Last updated on April 27, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in San Francisco

Best 3 self guided San Francisco city walks [and a unique e-ride]

Discover most of the city’s attractions with these 3 great San Francisco city walks and expand your horizons with a unique e-ride.

Using easy-to-follow maps, I developed them to cover the most interesting neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Extend your exploration of other destinations in the Bay Area if you plan to stay in San Francisco for 3 days or more.

For example, with a 15 minutes bus ride, you can be on Treasure Island, or a bit more for an amazing walk in the Muir Redwood Forest, between amazing dense old-growth woods.

Last but not least, these San Francisco city walks can be taken on your own. So easy and free, of course!

You can read also

Best San Francisco city walks
Best San Francisco city walks

Here below is a map of the city with highlighted the most popular neighborhoods and areas of the city.

In this post you will find 3 great San Francisco city walks to the cosmopolitan Mission, the characteristic Chinatown and the popular Fisherman’s Wharf, including Little Italy as well.

To cover more of the metropolitan area, I have also suggested below an e-bike ride that covers iconic spots and little gems, from the Golden Gate to Twin Peaks and the iconic Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world.

Popular areas of San Francisco
Popular areas of San Francisco

Chinatown walking tour – self-guided

San Francisco is well known for its mix of cultures, and Chinatown is one of the best examples of this.

Dragon’s Gate is the start of your walking tour – be sure to take some great pictures there.

Next, the tour will lead you to Old Mary’s Cathedral to appreciate some classic architecture. 

If travelling with kids, make sure to have a stop at the Willy ‘Woo Woo’ Playground for some fun activities.

You will be able to embrace some history and culture at the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum.

Learn about the sacred practice of Buddhism at the Tin How Temple.

You can also check out Portsmouth Square for some retail therapy.

Next, learn about the art of fortune cookie making at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company.

Although not in Chinatown, you can also visit the nearby eccentric Beat Museum.

Hungry?

Visit J China Live for some Chinese delicacies and then end your evening at the characteristic Li Po Cocktail Lounge for some drinks.

For more details, check out my self guided walking tour to Chinatown, including a map that you can save and download for future reference.

Chinatown walking tour

San Francisco - Chinatown walking tour
San Francisco – Chinatown walking tour

Little Italy and North Beach/Fisherman’s Wharf walking tour

This self-guided walking tour has something for everyone to try out.

Art and culture lovers, make sure you pass by Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze for a dose of magic and science.

You should also check out the family-owned Musée Mécanique and the Museum of 3D Illusions for a mind-blowing time.

There is also the Exploratorium where the whole family can appreciate art with a hands-on experience.

Appreciate the architecture and view at Coit Tower at Pioneer Park and the historic Greenwich Steps which are San Francisco’s hidden gem.

And now, it’s time to grab a bite either at the iconic Fior d’Italia Restaurant, which is the oldest Italian restaurant in the US, or the boutique Piccolo Forno on Columbus Avenue.

Alternatively, get your baked treats at Liguria Bakery.

For more details, check out my self guided walking tour to Little Italy and North Beach, including a map that you can easily follow once on site.

Little Italy & North Beach walking tour

Little Italy and North Beach walking tour
Little Italy and North Beach walking tour

Mission District walking tour – self-guided

The Mission District is rich with murals, art, old churches and beautiful places to explore.

Feel inspired and spiritually rejuvenated by visiting the Misión San Francisco de Asís to check out the old-school Spanish church.

Head over to the Mission Dolores Cemetery and walk among the beautiful gardens.

For your dose of art, visit places like Clarion Alley, Cypress Street and Balmy Alley to see the murals and other forms of street art.

There is also the unique Peephole Cinema if you love short silent films, located in a hidden alley.

The Pirate Supply store has some cool curios to buy.

Add Mission Dolores Park, Paxton Gate and the Mission Cliffs to the list of great places to experience.

Make a stop at the Golden Fire Hydrant which survived the 1906 earthquake.

Get your nourishment at Mission Kitchen where you can enjoy Mexican and American dishes or head to Morris for dinner and a great time.

I have drafted a self guided walking tour to the Mission District, including a map and all you need to know about the visited sites.

Mission District walking tour

Mission District Walking Tour - Self Guided
Mission District Walking Tour – Self Guided

San Francisco electric bike tour – self-guided

This is a loop ride starting from Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can rent an e-bike, and touching some of the most iconic spots and a few little gems, with stops in great local cafes to have a bite, a coffee and some rest.

Although doable by public transportation and a bit of walking, I reckon it would take 2 days or more.

I have organised a Google map with the full loop (you can download it for future reference). 

San Francisco Ride
San Francisco Ride – Check and download the Google Map

Start your ride in the morning from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Head west for your first stop, the Presidio, where you can tour The Palace Of Fine Arts, originally built over 100 years ago as a temporary monument, and rebuilt about 50 years ago in its current form. 

Explore inside (fees apply) of just have a look at the magnificent view of the monument from outside (free).

Continue riding west until you reach the Golden Gate Overview site, a stunning viewpoint of the bridge.

The bike can also be ridden over the bridge. However, you would have to add another 6 miles on top of your ride, which may be too tiring.

Afterward, keep going west to take some time to relax at China Beach where you can enjoy the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from a more unusual and hidden point. 

For a healthy lunch and coffee, try Home Coffee Roasters, a local favorite.

After lunch, as you ride through Golden Gate Park, you’ll pass two iconic artistic stairways, the Hidden Garden Steps and the Mosaic Stairway, perfect spots for a few artistic photos.

On your coffee break, you should have had some sugar, because you will need that for the climb up to Twin Peaks on Christmas Tree Point

There is no better place to see San Francisco and the Bay than here.

Go down through the Castro area, famous for its LGBT movement back in the 70s and 80s and still very active today.

Have a stop at the GLBT Historical Society Museum for an insight into the history of the movement

The next stop will be Alamo square, where you will see the multicolored Painted Ladies.

These Victorian houses have been filmed in so many movies and TV shows.

The square is also a great viewpoint of the downtown area.

If you are still craving caffeine, you can stop by The Mill, another excellent coffee shop, very popular with the locals.

Go through Japantown and then Chinatown before returning to North Beach.

Lastly, take a ride down Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world.

While you could do this loop on a push bike, it will be very challenging because of the sometimes steep hills and the occasional headwind, something you’ll encounter quite often in San Francisco.

Approximately 20 miles are covered during the ride. Make sure your bike has enough battery power.

You can cut the Twin Peaks and Chinatown if you are tired or your battery is running low (especially the Christmas Tree Point).

Rent an e-bike

Iconic Lombard Street
Lombard Street, the last iconic spot on the e-ride

More photos from the San Francisco city walks

Chinatown - Waverly Street and the Tin How Temple
Chinatown – Waverly Street and the Tin How Temple
Walking in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco
Walking in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco
Chnatown - Wandering around the shops
Chinatown – Wandering around the shops
Dragon Gate in Chinatown
Dragon Gate in Chinatown
The iconic tram ride in San Francisco
The iconic tram ride in San Francisco
The famous Sea Lions at Pier 39
The famous Sea Lions at Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf
The Coit Tower, the Art Deco tower in Pioneer Park
The Coit Tower, the Art déco tower in Pioneer Park, next to Little Italy
Wandering around the small lanes of the Mission District
Wandering around the small lanes of the Mission District
The original adobe Mission San Francisco de Asís
The original adobe Mission San Francisco de Asís
Enjoying some tacos
Enjoying some tacos in the Mission
The Painted Ladies and San Francisco skyline at dusk, from Alamo square
The Painted Ladies and San Francisco skyline at dusk, from Alamo square
The Palace Of Fine Arts - Presidio
The Palace Of Fine Arts – Presidio

 

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

3 thoughts on “3 great San Francisco city walks [ self guided with free map]”

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