Lombard Street – The Crookedest Street or Not?

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San Francisco really does have everything when it comes to design and architecture. Alcatraz Island is the perfect location for a prison given it’s unique short distance from the San Fran shoreline yet with the current it may as well be a thousand miles.

The Golden Gate Bridge is clearly an iconic image of the area, especially when the fog sets in over the bridge on what appears to be a daily occurrence. The city is filled with cable car networks based on the old Powell & Hyde design cars.

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But you can forget all of these when thinking about overall quirkiness and think about one San Francisco landmark in particular – Lombard Street! Often referred to as the “crookedest street,” San Francisco’s Lombard Street is, in fact, neither the crookedest nor the steepest street in the city, let alone the world!

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Sorry folks, if you were thinking about visiting here and being part of history in seeing a world record location. However, what you will see is a perfect piece of mastery and design in the road that winds in and out of eight tight hairpin turns.

Combine this with the beautiful flowers and well-maintained rock-beds that are littered down the street and this certainly brings out the hoards of tourists to see this. I am sure the locals get tired of the thousands of daily visitors or maybe they see this as a way to increase the value of their property given the popularity of the strip.

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We decided to walk from Union Square to Lombard Street and until you get to the foot of the so-called ‘crookedest street’ you will likely think you are in the middle of nowhere with locals just going about their daily routines. All of sudden you are hit with the intersection which is patrolled by local officers controlling the traffic down Lombard Street and surrounding neighborhoods.

Tourists from all across the world are here to see this – at the end of the day it’s only a street but I have to admit I don’t regret the walk to get here and see this with my own eyes, it’s pretty COOL!

You can walk up either side of Lombard Street, climbing the steps and watching the hundreds of vehicles that are slowly making their way down through the hairpins, many of which probably want to wait at the top and wait for the street to be clear to test their Formula 1 skills but resisting the temptation. The odd bicycle is also seen flying down but what they all have in common is their desire to be part of this experience.

Everyone is taking pictures, videoing cars along the street or simply soaking in how anyone could think about designing a street like this!

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The sight of cars maneuvering down the winding road has become a popular tourist attraction for sure. Some tourists even drive down the street themselves, braving the frequent traffic jams and bumper to bumper traffic but we decided that seeing this on foot was sufficient. If this sounds like fun to you and you also want to feel how it’s like driving down a switchback, make sure you approach Lombard street from Hyde street since this is a one-way street and you may be waiting a while to make the short ‘semi’ roller-coaster ride!

All I can say to summarize Lombard Street is that, it’s quirky, it’s weird, it’s steep, it’s an architectural masterclass and ultimately you just have to see it for yourself to believe that it is true!!

Have you visited Lombard Street?

What other streets around the world are ‘crooked’ or ‘steep’?

51 COMMENTS

    • San Francisco is one of my favorite US cities for sure! Lombard Street is really cool to see, it’s also nice to walk there from downtown because you go up and down the curving streets, it almost has a European style feel to it. There is so much to do in San Francisco and so much that we didn’t get to experience so hopefully we will be able to get back there sometime soon.

  1. I really really want to go to San Fran…mostly because I really want to visit Alcatraz. This street really is beautiful. I think y’all had the right idea about seeing it on foot–I hate traffic and would probably go into road rage mode if I tried to go down this street. Great post guys! 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind comments! San Francisco is a city that you have to walk around to experience it fully along with taking those infamous trolleys around and about to Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf. Alcatraz was another great experience and you can read our story about it here: The Rock – Discovering Alcatraz!

  2. Your first photo left me bouche bée. Maybe it is neither the crookedest street nor the steepest street, but Lombard street is definitely amazing to see. Would be great to have a chance to drive down the street.

    • That’s exactly how we felt when we made our way around those San Francisco streets and eventually arrived at the bottom of the hill – Lombard St! I find it crazy for those folks that live in the houses along Lombard St in terms of the amount of visitors/tourists that are always wandering up and down, taking photos and being ushered around by the San Fran traffic cops. Either way it’s a really great experience that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area.

  3. There is something to be said about the marketing of a city/site..I live in the “Cleanest” city in Costa Rica and a neighboring city is considered to have “The Best Climate in Costa RIca” – neither of which is, most likely, true. San Francisco is a beautiful city and this is a cool street regardless of the trueness of its title. It’s probably just the real crookedest street is in a poor part of town and not conducive to tourism – lol.

    • You know Greg you make a great point about how this is being marketed and advertised by the San Francisco tourism board. I am convinced that this street is probably NOT the crookedest street in the world, I have seen others that are at least comparable but it’s the fact that it is in the heart of San Francisco that makes it a unique entity for folks to go and see for themselves. Let’s be honest, if you advertise something as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to see, folks are going to flock there and see it for themselves. As you mentioned, regardless of the title it’s a great street in a great city.

    • Jeff, we didn’t have the opportunity to drive in the San Fran Bay Area but I know exactly which street you are referring to because whenever we walked to the summit of Lombard Street we wandered across and down the other side. It was crazy watching the traffic police patrolling the area and controlling cars heading for the scenic Lombard Street chicane tour.

      Agree with you though, San Fran is truly a beautiful city and one we can’t wait to head back to!

  4. We have been to a ton of places in California – but somehow never San Francisco! I think wandering these streets would be a ton of fun, and everyone raves about it. I guess it’s about time we make some time to visit!

    We have seen some mindbogglingly crazy roads in both the Balkans and in Southern Italy…I honestly don’t know how they drive them. We do have one road back “home” that comes to mind. It leads to a small coastal city in British Columbia called Bella Coola, and the road (Highway 20) is an 18% gravel road with very sharp hairpins all the way to the bottom. It’s a scary trip!

    Thanks for sharing and the photos are gorgeous as always. Safe travels!

    • We appreciate your kind remarks Calli! We love photography and I think a couple of these shots were actually taken just with our iPhone’s which is scary to think of the technological advancements we have made with phones. We are exactly the opposite as you in respect to that’s the only part of California that we have visited so far. The whole trip was awesome though starting with the San Fran Bay Area culminating in a trip down the Monterey Peninsula and then across to Yosemite National Park.

      Italy is certainly somewhere that we are both exciting about exploring at some point. My parents have been to Italy several times and indicated just how beautiful it is, especially Southern Italy. We have quite a lot of those steep gradient roads (some very narrow) in England as well but add gravel to the equation and that sounds scary – but a worthwhile experience nonetheless!

    • I would say that if you visit the San Francisco area Anna, you have to experience Lombard St, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39, Golden Gate Bridge (in fact all of the main tourist attractions) but then just get out of your hotel or wherever you stay and start wandering the streets. We came across an old museum that was for the San Fran trolleys and that was really cool, but it was one of those spots that is probably not marketed very well and so folks only go there if they come across it.

      If you are wanting to go further afield from the Bay Area, head south to Cupertino, home of Apple HQ, that’s really cool to go in the Apple Store there! Further south you hit the Monterey Peninsula with Pebble Beach etc and that’s really awesome!

      All in all, there is a myriad of things to do in the San Fran area, we spent 5 days there and could quite easily have spent an awful lot longer to see other things!

      Hope this helps 🙂

  5. Ah, I love San Francisco. Don’t think I could ever live there, but I think it’s my favorite city to wander around in. So colorful and alive. You’ve captured it well.

    • Thanks Syd, we appreciate your kind feedback! I haven’t experienced enough of San Fran to be able to make a valid determination if it is somewhere I could see us living but given that it has that European style feel that I continue to refer to (at least in my opinion) it may be somewhere for us to consider. However, even if we did consider here, I wouldn’t want to be located downtown or even within the city. I personally prefer to live on the outside but be relatively close enough to be able to catch either public transportation into the city or have a short commute!

    • Agree Sam about driving on this every day! I bet it can get to be a proverbial pain just as it must do for the locals who have to deal with all the tourists wandering around their front/back yards. San Francisco is amazing!

    • Agree that I am sure it would be rough to have to listen to that all the time! Plus all those tourists just standing around trying to capture the perfect shot, that would likely drive me either away or insane.

      Very pretty street though and kudos to those folks that maintain the flower beds along the street, in the middle of summer they look gorgeous.

    • We didn’t get the opportunity to drive down the street (it’s only one way fortunately!) but you could clearly see there was quite a wait for folks that were queueing up from the other side just to wander down through the chicanes.

      I am sure it’s one of those experiences you just have to do, but for us it wasn’t worth driving back into the Bay Area once we rented a car from the airport and headed south to Monterey.

  6. San Francisco is an amazing city – there is so much to see and do! I have never been to Lombard Street but it is something that I would love to see first-hand. And I have to say the views from the top of the city in the third picture is pretty awesome!

    • We really love San Francisco. I think the main positive for us was the climate in the middle of July. While we were suffering in the 100+ degrees in Arkansas, it was so nice to head west to the Bay Area and have a comfortable 70 degrees with an ocean breeze to keep you cool. Added to this that San Fran is a beautiful city to just walk around, it’s a perfect setting.

      Those views from the top are well…you just have to experience them for yourself to fully appreciate the beauty overlooking the bay and city!

  7. We visited San Francisco in June 2013, and were actually staying close to the winding section of Lombard Street. It was amusing seeing all the cars queuing up the hill just so they could have a go at it. We decided not to put our rental through the pressure and opted to walk it instead. It is pretty, but I’d hate to be in a rush anywhere near it 🙂

    • It’s crazy to think that people will queue for that long in order to see something like Lombard St. I think you made a great decision to walk instead of fight through the madness trying to wind you way down at crawling speed.

      Agree with you completely!

  8. I am almost positive that I saw this on spring break back in the late 90s. I love the flowers and beautiful shrubbery- but what an impractical street! I’d like to think how fun it would be to bike down it (but not up of course :).

    • Very impractical, it makes you wonder what was going through their mind whenever and whoever designed this street. Maybe it was purely for tourism purposes and to attract folks to the area. Let’s be honest, if that was their motive it worked because there are hundreds of visitors that flock here every day of the year I am sure just to see it for themselves.

      I bet if you had a free run at Lombard St with no other vehicles around (not sure you would ever get that opportunity, maybe at 4AM LOL!) it would be cool to bike down! Walking up was bad enough so I couldn’t imagine trying to bike up it, maybe pushing the bike would be an option 🙂

    • You should definitely try and get over to San Francisco, you won’t regret it! I have to admit that prior to going there I had researched some spots such as the famous landmarks (Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz) but I was really pleasantly surprised when we got there about just how many cool things there are to see!

      I think it would have been cool to be there during the America’s Cup but we were about a month early for that one!

  9. Wow, springtime is definitely the best time to visit this street and see all the gorgeous spring flowers in bloom, its a perfect time to photograph this landmark….I hope that you can also join us and link up for Travel Photo Mondays, the link is live for the entire week.

    • This street is certainly a photographer’s paradise especially on a gorgeous Spring/Summer’s day! We have joined up this link in your photography link-up and we appreciate being among a host of other great photography links. Thanks for letting us know about the weekly link-up!

      There are so many beautiful landmarks through San Francisco, I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed visiting here so much because I was able to elaborate and expand my photography skills here! It’s a haven for taking amazing shots.

    • I can just imagine how cool of an experience that would be! Though I am not sure how confident I would be on the skateboard heading down those curves, picking up speed all the time!! I’ll leave that for the experts 🙂

      Beautiful street though for sure.

  10. Last time I went I saw a tourist group go down the steep curvy bits of Lombard St on Segways. That looked like quite a lot of fun, certainly better than driving a car down it.

    Love the city, and this is a quirky bit of it.

    • Lombard Street just adds to the value of San Francisco because of that ‘quirkiness’ that you speak about. Everything about San Francisco is just so different to any other US metropolis so it’s just a perfect fit here.

      Those segways that you speak about….now that would be really cool to go down that street. I have never been on one though so I should probably practice on flat ground first 🙂

  11. I would love to see that street – but I would hate to drive it! Definitely more fun to watch other people trying to navigate then to attempt it myself.

    And the people who bike there – yikes! I’m not that brave.

  12. I’ve heard of this place before but never actually saw any proper photos of it. It does look nice, and completely ridiculous. From what I hear, sums up San Fran quite well.

    • Awesome city, so much to see and do in San Fran!! We can’t wait to head back there and explore more because there was so much that we didn’t get to see when we were there for just a few days in the Bay Area.

  13. I completely agree. The street is beautiful with its flowers. It is amazing that people still want to live there with how many tourists are basically parading around the front of your house. Maybe it makes it safer?!?

    I walked up the street from the bottom, and it definitely got me sweating. Yes, it is steep, but it is all about advertising. Chicago is not really a windy city 🙂

  14. San Fran has got to be up there as one of the coolest cities… it’s always been one of my favourites. Even if Lombard Street doesn’t quite get the prize for being the crookest or steepest street, it’s certainly a great site. You’ve done a fantastic job of capturing it here both with your fantastic photos and descriptive phrases, well done.

  15. I went to Lombard Street and was very dissapointed. I thought it would be quirky and old fashioned but it is like they built the street to be a tourist attraction. It seemed more like a gimick to me. Still though with the sun shining it is worth going to see.

    • I think a lot of these types of locations around the world may initially start out with that quirky, unique feel to them but then as tourism boards and city councils see them as a genuine tourist attraction, they go above and beyond to endorse the gimick that you refer to! This is all well and good at bringing extra income to the region but you tend to lose that originality and quirkiness as you initially started with.

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