San Francisco Introduction Walk I (Self Guided), San Francisco

Bursting with popular tourist attractions and diverse neighborhoods, San Francisco is considered to be a "wonder to behold". Full of museums, religious buildings, parks and amazing architecture, this city can keep any tourist busy for his entire trip. Take this walking tour to explore San Francisco's most visited tourist attractions.
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San Francisco Introduction Walk I Map

Guide Name: San Francisco Introduction Walk I
Guide Location: USA » San Francisco (See other walking tours in San Francisco)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.2 Km or 3.2 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • City Hall
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Powell Street Station
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Maiden Lane
  • American Conservatory Theater
  • Curran Theater
  • Union Square
  • Ruth Asawa's Fountain
  • Chinatown
  • 555 California Street
  • Nob Hill
  • Grace Cathedral
City Hall

1) City Hall (must see)

One of the most prominent buildings in San Francisco, the City Hall stands with all its glory and grandeur in the city. Not only is it one of the best structures in the city, but it is also one of the finest looking Beaux-Art buildings in the country. Designer Author Brown is said to have drawn inspiration from the Dôme des Invalides in Paris while designing the City Hall in San Francisco.

The City Hall is special not only for its architecture but is also known for its history, for enduring hardships and surviving natural disasters. The story of its struggles began in 1899 when after 27 years of construction, the old City Hall was officially opened to the public. However, after completing only 7 years of service to the society, the building collapsed after the devastating earthquake of 1906. The present building that stands is a replacement of the older City Hall. This building also suffered a serious seismic tremor in 1989, rendering it unstable. The City Hall was then closed and underwent a thorough renovation for about a decade, which not only repaired and restored the building to its former glory but also made it earthquake proof, making it the largest base-isolated building in the world.

Why You Should Visit:
Compared to other city halls across the country, this one is very classy!
As well, there's always something going in Civic Center Plaza.

Be sure to take the free 1h tour led by a knowledgeable docent. Learn about the building's history and architecture.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-8pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Asian Art Museum

2) Asian Art Museum (must see)

Housing one of the largest Asian Collections in the Western World is the Asian Art Museum. The Museum boasts a proud collection of over 15000 pieces from the histories of countries like India, China, Japan, Korea, Persia and other South Asian nations.

Previously residing in the Golden Gate Park, after expansion, the Asian Art Museum shifted premises to the former San Francisco City Library, opposite the Civic Centre. The interiors of the building were specially designed by the award-winning Italian architect Gae Aulenti, who is known for her unique ability to make use of historical structures as museum spaces.

The Museum houses more than 6000 years of art and craft of various civilizations of the Far East. Here, one can see an amalgamation of paintings, sculptures, textiles, books, scriptures, ceramic and furniture. The Asian Art Museum came into being in 1966 after Chicago based industrialist Avery Brundage decided to donate a part of his vast collection of Asian Art to the city. In return, Brundage wanted a museum specially built to house it, which is why in 1966 a special wing was constructed in the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park and was subsequently named the Asian Art Museum.

Why You Should Visit:
Art, history and spirituality in a wonderful building. Changing exhibits, permanent collection, modern Asian art, classic art: this museum has it all.

The AAM cafe has a nice selection of ethnic entrees to choose from. If you prefer more traditional fare they also have sandwiches, salads, and soups.
The museum also has a large gift shop stocked with apparel, jewelry, books, and folk art.

Opening Hours:
Tuesday–Sunday: 10 AM–5 PM; Thursday Night (Feb 23–Sept 28): 5–9 PM; Friday Night (Jun 23–Sept 29) 5–9 PM;
Closed Mondays, Jan 1, Thanksgiving Day and Dec 25.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Powell Street Station

3) Powell Street Station (must see)

The Powell Street Station located on Market Street is one of the most photographed areas in Downtown, San Francisco. It is a Rapid Transit and Muni Metro Station. It opened in 1973, becoming one of the most famous tourist attractions in the city.

Why You Should Visit:
In spite of long queues and the $7 fee for a one-way cable car trip, it's worth getting on at least once on this street because there's nothing else like it anywhere in the world.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

4) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (must see)

Devoted only to 20th-century art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a must visit if you are an avid follower of modern art. Established in the year 1935, the SFMOMA was the first museum of its kind that was dedicated to introducing the modern and contemporary art form to the world.

Displaying some of the most path defying pieces of modern art, the SFMOMA has come a long way since its inception. Today the museum houses over twenty-six thousand pieces of modern art, works that include- photography, sculptures, paintings, architecture, design and media.

Founded by Dr Grace Morley, the SFMOMA first resided on the fourth floor of the War Memorial Veterans Building in the Civic centre. But today the extensive collection is housed in a magnificent building built by the Swiss architect Mario Botta, much known for his unique architectural style. The museum also has its own research library, which boasts of an extensive collection of books, documents, artists’ files, lecture recording and much more.

Some of the prominent works in the museum include 'Ocean Park' by Richard Diebenkorn, 'Frieda and Diego Rivera' by Frida Kahlo, 'The Nest' by Louise Bourgeois along with many others. The museum also houses works of some legendary artists of our times like Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Ellsworth Kelly and many more.

Why You Should Visit:
A paradise for modern art enthusiasts that invites multiple visits to do it justice.
The flow is excellent and no exhibit ever feels too crowded. There are some great special exhibits, too, which make it even more special.

Definitely make a stop at the rooftop café for a cool view of San Fran, organic Blue Bottle Coffee, and modern art-themed treats (Mondrian cake, Barnett Newman cookies). Or you can bring lunch to eat outside amid the sculptures.

Opening Hours:
Fri–Tue: 10am–5pm; Thu: 10am–9pm; closed Wednesday.
Open until 8pm on Saturdays, May 27–September 4.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Maiden Lane

5) Maiden Lane

From rags to riches, from tacky to elegant, classy and fashionable, the Maiden Lane is one street that has undergone an extreme make over after the 1906 earthquake. Presently laden with high end gift shops, couture salons, expensive boutiques and designer outlets, there is nothing in the fashion and luxury world that the Maiden Lane does not offer.

Although the present may seem glittery and filled with glamour and elegance, a century back the lane didn’t quite have the reputation it holds today. The street was then called the Morton Street and it was one of the most prominent red-light district of San Francisco. The Morton Street was filled with brothels and exotic dancers and was said to hold the record for reporting at least one murder every week. The 1906 earthquake, however, changed the fate of the Street. The rubbles of the Morton Street were transformed into the present day Maiden Lane.

Apart from its very colourful history, the street is also known to be an only pedestrian street, with two gates at either end that bar any traffic from getting in. Whether you love to shop or just like to take a lazy walk down the road, or simply enjoy a city’s past- the Maiden Lane has something to offer to every passer-by.
Sight description based on wikipedia
American Conservatory Theater

6) American Conservatory Theater

Famous opera director, William Ball founded the American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T) in Pittsburgh in the year 1965. Theatre enthusiasts in San Francisco convinced Ball of presenting half an year’s season in the city. In the very first season at its new home, A.C.T. performed sixteen productions in the city’s Geary and Marines Memorial Theatres. In addition, the company also toured other cities in the state of California and performed 28 plays to establish themselves as a theatre company giving astonishing performances. The original team of the company included famous names like René Auberjonois, Peter Donat and Richard Dysart to name few.

Since 1968, A.C.T. has introduced the world of theatre to over half a million students through its Student Matinee Program alone. In the late 70s, the theatre travelled to Hawaii and Japan as part of the tour of Ted Mosel’s All the Way Home. Artistic director Ball was forced to resign after he failed to keep the finances in place making way for Edward Hastings. The earthquake of 1989 damaged the Geary Theatre which forced the company to perform at other venues. Carey Perloff’s appointment in 1992 as the Artistic Director revived the company from financial troubles along with earning the company praise for its work on the stage.

Also serving as an acting school, A.C.T. has given the world names like Denzel Washington through its Master of Fine Arts courses and Nicolas Cage, Winowa Ryder, Darren Criss amongst others through its Summer Training Congress. A.C.T with its efforts of conserving the theatre industry demands a special visit if you are in the city of San Francisco.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Curran Theater

7) Curran Theater

If you enjoy watching broadways, operas and live performances, the Curran Theatre is a must visit in San Francisco. However, one needn’t have to be a diehard opera fan to visit and be charmed by the Curran.

Its brilliant presence and majestic look is sure to take any onlookers breath away. This magnificent building stands at the 445 Geary Street, where it welcomes its audience into a world far away from the hustle bustle of city life. Known as one of the finest Broadway theatres in the country, the Curran Theatre makes the experience of watching live performances memorable with its intimate auditoriums and well-crafted interiors. One of the noted features of the interiors of the building is the ceiling above the main lobby which is hand painted to make it look like wood. As a matter of fact, the interiors and exteriors of the theatre were even featured in a movie named ‘All about Eve’.

The Curran Theatre was opened in 1922 and was named after its first owner Homer Curran. He owned several other theatres but only this theatre retains its original name to this date. Homer Curran is most noted for writing a book for the musical ‘Song of Norway’ and the lesser known ‘Magdalena’. Today this theatre belongs to Carole Shorenstein Hays who has produced many award winning Broadway plays.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Union Square

8) Union Square (must see)

For a shopaholic, there can be no place on earth that comes anywhere close to the Union Square in San Francisco.

The Union Square marks the perfect destination where one can bask in its rich past and at the same time get enthralled by its vibrant present. The Union Square till date is the most visited site in San Francisco. Filled with premium boutiques, high scale departmental stores, art galleries and salons, the Union Square is a sanctuary for shopaholic at heart. Counted as one of the world’s premium shopping areas, the Union Square is an amalgamation of art, craft, luxury and saga.

The design of the Union Square Park is credited to Jasper O'Farrell who constructed it as a public plaza. The towering monument that adorns the Square was later erected in 1903. The monument stands with a beautiful figurine of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, a wealthy heiress, who is also referred to as the ‘The Great Grandmother of San Francisco’. Throughout the nineteenth century, the area gained a lot of popularity for being an upscale residential locality. After the earthquake of 1906, Union Square became the primary shopping district of San Francisco and has not looked back ever since. The place is also known to have the first ever underground parking facility in the world.

Why You Should Visit:
This historic square should be your starting point for San Francisco. From the range of services available here to the square itself, the range of stores, restaurants, theatres, hop-on-hop-off tour buses, and also the famous cable cars – it's the center of it all...

Try the Burger Bar which overlooks the entire square. Get a table next to the window. Very nice.
You can also try the cheesecake factory at the rooftop, same building as Macy's.
Ruth Asawa's Fountain

9) Ruth Asawa's Fountain

Ruth Asawa's Fountain was built as a tribute to the city of San Francisco, that was completed in 1972. The fountain consists of 41 bronzed plaques, each depicting San Francisco's most famous landmarks,and illustrating the rich historical past of the city.

10) Chinatown (must see)

One of the most popular places in San Francisco and one that must be on everyone’s must-visit list when touring the city is the Chinatown. San Francisco hosts one of the largest Chinese communities outside Asia and is home to one of the oldest Chinatowns in North America.

The establishment of Chinatown in San Francisco can be dated back to the mid-19th century that saw the influx of immigrants mostly from China’s Guangdong Province. Many of the Chinese settlers were employed with the Central Pacific Railroad and then went on to open their own establishments in the form of shops and restaurants in the region.

The area saw a steady growth of Chinese population with the inflow of immigrants. However, after the government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act at the end of the 19th century the rate of immigrants decreased drastically. The fire that broke out after the 1906 earthquake damaged the colony quite severely. Chinatown, however, managed to recover and flourishes as one of the most visited sites in the city today.

Here you can visit historical places, shop at the local stores and pick up authentic oriental goodies, smell and taste the exotic cuisines that are served in the little Chinese restaurants. Today, Chinatown is aptly termed as ‘a city within a city’, where one is transported to the streets of Hong Kong and alleys of Beijing even though they are right here in San Francisco.

Try taking a guided tour as there is so much history behind this place and it’s really interesting. Probably just wandering through (not that it's not an experience) won’t give you so much insight.
Also, remember that it's San Francisco so it's very hilly. Going downhill is what you should try to do.
Sight description based on wikipedia
555 California Street

11) 555 California Street

Apart from being the second tallest building in the city of San Francisco, 555 California Street, is a display of wealth and power of the Bank of America. Formerly known as the Bank of America Centre, this 52- story sky scraper is located in the “FiDi” or Financial District, a commercial area of San Francisco city. Built in 1969, the building was designed by Pietro Belluschi and architectural responsibilities were shared by famous firms Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons.

A large plaza made as a mark of honour for A.P. Giannini, the founder of the Bank of America, lies to the north of the building. Masayuki Nagare’s granite sculpture called ‘Transcendence’ is located in this plaza. A high speed elevator would take you to the exclusive restaurant on the 52nd floor called the ‘Carnelian Room’- derived from carnelian granite, which this building is clad in. However, the recession closed this unique restaurant in 2009. The bay windows commonly seen in the city also form of a part of this magnanimous architecture.

Apart from housing offices of some big names in business like Goldman Sachs, Kirkland and Ellis, Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley etc., the building has also made appearances in movies like ‘An Eye for an Eye’ and ‘The Towering Inferno’. The 1998 merger with Nations Bank moved the headquarters of Bank of America to Charlotte and the $1.05 billion sale in 2005, renamed the building 555 California Street, as we know it today.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Nob Hill

12) Nob Hill (must see)

Nob Hill, located above Union Square and Chinatown, is one of the most elegant of the 44 hilltops of San Francisco. Nob Hill is bounded by Washington Street, Post Street, Stockton Street and Polk Street. Nob Hill is known not only for its rich swanking inhabitants but also for its gigantic mansions, luxury hotels and cable car museum, which make it an interesting place to visit.

One of the prime reasons why the Nob Hill attracts the affluent of the city is its centralized position in San Francisco. Also, Nob Hill has been home to some of the most prominent names in America like Leyland Stanford, Collins Huntington, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker. If lucky, one can get a glimpse of their grand mansions that are poised with majestic galore atop the Nob.

Along with elaborate mansions, Nob Hill also houses some of the city's most elegant hotels. Before the 1906 earthquake and fire, this wealthy neighborhood had huge mansions occupying an entire block. However, after the disaster, these mansions were revamped into luxury hotels. The most expensive hotels like the Fairmount, Hopkins, Stanford Court and the Huntington stand on the site of ruins of the 1906 disaster.

Drive, walk (seriously uphill) or take a cable car up and walk around the neighborhood. Enjoy the architecture, stroll through the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, have a drink and enjoy the scenics at the Top of the Mark in the Mark Hopkins Hotel, have dinner at one of several great restaurants, and enjoy a peaceful interlude in the beautiful Grace Cathedral. There's also a pleasant city park.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Grace Cathedral

13) Grace Cathedral (must see)

An Episcopal church, the Grace Cathedral is visited by Christians and tourists from all over the world. Built in 1849, the Grace Church was a little chapel located at a different site. A fire in 1906 destroyed the Grace Cathedral, as it was called then. A daughter cathedral was then commissioned at the Nob Hill site by the Crocker family, which is the present day Grace Cathedral. Lewis Hobart designed this magnificent structure in French Gothic style which was then built in concrete and steel.

The Cathedral is visited by tourists for the famous work of De Rosen. De Rosen’s work in the Cathedral is visible in the aisle, as an altarpiece in the Chapel of Grace and as a mural in the Chapel of Nativity’s Adoration, where one can also see De Rosen’s childhood home in Warsaw. The Ghiberti Doors, a replica of the east door at the Florence Baptistery, add to the beauty of the Grace Cathedral. The patterns on the labyrinth of the Cathedral are capable of bringing one to a meditative state. The Cathedral has over 7000 sq. ft of breath-taking glass windows depicting over 1000 figures in human history. A forty-four bell carillon is rung to mark important days in the history of the city and the country. The Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys is one of the only seven remaining men and boys choir of the Episcopal Church.

Why You Should Visit:
A peaceful respite from the world outside, enhanced by many beautiful works of art.

Walk the labyrinth (circular, meditative food path) outside before entering, and walk an additional one inside. Also, check out the beautiful stained glass (sunny evenings are gorgeous).

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-6pm; Sat: 8am-6pm; Sun: 8am-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in San Francisco, California

Create Your Own Walk in San Francisco

Create Your Own Walk in San Francisco

Creating your own self-guided walk in San Francisco is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Gay Walking Tour

Gay Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.5 Km or 4 Miles
Japantown Walking Tour

Japantown Walking Tour

Japantown in San Francisco is the oldest Japanese community in the continental United States. The first Japanese immigrants came to San Francisco in the 1860s. Located in the heart of San Francisco, this six block area is a colorful, friendly community, that is home to some of the best Japanese cultural, eating and entertainment venues in the United States. Take this tour to explore most visited...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 Km or 0.4 Miles
SoMa/Civic Center Nightlife

SoMa/Civic Center Nightlife

Home to some of the most exciting clubs and bars found the world over, the Nightlife Tour in San Francisco features a wide selection of hot spots to dance the night away. Being a major metropolitan area with a diverse community, the range of musical flavors available here is truly astounding. Whether looking for top DJs or big name music acts, or just a solid local talent spinning your favorite...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Telegraph Hill Area Walking Tour

Telegraph Hill Area Walking Tour

Telegraph Hill offers an unexpected and delightful getaway in the heart of San Francisco. The name Telegraph Hill came from a structure built on the top of the hill in the mid-1800s, which would visually signal the city with regard to the type of vessels passing through the Golden Gate. It is famous for the spectacular stairways that traverse some of the city's most charming terrain, and for...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Fisherman's Wharf Walking Tour

Fisherman's Wharf Walking Tour

Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood is home to world-class entertainment opportunities in San Francisco. The historic tourist attractions make the area a popular place to visit. Fisherman's Wharf is an important center of the city's historic fishing industry. Take this walking tour to explore the most visited sights in Fisherman's Wharf.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Union Square Walking Tour

Union Square Walking Tour

Union Square is known as San Francisco's most popular shopping destination and the third largest shopping area in the United States. In addition to that, Union Square features many amazing restaurants, theaters and a wonderful concentration of fine art galleries. Take this walking tour to explore Union Square's main tourist attractions.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles

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