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Lombard Street is one of San Francisco's strangest tourist attraction in my opinion because it seems odd that anybody would want to go and look at a bit of road, but as we found out when we visited this is not just any bit of road.
Lombard Street in its entirety stretches through the North Beach area of the city but it is the section at Russian Hill between Leavenworth Street and Hyde Street that draws in the visitors because this section has been dubbed the 'crookedest street in the world' thanks to its numerous tight turns in such a short distance. Its claim to being the crookedest street in the world has been contested, but it still makes for a fun and picturesque place to visit.
As you may know the city of San Francisco is famous for its steep streets and the seven switchback turns that make Lombard Street crooked in this section are a solution to the 27% gradient of the hill. It was far too steep for cars to comfortably pass through it so the turns were built in. The road is now paved with red stones and lined with flowerbeds and very quaint houses that make it a lovely place to go and see. Interestingly the houses that line the street here are some of the most expensive in the city, although I don't think I'd fancy living here because of the sheer number of people and cars that pass by - it must also be one of the busiest streets in the city if you ask me.
The street is one way as the road is very narrow and so cars can only travel from top to bottom. The best place to get a photograph from though is the bottom and if you are staying in the Fisherman's Wharf area of the city, it is just a short (albeit quite steep walk) from the area. There is a cable car line that passes along the bottom and stops just near the bottom of the road if you want avoid the walk.
There are steps running up both sides of the street so you can walk up and down it if you wish, which I'd recommend if you can because it is a very pleasant place to be and the top affords fabulous views back down into the bay and you can even see Alcatraz Island in the distance on a clear day.
We visited the street twice; once we walked to the bottom as I mentioned and we took some lovely pictures and enjoyed the general buzz that seems to surround the street. The second time we went as part of a tour on a GoCar, which is a self guided little car than you can hire by the hour to see the sights. We drove down the street as part of the tour which was a whole lot of fun - I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. We also became a bit of a tourist attraction ourselves driving down the street in a bright yellow car!
I'd definitely recommend a quick visit to Lombard Street if you are in the city as it is a quaint and picturesque place and there is certainly nothing else like it in the world!
The most ridiculous street in the world. We never drove the road but we did walk it from bottom to top and were knackered by the time we reached the summit, and I'm a real athlete. I say walk, you could climb it if you were so inclined and also hilariously funny. The view from the bottom and then from the top was fascinating, i just wish there was a way to skip the middle. I have written to the Franciscan council and asked for an escalator to be installed. They have yet to reply.
We walked past the street a few times and it was always really busy with cars ticking off another tourist attraction in San Francisco.
I pity any person that lives on that street (even though the Victorian mansions are amazing) and has to make that zig-zagging drive a daily routine.
If you do visit, bring a sledge or something you can roll back down on. Then prepare to die when you reach the bottom.
Lombard Street. San Francisco.
Lombard Street is the most crookedest road in the world and can be found in San Francisco. It is only part of the long Lombard Street and the crooked part can be found on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth streets. It only measures a quarter or a mile long between these points and the speed limit is only five mph and you can only drive one way in the downward direction. On either side of the street are San Francisco's most expensive houses mansions, town houses and condominiums which are very much sought after.
What makes it so interesting?
It was built originally because vehicles could not cope with the 27% gradient so it was suggested that switchbacks of hair pin bends were built thereby making the ascent or descent more manageable. It was also quite difficult for pedestrians to climb as 16% gradient was more manageable.
Work was begun in 1922 to put in the road which resulted in 8 bends in the road making it more manageable to walk up and down. In between the bends are flower beds containing bright displays of chrysanthemums and other very colourful flowers. Ornamental trees line either side of the road. The bricks used in the road are actually red in colour and the traffic sign at the top warns that it is slippery when wet! Either side of the road beside the houses are a flight of steps that can be walked up or down. This is definitely very stressful on the knees even if you are fit you will still have a racing heart and be puffing quite a bit if you are mad enough to walk up the road.
There is a board game called candy land and Lombard Street was covered in different colours for a film shoot creating a giant game imitating the game and filmed from the air. You can see the mini video if you google it.
You can also see a small clip on you tube which gives you a good idea of how steep the hill is. A video of a crazy guy doing wheelie ride up and down Lombard Street on a motorbike:-
Or another one is on Google video:
The road has also featured in a number of films including what's up Doc? Starring Ryan O'Neal & Barbara Streisand and the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo Scottie's apartment is at 900, Lombard Street, although this is not in the crooked road part.
The Powel-Hyde cable car stops at the top of the hill and I would suggest if you want to see this street then get off here and walk down. You need to be quite energetic to walk up it. Saying that, when you reach the bottom of the road you can take some brilliant photographs of the road looking up at the different levels of the road.
It is very touristy and there are sometimes queues of traffic lining up to experience the drive down and it's quite pleasing to see the horror and laughter of the people inside the cars. The driver concentrating like hell while the passengers are either terrified or in hysterics it is quite amusing to watch.
It is worth making the trip to see Lombard Street and I would recommend stopping off here on your tram trip for half an hour just to experience if for yourself.