Explore the melting pot of Polk Gulch. As the rest of San Francisco becomes increasingly gentrified, this southern section of Polk Street remains refreshingly authentic.
Ever since San Francisco’s genesis following the California Gold Rush, Polk Street has been a bustling part of the city. See vestiges of that as you pass mom-and-pop shops. Don’t expect the cute boutiques of the Marina or the luxurious shops of Downtown; Polk Gulch has an altogether grittier vibe.
Polk Gulch isn’t entirely immune to the relentless march of gentrification that has taken San Francisco by storm. Check out a swath of new restaurants, shops and bars that line the street.
Today the Castro is indisputably San Francisco’s main gay neighborhood. Polk Gulch previously held that distinction. Discover vestiges of that era in its nightlife scene, which has a variety of lively bars and clubs. Step back in time at favorite gay bars including the Cinch Saloon and Gangway, just off Polk.
Although Polk Street was named after U.S. President James Polk, Polk Gulch earned the latter part of its name because the street was built over an old stream. Many people also refer to this area as Lower Nob Hill or the Tendernob, an amalgamation of the area’s two bordering neighborhoods, Nob Hill and the Tenderloin.
Walk a few blocks northwest of the Civic Center MUNI/BART public transportation station to reach Polk Gulch. Parking on Polk can be difficult, so check side streets or seek out a parking garage if you have a vehicle. This portion of the street has a good bike lane.
Find Polk Gulch on Polk Street, roughly between Geary Street and Union Street. If walking the San Francisco hills has been challenging, the flatness of Polk Street may provide welcome relief. To experience it to its fullest, explore Polk Gulch on foot so you can pop into shops and restaurants at your leisure. As you head north toward Russian Hill, the area becomes increasingly upscale. Take care if you head south toward the Tenderloin, which has the highest crime rates in the city.