Lombard Street
San Francisco

The World's Crookedest Street?
Well, almost...

Lombard Street in San Francisco is often called the most crooked street in the world. Actually, it's the second crookedest, but San Francisco has the number one street as well!

driving down lombard street, san francisco
Driving Down

The pretty, postcard view of Lombard Street has become famous worldwide and many visitors enjoy seeing the cars carefully winding down the turns among the beautiful flower beds. But it wasn't "discovered" until the late 1950's, when it was featured in a news article. The first post card of Lombard Street appeared in 1961.

Night View of Lombard Street
(Image thanks to David Yu, CC-BY-SA license.)

How Lombard Street Became Crooked

City planners and residents have struggled with San Francisco's steep hills from the very beginnings of the city.

Lombard Street was just one of the many cliff-like streets that horse-drawn wagons and early Model T Ford's had trouble with. Cable cars were one solution, and curvy switchbacks were another.

In 1922, the home-owners on the 1000 block of Lombard Street decided that their street was too steep for comfort, and created the plan to create a series of eight sharp turns to make it more manageable.

The result: eight tight switchback turns in 600 feet of road. Around one million cars drive down it every year.

lombard street san francisco, hydrangeas blooming
Hydrangeas in Bloom

Originally it was a two-way street, but in 1939 it became one-way going down. Lombard Street didn't become the photogenic beauty it is today until the hill was planted with hydrangea bushes, which bloom pretty much all year round.

Famous Buildings on Lombard Street

Several of the buildings have some interesting history attached.

Real World San Francisco. One of the early reality TV shows, Real World, used the house at 949 Lombard, filmed in 1994.

The Haunted Montandon House. One of San Francisco's most famous haunted houses is sitting right on the curves of Lombard Street.

The apartment building at 1000 Lombard belonged to well-known socialite of the 1960's Pat Montandon. In addition to being a famous party hostess and having her own local talk show, she later became known for her work with children's charities. After being cursed by a tarot card reader at one of the parties, her home on Lombard became notorious for a series of tragic deaths, as well as numerous reported supernatural manifestations.

It eventually became unlivable, and after a ghostly woman kept showing up in photographs taken inside the house, Pat arranged for an exorcism, after which things apparently settled down. See an interesting article about the hauntings. Pat herself wrote a book about it, called The Intruders.

The building is obscured by trees on Lombard; there's a better view from Leavenworth Street at the bottom of Lombard, on the right looking up.

The House in Hitchcock's Vertigo. Just below the crooked block is the house Alfred Hitchcock used as Scottie's home in the film Vertigo. Both the exterior and interior of 900 Lombard were used in the film, though the current owners changed the outside appearance in 2012, building a wall around the front (to avoid the tourists, they said).
scotties house in vertigo, lombard street san francisco
Scottie's House in Vertigo

Lombard Street Neighborhood

This section of Lombard Street is in the Russian Hill neighborhood, a very affluent, expensive area of San Francisco.

Just to give you an idea, the pink building at 1047-1049 Lombard, consisting of one 2-bedroom flat and one 3-bedroom flat, sold in January 2016 for $4,050,000.

Who's the Crookedest of Them All?

The "crookedest street in the world" is actually Vermont Street, in the Potrero Hill neighborhood on the other side of town.

vermont street switchbacks, san francisco
Vermont Street

This neighborhood has more than its share of steep streets, but it's off the beaten track for visitors to San Francisco. Three of the streets here rival the better known Filbert Street for extreme grades.

purple victorian, potrero hill, san francisco
Potrero Hill Neighborhood

Vermont, between 20th and 22nd Streets, was one of those steep ones until 7 curves were added, with tighter turns than Lombard's (Vermont Street surpasses Lombard in sinuosity, one measure of curvature).

Driving Down

Vermont Street is tucked away in a pleasant older neighborhood of pretty Victorians and great city views. The trees and shrubbery have grown up around it, so it's harder to get the full view of the whole curve sequence.

Vermont Street's other claim to fame is its weird and light-hearted annual event, the Bring Your Own Big Wheel Race, where people (mostly adults) race plastic Big Wheel tricycles down the winding road. Held Easter Sunday at 4:00 p.m. every year. Draws a big crowd of locals.

Film note: the curves of Vermont Street starred in a chase scene in Clint Eastwood's Magnum Force (1973).

(Another contender for crookedest street in the world is Snake Alley, in Burlington , Iowa. It has 7 turns and is curvier than Lombard, but I don't know where it stands vs. Vermont Street.)

lombard street curves
Lombard Street Curves
vermont street curves
Vermont Street Curves

The Steepest Streets of San Francisco

Actually, Lombard Street was pretty tame, at a 27% grade before alteration. San Francisco has much steeper streets than that.

Filbert Street and 22nd Street

The reigning steepest streets in the city had long been Filbert Street (between Leavenworth and Hyde) and 22nd Street (between Church and Vicksburg), both at a 31.5% grade. I've driven down both of these guys and it's a bit of a white knuckle experience. There's that moment when you feel like your car is driving off a cliff and can't see the street in front of you. Quite a thrill! And safe in most cars (with good brakes). Both are one-way, down only.

An intrepid local explorer, Stephen Van Worley, went out and hunted down, drove and measured the candidates for steepest San Francisco streets and found seven more that tied or beat the grade of Filbert and 22nd Streets.

The Winners for Steepest San Francisco Streets

Stephen found that Bradford Street, in the Bernal Heights neighborhood above Tompkins Avenue, maxed out at a 41% grade, which actually qualifies it as the steepest urban street in the world (passing even Canton Avenue in Pittsburg at 37%). Check out the amusing account of his search at steepest SF streets.

Worse than driving down those black diamond runs? Driving up one of those and having to stop at the top, especially with another car attached to your bumper! I used to drive a manual shift car around the city; that was always good for an adrenaline rush...and a great test of coordination getting started (time for the emergency brake).

For a stimulating challenge, try the two blocks of Jones Street between Filbert and Union, in Russian Hill: two nice stop signs to practice on! Going up Gough and stopping at Washington is always fun, too; the steady traffic enhances the experience.

How to Get To Lombard Street

The crooked part of Lombard Street is between Hyde (at the top) and Leavenworth.

view of coit tower from lombard street
From the Top, at Hyde Street

Cable Cars

The Powell/Hyde Street cable car that runs from Powell Street on Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf goes right by the top of Lombard Street. The cable car stops there, at Hyde and Lombard, and you can get off at the top of the street for great views of the city, Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge, then walk down.


The #19 bus runs from Beach Street at Aquatic Park on Fisherman's Wharf, along Polk Street to Lombard, two blocks from the curvy part.

San Francisco's handy 511 Muni trip planner can show you the routes and buses available; you just plug in the start and stop points. See 511 SF Bay

If you walk to the bottom of Lombard Street, you will be in walking distance to North Beach (5 blocks) and Fisherman's Wharf (4 blocks).

Parking is tough in this area; avoid if possible.

Map of Lombard Street

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More to explore...

> Lombard Street

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