By Jenna Scatena
October 01, 2015
Wild SF tour
Credit: Courtesy of Wild SF

San Francisco’s best walking tours don’t go to predictable landmarks like Coit Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge—instead they take you to the neighborhoods, parks, and alleys where the city’s most fascinating stories take place. Similarly, many of the city’s best guides aren’t recognizable in uniformed red windbreakers and nametags: they're locals with a yarn to spin. After all, to understand a city as unconventional as San Francisco, you must walk the paths of its nonconformist residents.

San Francisco City Guides

San Francisco City Guides has been divulging San Francisco’s secrets since 1978. Their tours are rooted in history for a beneath-the-surface foray into the city, led by more than 200 donation-based guides. Walk the destructive path of the 1906 earthquake, see the city through the eyes of Alfred Hitchcock, or learn about downtown’s architecture inspired by the Jazz Age of the 1930s.

Wild SF

Wild SF (pictured) leads city seekers away from the tourist traps and into the cultural folds of the city. Artist, musician, and activist guides tell stories with an eye toward San Francisco’s historic movements, independent business owners, and legendary rabble-rowsers.

Forage SF

Stray from the concrete sidewalks for a walking tour that traverses dirt paths on Forage SF’s naturalist-led (“Feral Kevin”) foraging tour. Learn about San Francisco’s edible wild foods, some of which appear on restaurant menus, like miner’s lettuce, as well in medicinal plants along urban trails.

Tenderloin Walking Tours

Longtime neighborhood local Deleano Seymour offers an informative peek into San Francisco’s underbelly with donation-based tours of the Tenderloin district. Seymour has a reputation for enlightening people about the complicated history and subtle nuances of this often misunderstood neighborhood during his Tenderloin Walking Tours.


As the country’s tech capital, it’s of little surprise that one of San Francisco’s best walking tours is an app. Created by a Groupon founder earlier this year, Detour is an audio app that tells compelling stories about the city based on your GPS location.

Jenna Scatena is on the San Francisco Bay Area beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.