Cities are like a new friend. The closer you get to them, the more you learn about them. You're never closer to a city than when you walk in it, and San Francisco is a great city for foot-powered transport. Maybe that's why it has more walking tours than cities many times its size.
Depending on your preferences, you can take a guided tour or a do-it-yourself one. And don't be intimidated by the hills - some walks are on flat ground.
San Francisco City Guides offers free guided walking tours to many areas of the city. Some of their more popular San Francisco tours include Chinatown, North Beach, Coit Tower and the Palace Hotel, but there are many more. Although they have a more limited selection, Discover Walks also offers free walking tours.
- The name of On the Level SF hints at its origins giving easy-to-do walking tours on flat ground, but nowadays they do all kinds of tours, including some kid-friendly ones.
- To learn about the architecture, lifestyle and history of the Victorian Era, take the Victorian Home Walk, or try City Guides free Landmark Victorians of Alamo Square or Victorian San Francisco tours. If you're lucky, the Alamo Square tour might take you inside a Victorian home. For a more general look at San Francisco architecture, try Rick Evans' Architecture Walking Tour
- Food lovers will enjoy the Wok Wiz tours of Chinatown. Some include a Chinese lunch. The Chinese Culture Center also offers walking tours in Chinatown, as do City Guides and All About Chinatown.
- You won't get hungry if you go out with Local Tastes of the City. They specialize in eating their way through San Francisco and Chinatown. Gourmet Walks also offer culinary adventures, including chocolate and wine tours. On the Javawalk, you can wake up, take a walk and sample same great coffee - all at the same time.
- Comedy walking tours with Foot! will keep you laughing while you're walking - and they've got a fun assortment of tours with chuckle-invoking names like "Hobnobbing with Gobs of Snobs."
- Looking for ghost, ghouls or things that go bump in the night? Try San Francisco Ghost Hunt, the Haunted Haight or Chinatown Ghost Tours.
- Tour the epicenter of the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury with Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour - or the equally colorful murals of the Mission District with Precita Eyes Muralists.
Cruisin' the Castro gives you a chance to learn about a less-known aspect of San Francisco history.
- For the hardy walker, Afoot and Afloat offers half-day walking tours that cover some of the city's best neighborhoods. And if you'd rather run than walk, try City Running Tours.
San Francisco is a good place to just wander. It's comparatively small and the major landmarks are visible from everywhere, so it's hard to get lost. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you have lots of options that include books, maps and audio tours that you can download to a mobile device.
Besides their guided tours, On the Level also offers self-guided walking tour booklets.
One of the oldest self-guided San Francisco tours follows the Barbary Coast Trail. You can simply follow brass markers in the sidewalk, buy their guidebook "Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail," available at many San Francisco locations or download self-guided audio tours from their website.
Other companies offering self-guided audio include Stroll San Francisco which has more than 30 self-guided audio walking tours and Academy of Hospitality and Tourism which has an unbeatable price (free). Others are available through iTunes.
For a bit more of a workout - and some great rambles through the city's hillside neighborhoods, get a copy of Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky.