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San Francisco is iconic as it gets. The Golden Gate Bridge is its heart, the Ferry Building is its lungs, and the streets are its veins. You can definitely feel the city’s vibrancy coursing through your body like a powerful electric current when you’re walking here, whether you’re discovering the city’s hidden gems or strolling through the coveted S.F. neighborhoods.
Visitors often rush to the famous landmarks yet often forget that the street they’re walking on is just as iconic. The streets in San Francisco define its character, offer a glimpse of its history, and reveal its true colors. So, forget about road rage and walk over to these famous streets in San Francisco—we guarantee they’ll leave a lasting impression on you.
The Most Famous Roads In San Francisco
Castro Street, named after California politician José Castro, traverses through the heart of the Castro District—the first openly gay neighborhood in the U.S. This popular street in San Francisco is painted with the colors of the pride flag; you’ll see rainbow banners and flags adorning almost all of the buildings on this street. S.F.’s historic movie palace, the Castro Theatre, is also located here.
What makes this iconic street in San Francisco so admirable is the Rainbow Honor Walk. The walk of fame installation on Castro Street honors notable LGBTQ+ figures who have left a lasting mark on society and made significant contributions in their fields. Josephine Baker, Allen Ginsberg, Freddie Mercury, Frida Kahlo, and Harvey Milk are among the many honorees. Castro Street is undoubtedly one of the most historically significant places in the world where everyone is more than encouraged to be themselves.
This famous road in San Francisco offers a front-row seat to the hustle and bustle of the city: Market Street stretches from the Ferry Building towards the Twin Peaks neighborhood. As a major transit artery, Market Street extends for three miles and is regarded as the lifeblood of S.F.
Drive along San Francisco’s popular street and you’ll pass by prized neighborhoods such as the Financial District and South of Market (SoMa), one of the best neighborhoods for young professionals in the city. The famous street in San Fran is commonly used to host parades, festivals, and other events since it’s a major thoroughfare.
San Francisco's Crookedest Street: Lombard Street
There’s no denying that Lombard is San Francisco’s most famous street. Dubbed the “Crookedest Street in the World,” it spans from the Presidio to the Embarcadero. Lombard Street is located in the Russian Hill neighborhood and is world-renowned for its steep one-block section with eight hairpin turns. As a major tourist attraction, this famous zig-zag street in San Francisco attracts around 2 million visitors annually.
The sharp, winding curves of Lombard Street take you through historical and high-end neighborhoods lined with beautiful, colorful flowers. Jasper O’Farrell, an Irish-American politician who was the first surveyor for San Francisco, named this famous windy road in San Francisco after Lombard Street in Philadelphia. Jump in your car (if you dare) and get twisted on this zig-zag route.
Lombard Street isn’t the only famous windy road in San Francisco—Vermont Street in the Potrero Hill district is crooked, too. The street begins near SoMa and runs south towards Cesar Chavez Street. While Lombard has eight sharp turns, Vermont Street has seven. But Vermont Street’s hill is much steeper than Lombard’s and is paved with concrete rather than red brick. The constant comparison between the two streets has led to a friendly competition.
Although Lombard Street holds the title of San Francisco’s crookedest street, multiple people have measured the sinuosity of both streets and revealed that Vermont is in fact more crooked. Several members of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works backed this on the public TV program California’s Gold. While Lombard Street remains the popular one, we’ll settle with Vermont being the steepest street in San Francisco.
There isn’t a single person in the world who wouldn’t recognize the Embarcadero as one of the most famous streets in San Francisco, California. The Embarcadero is the eastern waterfront and roadway of the Port of San Francisco. Extending from Pier 39 to the Ferry Terminal and beyond, this three-mile-wide boulevard is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is very popular with tourists, thanks to the area’s many hotels. Locals, on the other hand, are mostly seen visiting the farmers markets here on the weekends. Alcatraz Island peeks at you as you drive along the road.
The grooviest road in the City by the Bay is Haight Street. This famous hippie street in San Francisco is a paradise for the free-spirited bohemians and flower children seeking refuge. It goes without saying that this street was populated by Summer of Love hippies back in the 60s. As the main street of the Haight-Ashbury district, it stretches from Market Street all the way to Golden Gate Park. Due to its elevation, the street is also known as the Upper Haight.
As you stroll down Haight Street, you’ll realize the hippie vibes are still very much alive. Thrift stores, dance clubs, vintage rock posters, and people wearing tie-dye clothing make sure that the swinging 60s tendencies don’t fade away. After all, it’s where the Summer of Love began.
Famous Streets in Chinatown, San Francisco
Stockton Street is the most famous street in Chinatown, San Francisco. As the neighborhood’s main shopping and business street, Stockton is where people go to purchase fresh and affordable products such as dried herbs, meat, and live seafood. Every year during the Stockton Street Market (held during normal circumstances), vendors set up outdoor stalls and stands here—the event falls two weeks before the Chinese New Year.
Chinatown’s Stockton Street is regarded as an example of true urbanization and successful preservation of cultural heritage and urban form. Many buildings here are three to four stories high—shops and eateries on the ground floor, while residential apartments are located upstairs.
One of the oldest and most famous streets in Chinatown, San Francisco is Grant Avenue. The iconic Dragon Gate at the entrance to Chinatown is found at the intersection of Grant Avenue and Bush Street. Running in a north-south direction, the street was originally called Dupont Street in honor of a naval admiral from the USS Portsmouth. After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Dupont Street was reconstructed and renamed Grant Avenue after President Ulysses S. Grant. However, the street is written and said in Chinese as “Dupont Gai”—there was once a restaurant on Grant Avenue named “Dupont Thai.”