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Free Walking Tours

Daily Schedule of Walks by the SF Public Library

Every day the SF Public Library offers a number of free walking tours. They range from the popular Golden Gate Bridge tour to one dedicated to the impact of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

All guides are volunteers. Many of them have amazing stories. They are typically either from San Francisco or have been in the city for a very long time. They each know their tour and its route better than anyone else.

I take these often. They offer an amazing look into SF's past as well as what the local communities are up to now. It's one of the best ways to get an 'insider's look' at the real San Francisco.

Some of them offer you access into places that you are not able to enter on your own. They also point out hidden gems and other lesser known attractions or locations throughout the city.

chanilier alamo square
This beautiful antique Chandalier was inside an Alamo Square Victorian. We were able to get an inside look at this private home on the Alamo Square walking tour.

Joining a Tour

You don't need to make reservations to join any of these free walking tours. Simply show up about 10 minutes before they start.

The guide is usually there by this time. They are easy to find and are looking for tour participants. They often have a clipboard in their hands.

Check in with them and add your name to their participant list. They use this to measure the success of each tour and to determine what they should offer in the future.

All tours start on time, so please do not be late. If you find yourself running a little late, you are welcome to join the tour. However, do your best to not interrupt if it is already in progress.

Donations

Even though these tours are free, they do ask for a donation at the end. The donations do not go to the tour guide, but to the SF Public Library in order to keep this operation running. They have one full time staff member that helps manage the volunteers, the website and other organization details.

How much should you donate? That's up to you. I typically donate $5 to $7 per person per tour. You are welcome to donate more or less depending on your experience with the tour and your personal budget.

mission walking tour
This is one of more than a couple dozen colorful murals we learned about on the Mission District Murals walking tour.

My Experience on These Tours

Since all guides are volunteers, you might be asking yourself about their reliability. Believe me when I tell you that these guides LOVE giving these tour and teaching others about the city.

The SF Public Library has a strict policy for their volunteers. It's also a privilege to be accepted as a tour volunteer. Each one has to go on several other walks before they train to give one of these free walking tours on their own.

Many of them have also had to develop and submit a new tour idea before they are able to give a tour. These are some of the most reliable volunteers you will find. They are super friendly and helpful too!

I've done dozens of these tours and only had one guide not show up. We later found out they had a family emergency and didn't have time to cancel the tour before we arrived. This is a rare occasion and doubt it will happen to you.

chinatown temple
We had the chance to step inside and learn more about this temple during the Chinatown walking tour.

The only other issues I've had on these tours is when the group size is too large or when we walk down a really busy street and can't hear the guide as well (as they don't have sophisticated equipment). If you are not enjoying the tour or it's something different than you expected, you can quietly walk away in the middle of it.

Typical Schedule

They keep a very consistent schedule for their free walking tours from one month to the next. They do add and cancel these free walking tours at times, but this is rare.

The Public Library updates their list every Spring and Fall. In addition, they offer speciality tours in May and October as well as when they test out new tour ideas.

Below you will find their current schedule by day. All free walking tours start on time and typically last around 2 hours.

Typical Schedule: Below you will find the typical schedule for each day for the SF City Guides free walking tours. Please note that due to weather, holidays, and other factors, tours are sometimes canceled (the good news is that this isn't common). After you take a look at the typical schedule below, I recommend visiting their site to confirm it's still running on the date you plan to go. You will find the confirmed schedule at www.sfcityguides.org.

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday

Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Tours with Less Regular Schedules

Monthly Events

Are you interested in finding additional events to attend during your stay? Click the links below to check out the fun events planned that month!

Event Calendars
January February March
April May June
July August September
October November December

Free Walking Tour Schedules by Day

Monday
Start Time Days Tour Name District Starting Location
9:30am Every Monday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
10am Every Monday Chinatown Chinatown Portsmouth Square Park at Walter P. Lum Pl. & Washington Street
10am 1st and 3rd Mondays of the Month 1906 Earthquake and Fire SOMA & Union Square Between 525 and 555 Market Street, on the south side near the Market Street Plaza Benches
11am Every Monday Fisherman's Wharf: A Hidden History Fisherman's Wharf Main courtyard of Ghirardelli Square at the Mermaid Fountain
11am 2nd, 4th, & 5th Mondays of the Month Bawdy & Naughty Downtown SF At the corner of Kearny & Maiden Lane
1pm Every Monday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
1:30pm Every Monday Chinatown Chinatown Portsmouth Square Park at Walter P. Lum Pl. & Washington Street

Tuesday
Start Time Days Tour Name District Starting Location
10am 2nd Tuesday of the Month Controversial Murals of Rincon Center Downtown & Embarcadero Historic Rincon Center Lobby, enter on Mission near Steuart
10am 2nd Tuesday of the Month Rising Steel: Two Centuries of SF Architecture Downtown SF Just east of Union Square on the corner of Stockton and Maiden Lane (small alleyway street)
10am 2nd & 4th Tuesday of the Month North Beach North Beach 666 Filbert Street on the steps of Saints Peter and Paul Church
10am 3rd and 5th Tuesday of the Month Russian Hill Stairways Russian Hill Hyde & Filbert Streets
11am Every Tuesday Castro: Tales of the Village Castro Harvey Milk Plaza at Market & Castro Streets, Meet at the Flag Pole
11am Every Tuesday City Hall & The Civic Center Civic Center Main Library steps on Fulton between Hyde and Larkin
11am 3rd Tuesday of the month Pacific Heights Mansions Pacific Heights Top of the stairs at Alta Plaza Park above Pierce and Clay Streets
12pm Every Tuesday Ferry Building Embarcardero Main entrance of the Ferry Building near the outside stairs that lead to the 2nd floor
12pm 1st Tuesday of the month Main Library Tour Civic Center Info Desk on the 1st Floor of the Library (Grant Street entrance)
1pm Every Tuesday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
1:30pm Every Tuesday Historic Market Street: Path of Gold Downtown SF One Market Street outside the Landmark Building

Wednesday
Starting Time Days Tour Name District Starting Location
9:30am Every Wednesday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
10am 3rd Wednesday of the Month Port of San Francisco: Turbulent Waters Embarcadero By the Rincon Center at Mission & Steuart Streets
10am 4th Wednesday of the Month Mission Bay: Hidden Waters Mission Creek & Mission Bay South side of the Caltrain Station at 4th and King Streets
11am Every Wednesday Coit Tower Murals North Beach/Telegraph Hill At the entrance to Coit Tower
11am Every Wednesday Tastes & Tales of North Beach North Beach Under the Jazz mural at the corner of Broadway and Columbus Streets
11am 1st Wednesday of the Month Golden Gate Park: West End Golden Gate Park At the Dutch Windmill (Queen Wilhelmina Garden) on John F. Kennedy Drive near the Great Highway
1pm Every Wednesday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
1pm 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the Month 1906: Phoenix Rising Civic Center At the iron gates on Franklin at Fulton
1:30pm Every Wednesday Gold Rush City Downtown SF Outside the Transamerica Building at Clay and Montgomery Streets
2pm Every Wednesday Nob Hill Nob Hill Outside the entrance of the Stanford Court Hotel on California at Powell Street
2pm 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month Downtown Deco Downtown SF 140 New Montgomery (between Mission and Howard) at the Telephone Building

Thursday
Start Time Days Tour Name District Starting Location
10am 3rd Thursday of the Month South Beach and the South End Historic Warehouse District South Beach In front of the Delancy Street Restaurant on the corner of Brannan Street and the Embarcadero
11am Every Thursday Golden Gate Bridge Presidio Strauss Statue at the Golden Gate Bridge Visitors Plaza (south side)
11am Every Thursday City Hall & The Civic Center Civic Center Main Library steps on Fulton between Hyde and Larkin
11am 1st and 3rd Thursday of the Month Landmark Victorians of Alamo Square Alamo Square & Western Addition Outside the Victorian at 824 Grove Street
11am 4th Thursday of the Month

Art Deco Marina

Marina Marina Library at 1890 Chestnut Street
1pm Every Thursday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
1pm 1st and 3rd Thursday of the Month Fort Mason to Aquatic Park Marina NW corner of Van Ness & Bay
2pm Every Thursday Nob Hill Nob Hill Outside the entrance of the Stanford Court Hotel on California at Powell Street

Friday
Start Time Days Tour Name District Starting Location
9:30am Every Friday Japanese Tea Garden & Stow Lake Stroll Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
10am Every Friday South of Market Architecture Stroll SOMA Big Blue Cube off the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Yerba Buena Lane between Market and Mission Streets
10am Every Friday City Scapes and Public Places Downtown & the Financial District Native Sons Monument on Market at Montgomery Street
11am Every Friday Fisherman's Wharf: A Hidden History Fisherman's Wharf Main courtyard of Ghirardelli Square at the Mermaid Fountain
11am 2nd Friday of the Month Dogpatch & Potrero Point Dogpatch 18th and Tennessee Streets
1pm Every Friday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
1pm 1st & 3rd Friday of the Month Golden Gate Park: East End Golden Gate Park Top of the steps at the Conservatory of Flowers on John F Kennedy Drive
1pm 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of the Month Presidio: From Earthquake Refuge to National Park Presidio Flag pole on the parade ground, near the officer's club
1pm 2nd Friday of the Month Fort Mason Historic District Marina Laguna and Marina Boulevard just inside the Main Gate
1:30pm Every Friday City Scapes and Public Places Downtown & the Financial District Native Sons Monument on Market at Montgomery Street
1:30pm Every Friday Gold Rush City Downtown SF Outside the Transamerica Building at Clay and Montgomery Streets
2pm 2nd Friday of the Month Dogpatch & Potrero Point Dogpatch 18th and Tennessee Streets

Saturday
Start Time Days Tour Name District Starting Location
10am Every Saturday North Beach North Beach 666 Filbert Street on the steps of Saints Peter and Paul Church
10am Every Saturday Omni Hotel Walk Nob Hill 500 California Street
10am Every Saturday Chinatown Chinatown Portsmouth Square Park at Walter P. Lum Pl. & Washington Street
10am 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month Mission Murals Mission Flynn Elementary School
10am 1st Saturday of the Month Russian Hill Stairways Russian Hill Hyde & Filbert Streets
11am Every Saturday Castro: Tales of the Village Castro Harvey Milk Plaza at Market & Castro Streets, Meet at the Flag Pole
11am Every Saturday Coit Tower Murals North Beach/Telegraph Hill At the entrance to Coit Tower
11am Every Saturday Pacific Heights Mansions Pacific Heights Top of the stairs at Alta Plaza Park above Pierce and Clay Streets
11am 1st and 3rd Saturday of the Month Landmark Victorians of Alamo Square Alamo Square & Western Addition Outside the Victorian at 824 Grove Street
11am 2nd and 4th Saturday of the Month Golden Gate Park: West End Golden Gate Park At the Dutch Windmill (Queen Wilhelmina Garden) on John F. Kennedy Drive near the Great Highway
11am 2nd Saturday of the Month Inner Sunset: The Birth of a Neighborhood Inner Sunset Corner of Arguello and Hugo
11am 2nd Saturday of the Month SOMA & Yerba Buena Gardens SOMA Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Streets in front of St. Patrick's Church
11am 4th Saturday of the Month Port of San Francisco: Turbulent Waters Embarcadero By the Rincon Center at Mission & Steuart Streets
12pm Every Saturday Ferry Building Embarcardero Main entrance of the Ferry Building near the outside stairs that lead to the 2nd floor
1pm Every Saturday Telegraph Hill Stairway Hike Telegraph Hill Opposite 290 Lombard Street at the Marconi Monument. This is a difficult location to find, so map it out in detail before arriving. Due to the steep hills here, you are not able to access it from the west on Lombard Street.
1pm Every Saturday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
1pm 1st and 2nd Saturday of the Month Fort Mason to Aquatic Park Marina NW corner of Van Ness & Bay
1pm 1st and 3rd Saturday of the Month Palace of Fine Arts & the Marina Marina Corner of Bay and Lyon Streets
1pm 2nd and 4th Saturday of the Month Presidio: From Earthquake Refuge to National Park Presidio Flag pole on the parade ground, near the officer's club
1pm 4th Saturday of the Month Controversial Murals of Rincon Center Downtown & Embarcadero Historic Rincon Center Lobby, enter on Mission near Steuart
1pm 5th Saturday of the Month Fort Mason Historic District Fort Mason Next to the Gate House, just inside the Main Gate, Laguna and Marina Blvd
1:30pm 2nd & 4th Saturday of the Month 1850s SF: Paris of the Pacific Financial District North East corner of Clay and Montgomery at Transamerica Pyramid
2pm Every Saturday Land's End: Sutro Heights Sutro Heights Point Lobos Avenue (just down the hill from the 48th Avenue traffic light) at the entrance gate to Sutro Heights Park
2pm 1st Saturday of the Month Mission Bay: Hidden Waters Mission Creek & Mission Bay South side of the Caltrain Station at 4th and King Streets
2pm 1st and 3rd Saturday of the Month Japantown, Urban Renewal and the Fillmore Jazz District Japantown Near the large Japanese Gate (rectangular arch) at the entrance to the pedestrian mall at Buchanan and Sutter Streets
2pm 2nd and 4th Saturday of the Month Making Waves on the Waterfront Embarcadero Ferry Building under the Clock Tower on the far eastern end of Market Street

Sunday
Start Time Days Tour Name District Starting Location
10am 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month Cow Hollow Cow Hollow Van Ness and Green at the Holy Trinity Cathedral
11am Every Sunday Golden Gate Bridge Presidio Strauss Statue at the Golden Gate Bridge Visitors Plaza (south side)
11am Every Sunday Billionaire's Row Pacific Heights & the Presidio Lyon Street Steps on Broadway at Lyon Street
11am Every Sunday Haight-Ashbury Haight-Ashbury 1833 Page Street at the Park Branch Library
11am Every Sunday Castro: Tales of the Village Castro Harvey Milk Plaza at Market & Castro Streets, Meet at the Flag Pole
11am 1st & 3rd Sunday of the Month Dogpatch and Potrero Point Potrero Hill 18th and Tennessee Streets
11am 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Sunday of the Month Mission Dolores Neighborhood Mission Gold painted fire hydrant at the SE corner of 20th and Church Streets
11am 1st and 3rd Sunday of the Month Downtown Deco Downtown SF 140 New Montgomery (between Mission and Howard) at the Telephone Building
11am 1st, 3rd, and 4th Sunday of the month Rising Steel: Two Centuries of SF Architecture Downtown SF Just east of Union Square on the corner of Stockton and Maiden Lane (small alleyway street)
11am 2nd Sunday of the month Art Deco Marina Marina Marina Library at 1890 Chestnut Street
1pm Every Sunday Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park Inside the entrance to the gardens
1pm 2nd and 4th Sundays of the Month Golden Gate Park: East End Golden Gate Park Top of the steps at the Conservatory of Flowers on John F Kennedy Drive
1pm 2nd and 4th Sunday of the Month Murals and The Multi-Ethnic Mission Mission 3543 18th Street in front of the Women's Building
1:30pm 1st and 3rd Sunday of the Month Noe Valley: A Village within a City Noe Valley 451 Jersey Street at the entrance to the public library
2pm Every Sunday Gold Rush City Downtown SF Outside the Transamerica Building at Clay and Montgomery Streets
2pm Every Sunday Nob Hill Nob Hill Outside the entrance of the Stanford Court Hotel on California at Powell Street
2pm Every Sunday Victorian SF Pacific Heights Garden at 1801 Bush Street near the Octavia Street Entrance (corner of Bush and Octavia)

*All tours are subject to change or cancellation without prior notification.

This list of free walking tours are those that are not as frequent. Some of these run every May and October. Some of these free walking tours only run once a year.

I'll update these as much as possible, so you have an idea on when they will be scheduled.

Free Walking Tours with Less Regular Schedules
Tour Name District Start Time Starting Location
Bungalows of Westwood Park Westwood Park May and October only Ocean & Faxon Avenue
Diego Rivera Mural at City College City College May and October only Diego Rivera Theater on the City College Campus
Embarcadero Skyway Embarcadero Center May and October only 400 Sansome Street at Sacramento
Excelsior Stroll Excelsior May and October only 4400 Mission Street at Cotter in front of the Excelsior Library
Financial District Financial District May and October only Front Street between Jackson and Pacific Streets at Sidney Walton Square
Ghost Walk at City Hall Civic Center One tour around Halloween (click here for this year's date) South Light Court inside City Hall
Ghost Walk at The Palace Hotel Downtown One tour around Halloween (click here for this year's date) Lobby of the main entrance at 2 New Montgomery Street
Glen Park Neighborhood Glen Park May and October only Glen Park Library at 2825 Diamond Street
Golden Gate Heights Stairways Golden Gate Heights May and October only At the base of the 15th Avenue staircase (at Kirkham)
Inner Richmond: Part I Richmond May and October only Corner of Geary and 3rd Avenue
Inner Richmond: Part II Richmond May and October only Corner of 6th Avenue and Geary
Mt. Davidson Hike Mt. Davidson May and October only Sherwood Avenue and Myra Way
North Beach by Night North Beach May to August Specs Cafe at 12 Saroyan Place, just off Columbus and south of Broadway
Old South Park SOMA May to August Shell Gas Station on 3rd Street between Bryan and Brannan
Sacred Places in SF Cathedral Hill May and October only St. Mary's Cathedral at Gough and Geary
Tenderloin Neighborhood Part I Tenderloin May and October only Corner of Market and Powell Streets
Tenderloin Neighborhood Part II Tenderloin May and October only Corner of Market and Powell Streets
Uncovering the Parkside Outer Sunset May and October only In front of the Parkside Library at Taraval and 22nd Avenue
Visitation Valley Part I Visitation Valley May and October only 45 Leland Avenue near Bayshore
Visitation Valley Part II Visitation Valley May and October only 45 Leland Avenue near Bayshore
West Side Whimsy Walk West of Twin Peaks May and October only Staircase near 14 Junipero Serra Boulevard

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