7 of the Best San Francisco City Tours

by Paul Joseph  |  Published May 22, 2023

Famed for its many museums, historic architecture and iconic landmarks such as Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is a wonderful city to explore on a guided tour.

(Photo: Big Bus Tours / Courtesy Viator)

With most of its most popular attractions within walking distance of the city centre, San Fran is compact enough to see large portions of it in a relatively short space of time. And to add even more efficiency to your city gallivanting, then you may want to consider booking onto one of the many organised tours that are offered by reputable local companies. We’ve picked out 7 of the best below.

Big Bus Night Tour

Enjoy a unique perspective on San Francisco during this one-hour night-time bus tour. Departing from Jefferson Street in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, over the course of the tour you’ll see neighbourhoods such as Embarcadero, Chinatown and the Financial District and across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island, all lit up at night while listening to entertaining commentary from a live onboard guide. There’s also a complimentary shuttle back to Union Square at the completion of the tour. Multiple departure times are available to suit your schedule. From $41 per person.

Book at Viator

Painted Ladies City Tour

(Photo: Painted Ladies Tour Company / Courtesy Viator)

Take a journey around San Francisco’s top sights in retro style aboard a vintage Volkswagen bus complete with Californian wine and craft beer. While nestled in your quirky but comfy tour vehicle that seats up to seven – and is decorated with long ‘eyelashes’ so you can’t miss her – you’ll pass by some of the city’s most famous neighbourhoods including Chinatown, Union Square, Pacific Heights, and North Beach, as well as legendary landmarks such as the Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way, the onboard sound system will belt out classic tunes from the 1960s and 70s as you sip on your complimentary drinks, and there’ll be plenty of opportunities to stop for photos  too. From $74 per person.

Book at Viator

Highlights & Hidden Gems of San Francisco

Explore the best of the city and discover hidden gems away from the well-trodden tourist paths on this 3-hour tour that can be 100% personalised to your preferences. As well as classic attractions such Chinatown and The Castro, your expert guide can show you treasures that only the locals know about, allowing you to get to know the city through a different perspective. What’s more, behind every landmark there’s a story, and your host will be on hand with tales, insights and fun facts about each one. The tour concludes at a cherished local eatery for a complimentary snack or a drink. From $80 per person.

Book at Withlocals

Waterfront Guided Tour and Alcatraz Ticket

(Photo: ExperienceFirst California / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

The San Francisco waterfront is dotted with notable places of interest. This 4-hour tour takes in many of its water’s edge attractions, followed by a visit to the famous former prison known as Alcatraz. During the trip, you’ll stroll along the fog-lined waterfront before walking a portion of the historic Barbary Coast trail. Next, it’s on to Pier 39 to admire the historic ships in the harbour and witness the colony of sea lions that have taken over many of its docks, before continuing along the Embarcadero Promenade to learn about its evolution from a traditional maritime port to a modern urban waterfront. Later, you’ll take a ferry to Alcatraz to enjoy a self-guided tour complete with award-winning audio narration before your return journey to the mainland. From $99 per person.

Book at GetYourGuide

Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito Bike Tour

Discover the city with the wind in your hair on this 2.5-hour bike tour that includes a scenic crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge to the charming town of Sausalito. Starting at the picturesque Aquatic Park in Fisherman’s Wharf, you and your small group will ride through the mostly flat National Park and Fort Mason and onto the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Marvel at the stunning views across the bay as you cross the bridge on the sidewalk, followed by a short downhill ride into Sausalito. The tour ends here, but the tour allows you to explore the town at your own leisure and return the bike later. You can either return to San Fran by bike or get the ferry back to rest those weary legs. From $75 per person.

Book at GetYourGuide

VIP Segway Tour of the Waterfront and Hills

(Photo: San Francisco Electric Tour Company / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

Located to the west of San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf lies the pretty Aquatic Park, with its achingly pleasant walkways and idyllic sandy beach. This uncharacteristically flat region of the city is a great place to get to grips with riding a state-of-the-art Segway while glimpsing some of California’s most iconic sights, including Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Then, follow your private guide up the steep hills and back down what is – unofficially – the most contorted street in the world to round off this fun-packed three-hour tour. From $159 per person (min 2 people).

Book at GetYourGuide

Private Group Tuk Tuk Night Tour

There’s something particularly magical about San Francisco at night and one of the most fun ways to see the city after dark is aboard a tuk-tuk. During this 2-hour private tour, you and up to 4 (or 5 if the group includes kids) select friends or relatives will traverse the city on one of these modern-day motorised rickshaws as the bright lights sparkle against the night sky. As you trundle along, soak up the panoramic views while listening to live commentary courtesy of your expert guide. Heated seats and warm blankets help ensure a comfortable ride on chilly evenings. From $321 per group (max 6 people).

Book at GetYourGuide