Russian Hill is one of my favorite neighborhoods in SF to wander around in. There are cute shops and good food on Hyde and Polk Streets, tons of cute houses and plenty of stairway streets and gardens to explore. Even if Lombard is crowded with tourists, there's a good chance some of the best places on the hill will be nearly deserted.
Macondray Lane is little more than a footpath, barely paved in places, that cuts across the northern side if the hill. At the eastern end, a rickety wooden staircase connects to Taylor Street. A mix of concrete, cobble stones and brick make up the two-block lane. The quiet, wooded path is lined with small cottages and larger homes, and was the inspiration for the apartment building at the center of the San Francisco classic Tales of The City, by Armistead Maupin. In the books, Maupin transforms Macondray Lane into Barbary Lane, but keeps the stairs, gardens, little houses, and San Francisco-style neighbors. You'll glimpse Coit Tower and Alcatraz through trees and between houses. In the winter, the path is cool and quiet, and spends most of the day shaded by Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, or the large trees that tower over the cottages. In summer, the shade gardens bloom, but the trees offer a welcome respite from the sun.