Free Walking Tours in San Francisco, California, USA

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2 September 2012

I have always wondered if it is worth taking these walking tours. I have seen them in Paris and I understand that they operate the same as the parent company i.e. the company in Paris.

In San Francisco, the tour guides wear the same colour shirt as the guides in Paris. They wear fuchsia purple vest/outfits and they carry an A4 size sign saying “Discover Walks”.

During the winter seasons, you need to check their websites for available times/tours. However during the summer months, they walk rain, fog or shine. They said no reservation is required but if you have a group of more than 8 people, it is best to book a time with them to ensure that the walking group is not too big thus maximising your enjoyment. These tours are conducted only in English and the tour is approximately one hour and a half, depending on the dynamic of the walking group.

There are 3 walking tours of these kinds in San Francisco.

China Town Tour:

Tourists are asked to meet at 9.45am every day in Portsmouth Square, in front of the large red Chinese gate (near the elevators). Unfortunately, this tour is not 100% wheelchairs friendly.

In this tour, you will see Chinese culture in a way that no normal tourist or sometimes even the locals are not familiar with. Sites included :
– Chinese Bird Markets
– Herb Markets
– Tea Markets
– Fortune Cookie Factory (include sample)
– Sun Yat-Sen
– Emperor Norton and the telephone Pagoda
– Portsmouth Square (birthplace of San Francisco)

North Beach and Barbary Coast Tour:

Tourists are asked to meet at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid at the end of Columbus Avenue. There are no stairs to climb and the tour is all done on flat land or there is wheelchair access, thus this tour is wheelchair friendly.
In this tour, you will be fully be informed about San Francisco’s history and geography, the stories behind the buildings before the 1906 earthquake. Sites visited included:-
– Transamerica Pyramid
– Coit Tower,
– Beatniks and the hippie’s areas
– City Lights – first publisher for all books on freedom of speech,
– Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were rumored to be married in this Catholic Church.
– The recently discovered underground tunnel used the smuggle kidnapped sailors sold to ship captains, Chinese slaves girls.
– The origin of the word “shanghaied” Yes! from San Francisco
– Church of scientology and its origin.
– The inventor of the Mexican dish – the burritos. Not the Mexican but by San Francisco people.
– The best pizza in the neighborhood –
– The best garlic food including ice cream – The Stinking Rose restaurant.
– One of the oldest building in San Francisco (note the windows and door frames)
– Where the San Francisco reclaimed land area started.
– one of the original vault of one of the oldest building built before the 1906 earthquakes.
– The shortest street in San Francisco – Balance Street
– The birthplace of the world’s first topless and bottomless entertainment (The Condor).This entertainer still performs as at today at Amante ‘s

Fisherman’s Wharf:

Tourists are asked to meet in front of Ghirardelli Square entrance gate on Larkin St (between North point St and Beach St) at 3.30pm. Unfortunately this tour is not 100% wheelchair friendly.
As San Francisco # 1 tourist attraction, you will be shown:-
– Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge
– Dynamic Yancey and the Bushman
– San Francisco’s Seafood Fishing Fleet,
– The birthplace of Irish coffee
– The secret bridge
– Fish Alley
– Hearst’s bar
– The Dolphin Club


Talk to a local. The people in San Francisco are great, helpful and very friendly. You will learn a lot about their culture if you talk to them. Even if you didn’t ask for their help, they will ask you if you need any assistance, especially if you look lost !

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