The Lumiere Theatre is a great art house cinema on Nob Hill that screens a cracking selection of independent films, foreign releases and documentaries
Nob Hill is not just one of today’s San Francisco’s 44 hills — it was one of the original Seven Hills too. It was actually first known as California Hill, but was renamed when the Central Pacific Railroad’s Big Four - known as the Nobs - built their luxurious mansions there. Robert Louis Stevenson described it as “the hill of palaces.”
They chose it for its stunning views and central position, and ever since it has been an exclusive enclave for the rich and famous of the West Coast. Although the 1906 earthquake levelled almost the entire neighbourhood, it retained its air of affluence all the same. The air of privilege marks it out from the Bohemian feel of the rest of San Francisco — you might not want to live there, but it’s great fun to visit.
Nob Hill is dense with building but still finds space for some of San Francisco’s loveliest little parks. Huntington Park takes up an entire block and was formerly the site of the mansion of the railroad baron Collis P. Huntington. It’s a sleek spot for well-dressed wanderers and coiffured poodles, and the central fountain is a copy of Rome’s Fontana delle Tartarughe.
Looming over Huntington park, Grace Cathedral is the cherry on top of Nob Hill. It’s the largest Gothic structure on the West Coast. It also nods to Italy: its gilded bronze doors were made from the cast created by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistery in Florence. None other than Michaelangelo dubbed them fit to be the gates of heaven. They hold frequent concerts in the cathedral, and it’s a glorious setting.
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