Russian Hill is a neighborhood of San Francisco, California, in the United States. It is one of San Francisco's 44 hills, and one of its original "Seven Hills."
Russian Hill is directly to the north (and slightly downhill) from Nob Hill, to the south (uphill) from Fisherman's Wharf, and to the west of the North Beach neighborhood. The Hill is bordered on its west side by parts of the neighborhoods of Cow Hollow and the Marina District.
At the northern foot of the hill is Ghirardelli Square, which sits on the waterfront of the San Francisco Bay, Aquatic Park, and Fisherman's Wharf, an extremely popular tourist area. A trip down the winding turns of Lombard Street and across Columbus Avenue to the east leads to the neighborhood of North Beach. Down the hill to the west, past Van Ness Avenue, are Cow Hollow and the Marina districts.
The neighborhood's name goes back to the Gold Rush era, when settlers discovered a small Russian cemetery at the top of the hill. Russian naval and merchant ships frequently visited San Francisco throughout the 19th century beginning in 1806, and there are several mentions of burials of crew members in the Russian Hill cemetery in the first half of the century. The cemetery was removed, but the name remains to this day. Although the oldest Russian orthodox church in San Francisco, the Holy Trinity Cathedral, is located a few blocks away on Van Ness and Green Street, there is presently no significant Russian presence here as the city's Russian community is located primarily in the Richmond District.
In the early 1900s, Colonel Andrew Summers Rowan, "the man who carried the message to Garcia," lived on Vallejo St. Also on Vallejo street at that time was Mrs. Mary Curtis Richardson, a portrait painter whose painting of the mother and child was copied a million times in postcards during the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915.
The neighborhood is most famous for Lombard Street, the one-way section on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being "the crookedest street in the world". The switchbacks design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and instituted in 1922, was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles to climb. As it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the city, this section of the neighborhood is frequently crowded with tourists. Tourists also frequent the famous cable car line along Hyde Street, which is lined with many restaurants and shops.
A small park at the top of the hill on Vallejo Street features a small plaque and memorial placed by the Russian Government is dedicated to the original Russian cemetery that is the neighborhood's namesake.
Views from the top of the hill extend in several directions around the Bay Area, including the Bay Bridge, Marin County, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. Russian Hill is home to the San Francisco Art Institute, located on Chestnut Street between Jones and Leavenworth Streets.
Because of the steepness of the hill, many streets, portions of Vallejo and Green streets, for example, are staircases. Another famous feature of Russian Hill are the many pedestrian-only lanes such as Macondray Lane and Fallon Place, both with beautiful landscaping and arresting views.
The Alice Marble Tennis Courts are four hardcourt tennis courts located at Lombard and Hyde Streets. The courts offer a view of the bay and North Beach and can be unsuitable for tennis on windy days. A basketball court is located adjacent to the tennis courts. The San Francisco Cable Cars serving the Powell-Hyde line stops nearby.