Classic Walking Tour of San Francisco with Emperor Norton
Embrace the quirky charm that defines San Francisco. See some of the City by the Bay's most iconic and historic sights—including Union Square, the St. Francis Hotel and more—guided by Emperor Norton I, San Francisco's unofficial mascot.
What You Will Do
- Meet one of the most colorful characters central to the quirky history of San Francisco, self-proclaimed "Protector of Mexico," Emperor Norton I
- Follow your entertaining Emperor-dressed guide on an interactive sightseeing tour filled with historical anecdotes from his life
- Gain a unique perspective on the earthquake and great fire of 1906, and other historical events that shaped San Francisco
- Visit and learn the stories behind Union Square, the St. Francis Hotel, Maiden Lane, Lotta’s Fountain, Bummer and Lazarus, the Palace Hotel, Jackson Square, Portsmouth Square, and the Barbary Coast
- 1 hour walking tour of San Francisco with costumed guide
Bring water and wear comfortable walking shoes.
- 441 Ratings
The San Francisco historical information was awesome! We truly enjoyed learning about the city through “personal” stories of Emperor Norton. The time went so quickly. We also took his recommendation for a lunch location & had a delicious meal. This was a fun way to see the city.
We had a wonderful time with Emperor Norton! He wa very accommodating, making a special tour of Chinatown for us. He was punctual, kind, funny, and very knowledgeable about San Francisco’s history and current restaurants! Overall, it was great! We would love to experience his other tours.
The Emporer is very engaging and personable. Our group of six was a perfect size. He spoke clearly and loud enough for us to hear his every word. His tour felt like tapping a sip of wine from a full wine barrel. How can all that life experience and knowledge be preserved??? Only drawback was being freezing -- stupid mistake for a local like me. Bundle up! Wish there was an Emporer for every city. After the tour, you'll never be without a friend in San Francisco. I'd go again in a heartbeat.
Exceeded my expectations
Impeccably researched and narrated. We hsve been on this tour 3 times, when we have visitors to the area, and enjoy the tour every time.
This tour is wonderful. The Emperor has amazing knowledge of the history of San Francisco & imparts it in a comical & interesting way. He takes you to places you would never find on your own. Do it early in your visit but don’t miss it. Thanks Emperor, we loved it.
We had a great time. Learnt a lot about San francisco and the different buildings. Emperor Norton was awesome.
A fun and informative tour by a guide who loves his research and the man he portrays. A great way to learn about San Francisco and some of its colorful history!
I enjoyed learning about the history of San Francisco. It was a great introduction to my trip. I am a travel writer and podcaster, always looking for unique special experiences in the locations I visit. Emperor Norton's Saturday afternoon tour made my podcast and blog list of "11 Awesome San Francisco Area Experiences" at www.oneperfectdayin.org. I hope to be back to take another Fantastic SF Time Machine Tour.
It was fun, interesting, different from other tours, full of historical facts. Overall a wonderful experience.
Only four person group with interesting sites and stories. Humorous and informative. Go and you will enjoy.
This was definitely a highlight of our trip to San Francisco!
The tour was the perfect length, not too strenuous, very informative and entertaining and was a nice, intimate size.
Fun, fun, fun. One of the best walking tours we have taken. Emperor Norton is a true character who will delight you with his stories as you navigate the streets of San Francisco.
As a resident of San Francisco I don't often think to go on tours or even consider the history of the city, but I'm glad I was reminded of your tour and the story of Emperor Norton. Thank you!
I was enthralled from beginning to end! Charismatic, educational, and truly a special peek into San Franciscos past. I highly recommend this tour. I've never done a walking tour before and almost 3 hours did seem a bit daunting, however, when we finished i couldn't believe it was over. I could have easily taken the tour twice. Thank you, for this magical experience that i shall cherish my entire lifetime.
This was a fantastic tour! The Emperor was very knowledgeable about both past and present. The walking was do-able even for someone using a cane and there were plenty of stops to rest and soak in the atmosphere. We learned a lot and can't wait to do further exploring in this area. I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in history, San Francisco, and little nooks and crannies of the town you thought you knew.
Emperor Norton was super knowledgeable and kept the audience engaged throughout the almost 3-hour tour. We even went inside some buildings to see murals and tunnel. Highly recommended!
Emperor Norton is warm, colourful, and informative. He has developed a clever dialogue which mixes facts about the life of Emperor Norton whom he portrays flawlessly with other important facts about San Francisco's history. We appreciated that he is genuinely interested in his subject matter and made a point of telling us that he'd never make things up. We were not surprised to learn that he trains tour guides for other programs. We highly recommend this tour.
Great tour! Emperor Norton was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and tons of fun. We saw some areas of the city that we hadn't been to before and learned a lot. Thanks for a great time, we'll definitely recommend it to those visiting SF.
We had a WONDERFUL time on Emporer Norton's tour. Even though our group lives in SF, we had a blast exploring new parts of the downtown area and learning facts about places we've walked past 100s of times. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone visiting or living in the San Francisco Bay area. You will not be disappointed.
We loved the tour. Emperor Norton was a wonderful tour guide and made it super fun. He is a font of knowledge and knew all the Back stories to explain all of the history. We recommend it very highly.
The tour is fantastic and Emperor Norton is a passionate and enthusiastic guide who will make the visit captivating and fun for both adults and children. Our 10 and 12 year’s old sons learnt so much about San Francisco ans its history. I recommend this tour to anyone living or visiting San Francisco. It is not your typical tourist tour and you will visit places unknown from the general public. We couldn’t have been more satisfied. Thank you!
This tour was awesome! Thank you Emperor.
We were guided expertly with detailed explanation and theater. What an amazing day, packed full of great information and bits of knowledge about San Francisco. I will never forget this! So amazing.
Great Tour. Very interesting. Didn't feel the time pass by. We all enjoyed this tour and will be taking the tours soon. May be a happy hour pub crawl in the future? Thank You, Jessica
The trip was very informative. Great speed yo enjoy all the areas we stopped at. He is so knowledgeable. Very very nice day with him
What a great walking tour! Emperor Norton is knowledgeable, flexible, fun and endearing. Also, thank you for the recommendation for the Great Eastern. Their dim sum was very good!
This was the best guided tour I've been on by far. Emperor Norton is very informative, fun, and very personable. I've been on many tours (free and not) in the city in the 6 years since I've moved here. This one was well worth the money paid for it.
Very Entertaining and interesting - people would salute him on the street!
Emperor Norton's tour was spectacular! Although we are local, and have lived in San Francisco, we learned so much that we never knew about our beloved city. And with the Emperor himself guiding us, the imagery of the past sprung to life. It was tremendously fun, entertaining and provided us with a wealth of information. I would highly recommend this tour.
Fantastic tour filled with lots of energy and a personal tour of San Francisco (especially the Financial District, Union Square, and Barbary Coast). The walking was at an easy group pace and brought my eyes upwards to look at a lot of the buildings I had been aimlessly walking by for days with a new appreciation for their history. There was a great clarification on the Earthquake and Fire of 1906, including the buildings that survived and those that didn't.
The Emperor is clearly a master of historical inquiry and story telling. He wove an engaging story of the historical facts, bringing history to life Bravo!
We were very happy with the tour. The intro at Union Square could be a bit shorter though....(sorry). Loved the "inside info" on all the old buildings and structures. Would totally recommend this tour. Thank you, Emperor!
Tour was interesting and well paced. Even though I've lived in the Bay Area for 30 years, I learned many facts from the past that help bring the city to life. Emperor Norton was informative and fun!
Emperor Norton knows his history! He was informative and entertaining. We had a small tour of 4 people so it felt very personalized. Dress warm because the tall city buildings offer little to no sun! I would recommend this tour! Thanks!
Emperor Norton had his act together. He looked perfect for the part, knew the history of San Francisco and told the tales well, spicing them here and there with a sprinkle of humor. He gave us some tips on how to visit the POPOS, which we will certainly do. And he gave us a piece of candy. What a guy!!!
An incredible journey through the streets of San Fransisco, switching between the present and the past. Long live the emperor!
It was an amazing tour, very thoroughly carried out, even after having lived here 5 years I discovered so many new things about the city. Thank you for this. Robi
The Emperor is a knowledgeable, charming, and funny person/character! It was often difficult to tell the difference between the two. It was fun watching other people recognize the Emperor around the streets. He is doing a great job of showcasing San Francisco's history. It takes true passion to give two of these tours on a day with 105 degree heat. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough!