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Walking Tours of San Francisco

Posted on | January 19, 2012 | Comments Off on Walking Tours of San Francisco

Article by Shari Hearn

While it’s said that “nobody walks in L.A.,” it’s known that everyone walks in San Francisco. Having been a resident and frequent visitor to San Francisco, I can tell you that the very idea of walking in the City has always seemed odd to me. Let’s face it; it’s not the flattest town in which to walk. Yet, that’s what everyone does. Walk, and huff and puff, and walk some more. There’s just something about San Francisco that makes you want to step outside your hotel and walk. Perhaps it has something to do with the many different fascinating neighborhoods and buildings that compel people to slow down and take it all in.

If you’re planning a vacation or holiday to San Francisco one of the best ways to actually experience the city is to take a walking tour. And, when it comes to walking tours, both free and fee-required, San Francisco has more than its share (it must have taken some from L.A.).

Free Walking Tours

First, let’s begin with the free tours offered by San Francisco City Guides, a non-profit organization of more than 200 trained volunteers who lead free walking tours in San Francisco (donations, of course, are gladly accepted). If you visit their website,, you’ll notice an interesting array of free walking tours offered every day of the week, tours like “1906 Earthquake and Fire,” “Art Deco Marina,” “Chinatown,” “City Hall,” “Downtown Deco,” “Financial District” and “Gold Coast Architecture.” A few of the more interesting walks include:

“Bawdy & Naughty”

This downtown two-block walk explores the arrival of “professional” women in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. And, no, we’re not talking about women doctors or lawyers.

“Castro: Tales of the Village”

The Castro area in San Francisco is a predominately gay area of town. But, it wasn’t always that way. This tour explores the early years of the Castro.

“Coit Tower Murals”

This tour takes visitors to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill to view the Murals created by some of California’s leading artists of the 30s depicting life in the Great Depression. The murals are definitely worth seeing, either as a tour group or on your own. San Francisco City Guides say their tour shows you some murals not shown to the general public, so I recommend you consider the tour for this San Francisco landmark.

“Ghost Walks”

Here are a couple fun walking tours. The “Ghost Walk at City Hall” and the “Ghost Walk at the Palace” are held in October only, and explore, what else, ghostly occurrences.

The tours typically begin in easy to identify and very public places and most of them even meet near access to public transportation in order to accommodate visitors coming from other areas of the city.

Fee-Required Tours:

While you do have plenty of opportunity for free walking tours, you might also consider some of the fee-required tours. One such fee-required tour is Hobnob Tours, a walking tour of Nob Hill, often times referred to as Snob Hill due to the number of wealthy people who live there. This two-hour tour costs and takes you to an elegant ballroom where Tony Bennett belted out “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” through spectacular Grace Cathedral, through Huntington Park, with a cable car ride up Nob Hill. There is an optional breakfast, lunch or high tea at added cost. You can call for more information at (866) 851-1123.

Another Fee-required tour is a tour of Chinatown which includes a visit to a fortune cookie factory and herbal pharmacy, as well as a hosted 10-course Dim Sum lunch at a Chinatown restaurant. The tour-only price is for adults, for children 6-17. With the added Dim Sum lunch the price is for adults, for children. You can call for reservations at 415-982-8839.

Whichever tour you decide to take you will probably leave you feeling satisfied, either with a greater insight to San Francisco, or with great Dim Sum.