Taking a self-guided walking tour of San Francisco is a great idea if you are on a budget or simply want to keep your schedule flexible.
This is Part 1 of our Self-Guided Walking Tour Series, which will show you how to take a self-guided walking tour of San Francisco’s most charming neighborhoods. Let’s jump right in!
Table of contents
1. Russian Hill: This neighborhood features one of the windiest streets in the world (Lombard Street) and offers gorgeous views of the city when you reach the top.
2. Telegraph Hill: Want to see the famous Coit Tower and meet a flock of wild parrots? Head to Telegraph Hill.
3. North Beach: San Francisco’s own “little Italy”, North Beach was once home to literary giants like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.
4. Chinatown: Did you know that San Francisco has the largest Chinese community outside of Asia? The Chinatown District is full of rich and colorful history to explore (and delicious food to taste).
Before You Go
- Grab a water bottle and a pair of comfortable sneakers. Even though we will give you suggestions for public transport and shortcuts, there’s quite a bit of walking involved in this self-guided tour.
- Don’t forget your jacket. It may look sunny when you leave your hotel, but the weather in San Francisco is notoriously deceiving. Even though it looks warm, it can be cold.
- Finally, remember to stay safe. While San Francisco’s crime rates have decreased in recent years, pulling out your phone in the middle of the street, or while taking the public transit, is not a great idea.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour of San Francisco (Part 1)
We will start with a quick jaunt up one of San Francisco’s most famous hills. We hope you wore your comfiest sneakers!
- Start your tour at the intersection of North Point and Hyde. Walk up Hyde until you get to Lombard St.
Public transportation shortcut: Not ready to tackle one of San Francisco’s (SF) famous hills just yet? For $5, you can hop on one of SF’s famous cable cars and cheat a little.
- Once you get to Lombard, walk around and take in the view. Isn’t it just so… needlessly curvy? You can thank Carl Henry, one of Lombard’s property owners from the 1920s, for that.
- Walk down Lombard while enjoying the gorgeous views of the city below and seeing helpless drivers trying to find their way down.
Look towards the Bay. The iconic Coit Tower is sitting right atop of the Telegraph Hill – that’s your next destination!
- Let’s get you to Greenwich. Take your time getting there! There’s plenty more climbing ahead of you.
- Go north on Leavenworth, then turn right on Bay Street.
- Continue on Bay Street until you hit the Embarcadero. Turn right.
- Walk a couple more blocks, turn right onto Sansome.
- When you get to Greenwich, take another right. You should see a staircase right in front of you.
- Walk up the stairs and take in the view. There is plenty for you to see here, including stunning public gardens and the best (in our opinion, anyway) views of the Bay in the city.
- Be on the lookout for wild parrots. Believe it or not, Telegraph Hill is filled with them!
- You should see an abandoned restaurant and a brick staircase ahead of you. That staircase will get you to the very top of Telegraph Hill.
- Once you reach the top, you can pay a small fee to climb the Coit Tower, or simply relax and take in the beautiful views of the city. You have earned it!
If you are exhausted from climbing, and want to stop for a delicious lunch, this is the spot to get a slice of Italian pizza or a piece of tiramisu.
- To get down from Telegraph Hill, walk along the driveway of the Coit Tower until you reach the stairs on the left.
- Follow the staircase down to Filbert St., then take Filbert.
- Turn left on Stockton. You have arrived at the Washington Square Park, or the little Italy of San Francisco.
- Walk south on Stockton, then take a left on Columbus Ave. You are now in the heart of North Beach.
- There are some great restaurants and bars on this street. If you are not ready for a sit-down meal just yet, grab some gelato, and let’s keep going!
- Walk down Columbus until you reach Broadway. This is the center of The Beat Movement. If you’ve got any Kerouac fans in your group, this is the place to be!
- Check out the City Lights Bookstore. Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” was first published here, as well as many other works of the famous Beat Generation.
- Check out the famous Kerouac Alley, and grab a drink at Vesuvio. Sit, brood, and sip a classic margarita, just as Kerouac himself would have.
- Done brooding? Head back to the street and look down Columbus to catch a glimpse of the famous Transamerica Pyramid.
- See the pie-slice-shaped green building in the distance? That’s the Sentinel Building. Rumor has it, the famous Caesar Salad was invented here. Who knew?
- If you walk through the Kerouac Alley, away from Columbus, you should find yourself in Chinatown.
- Walk down Grant Avenue to explore a little, pick up some Chinese food, or check out the trinkets in one of the countless little stores around Grant.
- When you reach Ross Alley, check out the Fortune Cookie Factory to see how fortune cookies are made (and pick up some inexpensive “rejects” that did not make the cut).
- Once you’ve reached Grant and Bush, you will see the famous Dragon’s Gate. That’s how most people enter Chinatown – and that’s how you are going to leave it to head to your next destination!
From here, we recommend checking out the Financial District. However, we will leave that for Part 2 of this Self-Guided Tour Series!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Self-Guided Walking Tour Series at The Haunt.
Or, if you would rather have a San Francisco native show you around the city, check out one of our guided tours.
From delicious food tastings to haunted adventures there’s something for everyone!