Not sure where to base yourself next trip to San Francisco? Nob Hill strikes the perfect balance between lively spirit and quieter residential streets. This central neighborhood is considered a luxurious destination, packed with high-end boutiques, top-rated restaurants, art galleries, and historical landmarks.
Nob Hill, San Francisco, is also home to several places to “hang out” without much of a plan, making it the ultimate itinerary-buster. Whether it’s a picnic at Huntington Park or meandering the corridors surrounding Union Square, you’ll have plenty to see & do right at your doorstep.
Does your San Francisco holiday need a bit of pizazz? Get the inside scoop on what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay with this complete Nob Hill travel guide.
What to see & do in San Francisco’s Nob Hill
For a little cultural sightseeing in Nob Hill, squeeze in a visit to the Grace Cathedral. This stunning gold-rush era place of worship is beloved for its unique Gothic architecture, stained glass mosaics, Chartres-style labyrinths, artwork collection, and, namely, its special events. You don’t need to be religious to enjoy this stop!
Of course, you could attend a service at Grace Cathedral. But if you’re up for a bit of fun, you can buy tickets to organ recitals, Yoga on the Labyrinth, monthly sound baths, and art exhibitions.
A docent-led tour specializing in either the “Highlights” or “Architecture” of the cathedral is always an option. They even have special programming for visitors with children; just ask for a treasure map upon arrival and see what you can find!
Located between Grace Cathedral and the historic Scarlet Huntington Hotel, Huntington Park makes for the perfect pitstop on your sightseeing adventures. This 1.3-acre urban park in the heart of Nob Hill boasts a little bit of green space, statues, fountains, and a children’s playground.
Besides being a good option for travelers with kids who need to blow off some steam, Huntington Park is a great place to take a quick stroll hand-in-hand with your love or sit on a bench and people-watch.
San Francisco Cable Car Museum
Once you’ve ridden the city’s iconic trolleys, be sure to visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. Everyone is obsessed with the city’s cable cars, and for good reason: This 1873 transportation system was innovative, and these days are a super cute way to sightsee. One of the most popular San Francisco tourist attractions, this free museum will help you dive deep into their history and inner workings.
San Francisco Cable Car Museum is home to a collection of retired cable cars, famously published photographs, and mechanical displays. The most popular exhibit at the museum is a subterranean walkway that allows you to watch the cable as it’s set in motion.
Top of the Mark
Looking for the finest view of the city skyline? Scale the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel to the 19th floor and visit Top of the Mark. This cocktail lounge high in the sky is a known celebrity hangout and is steeped in historical traditions. If you hear about the staff taking a “Squadron Shot,” ask how you can participate in this cool WWII-era ritual.
Want to feel like the rich and famous? Order Top of the Mark’s Champagne Experience. Not only will the exclusive package afford you a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, but you’ll be served Astrea Kaluga Hybrid caviar and buckwheat blinis for the table.
SF Masonic Auditorium
Music lovers should set their sights on a trip to the SF Masonic Auditorium. Also known as the Masonic Temple or Masonic Auditorium, this live entertainment venue is on the smaller side, offering a more intimate experience with your favorite performers. If you can fit it into your San Francisco trip itinerary, grab some tickets to a show and feel the pulse of the bass course through your system.
The SF Masonic Auditorium is mostly a destination for concerts, but you’ll also find a war memorial sculpture onsite, plus a series of marble sculptures representing good & evil, both of which are popular landmarks.
Looking for a bit of retail therapy while roaming around Downtown San Francisco? Union Square is home to plenty of upscale, indie boutiques that are perfect for an SF shopping adventure.
Located at the intersection of Powell and Market Street by the manual cable car turnaround, Union Square is the ideal location for wandering around without a plan. A laid-back afternoon here could also include wandering art galleries, having a nice patio dinner with friends, and ending the night by hitting up one of the area’s trendy cocktail bars.
For an elevated experience, target the free live music in the park every single weekend or an evening of ice skating at the Union Square winter rink.
Where to eat & drink
Searching for a giant plate of pasta to dig into? Nob Hill Cafe is the neighborhood’s premier Italian joint, with a laidback dining room and a focus on Tuscany’s regional cuisine. The restaurant is always busy, thanks to the delicious aromas carried out into the street on a warm day luring in diners. If you’re willing to wait for a table, you’ll be treated to authentic gnocchi, angel hair pasta, and homemade tortellini, in addition to wood-fired pizzas.
If you prefer to keep your culinary escapades a little closer to home, check out Aliment. This family-owned restaurant specializes in American cuisine, with a home-brewed beer label and a small patio for seasonal outdoor dining. The menu is largely comprised of sophisticated presentations of casual classics (think: soups, salads, and sandwiches) plus a few dishes with a little bit of cultural intrigue.
Accompanied by live jazz on the weekends, a meal at Cocotte French bistro means classics like osso bucco, coq au vin, and a signature banana creme brulee for dessert. For the ultimate date night, spring for the prix fixe menu and choose an award-winning pour from their long list of wines by the glass. One of the greatest features of Cocette is year-round outdoor dining, thanks to its heated & covered patio.
Looking to be transported back to the Prohibition Era? Stookey’s Club Moderne is a classy 1930s bar with an inspiring Art Deco interior, specializing in vintage craft cocktails, swing dancing, and live jazz. In addition to its menu of old-fashioned favorites and new concoctions, this bar is constantly praised for its extensive spirits selection. They’ve even organized their menu by your favorite liquor for easy ordering, with sippable shots and specialty mixed drinks for each.
What could be cooler than kickin’ back in a bar that used to be a horse stable? Zeki’s Bar is the ultimate neighborhood hangout in all its wood-beamed glory. With cozy fireplaces to set the mood and the sports game always on somewhere in the background, Zeki’s is the perfect place to settle in for the night and order rounds of seasonal cocktails and local brews. They also offer a trivia night every Wednesday if you want to up the ante with a game or two.
Whether you’re looking for the sleekest views of the San Francisco skyline or hoping for a celebrity sighting, the Top of the Mark sky lounge is a top pick. Located on the 19th floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, this sky-high bar is known for its rich history and creative, modern martinis.
Where to stay
Although mostly residential, Nob Hill is home to a couple of the most popular places to stay in San Francisco. If you run out of accommodation options, expand your lodgings search to neighboring Chinatown, North Beach, and Union Square, or nearby SoMa.
The White Swan Inn puts an eclectic spin on the traditional English bed-and-breakfast style hotel with bright floral wallpapers and bold pop art. Each guest room is furnished with a gas fireplace, and an endless list of board games is available to play in the parlor.
If you’re a foodie and base your accommodation decisions on the proximity of good food, then you’re in luck! The White Swan Inn offers complimentary breakfast, an evening glass of wine with nibbles, and unlimited sodas with your stay. Even better, the famous Del Popolo food truck is located right next door, and you can order their pizzas through room service!
A stay at the Stanford Court San Francisco feels like stepping into the future—it’s all about forward-thinking tech at this hotel. Visit the concierge to rent any tech you might need, from books and iPads to GoPro cameras and speakers, or to arrange the use of a complimentary e-bike for the day. The Lounge serves craft brews and boasts a digital art gallery, so you can sip while you shop for prints from local artists that can be sent straight to your home.
Traveling with the whole family? A lobby toy chest is among the hotel’s kid-focused amenities, and your pet will be treated like royalty, too. In fact, canine guests go home with a doggie bag filled, stuffed with new toys and treats, plus a lint roller and waste sacks for the pawrents. They’ll even get their own bed prepped in the hotel room!
For a little bit of glam, choose The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. Perched right at the crest of Nob Hill, this hotel boasts a sophisticated uptown vibe, with a lounge known for its collection of single malt scotch and a courtyard terrace that begs for you to eat your breakfast al fresco. The Italian marble bathtub alone will make these luxurious rooms worth the splurge.
If you really want to treat yourself, book a stay in the presidential suite, which features tons of modern art, an ultra-spacious living room, and a rooftop terrace for catching some rays.