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  • Lauren Wood

Lauren's San Francisco Walking Tour

Don't use one of those "Hop-on Hop-off" buses... ever.

After years of visiting the city as a kid and later living in the FiDi and Nob Hill as an adult, I think I've earned the right to call myself an expert on the city of San Francisco. If, like me, you're not keen on group tours, follow this route for a perfect full day walking tour of San Francisco. It offers first time visitors an excellent opportunity to see some of the best parts of the city, while still able to stop to grab coffee at Blue Bottle, a seafood lunch near the pier, or cannoli in North Beach. You get to see a lot of the city without sacrificing the experience (like you would on most official tours).

I've shown several friends and family members around the city using this "tour" and recommend it for newbies and locals alike. Be sure to dress in casual or workout clothing though--this day requires a lot of walking. It takes between four to five hours if you just go to the bridge and then take a cab back, or most of the day if you take the long route all the way into Sausalito and back.

  • Walk north on Grant Street to Dragon's Gate in Chinatown.

  • Keep walking on Grant through Chinatown until you hit Columbus Avenue, which is the start of North Beach. If you're feeling up for a bit of a hike, take a detour northeast up to Coit Tower and then back again. You'll find incredible views of the city from Coit Tower. Return to Columbus.

Views from Coit Tower

  • Then walk northwest through North Beach. You'll find Washington Square Park on the right hand side and if you're lucky, you can pop in to hear mass done in Italian or Latin (Sundays only) at St. Peter and Paul's Church. This is a great place to stop for a coffee at one of the European-like street cafes or eat a Cannoli from Victoria Pastry.

  • From Washington Square, head north on Stockton Street toward Pier 39. Again, you won't miss it because you'll find Pier 39 at the water's edge. This spot is touristy, yet still fun and great for the kids. Shop for souvenirs, see the sea lions chilling on one of the nearby docks, or take the kids to the Aquarium. Stop at Boudin Bakery and Cafe for their famous chowder in a bread bowl. If you're hungry for something more substantial for lunch, enjoy seafood at one of the old staples like Alioto's or Scoma's (note that these are touristy spots, but still some of SF's most iconic restaurants).

  • From Pier 39, walk west along Jefferson Street past all the other souvenir shops. If you're into history or naval ships, check out the USS Pampanito or SS Jeremiah O'Brien, which are two restored naval ships from WWII that have now been opened to the public for viewing.

  • Continue walking west, past Acquatic Park and the Maritime Museum. Walk through Fort Mason, past Marina Green and then through Chrissy Field. During all of this you will stay less than 200 yards from the water.

  • Continue walking toward Fort Point. If you want to go into the Fort, head out to the end until you can't walk any further. Once you're done, you'll need to walk backwards a bit until you get to the SF World Monument and a little cafe called the Warming Hut. From here, you'll see a set of stairs that are marked with signs that say "Historic Batteries" and "Presidio Promenade." From here, you'll enjoy a bit of a hike through what used to be Civil War era gun batteries.

  • You'll continue walking along the Battery East Trail, which has two great lookout points to snap photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you reach the top, you'll be at the Golden Gate Bridge.

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  • If you're still up for a walk by this point, continue walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito. If you're tired--although the rest is downhill--you could always call an Uber or a cab to take you the extra few miles. From Sausalito, hop on the ferry that goes back into the city.

  • Arrive back at the Ferry Building. Grab a snack for later at one of the many shops selling gourmet cheeses, bread, meats and snacks. Or sample wines by the glass at the wine shop in the middle of the building.

  • If you're heading back to where you started, just walk southwest on Market until you hit Post Street, where you'll veer to the right to head back toward Union Square.

Views of San Francisco from the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge

That's it! I hope you enjoy. As always, for questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me directly at

A one day (or half day depending on how far you'd like to go) walking tour of San Francisco, including Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco Walking Tour

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