Five affordable San Francisco sightseeing tours


One of the most popular ways of exploring San Francisco is booking on to a guided sightseeing tour, with many options available that won’t cost a fortune.

(Photo: Red and White Fleet / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

The cultural and commercial heartland of Northern California, San Francisco is a magnet for tourists who come to enjoy its iconic landmarks, eye-catching architecture, scenic bay views, and world-class food and music scenes. If you like the idea of seeing the city as part of an organised group tour with an expert guide showing you around, then there are a wide number available. We’ve picked out five of the best – and most affordable.

Golden Gate Bay Cruise

San Francisco’s breathtaking waterfront is one of the jewels in the city’s crown and visitors can see it at close quarters during this one-hour cruise. After meeting at Pier 43 in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll board your boat and set sail, passing under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, and around notorious Alcatraz Island. Look out for wildlife too, including pelicans, sea lions, dolphins and whales. Along the way, you can listen to audio commentary on the sights and landmarks visible from the water. A full onboard bar is available with drinks and snacks. From $38 per person.

Book at GetYourGuide

Open-Top Bus Sunset Sightseeing Tour

(Photo: Big Bus Sightseeing / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

One of the best ways of seeing lots of a city in a short space of time is by bus. This one-hour open- tour takes place after dark and allows guests to marvel at San Fran’s illuminated sights from the elevated vantage point of an open-top bus. Starting from Fisherman’s Wharf, notable attractions and places of interest you’ll pass along the way include Union Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, Grace Cathedral, and historic Nob Hill, the Embarcadero and the Port of San Francisco. Audio commentary reveals the hidden stories of the city as your driver navigates the streets. From $44 per person.

Book at GetYourGuide

Hidden Stairways of San Francisco

It’s fair to say that stairs aren’t the first thing to come to mind when you think of San Francisco, but unbeknown to most the city actually has a number of notable staircases. Over the course of 2 miles, this small-group tour invites guests to see a handful of them, complete with expert commentary from your guide. During the tour, you’ll ascend hidden staircases, explore secret gardens, and soak up the picturesque views as you venture off the well-trodden tourist trail. Other than a modest amount of stair walking, almost all of the perambulating is on level ground, making it suitable for most ages and energy levels. From $35 per person.

Book at Viator

Castro LGB Walking Tour

(Photo: Cruisin’ the Castro Walking Tours / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

San Francisco has a vibrant and long-standing gay scene and at its heart is the city’s Castro district. This guided walking tour takes visitors deep into the area’s long history of providing a safe haven for people of all sexualities. Along the way, you’ll visit several notable landmarks that help tell the district’s story, including the Rainbow Honor Walk, various bronze sidewalk plaques honouring people who have made an impact in world history, and the Pink Triangle Park and Memorial which remembers the thousands of homosexual men persecuted during WWII. The tour lasts for two hours. From $35 per person.

Book at GetYourGuide

The Surreal San Francisco Tour

As with every city, San Francisco has its quirky underbelly that only reveals itself with a little probing. And probing is precisely what this walking tour does, taking guests on a journey into the city’s often surreal past. Running for two hours, you’ll explore the city on foot and in the company of a master storyteller who will regale you with folkloric tales about the eccentric heritage of San Francisco. There’ll be stop-offs at various points of interest, including Mission Dolores Park and Harvey Milk Plaza, along the route. Your guide is likely to use profanity, so this tour may be considered unsuitable for children.. From $32 per person.

Book at Viator

By Paul Joseph