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11 Best San Francisco Walking Tours [Free & Guided]

11 Best San Francisco Walking Tours [Free & Guided]

San Francisco is a lovely place to tour because of the many walkable sites and scenes that attract tourists from all over the world.

Many people like to explore the city by taking a long stroll to have a local experience. San Francisco is a great place to explore on foot. It’s a pedestrian-friendly city, and the scenery is so beautiful. There are so many sites worth seeing, whether you want to explore world cultures, shop or just have a good meal.

There are a ton of fun and popular neighborhoods in San Francisco, which is one of the many reasons why this city is excellent for a great walking tour.

Here are some of the popular neighborhoods that should be on your walking tour agenda:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Haight and Ashbury
  • North Beach
  • Union Square

Best San Francisco Walking Tours

Here is a list of the best San Francisco walking tours that will help you uncover all the hidden gems in the city.

1. San Francisco: Evening Ghost Tour

Bench in a Dark Park

This tour is perfect for all people interested in ghost stories and ancient secrets. Discover ancient relics in haunted hotels and streets which have a scary meaning. The Sutter building is a haunted hotel famous for the Mayan secrets and Westin St. Francis is known for the famous tragedies of the families that haunt the hotel to this day.

Learn more about the stories such as the Fatty Arbuckle curse which had him rejected by every person in the movie industry.

Things to know about this tour:

  • This ghost walking tour has a starting price of 22 USD. Discover old buildings and relics during this hour-long tour. The live tour is available in English. 
  • Video camera recordings, alcohol, and drugs are prohibited on this tour for the safety of tourists.
  • Make sure to wear comfortable shoes on this tour as you will be exploring haunted hotels and streets.
  • This tour is wheelchair user-friendly, however, it is not advisable for people with pre-existing health conditions.

See Related: Best Things to do in East Bay

2. San Francisco Grand City Tour Including Free Walking Tour

Aerial Shot of a Town Square

This half-day free walking tour in San Francisco is perfect to see all the sights in the city. The Grand city tour will start from the Grey Line in Union square and cover many popular attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, the neighborhoods of North Beach, and the financial districts.

You can upgrade the tour to a cruise or rent a bike for a day in San Francisco Bay. The other option includes an exploration of the native marine creatures in the Aquarium of the Bay.

There are many San Francisco walking tours to explore North Beach. The best free walking tour in San Francisco as it lets you experience the scenic beauty and lively atmosphere of the city.

Things to know about the tour:

  • The 4-hour English tour at a starting price of 58 USD and a few select San Francisco hotels have partnered with the tour to provide tourists with a hotel pickup service to the departure place. 
  • You must contact the Gray Line San Francisco tour operator 48 hours in advance to confirm your hotel pickup at the departure place.
  • The free walking tour in San Francisco has a maximum limit for each tour is 45 people. The tour has an accessible stroller and wheelchair.
  • There are two options for the cruise upgrade; the Aquarium of the Bay Admission and the Bay Cruise Adventure.

3. San Francisco’s Little Italy and North Beach Walking Tour

Waiter Holding a Bottle of Wine

This tour is perfect for all foodies, you will get to experience different cuisines making it one of the best San Francisco walking tours for dining.

The places have previously won awards from San Francisco Bay Guardian. in the heart of the city. Little Italy has a culinary significance making it famous for its homemade bread, truffles, coffee, fresh-cut meats, and olive oil.

Learn about historic landmarks such as Saint Peter and Paul Church. Don’t forget to grab a coffee in the local bistro and a delicious cannoli at Stella Pastry on your visit. Stop by the historic Washington Square Park during this iconic walk.

Things to know about the tour:

  • The 3-hour tour is available in English at a starting price of 73.60 USD.
  • The meeting place for this tour is at 480 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA at noon.
  • Each tour is given a professional guide to explain the rich culinary history in the neighborhood of North Beach and Little Italy.
  • The tour is accessible to a maximum of 15 people.

4. Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour

Girls Raising Hands in a Forest Trail

This tour will allow you to explore the different species in the Muir woods and Sausalito which are the two main Marin attractions. The tour is inclusive of the entry fees to both attractions.

You can learn about old plant and tree species such as the redwood sequoia trees. You can learn about Marin’s history through this guided tour.

After viewing the area, you can finish the tour at the Golden Gate Bridge where you can admire the downtown San Francisco skyline

Things to know about the tour:

  • The tour is available for a maximum of 11 travelers
  • The 4-hour tour is offered in English with a starting price of 99 USD and will have a 24-hour cancellation policy.
  • The meeting point will be at 545 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA at 8:30 am.
  • You can explore the woods and the wildlife with an air-conditioned vehicle.
  • This tour is great for families who are trying to avoid large crowds during the Covid pandemic.

5. Golden Gate Bridge Walking Tour

Long Red Bridge and Skyline

This tour will take you to the best photo op places on the Golden Gate Bridge. The guide will tell you all about the numerous historical stories about the famous bridge, making it one of the best things to do in San Fran as a family.

San Francisco tours, in general, are a great option for taking perfect pictures, watching the sunset, or hearing fascinating stories from your guide.

Things to do during the tour:

  • The hour-long tour costs 18 USD and is offered in English.
  • This tour is perfect for taking pictures as you walk on the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for a maximum of 10 people.
  • Explore historical sightings and listen to stories of the remnants of the California Gold Rush era from your professional tour guide.
  • It is an informative and fun experience to learn about San Francisco’s history, making it one of the best San Francisco walking tours.

6. San Francisco’s Chinatown Walking Tour with Optional Lunch

Woman Walking a on China Town Street
Photos by GetYourGuide

Chinatown is a great place for tourists to get an authentic Chinese cuisine experience through this walking food tour. You can get lost for hours in this little town in downtown San Francisco.

You can find everything from ancient Asian herbs to fortune cookie factories. Experience the hidden gems such as the Buddhist temple and soak up the lively atmosphere in the district.

End the walking food tour with a 9-course dim sum meal which will be an unforgettable experience for everyone.

Things to do during the tour:

  • This two-hour walking food tour is cost-efficient as the starting price is 75 USD.
  • The tour allows for a maximum of 2 people and is offered in English.
  • Taste and experience the wonderful variety of cuisines in San Francisco.
  • This tour is perfect for foodies as your tour guide will tell you the best restaurants and markets in the city.
  • Treat your tastebuds by upgrading the tour package which will include a sumptuous 9-course authentic Chinese dim sum lunch

7. Hippie to Hipster Neighborhoods Walk

Graffiti and Drawings on a Wall

This is one of the best San Francisco walking tours as you get a local perspective from your guide, Ginevra, who is a San Francisco native. The tour is more personalized as it only allows only a maximum of 10 people.

The main attraction is Haight street which is hippie friendly and has many decorative murals, art pieces, and colorful stores. You will get to see the homes of famous people such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

The entire area is inspired by the hippie era in the 1960s. The second neighborhood you will visit is NOPA ( North of the Pan Handle) which has a transition from a hippie to a hipster vibe.

During this tour, you can cover an important region in the San Francisco area.

  • The two-hour walking Airbnb tour is hosted in English by Ginevra. The tour has a limit of 10 people and will cost 35 USD per person.
  • San Francisco walking tours are best to explore the depths of the hipster neighborhood with a tour around the famous Haight Street and the transformation of Victorian buildings to a chic hangout spot. 
  • Make sure to bring an ID or passport
  • You can learn about the vast history, hipster culture, and architecture of the NOPA and Haight neighborhoods.
  • You won’t want to miss out on capturing the beauty of this place so don’t forget to bring your camera.
  • Meet Ginevra at the Mansion in San Francisco. The tour will start from Haight Street and end in Alamo Square for a photo op.

8. Russian Hill Staircases

Ina Coolbrith Park has panoramic views of the Transamerica Pyramid and Alcatraz Island Airport from Telegraph Hill. Take a walk up Vallejo Street in Russian Hill. There was a burial ground for Russian soldiers there.

The park offers a view of the Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge, Treasure Island, and The Port of Oakland in the distance. Walk three blocks north on Hyde to Lombard Street.

On Hyde, go right then left on Green Street. From Jones and Green streets, take in a stunning vista.

See Related: Best Family Travel Insurance

Free Walking Tours in San Francisco

You don’t need to have a paid guide to go on a walking tour. Most cities offer free walking tours and San Francisco is no different. Joining free city tours is a great way to explore San Francisco directly with locals.

The Public Library offers free walking tours every Spring and Fall. Other specialized excursions are available to promote new and existing routes through the area in May and October. These are among the most popular day walks around libraries. The library also provides special itineraries in May, October, and May and November.

How to join free tours in San Francisco

If you want to join a free walking tour, you must book ahead of time. They’ll let you know whether or not you can sign up for the tour if it’s full. You should also arrive 15 minutes before the tour begins.

Please don’t be late for your tour, so don’t begin if you’re already in the middle of one. This also aids the team in assessing each trip’s success and determining its future plan. The guide is generally accessible and searching for tourists. They usually have a clipboard in their hands.

Other Tours in San Francisco

9. San Francisco: 2.5-Hour Wharf 7 Waterfront Segway Tour

Groupd Riding a Segway and Wearing Protective Gears

Explore San Francisco’s Municipal Pier and Aquatic District on a Segway. This tour is a perfect activity for your family and friends as you can get to experience the hustle and bustle of the city in a short time.

On your journey, you will get to see the Cable Car turnaround and the picturesque Fisherman’s Wharf which has a rich historical background.

Get a glimpse of the local fishing livelihood in Northern California which includes the Fisherman’s Chapel and the Submarine Pampanito.

You can make a stop to try unique fish varieties such as the Dungeness crab in Fisherman’s Wharf. You could also marvel at the chocolate-making process in Ghiradelli Square and if time permits you can try some of the decadent hand-made chocolate.

Things to know about this tour:

  • The tour lasts for 2.5-3 hours and you can get a free cancellation policy within 24 hours of booking the tour.
  • The tour is available in English and the starting price is 79 USD. You will be given your own set of headphones to help you listen to the live-guide commentary.
  • Due to the use of a Segway, this tour is not suitable for pregnant women and people with disabilities.
  • The meeting point is on Beach Street from Hydclose to the Street Cable Car near The Fisherman’s Wharf. Your guide will be holding yellow and blue flags to help you identify the location for the tour.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t know how to use a Segway, there will be a 40-minute Segway training on-site, and all those below the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

10. San Francisco: Panoramic Night Tour

Red Bus on a Road

The main tour highlights will be the City at the Bay bus ride where you can see the city lights from the open-top bus. Learn about the historical significance of Nob Hill and Grace Cathedral.

Capture the breathtaking views of the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge at night from Marina Green and Crissy Fields.

In the evening, your guide will take you to view the city lights of Treasure Island near Nob Hill and the Bay Bridge. You can make 20 stops on this free walking tour in San Francisco.

Things to know about the tour:

  • The tour has a duration of 1.5 hours so plan your time accordingly. This walking tour is cost-efficient as the starting price is 45 USD
  • The meeting point is at 99 Jefferson Street.
  • Since it is a night tour, make sure you pack well to protect yourself from the harsh cold weather
  • This tour does not have a hop-on-hop-off option.
  • You will get to see the city skyline through the open-top bus. 

See Related: Northern California vs Southern California

11. Alcatraz and Big Bus Premium 1-Day Hop-On Hop-Off

Tow Story Red Bus

Alcatraz Island is located at the center of San Francisco Bay, this is an informative tour about the significance of the island to the US Army as a federal prison. This is one of the best San Francisco walking tours as your guide will tell you historic stories and anecdotes about the island.

After exploring the entire island, enjoy the rest of the tour with a stroll in Chinatown, and experience a walking food tour with the ample cuisines offered in the city.

Things to know about the tour:

  • The tour has a duration of 1 day making it easier to skip the ticket line. The tour prices start from 110 USD.
  • The tour audio guide is made available in several languages such as Spanish, Italian, French, English, Japanese, Portuguese, German, and Chinese.
  • Make sure to leave your furry friends at home as pets are not allowed on this tour.
  • The tour is flexible as you can exchange your Alcatraz Cruise date 24 hours to 48 hours before the tour to get your pass.
  • The ticket price for the Alcatraz Cruise is 39.90 USD

See Related: Touring Denali National Park in a Jeep

Final Thoughts

Walking tours in the greater San Francisco Bay Area are known for attracting a large number of tourists to its various attractions throughout the city. It’s a fantastic city to visit since you’ll see a variety of things as one of the most walkable cities in the United States.

Public transportation is well connected to different places making it easier to get for tourists to travel. A walking tour, either free or paid, will give you the true local experience of the city.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the best San Francisco walking tours?

Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate Bridge offer the most iconic and recognizable part of San Francisco and promise a great view both from the top and from its base if you walk or bike across.

How many San Francisco walking tours are there?

There are many tours in San Francisco, some of which are small while others can accommodate larger groups of more than 30 people.

Where can I buy San Francisco walking tour tickets?

The best way to book guided tours in San Francisco in advance is by booking with GetYourGuide or Viator.

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