Walking Tour of San Francisco
Walking Tour 1 – City Walk
The "City by the Bay" is one of the world’s great destinations. It’s easy to spend an entire week exploring the city and its environs. People never tire of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoying the excitement of this beloved tourist location. Some of its enclaves and ethnic neighborhoods, such as, Nob Hill and Chinatown, are legendary.
This walking tour (it will also incorporate a Cable Car ride since the city is large, the attractions spread out, and the many hills are notoriously steep) begins at Fisherman’s Wharf, at the north end of the city and directly on San Francisco Bay.
First, explore this area in depth before proceeding. Check out the seals on Pier 39, or perhaps arrange a boat trip to Alcatraz Island for later in your stay. Certainly spend some time at Ghirardelli Square, at the western end of the wharf area, for shop and restaurant options.
Then hop on a Powell-Hyde Cable Car which begins at the junction of Hyde and Beach Streets. Get off as close to Lombard Street as possible (ask the conductor). Spend a few minutes checking out the "crookedest street in the world."
Then get back on the next Cable Car and take it as far as Union Square, one of the best shopping areas in the entire city. After browsing the square and perhaps planning to return when you have more time, take Maiden Lane, an alley on the east side of the square. It has more shops and also contains a Frank-Lloyd Wright-designed building at #140.
Walk all the way to Grant Avenue and turn left into San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest Chinese neighborhood in the world outside China. The entrance gate is a few blocks ahead. Savor the colorful chaos of this bustling area, even exploring side alleys (such as Waverly Place, off Clay Street) as you walk basically northward.
Turn right onto Washington Street and then left at Montgomery. Look for the Transamerica Pyramid, the city’s tallest building. As you pass this skyscraper, you are in the Jackson Square Historic District — notice the lamp posts and hitching posts.
Continue north on Montgomery then turn left at Broadway. At the corner of Columbus and Broadway is the City Lights Bookstore, a reminder of when the headquarters of the Beat Generation could be found in San Francisco. For more of the same nostalgia, check out Jack Kerouac Alley, just south of the bookstore.
Next, head northwest on Columbus Avenue to enter North Beach, the Italian section of the city. Continue to Washington Square, which contains the Sts Peter and Paul Church and a Statue of Benjamin Franklin. This grassy area is a favorite gathering place.
Now, turn right on Filbert Street and head east to Telegraph Hill. Turn left on Stockton and then right on Lombard to the Coit Tower and Statue of Christopher Columbus. Climb the tower for some of the best views of the city and its lovely bay.
When finished here, head behind the tower to the "Greenwich" sign and take the stairs down the hill all the way to Sansome Street, then take a left and walk down to the Embarcadero at the water. Turn left and follow the bayside road to Jefferson and continue along the piers back to Fisherman’s Whart, where the walking tour began.
(The total distance covered is approximately 5.7 miles but almost half of this length is via Cable Car, so the actual walking distance is closer to 3 miles, but remember that much of the walk involves steep hills.)
Walking Tour – 2 – Bridge and Parks Walk
Begin at the Golden Gate Bridge (on the far – Sausalito – side). Walk the bridge south toward San Francisco. (Note – this walk is extremely long so to cut down on the distance, drive the bridge and begin the walk at the city-end of the bridge).
At the end of the bridge turn right onto Lincoln Avenue which leads through the Golden Gate Recreation Area to Lincoln Park. Inside the park, museum-lovers will enjoy the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, an excellent art museum.
After your visit, exit via Legion of Honor Drive, then turn right on Geary Boulevard which becomes Point Lobos and leads to Cliff House, a very popular overlook which features Seal Rocks.
Continue along the coastline on the Pacific Coast Highway to Golden Gate Park. Wander the 3-mile expanse along JFK Drive from the ocean to Stanyan Street. Check out, in particular, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Dutch Windmill, and the lovely Japanese Gardens.
To continue the walk, exit the park at its eastern end on Haight Avenue. The vicinity where this road meets Ashbury Street is the famous Haight-Ashbury District, well-known for the "flower children" of the 1970’s. When you reach Market Street, turn left and left again on Dr Carleton Goodlett Place which will take you to San Francisco’s Beaux Arts City Hall. Continue past the building and take a right, then left again on Market to Hallidie Plaza where you can pick up the Hyde-Powell Cable Car which brings you down to the waterfront near Fisherman’s Wharf.