Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 1
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Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024

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Greetings, Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel memoir Get Lost, and welcome to the best tour spots in San Francisco. San Francisco is an amazing city with a wealth of interesting neighborhoods. How to see them all in one trip.

That’s why I’m bringing you this guide to the best tour spots in San Francisco! You’ll find the tours that will take you where you want to go in neighborhoods like Chinatown, North Beach, the Mission, the Castro, and more! Let’s get started!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Best Tour Spots in San Francisco

#1 TOP PICK

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CHINATOWN FOOD TOUR
✔️ Great bang for the buck
✔️ Delicious authentic treats

#2 PICK

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 3

VW VAN TOUR
✔️ See the whole city
✔️ Expert local guide

#3 PICK

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 4

ALL OTHER SAN FRANCISCO TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco

best tour spots in San Francisco

1) Painted Ladies Tour

You might have heard of the Painted Ladies when you were planning your trip to San Francisco. They are very famous houses that we’ll see a bit later on the trip. However, this driving tour company is the Painted Ladies because their VW vans come in all sorts of different colors.

If you set out to find the best tour spots in San Francisco with this company, you’ll be able to ride around in an adorable van just like the one in my photo above. (Each van has its own name and color; this yellow van is called Daisy.) You’ll make tons of friends because everyone will be so excited to see the vans.

Check rates and availability for yourself by clicking here.

best tour spots in San Francisco

Our first stop will be Lombard Street. This street is famous for being extremely crooked and I think a few car chases have been set around here. You can’t experience the curves properly unless you’re in a car, which is one great reason to take this tour.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much like a rock star as I did riding Daisy down Lombard Street. There were already a bunch of tourists taking photos of this famous landmark, and they only got more excited when they saw our quirky vehicle. Delightful!

best tour spots in San Francisco

You might be thinking that this looks like a state capitol building. But of course, its Sacramento, home of the illustrious Sacramento Kings, that is the California state capitol. This is the City Hall, where the Mayor of San Francisco does her job. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s a lot prettier than the Robocop City Hall in Dallas.

Also, if you like classic movies or the New York Yankees, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were wed at this City Hall. (They couldn’t get married in the Catholic Church because they were divorced.)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard of Haight-Ashbury, but you didn’t exactly know what it meant. This area was where the hippies hung out in the 1960s, and it’s still quite a colorful neighborhood today.

However, I had no idea that the neighborhood got its name from two different streets that run through it. How prosaic! You’d think hippies could do better than that!

best tour spots in San Francisco

You can see some painted ladies in my photograph–they’re just any Victorian house that’s painted in at least three different colors. However, I promise to provide you with more painted lady photos shortly.

best tour spots in San Francisco

There you go! You can see the cute little painted ladies all in a row. We stopped and got out of the van at this point to get a better view of the ladies. (Also, there’s a public restroom nearby.)

You might have some tourists come up to you and ask if these are the houses from the opening of Full House. I’ve never actually seen that TV show, but research tells me that these are the right houses. I still don’t know the names of all the uncles on the show

best tour spots in San Francisco

I would never guess that this complex is known as the Palace of Fine Arts. It looks like a bunch of ancient ruins to me. But that’s why tour guides are so important. They’ll tell you what all the buildings are called. And it’s a great place to take a selfie.

I had actually seen this area before in the movie Time After Time, which is set in San Francisco. If you’re interested in a movie about HG Wells traveling through time to catch Jack the Ripper and order at McDonalds, this is the movie for you.

best tour spots in San Francisco

And of course, no list of the best tour spots in San Francisco would be complete without the Golden Gate Bridge! And this tour takes you to an amazing spot for getting perfect photos of this stunner. Before I went to San Francisco, I sort of thought you could see this bridge from everywhere, but of course that’s not true.

Anyway, I think this tour got in all the major attractions you could want to see while driving around San Francisco, and I hope I got you excited to experience the Painted Lady ride and fine the best tour spots in San Francisco for yourself.

Check rates and availability of the tour for yourself by clicking here!

best tour spots in San Francisco

2) Little Italy and North Beach Walking Tour

You might not have heard of North Beach, but perhaps you can tell what kind of neighborhood it is from my photo above. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a beach neighborhood. That’s right! It’s the Italian American neighborhood in San Francisco. In New York City, we just call it Little Italy or Arthur Avenue.

Of course, the best thing to do in any Italian American neighborhood is eat, which is why I strongly recommend that you take this food tour of North Beach. You’ll be able to snack on so many more delicious foods than you would on your own and we’ll see the best tour spots in San Francisco in North Beach.

Check rates and availability of this yummy tour by clicking here.

best tour spots in San Francisco

The first thing you must try in North Beach is a proper Italian coffee. I got a cappuccino, but you are able to order any of their coffee drinks, or even something that does not have caffeine, if that’s what you prefer.

This neighborhood is where Italian coffee first arrived on the West Coast. On the East Coast, we started drinking cappuccinos a few decades earlier, but I shan’t hold that against San Francisco. When the Italian American director Francis Ford Coppola was starting out, he liked to drink coffee in this neighborhood as well.

best tour spots in San Francisco

After the coffee, you get to try so many other classic Italian lunch treats, like this delicious salami sandwich. (If you’re vegetarian, don’t worry. Just let them know when you book the tour, and you can get a tasty veggie sandwich. There were vegetarians on our tour and it was not a problem.)

best tour spots in San Francisco

Had enough sandwiches for the day? Of course not! We’re going to have a meatball sandwich next, served on the most famous bread in San Francisco. That’s the focaccia from Liguria Bakery. Most bakeries I know sell more than one type of bread or baked good, but not this bakery.

They only sell focaccia. It’s so popular that they close the store as soon as they sell out, so come early! However, we automatically get to try their bread on the tour, and we don’t have to wait on line. Win/win!

best tour spots in San Francisco

Next up, some sweets! This is a candy store that is predominantly famous for something called seven-layer fudge, which was surely the most decadent fudge I had ever tried. You get to have a piece of their fudge and you can also choose a piece of salt water taffy.

I chose the seven-layer fudge and the beachy Key Lime taffy. What I liked is that you can take the candy with you and eat it whenever you want, say for breakfast the next morning. There’s so much food on the tour that it was good to have a choice to not eat everything.

best tour spots in San Francisco

The next snack was a classic Roman treat called suppli. Suppli are rice balls stuffed with deliciousness like tomato sauce and meat, but there were separate ones for the vegetarians. I have eaten these babies in Rome, and the ones in San Francisco were just as delicious.

best tour spots in San Francisco

Of course, any time with the best tour spots in San Francisco in North Beach has to include pizza. That’s just science. If I’d tried to go to all these restaurants on my own, I definitely would not have been able to eat so much food. How could I manage to scarf a whole pizza? That’s why the food tour was so wonderful! We could share small pieces of pizza instead.

As you can see from my photo, this was not a New York style pizza. It had a puffier crust and the sauce was made with vodka. Nothing to hate there! Let’s all get drunk on pizza!

best tour spots in San Francisco

The final stop on the tour was for cannoli, the classic Sicilian dessert. In a good cannoli, the pastry shell is stuffed fresh with ricotta cream right in front of you. They don’t always have to put the chocolate chips in, but it’s great when they do!

24 Hour Tip

Those are all the secrets of this delicious tour and the best tour spots in San Francisco in North Beach that I can share for now.

Check rates and availability for yourself by clicking here to see what they are!

best tour spots in San Francisco

3) Mission Food Tour

As you can probably tell already from this article, I think food tours are amazing. They allow you to sample many different dishes into a neighborhood instead of being forced to stick to just one. You also get to make new friends and meet fellow travelers. Plus, you get to see the city through the eyes of a local.

One of the best food tours in San Francisco is this excellent tour of the Mission. This tour will bring you to some amazing food and show you the best tour spots in San Francisco in the Mission, but it will also teach you just what makes this neighborhood so special.

You can book this food tour yourself easily by clicking here.

best tour spots in San Francisco

You shouldn’t eat breakfast before the tour because you want to save room for all the amazing food. That’s why it’s perfect that our first stop was at a local bakery that serves amazing pastries. You even get to choose any pastry in the store for your breakfast. How nice to have choices!

Just be warned that because it’s a family run spot, it might be closed when you visit, so in that case, I’m sure whatever you have for breakfast will be equally delicious.

The pastry I selected was a Mexican sweetbread called a concha. It comes in many different colors, but my guide told us that they all taste the same, so just pick whatever you think is prettiest.

best tour spots in San Francisco

Of course, you can’t take a food tour of the Mission without trying its most famous treat: the Mission Burrito! This is the largest burrito I have ever experienced and every bite was delicious. You do get to choose the filling you want on the tour, and yes, there are vegetarian options. I selected the moist and spicy carnitas.

Our guide said that the popular Chipotle burritos are really based on the Mission burritos, but of course the real thing is much fresher and delicious. And I still can’t get over the size! This burrito is a small size, so what could a large possibly be?

best tour spots in San Francisco

Our guide said that our next stop was unique because it’s one of the only Cuban restaurants in the Mission. (I can’t name another Cuban restaurant in the neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.)

Here everyone tried the same thing: plantains with a special green sauce, whose recipe only the owners know. Our guide said that he had taken a young lady on a tour through here, and she turned out to be an aspiring chef. The owners gave her the chance to taste the sauce in the kitchen to see if she could crack its code. I hope you did, young chef lady!

best tour spots in San Francisco

Don’t forget that San Francisco is on the water, and it has access to some fantabulous West Coast oysters. On this tour, we got to choose two oysters at a special local oyster bar. Our guide said that the Mission isn’t famous for oysters, but this bar has truly become part of the community, which supported the place during Covid.

I recommend getting West Coast oysters like the Miyagi and Steamboat oysters. They are tiny and packed with flavor, just like me!

best tour spots in San Francisco

Of course, any proper food tour needs dessert. Normally the last stop on the tour is chocolate, but it was closed for that day for some sort of community training. That’s why we stopped at a nearby bakery instead. Yet again, we were able to select the pastry of our choice.

I got banana bread, which felt nice and healthy after all that burrito. It tasted just like a banana, so I was definitely satisfied. If it had tasted like cantaloupe, I would have been concerned.

I hope you now want to experience the food for yourself to find more San Francisco culinary secrets and the best tour spots in San Francisco in the Mission.

Check rates and availability of this tour right here to find out what they are!

best tour spots in San Francisco

4) Chinatown in San Francisco Food Tour

If you haven’t been to San Francisco’s Chinatown before, you are in for a treat! I’ve been to many Chinatowns in the United States and Canada, and San Francisco’s is arguably the most beautiful. (It’s definitely more beautiful than the Chinatown in my hometown of New York City, though both are equally delicious.)

If you went to Chinatown on your own, you’d be able to sample a few dishes, but on a food tour, you’re going to be able to try so many scrumptious treats that you won’t believe it. And this tour will take you to all the best tour spots in San Francisco in Chinatown.

best tour spots in San Francisco

That’s why I recommend booking this wonderful food tour I took of Chinatown when I was in San Francisco. This tour will take you to the best restaurants and bakeries in Chinatown, all at an affordable price. And you’ll be able to learn a ton about the history of the neighborhood as well.

You can go ahead and book this Chinatown food tour for yourself by clicking here.

best tour spots in San Francisco

The tour begins with two pastries for breakfast. (Don’t eat much breakfast before the tour. You definitely want to come hungry!) These pastries were gathered at a famous and award winning Chinatown bakery. I just wish they looked a little prettier in my photo, but you can’t have everything.

One of the pastries is savory, and that’s a pork bun. However, if you’ve ever had a Chinese pork bun, you know that they’re a touch on the sweet side as well, so I think they make a good choice for brunch. And then the other pastry is the green onion twisted bread. This is the specialty of the bakery and a treat I had never tried before, but I’m so glad I did!

best tour spots in San Francisco

Next we wended our way to a different bakery that serves traditional moon cakes. These are meant to be eaten during the Autumn Festival, but they are so delicious that some people want to eat them year round. That’s like me and Cadbury Creme Eggs.

This bakery is so famous for their moon cakes that some people have them shipped from San Francisco all the way to China! That’s our third pastry of the day, but don’t worry! You only eat half a moon cake and the snacks coming up are savory delights.

best tour spots in San Francisco

On our next stop, we got to sit down and enjoy several dishes. (We learned a bunch of cool historical facts about Chinatown as we ate our pastries, but I want you to take the tour, so I shan’t spoil all the secrets.)

At this restaurant, the guide taught us proper etiquette for ordering tea at a Chinese restaurant. Then we feasted on dried, sauteed string beans, pork and shrimp dumplings, and the piece de resistance, which was Peking duck.

This is a truly decadent dish and everyone on my tour loved it. It was such a delight to eat the meat with the little fluffy buns. The crispy skin was the best part because of all the fat. I can’t always be full of deep thoughts.

best tour spots in San Francisco

Are you ready for another sweet? Then prepare yourself for the fortune cookie factory! No, I’m not making this up. San Francisco’s Chinatown really has a fortune cookie factory that you can visit. Have you ever seen a fortune cookie before it gets folded? Well, I never had, and now I know what it looks like.

You get to sample the fortune cookies at the factory, but you also get to make your own fortune and put it in the cookie. What message did I put in my cookie? Mwahaha, I’ll never tell!

best tour spots in San Francisco

The last food tasting was another sit down stop. We tried one Chinese-American dish, which was lo mein, and one classic Chinese dish, which were potstickers. I haven’t eaten much lo mein because in New York City we tend to have our own Chinese American classics like cold noodles with sesame sauce.

But the potstickers were the best dish. The story goes that there was a chef who burned his dumplings and so he had to pretend that he had invented a new dish in his lord’s honor. Way to think on your feet so you don’t get executed, chef!

best tour spots in San Francisco

The last stop doesn’t have any food, so don’t worry if you are stuffed. We’ve actually got a tea tasting at a beautiful local shop. The tea sommelier explained the different blends to us, and he also refused to call any beverage that wasn’t made with tea leaves tea. (Chamomile? That’s not tea. Mint? That’s not tea either.)

best tour spots in San Francisco

He did serve some excellent tea blends, such as tea mixed with jasmine flowers. He also told us that the tea came from the mountains in China, so it’s quite rare and special. What a lucky treat to be able to try some on the tour!

24 Hour Tip

There were more of the best tour spots in San Francisco in Chinatown I didn’t share with you.

You can check rates and availability by clicking here to find out what they are!

best tour spots in San Francisco

5) Tour of The Castro

If you’ve heard of the Castro, you probably know that it’s the most famous LGBT+ community in the United States. I live in Greenwich Village in New York City, which is similar in some ways, but we cannot measure up to the Castro. The neighborhood was started by people who weren’t welcome in other communities, so it has now become one of the most welcoming places you can find.

I strongly recommend taking a walking tour of the best tour spots in San Francisco in Castro during your time in San Francisco. You’ll learn so much more about this neighborhood exploring it with a local. I’m not LGBT, and I still got a ton out of the tour, and I’m sure you will too.

Check rates and availability for yourself easily by clicking here.

best tour spots in San Francisco

One thing you’ll learn about on the tour is the history of persecution against LGBT people. The Nazis persecuted gay people as well as Jewish people and many others.

You’ve probably heard of how the Nazis made Jewish people wear yellow stars? Well, they made gay people wear pink triangles. That’s why there’s a memorial made out of pink stones honoring those people who were killed by the Nazis.

The Castro was founded after World War II by many people, including soldiers who were dishonorably discharged from the army because of their sexuality. The word got out that this neighborhood was gay friendly and people moved here from all over the country.

best tour spots in San Francisco

Of course, you’ve probably heard of Harvey Milk, who was sometimes referred to as the Mayor of Castro. (Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing him, but I’d rather talk about the real Harvey Milk.) Milk was not the official Mayor of Anything, but he was elected to the SF Board of Supervisors, which made him the first openly gay man elected in the state of California.

You might also know that he and the Mayor of San Francisco were assassinated together by an angry ex coworker. (The coworker literally used the Twinkie Defense to plead to a lighter sentence. The fact that this ridiculous defense worked is often attributed to homophobia.)

I’d rather remember Milk for the positive work he did for his community and the message of hope he tried to share with all.

best tour spots in San Francisco

You’ll also get to visit the Harvey Milk library branch on the tour, which is a great way to honor him.

best tour spots in San Francisco

On top of that, you’ll get to see the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, which focuses on teaching about social justice.

The final stop was Twin Peaks, which is one of the oldest gay bars in the Castro. (You don’t go inside on the tour, but you can certainly go in afterwards.) They are used to tourists there! Like I said, it’s a welcoming community.

24 Hour Tip

That’s all the Castro facts and tips I have to share for our day of the best tour spots in San Francisco.

Check rates and availability by going here if you want to get the rest of them!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Best Tour Spots in San Francisco

#1 TOP PICK

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CHINATOWN FOOD TOUR
✔️ Great bang for the buck
✔️ Delicious authentic treats

#2 PICK

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 3

VW VAN TOUR
✔️ See the whole city
✔️ Expert local guide

#3 PICK

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 4

ALL OTHER SAN FRANCISCO TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

best tour spots in San Francisco

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco

Where to Stay?

Location is so important in San Francisco. That’s why I recommend spending your time exploring the best tour spots in San Francisco at the Cartwright Hotel.

It’s located right by Union Square so it’s in a convenient location where it’s easy to take the bus or walk to get to the start of the best Tripadvisor things to do in San Francisco, it has free wifi, coffee makers, and an airport shuttle, and it might be haunted! What more could you want for finding the best tour spots in San Francisco.

If you’d like to join me at the Cartwright, just click here.

If you want to find deals on tons of hotel rooms in San Francisco, just click here.

This search engine will help you find the most affordable and convenient hotel during your day of the best tour spots in San Francisco. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

best tour spots in San Francisco

That’s the best tour spots in San Francisco!

What do you think are the best tour spots in San Francisco? Email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know.

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY try one day with the best tour spots in San Francisco.

You can also add an Alcatraz day trip. Why not add 24 hours in San Francisco? You might want to experience a Castro in San Francisco tour. Enjoy the best Chinatown in San Francisco food tour. Go for a Mission District in San Francisco food tour. Get going on a North Beach in San Francisco tour. Don’t miss the best Tripadvisor things to do in San Francisco.

Best Tour Spots in San Francisco 2024 8

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