill to bustling Polk Street to find rows of lively bars, restaurants and shops.
Knob Hill is located in the heart of San Francisco. With North Beach and the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf to the north, Downtown and the Theater District to the south, and the beautiful Pacific Heights neighborhood to the west, Nob Hill is the perfect blend of local flavor and fun, crazy places to visit.
eat a meal
At Nob Hill’s Seven Hills, Chef Tony Florian is keeping things local.” We source 100 percent of our produce from many local farms in Northern California. We also try to source our meat and seafood locally,” he says. They even work with local farmers every year to create packages where diners can get a box of vegetables to take home.
Polk Street is also filled with eateries that identify with the local movement, like 1760, which serves contemporary ingredient-driven food in a sleek, modern space.
Swan Oyster Depot has some of the freshest seafood in town. The small restaurant has bar seating only, with seafood experts and chefs serving fish sourced that morning; preferably raw or near raw and recommended by the chef. So no reservations are required, the wait can be long and when they don’t have anything, they’re out.
For those who love ribs, don’t miss The House of Prime Rib, or “Hopper” as some locals call it. A San Fransisco institution that has been serving English ribs since the 1940s, traditionally, if you finish the largest rib, known as King Henry VIII, and want more, another rib is brought to you. However, every meal is accompanied by a huge salad, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and creamed spinach, which is no easy task.
Family-run, Olea serves California cuisine for brunch and dinner in its tiny space. With tables for six or less, you’re sure to get the friendly service you can only find at nearby restaurants.
For more casual dining, Mymy Coffee Shop at 1500 California offers classic American breakfast and brunch, while Miller’s East Coast Deli brings a taste of the East Coast to California with scones, filet mignon, and Sicilian pizza.
For the most stunning views of the city, head to the Top Of The Mark. Located on the 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental, the bar and lounge boasts cocktails, tapas and live entertainment several nights a week, along with 360 degree views over San Francisco.
Though you won’t get views of the city across the street at the Fairmont’s Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, the atmosphere is definitely not lacking. Opened in 1945, the tiki themed bar includes a former swimming pool that hosts bands, DJs and artificial thunderstorms.
Oenophiles should head straight to Amelie, an award-winning wine bar that hosts local jazz performers on Sunday and Monday nights. Owner Germain Michel is proud of Amelie’s Polk Street location and says Nob Hill is one of the best neighborhoods for representing the diversity of San Francisco.
In fact, meander down Polk Street and you’re guaranteed to stumble upon plenty of bars overflowing with locals, like Harper and Rye, Robberbaron, Hi-Lo Club and The Pourhouse, to name a few. Other unassuming local favorites in the neighborhood include Soda Popinskis, which has an original Nintendo hooked up to a flatscreen, Hyde Out, which features board games and Zeki’s Bar with its roaring fireplaces.
Located on Polk, Picnic is a fantastic little boutique filled with carefully selected clothes and accessories. It’s also a great place to snag a non-cheesy San Francisco-themed souvenir or gift, likely created by local designers.
You’ll find another gift shop called Terrasol Boutique down the street, where you’re guaranteed to find several things for your home that you didn’t know you needed.
Nob Hill also loves vintage. Belle Cose and Molte Cose feature high-end vintage and consignment pieces for both men and women.
If niche, used book stores are your thing, head straight for Kayo Books on Post Street. One of the last remaining small book stores that used to dot the area, Kayo specializes in paperbacks from the 1930s to the 1970s in addition to vintage magazines, comics, erotica and original illustration artwork. “The store presents a history of popular culture which mirrors the neighborhood. Specialties including gay/lesbian pulp, noir and urban fiction, vintage erotica, and both low and high brow magazines and artifacts from the past,” says co-owner Ron Blume, “Dashiell Hammett once lived on our block and reportedly wrote The Maltese Falcon there.”
History & Culture
Originally called California Hill, Nob Hill was renamed after the four railroad tycoons that built the Central Pacific Railroad— dubbed Nobs, a British term for a rich socialite—who built their mansions here in the 1870s. It was also the Nobs who installed the cable car line that still runs up California Street.
Today, several luxury hotels in the area are named after the famous Nobs, including The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, the Stanford Court and the Huntington Hotel, named after Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford and Collis Huntington respectively, who, along with Charles Crocker, lived in mansions perched 376 feet above the bay until they were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire.
Located across the street from the Mark Hopkins, The stunning Fairmont Hotel, whose outer structure survived the quake, was named after mining millionaire James Fair.
All are located down the street from the mysterious Pacific-Union Club, a top secret gentlemen’s club headquartered in the first brownstone ever built on the west coast (one of the only buildings in Nob Hill to survive the historic quake), the iconic Grace Cathedral, famous for its 19th century mosaics by Polish painter Jan Henryk de Rosen and Huntington Park, the former site of Collis Huntington’s residence, which was donated to the city by his widow after the earthquake destroyed the building.