The 13 Best San Francisco Walking Tours

Explore the beauty of San Francisco on two feet with these informative jaunts.

U.S. News & World Report

The 13 Best San Francisco Walking Tours

Best San Francisco Walking Tours

Strolls by San Francisco's classic Victorian homes is a must-do activity in the city.(Getty Images)

Despite its famous hills, San Francisco is full of leisurely (and occasionally flat) strolls. To get in a workout while on vacation and see some of San Francisco's top attractions, consider signing up for a walking tour. Local guides lead participants to some of the most interesting areas of the city, sharing history, hauntings and delicious food along the way. Here are 13 of the best San Francisco walking tours, analyzed by U.S. News using traveler opinion and expert input.

Victorian Home Walk

Stroll by more than 200 of San Francisco's colorful Victorian homes on this two-hour tour. The guided walk explores the Pacific Heights neighborhood, taking visitors past filming locations for "Mrs. Doubtfire," "The Princess Diaries," and other beloved movies and shows. Participants will also be shown the interior of a period Queen Anne Victorian. Reviewers say the guide provides interesting information. They also appreciate the leisurely pace of the walk, which doesn't include large hills. Tours are available Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m., and tickets cost $25 paid in cash only. Reservations are required.

San Francisco City Guides – Golden Gate Park: East End

On this two-hour tour, participants will meander through San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Park. Sticking to the east side of the park, guides take tourgoers to landmarks like the National AIDS Memorial Grove and the Music Concourse, while sharing information about the park's past and present. The walking tour does involve climbing stairs and small hills. Reviewers describe the tour as wonderful and praise the friendly, insightful guides. The tour, which is offered two Sundays per month at 1 p.m., is free but donations are welcome. San Francisco City Guides also offers tours focused on Alfred Hitchcock's famous San Francisco filming locations, the 1906 earthquake and architecture in Chinatown, among other themes.

Wild SF Walking Tours – Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour

Delve into San Francisco's seedy past with tales of true crime, hauntings, unexplained deaths and even the Black Plague on this 90-minute ghost tour. Guides regale participants with stories about historic sites throughout the city that are believed to be haunted, including the Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square, a former brothel, underground speakeasies and a church associated with cult leader Jim Jones. Reviewers say the tour is informative and the stories, while tragic, are not too scary. Tickets cost approximately $25 per person, though the tour is not advised for children younger than 10. Tours depart most evenings at 7 and 9 p.m. Wild SF also offers tours of San Francisco's street art, a food crawl through Chinatown and Little Italy, and a free tour of the city.

Free Tours by Foot – All-in-One Tour

See the best of the city in five hours on this free tour. During the excursion, you'll take an iconic cable car ride, visit Chinatown, learn about the buried sunken ships from the Gold Rush era, pass historic Nob Hill mansions and visit the biggest cathedral in the city. You'll also stop for a lunch break. Reviewers recommend the tour, explaining they learn a lot about San Francisco. Tickets start at $7, which cover the cost of the cable car ride, though the company asks that you name your own price at the end of the tour. Tours are scheduled on varying days, departing at 10 a.m. Free Tours by Foot offers tours of Lombard Street and downtown, among other areas of the city.

San Francisco Native Tours – Original Tour

Nosh on more than a dozen food samples, including dim sum, pizza and Ghirardelli chocolate, as you explore neighborhoods like Chinatown, North Beach and downtown on this four-hour tour. Reviewers, who highly recommend the tour, say the food is amazing and the guide informative. Tickets start at $65 per person, including the cost of the food. Tours, which are limited to 10 participants, are available Monday through Friday at noon. San Francisco Native Tours also offers private tours, as well as a version of the original tour that includes alcoholic drinks.

Urban Trek USA – Urban Trek 4

History buffs interested in 19th-century San Francisco will want to book this small group tour. Limited to seven participants, the tour explores Chinatown, North Beach, Coit Tower, the Ferry Building Marketplace, Union Square and more, emphasizing the historical events that shaped these popular neighborhoods. Reviewers highly recommend the tour and praise guides for their great customer service. Tours depart at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and conclude around 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $39 to $69, depending on the number of people on the tour, and must be paid in cash on the day of the tour; you'll need extra cash for the tour's single bus ride to the top of Telegraph Hill. Reservations are required. Urban Trek USA also offers tours of Russian Hill, Pacific Heights and the Marina District, among other neighborhoods.

Free SF Tour

For a budget-friendly look at all San Francisco has to offer, join the daily 2 1/2-hour Free SF Tour, which takes visitors through the city's downtown. The tour visits a variety of neighborhoods, including Chinatown, the Embarcadero, the Financial District and more, providing an overview of the city's history, current affairs, as well as tips for making the most of your visit. Reviewers report learning lots of interesting facts and highly recommend the tour. Tours depart daily from Union Square at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; tickets are free. Reservations are not required – just join the tour at its designated meeting place. The company also offers this tour in Spanish, as well as a fee-based evening tour of Chinatown in both languages.

All About Chinatown takes travelers through the company's namesake neighborhood for a fun history lesson.(Courtesy of All About Chinatown)

All About Chinatown Tours – Daily Tour

Discover the gems of San Francisco's Chinatown on this daily two-hour walking tour. Participants see many historic and architecturally significant buildings, stop at a fortune cookie factory, visit the Stockton Street food markets and see an authentic Buddhist temple, among other sights. Tourists also have the option to stay for a dim sum luncheon at the conclusion of the tour. Reviewers describe the tour as interesting and worth the cost. Many also advise staying for lunch Tickets for the tour start at $35 for adults and $25 for children ages 6 to 17; children 5 and younger tour for free. You'll want to budget an additional $30 per person if you opt for lunch. Tours leave at 10 a.m. from Old St. Mary's Cathedral, and reservations are required. The company also offers private culinary tours and scavenger hunts.

SF On Tap Tours – Celebrate the Haight

Visit the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, the site of the "Summer of Love," while sipping some of the best local brews on this four-hour tour. The excursion includes stops at three or more breweries and taprooms, where you'll learn about their contributions to the craft beer scene, take a tour of the facility (schedule permitting) and discover the history of the neighborhood. Reviewers say guides are knowledgeable about both the neighborhood and the local beer scene, and that they would take the tour again. Tickets start at $89, and participants must be at least 21. Nondrinkers can join in for $64. Tours depart Sundays at 2 p.m. The company also offers tours of the SoMa neighborhood and Fisherman's Wharf.

San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour

Architecture buffs can get an in-depth look at significant structures in the city's Financial District on this roughly 2 1/2-hour tour, which is led by a local historian. The guided tour takes participants to various buildings in downtown San Francisco, as well as to rooftop gardens, open spaces and historic landmarks. Because of the lecture-style delivery of the tour, it's not recommended for young children. Reviewers applaud the guide for his expertise and say it's a must-do activity for those interested in architecture. Tickets cost approximately $40 per person. Tours run on select days at 2 p.m.

Cruisin' the Castro – Historical LGBTQ Tour

Hear the history of San Francisco's first gay community, the creation of the rainbow flag and the "Summer of Love" on this two-hour tour through the Castro district. As you listen to the guides' stories, you'll visit sites like Harvey Milk Plaza, the GLBT Historical Society Museum, Pink Triangle Park and more. Reviewers applaud the well-informed guides, who they describe as passionate and entertaining. Tickets start at $28 per person and are free for children younger than 5. However, the company does not recommend the tour for young children as some of the stories may be deemed inappropriate. Tours depart most days, except Sunday and Monday, at 10 a.m. The company also offers private tours.

Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour

The Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour explores the history, fashion and architecture of this iconic neighborhood as well as modern-day happenings. You'll hear stories about music icons like the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin as you weave your way through 12 blocks in about 2 1/2 hours. Reviewers say they enjoy their guide and learn a lot about the neighborhood. Tours run Tuesday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. or Friday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $20 and are free for children 9 and younger.

Local Taste of the City Tours – Chinatown and North Beach Night Walking Tour

Stop for tasty food samples in two of San Francisco's most famous neighborhoods on this three-hour tour. As guides share information about Chinatown and North Beach, you'll enjoy samples from the oldest Chinese bakery in the city, chocolate from Z. Cioccolato, cannoli from a North Beach pastry shop and more. Reviewers highly recommend the tour and say the food is great. Tickets start at $59 for adults, $39 for youth ages 12 to 16 and $15 for children ages 2 to 11; infants younger than 2 tour for free. The price includes drinks and food, and tours are available daily at 6 p.m. The company also offers daytime food walking tours of Chinatown only and a combo tour of North Beach and Little Italy.

Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler has written for U.S. News since 2014 covering a range of travel topics, including ...  Read more

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