Spending the day in the Mission District offers you a chance to see the oldest building in San Francisco as well as dozens of colorful outdoor murals. This self-guided walking tour allows you to see most of this colorful district in just one day.
Almost all of the attractions on this one-day walking tour are free (or every inexpensive) so it's perfect for anyone on a tight budget.
It does involve a lot of walking. However, this neighborhood is mostly flat (except an optional walk to the top of Dolores Park), so the walking is easy. There are also cafes and restaurants along the way, so you can always stop to rest for a while.
This Mission District walking tour is best during the week. This allows you to avoid the weekend crowds.
One of my favorite places to stop in this area for coffee and a light breakfast is the Dolores Park Cafe. This popular local hang out offers breakfast pastries as well as a few sandwiches. After ordering, you can grab a seat either inside or out.
The best time to come here for breakfast is during the week. It is PACKED on weekends, so prepare for this if you happen to do this walk on a weekend day.
After breakfast, walk over to 16th and Dolores Streets to visit the historic Mission San Francisco de Asis. This mission is the oldest building in San Francisco.
Originally built in 1791, this mission survived the devastating impact of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Today, you can visit both the mission and the newer basilica that is right next door (the tower featured in the picture above is on the basilica).
In addition, you can also spend time in their small museum and visit one of the only cemeteries within the city of San Francisco.
The entire visit takes just over an hour. The cost is $5 per person.
One of the best parks in the city is just two blocks away from the Mission de Asis, Dolores Park. This beautiful park sits on a hill at the corner of 18th and Dolores Streets.
Spend a little time strolling through the park. You can also climb to the top of the hill for amazing views of downtown San Francisco.
The San Francisco Mission houses more than 50% of the city's colorful street murals. You can find more than a dozen of them in Clarion Alley alone.
From Dolores Park, walk back down to 17th Street and take a right. Walk two blocks to Valencia Street and take another right. Clarion Alley is less than a half a block away.
The murals in this alley range from political events to pieces about the changes happening in this neighborhood.
Spend some time admiring the murals in this one block stretch before continuing on your adventure.
On your way to the next alley of murals, stop by Taquerias El Farolito for lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant. They serve up everything from tacos to burritos. It's one of my favorites for a quick grab and go lunch.
To get here, take a right on Mission Street after you walk through the murals. Walk past 23rd Street and you will find this little restaurant at 2779 Mission Street.
Make sure you have cash as they do not accept credit cards.
You will find another large concentration of Mission murals on Balmy Street. Many people refer to these as the "Balmy Alley Murals" since Balmy Street is more of an alley also.
You will see a variety of murals here. There are several political murals as well as a few religious murals and fun San Francisco based paintings. This area also has a few funky 3-D murals as well.
Your walk down Balmy Street ends at Garfield Park. Walk down Harrison Street past the Garfield Pool to see several additional murals. You will find them on both the western and southern sides.
After you complete your time here, continue south on Harrison Street and cross Cesar Chavez. On the corner is the Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School.
On almost every side of the school, you will find beautiful murals. Take time to walk around the school checking out all of their gorgeous pieces of art.
Your walk around the school should end at Harrison and Precita Avenue. Walk east down Precita Avenue to the end of the park. Take a right and walk one block. Take a left on Precita Avenue (two streets have the same name) and walk half a block to the Precita Community Center.
On this building, you will find a beautiful mural that covers the front of the building. It's a memorial to two young adults killed in the park nearby. Included in the mural, you will also find images of colorful local celebrities.
On your journey to the Precita Community Center, you walked past a small cafe on the corner of Alabama Street and Precita Avenue. Walk back to the corner and step inside to enjoy a warm coffee, an ice-cold beer or a nice glass of wine.
If you are hungry, they also have a nice selection of handcrafted pizzas (make sure you add the egg!) and handmade pastas. My favorites are the mushroom pizza and the gourmet macaroni and cheese.
The best way to get to the Dolores Park Cafe from Union Square is by taking the J Muni train. Pick it up at the underground station at Powell Street. Take it to the stop at 18th and Church Streets. Walk west along the park and you will find this cute cafe on the corner of 18th and Dolores Streets.
This journey takes about 25 minutes.
The best way to get here from Fisherman's Wharf is by taking the F-Streetcar. Pick it up on the corner of Beach and Mason Streets. Take it all the way to Market and Dolores. From here, walk six blocks south along Dolores to the cafe.
This route takes about 45 minutes.
The Mission district features dozens of amazing bars and restaurants. You will find a lot of diversity here as well as some of the best restaurants in the city.