Living in Russian Hill

Beautiful weather and a lot of wonderful amenities.

Russian Hill viewed from Pier 35

I think Russian Hill is one the best examples of a classic ‘San Francisco’ neighborhood; historic buildings, incredible views and a short walk to a variety of restaurants and services.

It is within easy walking distance to the great restaurant & sightseeing neighborhoods like North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf. And although there are many big tourist attractions in Russian Hill including Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street, and the Buena Vista Cafe, Russian Hill is also a collection of much smaller and local spots. 

Russian Hill is one of a few neighborhoods known for its history of longtime residents whose families have lived in the neighborhood for over a 100+ years. Other examples include: Nob Hill, North Beach, Telegraph Hill and Chinatown. 

More than 20 percent of the population is over age 65 with the remainder being a  blend of young professionals, first time Condo/TIC buyers and entrepreneurs. 

There is a low percentage of families with children. Those hills are steep. You’ll see more strollers in Laurel Village and Presidio Heights. But as elsewhere in the City there are plenty of dogs walking on leashes keeping both them and their owners in shape.

The Powell/Hyde cable on it’s way to Fisherman’s Wharf

The Powell-Hyde cable car runs down the center of Russian Hill and takes you right down to the front of what’s called the birthplace of the Irish Coffee, the Buena Vista Café. 

I lived in Russian Hill for a year. My building was right on the Fisherman’s Wharf outbound cable car line. I ended up loving to drop off to sleep to the rumbling of the cable cars on Washington Street. When I got used to it that is. I had a benchmark of the relative time it was when I heard them stop just after midnight and start up again at 6:30am.

Being the neighborhood in San Francisco with the highest altitude of any other neighborhood, the associated steep hills can either be a monumental challenge for less ambitious pedestrians and cyclists, or exhilarating for those interested in getting a workout whenever they leave the house.

But there are a couple stretches of streets that are flat. Like Polk Street, a block or two on Leavenworth, even a block on Hyde Street at Broadway. Those are the ones that come to mind.

And I feel a mandatory disclosure is how Russian Hill got its name. Russian Hill is named for the Russian cemetery found at the top of the hill by gold rushers. It is one of the original “Seven Hills”.

Right after coming home from UCLA, and maybe 10 years or so after, there was a steady stream of friends visiting. They now knew someone that lived here and had a place to stay! I got to the point that if anyone wanted to go to a tourist attraction like Fisherman’s Wharf, I’d send them off on their own and meet them later for a drink. But people from out of town love those kinds of places.


Russian Hill is known for its hills and views

Russian Hill is directly to the north (and slightly downhill) from Nob Hill, to the south (uphill) from Fisherman’s Wharf &nAquatic Park which sit on the waterfront of the San Francisco Bay. And it’s bordered to the east by North Beach on the west by Cow Hollow and the Marina District neighborhoods.

The Powell/Hyde cable car begins at the Powell St and Market St turnaround. It runs through Russian Hill in the north/south direction. It ends at the Aquatic Park turnaround (across the street from the Buena Vista Cafe.


Russian Hill has amazingly beautiful city and bay views from many angles. 

The housing inventory leans in the direction of renting opportunities, with less than half  being owner occupied homes. 

In 2019, the median cost for single-family houses and condos/TICs in the Russian Hill neighborhood was $1.6 million according to the SF Association of Realtors. The sale of Condo/TICs/Coops (108) far exceeded that of single family homes (16). The median number of days a property was on the market in 2019 was 26 days.

Renters pay upward of $3,000+ for a studio/1 bedroom, and as much as $6,000+ for a two-bedroom apartment/condo.

Between Hyde St & Leavenworth St, are examples of houses that are relatively secluded yet still close to the action.


Ferme à Papier carries designer Cat Seto’s hand-illustrated planners, art prints, stationery and more. 

Belle Cose and Molte Cose is the place to go if anyone is hunting for vintage goods and off-beat new items. Until recently, the two shops were connected. Due to mandatory building retrofit to begin sometime this spring, the two shops are being downsized temporarily into one store. Sad news they have to limit their inventory, good news is they are still going to be on Polk St btwn Broadway and Pacific. where tote bags are stocked alongside retro barware. 

Russian Hill Bookstore is the independent bookstore every historic neighborhood needs.

In addition to new and used books for children and adults, the shop sells vintage sheet music that I’ve seen framed as wall art. Note: they buy books too.

Saint Frank Coffee Sunny, bi-level neighborhood coffeehouse where you can get flights of coffee to experiment and there is plenty of room to get some work done. It stands out that the interior is styled minimalist ‘Scandinavian-inspired’.

Cheese Plus Is definitely “plus”. In addition to gourmet cheese and cured meats, there are also amazing specialty sandwiches. And while you wait poke around the selection of quince paste (I’m told it’s very good), honeycomb, crackers and more.

They also have a side window where you can get breakfast in addition to a broader selection of take-out. They make a wicked breakfast sandwich!

Union Larder And speaking of cheese, I think the Union Larder on Hyde St is wonderful. They have a huge wine and beer selection and I found the staff to be very helpful in the selection of wine and food pairings. The menu includes cheese, charcuterie, small bites and entrées. Pay special attention to anything billed as house made. 

Russian Hill Nightlife

Bimbo’s 365 Club

Although there is some low-key nightlife, it’s primarily a quiet but busy neighborhood with an upscale vibe.  But there is always Bimbo’s at the north end of Columbus Ave. It’s been there since 1951 and has retained a lot of it’s ArtDeco design elements.  It specializes in live rock and jazz shows and lot’s of music history remembered (or not) there.


There are a million things to do in San Francisco. And you can find them all in a guide book. But here is a call-out to a few of them that are Russian Hill specific:

San Francisco Art Institute – Chestnut St. Campus

The San Francisco Art Institute: Visitors can explore portions of the Chestnut Street campus. In the Diego Rivera Gallery, a mural by this very well-known Mexican artist covers one entire wall. Rivera both started and finished the work, titled The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City, in May 1931. New projects by SFAI artists are also displayed in the space. Other public areas include a courtyard, a café and a rooftop patio offering stellar views of Alcatraz, the bay and more.

Swensen’s on corner of Hyde & Union Streets

Swensen’s Ice Cream: Is the first store to open in 1948 at the corner of Hyde and Union streets. Swensen’s is now a worldwide chain with more than 300 ice cream shops, but the original location still feels like a family-run ice cream parlor. Its corner sign is a neon beacon of nostalgia, and the wood-paneled interior and all-white staff uniforms reinforce the theme. The menu includes modern flavors such as green tea and lychee alongside standbys like rocky road. Grab a cone or cup to devour right away, or take home a hand-packed pint or quart to stash in the freezer.

Macondray Lane on Russian Hill

Macondray Lane:

Life in the neighborhood during the 1970s was used as inspiration for the fictionalized series Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. Does anyone remember when it was originally run as a serial in the Chronicle?

Macondray Lane can be found mid-block on Jones St between Union & Green. Start at the wooden trellis & street sign on the east side of Jones Street and continue walking & stair climbing east down to Taylor St. Francisco St.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street: Because of all the well-known tourist attractions and given it’s huge volume of visitors in a very small space, I think this might be one of the most popular tourist visits in the City and considered by some as a ‘can’t miss’.

Between Hyde and Leavenworth this block with it’s brick-paved switchbacks provides a classic San Francisco photo op. 

Everyday cars snake their way down what is commonly referred to as the world’s most crooked street (it’s not, it’s the 2nd) dodging the boldest photographer who jockey for prime photo positioning between vehicles

The congestion is considered so bad that the San Francisco County Transportation Authority has been allowed to test a $10 toll and reservation system. 

The #1 “crookedest street in the world” is actually Vermont Street, in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco on the other side of town.

Fun Facts:

The #1 “crookedest street in the world” is actually Vermont Street, in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco on the other side of town.

Based on the view from the window, Admiral James T. Kirk‘s apartment seen in the films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was located in the Russian Hill area.


Buses are easy to come by and the surrounding neighborhoods are within easy walking distance (as long as you’re willing to get a leg workout).

The Walk Score rating is a “Walker’s paradise” with a rating of 98; daily errands don’t require a car  Transit = 93. Which is a good thing because parking spots are hard to find in Russian Hill so if you see one grab it.

Walkscore rates bikeability at 63 which is “somewhat” bikeable. But let say you would have to be training for the tour de france.


Alice Marble 

Alice Marble Tennis Courts

Named after California tennis champion Alice Marble. There are four hardcourt tennis courts located at Lombard St. and Hyde St. The courts offer a view of the bay and North Beach but can be tough to play on windy days. There’s a basketball court located next to the tennis courts. 

Ina Coolbrith Park

Ina Coolbrith Park

Perched at the intersection of Vallejo and Taylor streets is a terraced park. It’s very small but makes up for its lack of size with some of the best views around of Alcatraz and Coit Tower. Day or night, it’s pretty impressive.

It’s a quiet place for reading, picnicking, sunbathing, etc… 

Russian Hill – First Bay Tradition Architecture

Vallejo Street Crest Historic District

Small, quiet area with historically significant First Bay Traditional architecture. It has a beautiful park with excellent views & a nice stairway up and down to Vallejo Street and North Beach.

Starting at Jones St. and Vallejo St. walk east on Vallejo to the east dead end. Sit on the banister and enjoy the beautiful view and peaceful grassy knoll. The best part is on Vallejo St, between Jones St and Taylor St. From the Vallejo Street Crest you can continue east down the Vallejo Street Stairway to the Ina Coolbrith Park at Vallejo St. and Taylor St . The sharp Taylor St inclines on both sides of the intersection were part of the famous chase scene in Steve McQueen’s Bullitt movie.

Feusier Octagon House and “Engine House #31

Feusier Octagon House

A couple of houses east of Leavenworth St and Green St are two distinctive historical landmark houses. At 1067 Green, the “Feusier Octagon House,” built 1857-1859 which is one of the few remaining Octagon houses in the City. And at 1088 Green, “Engine House #31,” built 1907 right after the big earthquake.

San Francisco Art Institute’s Cafe

Outside SF Art Institute Cafe

A hidden jewel, this cafe rests on the institutes’ roof, and as with so many places in Russian Hill, it has absolutely spectacular views of the Bay and the City. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner that include vegetarian and vegan options. Outdoor seating is available. Just make sure you call in advance; hours vary, and the cafe is only open when school’s in session.

Norwegian Seaman’s Church

Tucked away in the southeast corner of Francisco St. and Hyde St. this building is usually open to the public and has a reading room and small shop place to buy Scandinavian snacks. The balcony gives great views and a feel for living on Francisco Street.


Russian Hill has a broad range of architectural styles.

Russian Hill Eichler Summit Building

From unrestored Edwardian units to massive traditional mansions, mid-rise and high-rise apartment buildings, and everything in between.

Edwardian – You can identify Edwardian homes most obviously in that they don’t feature the typical elaborate trim and ornate features of a typical Victorian.


”I’m moving here!”


Depending where you are going, and how you plan to get there makes the biggest difference to how long it would take to get there.

Russian Hill is on the north side of the City and not as centrally located geographically.

Approximate Commute Times

Financial District 5 mins by car

South San Francisco 35 mins by car

Silicon Valley 75 mins by car

If you have any questions about Russian Hill, any other neighborhood or are interested in more specific buying/selling updates, please feel free to Email or Text me at +1 415-215-7154