San Francisco Walking Tours

The Best Guided Walking Tours in SF

Taking one of the San Francisco walking tours is the best way to see the city. It gives you the chance to get an up close and personal look at the major attractions and neighborhoods that made SF famous.

mission mural from sf walking tour
This is just one of dozens of photos I took during a Mission Murals walk.

San Francisco has quite a few interesting guided walks from the popular Golden Gate Bridge trips to food tours where you taste your way through a specific neighborhood or market.

The best part about many of the San Francisco walking tours is that you get access to places you can't get into otherwise. You will also find out about hidden spots and little known facts for each SF district or tourist attraction.

painted ladies of alamo square
This is a rare look inside one of the painted ladies in Alamo Square. The owner offers a look inside, at times, for those on the Alamo Square Walk offered through the SF Public Library.


What to Expect During These Walks

Many of the ones here last between one and three hours. I've found that most hit the spot in between and are around 2 hours long.

During this time, you do quite a bit of standing and walking, since the guide is explaining quite a bit along the way. On average, they usually cover around one to three miles.

The city is very hilly, but many try to take the flattest route. Any that include a steep hill or set of stairs is included in the description, so you know what you are getting yourself into before you book.

Make sure you always wear comfortable shoes and clothing for the walk, since there isn't always a place to sit down and rest.


San Francisco Public Library

The Public Library offers several informative walks. They are given by local experts that are volunteers and passionate about their subject.

coit tower muralsEach one provides well researched information on their topic. I've done quite a few of these and I'm always learning something new.

These are free, although they do ask for donations at the end. This is to help keep the program running - and is not a tip for the guide.

You also don't need to make a reservation. You just need to show up at the designated location a few minutes before it begins.

One con of these is that they don't limit the number of people on each one. Some of the most popular ones get quite large. However, they are free, so you can always head off and do something else if it isn't right for you.

Learn More: List of Guided Walks Offered by the SF Public Library


Alcatraz Prison

alcatraz island prison cellThe Alcatraz prison visits are by far the most popular of the San Francisco walking tours. They start and end with a ferry ride over to the island, but the rest of it is all on foot.

There are several tours a day. They also offer one or two each evening, depending on the time of year.

All tours start with a walk up the hill to the prison. You will then take a self guided audio walk.

A visit to Alcatraz is a must for all first time San Francisco visitors!


Discover Walks

Another group that offers free walks is Discover Walks. They have been around for a couple of years.

They offer three free walks each day. You can take a guided trek of the following neighborhoods:

  • Fishermans Wharf
  • Chinatown
  • North Beach and the Barbary Coast

Each one is an hour long. Although these are free, their guides are paid through tips at the end. It's a great way for a quick overview of the city.


Fishermans Wharf & North Beach Walks

This San Francisco walk covers two of the most visited SF neighborhoods: Fishermans Wharf and North Beach. The two hour journey starts at the world famous Buena Vista Cafe.

fishermans wharfFrom here, you'll take in some amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and then make your way over to North Beach. Here you get to experience Washington Park and Saints Peter and Paul Church.

You'll then climb the stairs to soak in the views near Coit Tower. From here, you get additional views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street.

At the end, you receive a ticket to ride on the famous cable cars. This way you can continue to explore on your own.

This one lasts around two hours and includes quite a bit of walking. It also includes a stair climb to the top of Coit Tower. It's a great one for those that love to explore on foot.

Learn More: Fishermans Wharf & North Beach Walks


Chinatown

chinaYou can find several walking tours offered for Chinatown. Here you can sample some dim sum and find out more about the ghosts that roam this part of town.

Most of these also include a walk past its many attractions such as the Fortune Cookie Company, its famed herbal pharmacies and colorful temples.

Learn More: Chinatown


North Beach

north beachYou can also find quite a few San Francisco walking tours in North Beach. Here you can see many attractions including Washington Park, Saint Peter and Paul's Church and Coit Tower. You can also take a food trip and sample some of its amazing Italian treats.

Learn More: North Beach


Visit the Castro

Take a historical walking tour and learn the history of SF's internationally recognized gay and lesbian district. The Castro is colorful and packed full of history.

castro san franciscoIt's the neighborhood where civil rights leader Harvey Milk lived. Discover the location of his original camera shop, visit Harvey Milk Plaza and learn more about the Civil Rights Academy built in his honor.

You'll also visit many beautifully crafted murals, spend some time in the Pink Triangle Memorial Park and find out about the Rainbow Honor Walk Project.

This two-hour adventure is a great way to learn the truth about this controversial, yet thriving San Francisco neighborhood.

Learn More: Guided Castro Visits


Golden Gate Bridge Walks

On this tour, a local guide will walk you across the famed Golden Gate Bridge and tell your stories about its history. This 45 minute trek is offered at four different times each day.

golden gate bridgeThe great thing about this one is that it includes quite a few extras. Before or after, you get to visit the Aquarium of the Bay and take a cruise arund the city.

At the Aquarium of the Bay, you get the chance to meet all of the plants and animals that live in the bay. You'll also get to experience some of them up close at their hands on exhibits.

Your hop on/hop off city bus includes 19 stops throughout the city. You can hop off at any point along the way to visit more San Francisco attractions including Golden Gate Park, the Presidio and the Palace of Fine Arts. You can then jump back on the bus to continue your narrated journey.

Learn More: Guided Golden Gate Bridge Visits


SF Ghost Hunt

Do you want to search for the ghosts from San Francisco's past? If so, then you might enjoy the San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour. Five nights a week, local ghost hunters take visitors to one of San Francisco's most notoriously haunted spots.

This one starts at the famed Queen Anne Hotel in the Japantown neighborhood. You'll stroll through the streets of San Francisco hearing documented ghost stories, visiting places that are said to be haunted and, possibly, experiencing an unexplained event.

You do not need to pre-pay or register. All you need to do is show up at the Queen Anne Hotel at 1590 Sutter Street, on the corner of Sutter and Octavia Streets. Show up a little before 7pm, Wednesday - Sunday nights, and let the haunting begin!

The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for kids 16 and under.


Haight Ashbury

You can also find some great San Francisco walking tours in the Haight Ashbury district. The neighborhood was the center of the action for the 60s generation.

haight ashburyOn the Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour, you can get a taste of what this neighborhood was like during that time. During this one, you will learn more about the Haight's role during the Summer of Love. You will also get the chance to walk along the same streets as many of its famous residents such as Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

This is one of the San Francisco walking tours that does require advance registration and payment. The cost is $20 per person and kids under 9 can tag along for free.

Another popular one here is the Haunted Haight Walking Tour. On this walk, you'll learn all about the documented ghost stories in this famed neighborhood. You'll also get the chance to see the residences of some of the infamous murderers and cult leaders that used to call this neighborhood home.

A reservation is also required. The cost is $20 per person and starts at 7pm.


Discounted Tickets

In addition to the tours mentioned above, you can also find some discounted tours on Goldstar. Here are just some of the San Francisco walking tours that you can find at up to 50% off the full retail cost for certain days and times:

  • Rick Evan's San Francisco Chinatown Walking Tour
  • See Chinatown After Dark on the Ghostly Walking Tour
  • Japantown: Edible Excursions Tasting Featuring Asian Specialities
  • Tasty Tours of the Ferry Building and Farmer's Market
  • Visit the Cutting-Edge Cuisine of 18th Street in the Mission
  • Mission 24th Street: Culinary Journey with an Epicurean Concierge

Find discounted tickets for even more walking tours and events on Goldstar.


Additional San Francisco Walking Tours

Self Guided: Do you prefer to tour on your own? If you enjoy a slower tour on your own (or with your own group), then check out these Self Guided Tour options. You can choose from audio guides and hard copy maps with a pre-planned routes.

Food Adventures: Are you interested in sampling some of the tasty treats of San Francisco? These San Francisco walking tours combine a guided walking tour with the savory flavors of some of San Francisco's most popular dishes.

Night Trips: Do you love to experience a cities nightlife? These nighttime San Francisco walking tours include both ghost stories and those that end with dinner in a local restaurant.

> > Walking Tours

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