When we headed to San Francisco, a top place on our list of things to do has to be Lombard Street – also known as the famous ZigZag road in San Francisco. Starting at Hyde Street, this zig zagging road can be driven and walked down.
Planning a trip to San Francisco
We hopped on a sightseeing bus at Union Square and took the bus route to Larkin Street. From here, we walked up the steep street to the top of Lombard Street. Many photographs later, we found ourselves in a cute cafe a few blocks from the bottom of the famous street. Caffe Sapore offers fresh bakery items and very tasty bagels! This was a cafe for locals but everyone was very welcoming even if we did stick out as tourists!
How Lombard Street became the famous Zig Zag Road in San Francisco
City planners and San Fran residents struggled with the steep hills of the city. Lombard Street was one of the many hills that horse-drawn wagons struggled with. So, in 1922, the home-owners on the street decided that their road was too steep and created a plan to include a series of sharp turns to make the road more manageable.
Because of this decision, the road now sees around one million cars driving down it each year.
How to get to the famous Curvy road in San Francisco
There are a few ways you can get to this famous road in San Francisco:
- Sightseeing bus– As we mentioned above, we had a sightseeing pass for the few days we were in the city. We found this was the most convenient way for us to explore the city whilst we were short on time. To get to the Zig Zag Lombard Street, take the red route which will take you to the street – it will be the stop after Marina/Cow Hollow.
- Powell-Hyde cable car – This cable car route will take you to the top of Lombard Street, ready for you to take a descent down the famous crooked street.
- Drive it – Many people choose to drive down the Zig Zag Street in San Francisco – it can see up to 350 cars an hour during the summer months! If you want to join that statistic, set your Sat Nav to 1099 Lombard Street – the top of this one-way street. Just keep an eye out for tourists – they will be in your way as you reach the bottom!
- Bus – City bus £19 runs from Beach Street near Fisherman’s Wharf to Lombard Street. You can use the 511 SF Bay to find bus routes and schedules.
- Walking – if you don’t mind walking, the Zig Zag road is 5 blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, taking around 20 – 25 minutes to walk. Take Leavenworth Street to avoid the very steep hills, which will take you to the bottom of the curvy area of Lombard Street.
How to drive down the Zig Zag Road in San Francisco?
We enjoyed a leisurely walk down the Zig Zag Lombard street but we did notice a few fun alternatives that we will have to try when we are next in San Francisco!
- Segway – YES! You can get a segway down the Zig Zag street in San Francisco and it looked like great fun; just make sure you take it slow!
- GoCar – Rent a GoCar to tour San Francisco in style… well, kinda. We saw a few of these cars zipping around the curved Lombard Street and you can rent one for the whole day; make sure you drive across Golden Gate Bridge too!
How to walk down San Francisco’s twisty road?
There are stairs down both sides of Lombard Street so the walk is easy. It is roughly a block down so we recommend starting at the top.
Before walking down, appreciate the view from the top, it is a great place to take some photographs.
Do not worry, the stairs down are straight, you do not zig zag with the road.
Is it better to walk or drive down Lombard Street?
If you are short on time in San Francisco, walking down the street is the easiest option. You can take in the picturesque road before moving on to your next attraction.
However, driving down is a cool experience. It is a slow drive – around 5 miles an hour, mainly due to traffic. The turns are tight and the drive is a unique experience. If you aren’t renting a car in San Francisco, there are many daily tours in go karts, which include a drive down this Zig Zag Street in San Francisco.
Driving tip: If you are looking to drive down the crooked street in San Francisco, you will need to approach the road from Lombard. You can not join and queue from Hyde because queues interfere with the cable car (and queues are common during the summer months and weekends).
Can I park near Lombard Street?
There are parking spots near the famous Lombard Street but be aware that there have been lots of break-ins and it is a huge problem. Do not leave valuables in the car and avoid leaving any possessions visible in the car.
Best time to visit the Zig Zag Street in San Francisco
If you are walking down, any time is fine but you will get better views on a sunny clear day; so aim for April to September and go before 4/5pm; San Francisco can get misty in the late afternoon.
For driving, avoid weekends and Summer months; especially during a sunny day.
The best time of day to visit this famous road in San Francisco is in the morning, when the sun is shining down on the crooked part and there are less tourists about.
Need to know:
Lombard Street is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco but make sure you remember a few things:
- Lombard Street is FREE and is open 24 hours a day. It can get busy during the holidays, especially if you wish to drive down the road.
- This famous Zig Zag road is still a residential area. Be respectful when visiting; especially at night.
- Avoid rush hour – those living on this famous street will also likely need to get to and from work. They won’t appreciate tourists standing on their driveway as they head off to work in the morning.
- Use the sidewalks – as I’ve mentioned, many, many tourists will drive down this road. It can get chaotic and busy, plus drivers are likely to be unsure of road rules themselves (for foreign tourists). Make sure you stick to the sidewalk and be extra cautious when crossing the street.
Famous buildings on the windiest road in San Francisco
The Haunted Montandon House – One of San Francisco’s famous haunted house is right on the curve of Lombard Street.
Real World San Francisco – The reality TV show used the house 949 on Lombard Street (filmed in 1994).
The House in Hitchock’s Vertigo – Scottie’s home in the Alfred Hitchcock movie ‘Vertigo’, was filmed both on Lombard Street. 900 Lombard was used for both interior and exterior shots. However, the current owners building a wall around the front of their home to avoid tourists.
Is Lombard Street the Crookedest street in the world?
No, the Zig Zag Street is perhaps the most famous but the most crooked street is in fact Vermont Street in the Potrero Hill Neighbourhood on the other side of San Francisco.
Famous Roads in San Francisco
Lombard Street is known for being the famous Zig Zag Road in San Francisco but there are many other well-known roads in the city, worth visiting.
Filbert Street and 22nd Street – These were once the steepest streets in San Francisco, both have a grade of 31.5%. Both streets are one way; down only.
Bradford Street – With a grade of 41%, this street in the Bernal Heights neighbourhood is actually the steepest urban street in the world.
Market Street – As you head towards the Ferry Building, you will find the eye catching Market Street. Covered in cable wires and flagged with tall buildings, this is an iconic area in San Francisco.
Casto Street – This street is one of the first openly gay neighbourhoods in America so it a historic and popular place for tourists to visit.
Valencia Street – Full of quirky restaurants, bars and stores, this is a hop and cool neighbourhood in San Francisco. Head to Valencia Street for fun and interactive store fronts.
Haight Street – Stretching from Market Street to Stanyan Street, this is a popular hippie destination in San Fran.
Where is Lombard Street?
Lombard Street Address: Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
San Francisco Windy Road FAQ
The street is naturally grade 27% but was slightly levied to 16% in 1922, when the city used cobblestones when paving the street.
Lombard Street is famous for being a crooked, steep street in San Francisco. It has become a popular landmark that sees over a million drivers each year.
You can drive down Lombard Street but expect the drive to be around 5 miles an hour and do not approach from Hyde Street. Also, avoid the weekends and summer months.
Lombard Street is a one-way block with eight sharp turns, making it one of the most crooked streets in the world.
Lombard Street is on Russian Hill; an east-west street in San Francisco. It is located between Jones Street and Hyde Street.
You do not need to pay to go down Lombard Street but this may change. The council plan to impose a $5 car fee but this has not been approved as of yet.
Lombard Street is found in wealthy neighbourhood with very expensive homes. A two-bed, two-bath home on the street was sold in 2002 for just over $1 million. However, home prices has risen significantly since then so homes would likely now sell for a lot more.
Cable cars do not go down Lombard Street but you can take the Powell/Hyde line to the street. The cable car drops you at the top of Hyde Street, ready for you to walk down San Francisco’s windy road. The line runs from the corner of Powell and Market Street to the end of Hyde at the Waterfront.
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What to pack:
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Have you been to San Fran? What do you think of Lombard Street? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.