Best Walking Tours of San Francisco
It’s a small city packed with 1000 discoveries! Free San Francisco walking tours help you to understand its explosive history. from the gold rush to the dot-com bust. The city has survived insurmountable odds to become one of the most loved cities in the world.
Try a free SF walking tour offered by San Francisco City Guides, a non-profit organization that’s been around for almost forty years. Another company, Free Tours by Foot offers free tours with a caveat — you’re encouraged to contribute what you feel the tour was worth after it’s over. From Gold Rush, Painted Ladies, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown to Golden Gate Park, there’s a free walking tour for you to enjoy.
Free SF Walking Tours – San Francisco City Guides
This popular non-profit free walking tour group was founded in 1978 by the San Francisco Public Library.
The tours are given by local volunteers who love their city. Reservations are not required but you can book online to save a spot.
Tours are free but you can make a small donation. It’s important to note that SF City Guides is a non-profit organization and every dollar you contribute helps to train more volunteers and administer the 70-plus tours.
The tours are varied and cover all areas of the city. Japanese Tea Garden, Downtown Architecture, Coit Tower Murals, North Beach, Golden Gate Park, Gold Rush City, Nob Hill and Downtown Deco are just a few of the themed tours offered. Rain or shine, tours run daily. Check the schedule before you go as it changes with the seasons.
Stroll through the five-acre garden and learn about its history and the family who created the magical gardens. The group meets near to the entrance of the Japanese Garden within Golden Gate Park. Tours are offered most days, sometimes twice a day.
Golden Gate Bridge
Discover details about the bridge’s illustrious past from sketchy politics, amazing engineering to fearless ironworkers. The group meets at the Strauss statue in the visitor’s plaza on the city side of the Bridge. Tours are offered two to three times per week.
Tastes & Tales Of North Beach
Taste the best of North Beach; coffee, chocolate, wine, and Italian baked goods. Walk and taste your way through one of the best neighborhoods in the USA. The group meets at the northwest corner of Broadway & Columbus beneath the North Beach mural. Tours run once a week.
Explore hidden alleys, temples and squares to learn about the colorful history of the oldest Chinatown in the USA. The group meets at Portsmouth Square Park in front of the parking garage elevators across from the Walter P. Lum Place & Washington Street. Tours are offered a few times a week.
Coit Tower Murals
Get a behind-the-scenes explanation about the bold and controversial murals, created by leading artists of the Great Depression, that depict the hard lives of farmworkers, factory workers and also of vibrant city life. The group meets at the main entry of Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. The tour is given once a week.
Landmark Victorians Of Alamo Square
Learn about SF’s most-loved Painted Ladies and take in the stunning views from the Alamo Square Historic District. Discover why these Victorian and Edwardian homes are one of the city’s most photographed tourist attractions. The group meets in front of 824 Grove Street. The tour is offered twice a week.
From rococo palaces to its awe-inspiring cathedral, Nob Hill has captured the imagination of travelers for over a century. Discover its prestigious past, including its four world-class hotels, and perfectly manicured pint-size gardens. The group meets at the front entrance of the Stanford Court Hotel. The tour is offered several times a week.
Rising Steel – 20th Century Downtown Architecture
Learn the legacies of famous architects who shaped the city. Discover how the 1906 Earthquake allowed the Chicago School, Gothic Revival, Arts and Crafts, and Post-Modern styles to emerge. The group meets at the corner of Stockton & Maiden Lane, close to Union Square. The tour is offered a few times per month.
SF Free Walking Tours
Local guides offer walking tours without any payment in advance. They believe that visitors should be able to experience a tour, then determine its value afterward. They offer similar programs in cities around the world. Here’s a sample of their popular SF walking tours. In addition to these tours, they also offer walking tours in Chinatown & North Beach.
Secrets, Scandal & Scoundrels Tour
They didn’t call it the Wild West for anything! In the 1850s, when gambling and prostitution were legal, thousands of people made the perilous journey to San Francisco to find their fortune in the Gold Rush. The group meets at Palace Hotel, at the corner of Market Street & New Montgomery Street. You must register in advance.
Market Street Tour
Known as the Wall Street of the West, Market Street was the city’s first major boulevard and is now compared to NYC’s Fifth Avenue. Learn the history and the fascinating architecture along the world-famous boulevard. The group meets outside the Embarcadero BART station, at the corner of Market Street & Spear Street. You must register in advance.
Fisherman’s Wharf Tour
Once upon a time, authentic fishermen would head to Fisherman’s Wharf to earn their day’s catch. A lot has changed and today the Wharf is one of the most visited attractions in San Francisco. Learn about the history and lore of this legendary location. The group meets at the corner of Hyde Street & Beach Street, across the street from Buena Vista Cafe, close to the Cable Car turnaround. You must register in advance.