Grace Cathedral (Courtesy Scott Chernis/SF Travel)
Nob Hill is one of San Francisco’s most exclusive neighborhoods—that is, if you want to live there. To visit, not much more is needed than a comfortable pair of shoes for the trek up and down the hill while enjoying views in every direction. It also doesn’t hurt to have a handy guide to some of the area’s most interesting restaurants, shops and galleries.
Start at the base of Nob Hill with breakfast at Farm:Table, a tiny cafe with big heart, strong espresso and a special daily toast topped with seasonal fruit. Heading out for the day, plan a route with stops at locally owned, independent merchants nearby, including antiquarian bookseller Argonaut Book Shop and the Town Cutler, which creates high-end knives from pocket-size blades to must-have cleavers for the serious home chef. Go the long way around Nob Hill to duck into urban oasis Utsuwa Floral Design for fit-in-your-pocket air plants and simple, tasteful home decor; the Marine Layer Workshop for impossibly soft tees and hoodies made in San Francisco; and pick up one-of-a-kind contemporary wearables at jewelry showroom-meets-art gallery Velvet da Vinci.
Head up the hill for a visit to Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal cathedral where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a consecration sermon when the impressive hilltop church was completed in 1964. Look for the AIDS Chapel altarpiece by the celebrated late artist Keith Haring. At the nearby Cable Car Museum, watch the cables that pull San Francisco’s iconic streetcars up and down the steep hills. There are also several exhibits on San Francisco history, including the 1906 earthquake that left little but Nob Hill’s elite mansions standing. Donations to both free institutions keep them open to the public nearly every day of the year.
Break for lunch at the Nob Hill Cafe, a charming bistro beloved by local residents. Enjoy heaping bowls of pasta and hearty pizzas that will keep you going all afternoon. That sustenance will be needed for a stroll with San Francisco City Guides, a network offering various free neighborhood walking tours led by knowledgeable docents. There is a designated Nob Hill tour, but you can also join a theme tour that encompasses the area, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco, which includes hotels and retail spots used in famous films such as “Vertigo.”
Grab a midday snack at charming neighborhood bakery Cookie Love before heading to several art galleries tucked away from the main gallery rows of Union Square. Christian Daniels Gallery is a destination for fans of contemporary realism with a range of emerging and established artists on display. There are always several fascinating mixed media exhibitions at Hashimoto Contemporary, and next door, Spoke Art showcases a range of styles according to a theme.
For those craving a little rest and relaxation, escape in style at the Spa L’Occitane by the Bay at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco. The new downtown retreat offers rejuvenating treatments to combat jet lag and refresh the body and mind.
For a unique happy hour, head to The Fine Mousse, an only-in-San-Francisco bar pairing two of the world’s most perfect foods: french fries and sparkling wines. The cozy corner spot will entice you to stay all night, but with plentiful dinner options in the neighborhood, venture out one last time. Hawaiian-inspired Liholiho Yacht Club serves a mouthwatering array of small plates and mains easy for sharing, including the popular duck liver toast and grilled short ribs served with escargot and bone marrow. Tropical-themed cocktails pair well with dinner—and make a perfect nightcap to end a great day in the City by the Bay.