San Francisco Walking Tours: The 10 Best Guided Walks

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: February 16, 2024

Are you looking for the best San Francisco walking tours? With so many options, are you not sure which one to choose? 

My list of the top 10 offers you the chance to easily find the right tour option for you. This selection gives you the chance to get an up-close and personal look at our major attractions and learn more about the neighborhoods that made SF famous. 

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. 

painted ladies of alamo squareThis 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 SF City Guides.

The best part about many of these guided walks is that you will get access to places you normally wouldn't find on your own or that only allow guided tours to visit.

You will also find out about hidden spots and little-known facts for each SF district or tourist attraction.

My Three Top Picks

#1 Top Pick

North Beach Food Tour
4.5 stars

North Beach & Little Italy Food Tour

3 hour tour

Sample chocolates, coffee, pizza & more

Runs daily

#2 Pick

Gold and Ghouls Tour
4.5 stars

SF Ghosts: Gold and Ghouls Tour

1 hour tour

Visits both Nob Hill & Union Square

Runs nightly

#3 Pick

Chinatown Culinary Tour
4.5 stars

Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour

3 hour tour

Sample dim sum

Learn about Chinese teas & herbs

Visit a Buddhist temple

Runs daily

What to Expect During These Walks

San Francisco walking tours last between one and three hours. I've found that most hit the spot in between and are around two hours long. During this time, you do quite a bit of standing and walking, since the guide is explaining a lot along the way. 

On average, the tours usually cover around one to three miles. The city is very hilly, but many tours try to take the flattest route. If any tour requires climbing a steep hill or set of stairs, I've included it 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.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

1. North Beach & Little Italy Food Tour

The San Francisco North Beach District, also called Little Italy, is where you will find some of the most amazing Italian treats and quite a bit of history. And, this walking tour gives you a sample of both!

Stroll through the streets of North Beach as you sample some of its tasty pastries and desserts from locally popular bakeries and delis. Indulge in fresh roasted coffee, Italian sodas, and teas.

Tastes of North Beach

You will also learn all about this historically significant neighborhood from your local guide. Take a peek inside some of the Beat Generation's favorite stops. Step inside one of the most beautiful neighborhood churches, Saints Peter and Paul Church. 

At the end of this tour, you will know North Beach, Little Italy and it's most treasured stops like a local!

The tour runs for about 3 hours on mostly flat streets. It runs twice a day almost every day of the year.

>> Find tickets to this tour on GetYourGuide

>> More of my favorite food tours around SF

2. Golden Gate Bridge

The first of the San Francisco walking tours on my list is a free Golden Gate Bridge walk. It's offered through SF City Guides every Sunday and Thursday at 11 am.

On this stroll, you will learn more about the history of the Golden Gate Bridge, walk through its outdoor museum, and then walk on the bridge to the first tower.

The walk lasts about two hours and starts at the Strauss Tower on the southern end of the bridge near the Visitors Center.

It's a great way to learn all about this amazing structure and the people that built it.

Walking Tour on the Golden Gate Bridge

You do not need to register for this tour ahead of time. Simply show up at the meeting location a few minutes before 11 am. 

They will ask you to sign their form and where you found out about this walk.

At the end, they will ask for a small donation to help support their work. I usually give about $7 to $10 per walk. 

The only downside of this walk is that they don't limit the number of people, so come early and stand in front so you can hear everything the guide describes.

>> Find additional guided walks offered for free by SF City Guides 

3. Explore the Mission, Castro, & the Duboce Triangle

One of the hottest new San Francisco walking tours is called the "Surreal San Francisco Tour." It tells the folklore of three of our most interesting and diverse neighborhoods: the Castrothe Mission, and the Duboce Triangle.

Your tour starts in the Castro where you'll then walk through Mission Dolores and up to Dolores Park. You'll hear two fascinating stories along the way, told by your guide, a published poet and longtime city resident.

Radical SF Tour

You will then head back over to the Castro with a stop at Harvey Milk Plaza where you'll hear another fascinating story from this district. 

The tour continues with stops for additional San Francisco tales at Corona Heights, Duboce Triangle, and the Lower Haight.

You will end your tour where you began. This is NOT a family-friendly walking tour, as the masterful storytelling contains some profanity, drug references, and content for adults.

The tour runs about 2 hours and is an easy walk with no hills. 

>> Find tickets to this tour on Viator

4. Food Walking Tour of Chinatown & North Beach

Spend your afternoon getting to know two of our top districts: Chinatown and North Beach. These two very different neighborhoods sit side-by-side and make for one of the most popular San Francisco walking tours.

Your journey begins in Chinatown, one of the oldest and largest Chinese communities outside of Asia. You'll start by sampling fresh dim sum at a local bakery. 

You will then hear all about this district's culture and intriguing stories. Before you leave, you will also get the chance to sip on some tasty Chinese tea.

North Beach and Chinatown at Night

You will emerge from China and step into Italy as you enter North Beach. This part of your walking tour includes stops at some of the Beat Generation's favorite watering holes and a chance to sample handmade pizza.

You will savor some of this district's best locally roasted coffee. You will also get the chance to see where "The Godfather" was written.

Your ticket for this 2-hour tour includes all the food and drink samples along the way. Don't eat too much before you arrive as you want to leave room for all of the tasty treats!

This is one of the San Francisco walking tours that runs almost every day of the year.

>> Find tickets for this tour on GetYourGuide

>> More Chinatown tours

5. The Haunt: Ghost-Hunting Walking Tour

Union Square's dark history comes to light on this interesting and fun ghost tour. This district was a common stop for visitors looking for a little fun during the Gold Rush era. Above the forgotten graves and buried ships emerged an area with brothels and crime-filled alleys.

You'll meet for this tour in the Jackson Square historic district and prepare to learn about the dark events as your guide outfits the group with paranormal activity detectors.

This tour isn't so much scary as it is a chilling look back at this district's infamous past.

This tour is offered most nights and runs for about 90 minutes.

>> Find tickets for this spooky tour on GetYourGuide

>> More ghost tours around SF

6. Craft Beer Walking Tour in Fisherman's Wharf & North Beach

Are you a craft beer lover? Are you curious about the craft brews that San Francisco has to offer? If so, you are going to love this fun walking tour!

On this fun adventure, you will spend around 4 hours sampling some of the area's best craft brews in the Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach districts. 

Craft Beer Walking Tour

You will get the chance to tour a craft brewery and stop and sample at three popular beer bars. As you sip, you will also learn all about the history of craft beers in both SF and California.

It's a great way to get to know some of our top districts as well as our hot artisanal brewery scene.

This tour runs several times a week. It meets at 2 pm and includes beer and snacks. 

>> Visit Viator to check for ticketing availability

7. Castro LGBTQ Walking Tour

Want to explore one of the world's largest LGBTQ districts? 

On this tour, your local guide will tell you all about the Castro. You'll learn about its history, some of the most important spots around the district, and its ongoing role in the civil rights movement. 

LGBTQ Walking Tour

You'll also learn more about one of the district's most interesting late residents, Harvey Milk, and what led to his untimely death.

Other top stops include the Rainbow Honor Walk, Pink Triangle Park, and Harvey Milk Plaza.

The tour is about 2 hours long with no large hills. It runs two to three days a week.

>> Find out more and book your tickets on this tour today

8. Mission District Walking Food Tour

This tour takes you to some of the best food spots around the Mission District, whose culinary scene has exploded thanks to its rich cultural diversity. On this 3-hour tour, you'll stop at five local mom-and-pop shops and restaurants.

Along the way, you'll sample everything from the best marinated meat tacos in town to the best falafel around. You'll have pizza, treats from an award-winning French bakery, and more. 

Mission Tour SF

As you stroll through this diverse neighborhood, you'll also learn more about its history and the stories behind its colorful street art. 

The tour includes all food tastings and snacks, so you don't have to worry about paying at each location. Another benefit is that you get to skip the lines at all of these popular eateries!

Wear comfortable shoes as you will be on your feet for the full three hours. 

It runs most Fridays and Sundays.

>> Find out more about this tour including availability during your stay

9. Telegraph Hill & the Old Waterfront Tour

Learn all about the history of San Francisco's eastern side on this scenic tour. It starts at the Ferry Building and takes you along the old waterfront. 

You will then head up the Filbert Street Stairs as you learn about the history of the Telegraph Hill District as well as some of its most famous residents, the wild parrots.

Parrots of Telegraph Hill

You will walk up to Coit Tower to learn more about this tall landmark on the hill. Enjoy great views while you learn about its history and the person who donated the money to build it.

You will then descend down the Greenwich Stairs as you learn even more about this interesting, historic area.

The walk is about four miles long and includes quite a few stairs. It takes about 3 to 3.5 hours.

You will then return to the Ferry Building at the end of the journey. This tour runs two days a week.

>> Find tickets to this interesting San Francisco experience

>> Find additional unusual experiences around SF

10. Full Day San Francisco Tour by Cable Car & On Foot

The final option on my list of 10 best San Francisco walking tours is this 8 hour tour that will take you past many of our top attractions.

It's fun to head out on this tour that is mostly on foot, but also offers a couple of rides on our famous cable cars. 

What will you see on this all day tour? Here are a few of the highlights.

  • Nob Hill
  • City Hall
  • The Castro
  • Lombard Street
  • Chinatown
  • ...and more! 

This tour starts at the corner of Market & Drumm Streets and finished in Chinatown. The cost of the two cable car rides and the streetcar ride are included in your ticket price. 

>> Visit Viator to book your spot

Best walking tours of San Francisco

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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