Self-Guided Walking Tours of San Francisco

Jill at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Do you love venturing out on your own? Are you interested in exploring the city of San Francisco without a large group around you? If so, then these self-guided walking tours of San Francisco are just for you! 

All of these tours take you on a specific walking route through the city. My tours offer you a step-by-step route to make it easy to get around. You will also find others that offer either audio or a map to get you from point to point.

You can start and end anywhere along the way. It's all up to you!

Fisherman's Wharf

It is the perfect way to learn more about the history of San Francisco at a time and pace that works for you!

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

My Self-Guided Walking Tours By District

Hearts of SF and Mural

Taking a self-guided walking tour around San Francisco is a great way to get to know our amazing city. I've created one for each of our most popular districts. 

My tours lay out one full day in each district. However, if you don't plan to spend much time at each attraction or stop, you can cut the time down significantly.

Fisherman's Wharf: Walk around one of our most popular districts. See the top attractions such as Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, and the Hyde Street Pier.

Chinatown: Stroll down the colorful streets of Chinatown and see its historic temples, top dim sum restaurants, and amazing street art.

North Beach: This district is also called Little Italy. Visit its top attractions, see where the Beat Generation spent their days and nights, and taste some of the best goodies in the district.

Haight-Ashbury: See the spots where the Summer of Love captured the nation, grab some vintage threads, and check out some of this district's interesting murals. You will also see where some of the most famous people of the 60s lived, including the Grateful Dead and Charles Manson.

Castro: This colorful district is one you do not want to miss. On my self-guided walking tour, you will see where history was made for the LGBTQ community. Stroll along the Rainbow Walk of Fame, check out Harvey Milk's old camera shop, and learn more about the history of this district at the GLBT Museum.

Mission: The Mission is home to our largest concentration of street art and murals. You will also find some of the best Mexican, Cuban, and other cuisines from both South and Central America. It's a day of gorgeous art and tasty treats. 

>> Find additional self-guided tours plus some multi-day itineraries 

Japantown Self-Guided Walking Tour

Japantown in SF

The Japantown District also offers a free self-guided walking tour. You start at the Japan Center Malls where you will find a plaque outlining the walk.

You will then walk from each historical marker to the next as you learn all about the oldest Japantown in the US. 

Each stop offers a little information about what happened at that location. It also has a map showing you where your next stop will be.

It's a great way to learn all about this important SF District.

>> Learn more about things to see and do in Japantown

More Great Self-Guided Tours of San Francisco

City Walks: San Francisco: 50 Adventures on Foot

The best way to go on self guided walking tours of San Francisco is with City Walks. The thing I love about these walks is that all 50 are printed on their own cards. This means you only have to bring along the ones you plan on using that day.

I've used these many times. On the front, you will see the full walking route. The back of each card offers the address and a little information about each point of interest on the route.

If you decide to add a few stops along the way, these cards will help you easily get back to your original route.

I've used these in other cities, too, and they are great. They are much easier to use than an audio tour if there is more than one person in your group.

These are also available on Amazon.

Barbary Coast Trail: Self-Guided

Barbary Coast Trail

The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society offers two self-guided walks of the Barbary Coast Trail in San Francisco. This trail connects important historical sites throughout the streets of SF. 

The trail is marked with bronze medallions embedded within the sidewalks. I found the one in the picture on the left in the North Beach neighborhood.

The self-guided treks are 3.8 miles long and take you through several SF neighborhoods including Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, and Fisherman's Wharf. 

You'll hear historical facts about SF events such as the California Gold Rush and the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. You'll also stop by many places that were frequented by famous locals from San Francisco's past.

You can choose from either a self guided audio download or a printed map. Learn more about both options on the museum's dedicated Barbary Coast website.

Frommer's Best of SF Audio Tour

This is one of the self-guided audio walking tours of San Francisco. During your walking tour, you will learn more about 20 of San Francisco's top attractions. 

This 1-hour-and-16-minute-tour can be done at your own pace. You can stop along the way to learn even more about each attraction - or even skip ahead if it's an attraction you already visited.

You will also receive a full color map of the route. This way, you always know what SF attraction you are visiting next.

You can listen to the audio on your iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or any other MP3 player.

Frommer's also has a second audio tour that covers the San Francisco waterfront. You can buy these together or separately through Amazon.

Night Adventures: Do you love seeing a city at night? Here you will find some of the best San Francisco tours at night, from scary ghost walks to night cruises around the bay.

Chinatown: This is one of the most visited neighborhoods in SF, since there is so much to see and do. Simplify your planning process to this neighborhood by taking a guided tour. Each one covers many of the top attractions and points out the hidden gems you would have missed by walking the neighborhood on your own.

North Beach: There is a lot of history in the North Beach district. Take one of these to learn more about its famous residents, controversial stories and Italian roots.

Wine Tasting in Napa or Sonoma: If you love trying different wines, then a trip to either Napa or Sonoma is only an hour away. Here you will find some of the best wine tasting trips to both of these regions. All of these leave from San Francisco and ease the burden of trying to get to and from wine country on your own.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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