Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

Birds and Bees of Telegraph Hill

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Houses of Telegraph Hill

Houses of Telegraph Hill

Yes, the famous parrots. Not as many bees as there are flowers. And, last but not the least – the stairs – lots of them.

Telegraph Hill is where Coit Tower sits. You can’t miss Coit Tower if you are in San Francisco. You can see it from far and wide, standing out like a light house which it is not. Long time back, and for San Francisco, 150 years is a long time ago, Telegraph Hill used to be a bald hill. Because of the line of visibility, the location was used as a semaphore line. The role of the obervatory was to note the type of shipping vessel crossing Golden Gate Strait and let the town folk know. Even now, in spite of the dense foliage on the hill, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Houses of Filbert street

Houses of Filbert street

OK, enough of the history. Why should you go there now? Walking along Embarcadero, from Ferry Plaza to Fort Point is a fantastic urban hike. It is all about the glorious views of the Bay with people watching opportunities galore. But you miss out on the ups and downs of the city and you miss out seeing homes and gardens.  During the 1905 quake and fire, when most of the city was burned down, the seaside of Telegraph hill was spared. There are a few houses still standing that are 150 years old. Very likely, they have been renovated a hundred times –  after all, these are multi-million dollar homes – but their gardens and their particular location make them charming.

Gardens of Greenwich Stairs

Gardens of Greenwich Stairs

The early residents here had worked very hard to convert what used to be garbage heaps to these lovely gardens. In summer they are deliciously cool . The quietness here is interrupted only when a flock of wild parrots land on a nearby tree top – birds made famous by the documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill“.

Telegraph Hill  is easily reachable both from North Beach as well as Ferry Plaza – two of my favorite spots in the city. You can easily make a long day trip by combining  all three. For my starting point this time, I chose XoX at North Beach. And why not? No harm is starting the hike with an excellent shot of espresso and a award winning truffle from XoX. In fact, I ended the hike at XoX as well. Another cup of coffee and yet another truffle. So there.

Click here to see all the photos and a tidbits from this hike. For historical photos of Telegraph Hill, visit the historical image repository at SF Public Library website. One particularly cute photo from their collection, of William Powell and Myrna Loy in between their shooting of “After the Thin Man” in 1936, is reproduced below:

William Powell and Myrna Loy on Telegraph Hill; Source: SF Historical Photograph Collection, SF History Center, SF Public Library

William Powell and Myrna Loy on Telegraph Hill; Source: SF Historical Photograph Collection, SF History Center, SF Public Library

If you get an opportunity, walk with the SF city guides. More so, if you like stories. For a complete map of the hike and other interesting things to do in North Beach, check out:

For more of our explorations of San Francisco, with photos, maps, walking tours, click here. Sample entries below:

  1. Walking tour of Chinatown (more)
  2. Walking tour of Mission District (more)
  3. Urban hike with best views – from Ferry Plaza to Fort Point (more)
  4. The best chocolates of San Francisco (more)
  5. Best Farmer’s market in the area (more)

7 Responses

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  1. […] San Francisco has to offer.  For a shorter and almost equally spectacular hike, you can head up to Telegraph Hill via some of the fanciest streets (or stairs) of the city. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  2. […] of art work, cherry blossoms in early spring and in the afternoons, the chattering parrots of Telegraph Hill. Also, note a gate. Now covered with ivy, it is gate of an old loading dock of a fruit and veg […]

  3. […] out the popular Ferry Building Farmer’s market. A unique San Francisco experience is a hike up to Telegraph Hill via Filbert steps and see the stunning houses and gardens on the hill. And if you are feeling utterly and completely […]

  4. […] Hill is a perfect little hill to hike. Click here to read more on the hike. A tiny mom and pop sandwich shop, Just a Bite, fits the lunch needs […]

  5. Nicely written. I enjoyed this.

    I’m presuming the hillside properties are horribly expensive because it’s such a scenic spot?


    June 15, 2009 at 9:33 am

    • I haven’t checked their values on Zillow et al. But I would think that the ones on either side of steep stairs with no car access would not be too outrageously expensive. Can you imagine walking down a hundred steps in the morning and then thinking to yourself – “Did I leave the oven on?”


      June 15, 2009 at 6:49 pm

  6. Great photos. Theres an old movie with Fred Astaire set in one of those huge mansions near the ocean; can’t recall the name, unfortunately.


    June 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm

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