Insider’s Guide To San Francisco’s Nob Hill

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Nob Hill is one of San Francisco’s most exclusive neighborhoods—that is, if you want to live there. It’s centrally located in the heart of the City, and home to the iconic Grace Cathedral and within walking distance of Union Square, Chinatown, and the SFMOMA. It features beautiful architecture and views, including one of my favorites of the Bay Bridge perfectly framed between the bits of buildings on the intersection of California & Powell Street. 

To visit and explore around Nob Hill, not much more is needed than a comfortable pair of shoes for the trek up and down the hill while enjoying sweeping views in every direction. It also doesn’t hurt to have a guide to some of the area’s most exciting restaurants, shops, and galleries. Get ready to spend a day in San Francisco’s most prestigious neighborhood.

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Exploring The Area

By cable car: There are three cable car lines run through Nob Hill, making it easy to hop on and get to many of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions, and getting that quintessential San Francisco view.  Cost: $7 one-way fare for all ages (you can purchase your ticket directly from the cable car conductor) Alternatively, you can snag a good deal with CityPass and save on 42% on a 3-Day Cable Car and Muni Pass (plus admission to the 4 best attractions.) 

By bike: If you prefer to navigate the City on your own, there is the city bike-sharing, Bay Wheels, which is offered by Lyft. This is an excellent option because, let’s be real, walking up and down those San Francisco hills is no joke!  Cost: $2 for one ride up to 30 minutes and an additional $3 per additional 15-minutes. 

By foot: By all means, if you’re ready to brave those hills, you can explore Nob Hill and its surrounding areas by foot! Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for this urban trek. Cost: Free!

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Sleep

There are plenty of options in Nob Hill. If you are looking for the best-of-the-best, the Fairmont Hotel, The Ritz Carlton, and Mark Hopkins will not disappoint. The historic and once the residence of 19th-century railroad tycoon and former California governor, Leland Stanford, Stanford Court Hotel is a great option that is fit for the tech-savvy. It’s centrally located in Nob Hill, making it the perfect place to rest and explore the City. Of course, if you are looking for a more local experience, Airbnb is the way to go. 

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Eat 

Start at the base of Nob Hill with breakfast at Farm:Table, a tiny cafe with a big heart, strong espresso, and a special daily toast topped with seasonal fruit. Cafe Isabella for a breakfast burrito in a Latin-inspired cafe. For more healthy-ish options, there’s Nourish Cafe, which offers a fully plant-based menu, from salads and smoothies to vegan cakes. Basik Cafe keeps it simple with a variety of acai bowls and smoothies. 

For a truly unique, only-in-San Francisco happy hour, head to The Fine Mousse for a bar pairing of french fries and sparkling wines. Keiko, a Nob Hill, is a fine dining sushi restaurant with a French flair to it. If you are looking for a more of a cozy neighborhood Italian spot, Venticello will not disappoint. You’ll find Northern Italian dishes served here in an old-San Francisco home and cable car views. Reservations are highly recommended. Venture out for dinner at Hawaiian-inspired Liholiho Yacht Club, which serves a mouthwatering array of small plates and mains easy for sharing, including the popular duck liver toast and grilled short ribs served with escargot and bone marrow. It’s tropical-themed cocktails pair well and makes a perfect nightcap. But, if you are still looking for one more drink, head to Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar inside the Fairmont for tiki-themed lounge experience. Enjoy a nightcap at Top of the Mark at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins and get some of the best views of the city.

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Do

There are many ways to enjoy Nob Hill guided or unguided. A guided walking tour of Nob Hill is always a great way to get acquainted with the neighborhood. Uncover the scandalous, high-society history of San Francisco’s most illustrious hill, and hear the stories behind the grand hotels and stately mansions built by the city’s powerful 19th-century business tycoons and politicians.

If venturing out on your own is more like it, plan a route with stops at locally owned, independent merchants nearby, including antiquarian bookseller Argonaut Book Shop and the Town Cutler, which creates high-end knives from pocket-size blades to must-have cleavers for the serious home chef. Go the long way around Nob Hill to duck into urban oasis Utsuwa Floral Design for fit-in-your-pocket air plants and simple, tasteful home decor. The Marine Layer Workshop for impossibly soft tees and hoodies made in San Francisco. Pick up one-of-a-kind contemporary wearables at jewelry showroom-meets-art gallery Velvet da Vinci.

Visit Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal cathedral where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a consecration sermon when the impressive hilltop church was completed in 1964. If you’re in town on a Tuesday, Grade Cathedral hosts Yoga on the Labyrinth at 6pm with the whimsical sounds of sound baths. It’s an amazing experience, and one that should be added to your San Francisco Bucketlist. Look for the AIDS Chapel altarpiece by the celebrated late artist Keith Haring. At the nearby Cable Car Museum, watch the cables that pull San Francisco’s iconic streetcars up and down the steep hills. There are also several exhibits on San Francisco history, including the 1906 earthquake that left little but Nob Hill’s elite mansions standing. These museums are free, but donations to both keep them open to the public nearly every day of the year.


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Hi, I’m Valerie!

I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), offering guidance to high achievers in aligning their lifestyle with well-being through daily wellness and self-care routines, promoting balance and harmony. Join me at Wellness Bum for tips on living well, and consider subscribing to my newsletter or booking a coaching session.