Explore San Francisco with These Free Guided Tours | San Francisco Travel
A group of people, including one person in a wheelchair, is seen from behind as they look at the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands.
You'll find some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands, just across t

Explore San Francisco with These Free Guided Tours

Explore San Francisco with a trusted tour guide without breaking the bank. Here are our picks for some of the best free guided tours.

If it’s your first time in San Francisco (or your first time in a long time), getting your bearings is essential. It’s not just about learning which way to Fisherman’s Wharf or whether you’re closer to the Mission or to Chinatown (a big decision at meal time, for sure); it’s about understanding the quirks, character, and overall vibe of the city. There are many volunteers and non-profit groups that love to share their insights with visitors for free!



Free SF Tour

The team at Free SF Tour consists of local volunteers that will take you on one of their four walks through the city: the daily 10 a.m. “Original Free SF Tour” and the 10:30 a.m. “Free SF Tour en Español”; the “Mission/Castro Hidden Stories Free Walking Tour,” offered on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.; and the evening “Vice Tour”, which you can join Fridays at 6 p.m. The tours take about two to two-and-a-half hours and start at Union Square or Mission Dolores Basilica. Book in advance to ensure that your desired date is available and that the tour is happening as scheduled.

Free Tours by Foot

Free Tours by Foot partners with expert local guides to offer several daily tours in San Francisco, including the “All in One”, a five-hour walk that will take you to the city’s most famous sights. There is also a shorter, two-hour “Original San Francisco” tour that will take you to the cafés of Little Italy and the Financial District with its modern skyscrapers. Other tours focus on Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Castro, and they range from one-and-a-half to three hours. Not all tours are offered regularly, so be sure to book in advance to confirm your desired tour and date.

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

Guided activities with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy include free events like Park Ranger Campfire Talks at the Presidio Tunnel Tops, every Friday to Monday at 4 p.m. through Labor Day; and Fort Point History, a 15-minute talk given a few times each day, Friday through Sunday. You can also join the team of volunteers in maintaining the Alcatraz Historic Gardens on Wednesday or Thursday mornings. In celebration of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s 50th Anniversary, you can also join the monthly, one-hour “Presidio: Changes Through Time” tour.


GuruWalk tours are led by gurus, “open-minded, attentive, fun people, with great knowledge of the city.” They offer a “Food & History Tour of San Francisco’s Chinatown” and a "Hidden Stairways of San Francisco” walk that are among their highest rated. Advance bookings are required. Some guides offer their tours in different languages. You should be able to find a tour on most days of the week.

Nya Cruz and friend looking at a menu in Chinatown

Haas-Lilienthal House

While a tour of this historic mansion on Franklin Street comes at a fee, the Haas-Lilienthal House offers free, guided walking tours through Pacific Heights, highlighting the diversity of the architecture and culture of the neighborhood. The tours start at 12:30 p.m. on certain Sundays and cover approximately 15 blocks in 90 minutes. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended, as the tour includes moderate hills.

James R. Browning United States Courthouse

This National Historic Landmark on Seventh Street in SoMa is the headquarters for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Oral argument hearings are open to the public, but the James R. Browning United States Courthouse also offers free docent-led tours that include the old post office lobby and select courtrooms. No reservations are required for these one-hour tours taking place on certain Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Just look for the tour guide in the lobby after passing through the building’s security screening (don’t forget to bring your photo ID!).

San Francisco City Guides

What started in 1976 with librarian-led tours of City Hall has grown to an organization of more than 275 volunteer guides who offer more than 70 different tours. From tours focusing on San Francisco essentials, like the Painted Ladies and the Golden Gate Bridge, to theme-based walks centered around music, history and architecture, there is a tour for everyone each day of the week. Walkers on San Francisco City Guides tours should register in advance to receive tour details, but walk-ups are always welcome.


San Francisco City Hall

Docents at San Francisco City Hall offer free tours of this historic landmark every Friday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The tours usually take about an hour and highlight the architecture and history of City Hall. You can call 415-554-6139 for a reservation or sign up in the lobby the day of the tour.

Yerba Buena Community Benefit District

Free 90-minute walking tours organized by the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District include hidden stories and live performances. Local history, activism, and music are brought to life as actors portraying significant figures join your exploration of this neighborhood. Tours are scheduled just once a month on Fridays and start at 2 p.m.

Author Lucas Mittenentzwei
Lucas Mittenentzwei

Lucas Mittenentzwei is a digital project and content consultant. Originally from Germany, he has lived in California since 2010, calling San Francisco his home for several years. Lucas started in the hospitality industry before joining Visit California in its mission to inspire the world to visit the Golden State. He is passionate about all aspects of the travel experience, but trying new restaurants (or tried-and-true classics) is at the top of his list.