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Itinerary
Meet your guide—an 1800s San Franciscan named Emperor Norton dressed in a feathered hat and full regalia—at Union Square and set off on your tour of downtown San Francisco. The emperor is a colorful character who has also named himself the Protector of Mexico.

Walk about 2-miles (3.2 kilometers) to historic landmarks including Union Square, the St Francis Hotel, the Palace Hotel, Maiden Lane, Portsmouth Square, and Jackson Square. While you walk, the Emperor tells stories about the devastation of the 1906 fire and earthquake, and the beloved stray dogs of the 1860s, Bummer and Lazarus.

Visit the historical buildings that are not on any tourist map, and learn the backstory of the city’s eccentric history.
Locations visited
Barbary Coast Trail
Union Square
Jackson Square
See all 7 locations
Overview
Instead of navigating the streets of San Francisco alone on foot, let a larger-than-life historical figure introduce you to the city. Your guide—the fictional Emperor Norton—takes you to landmarks near Union Square, including the St. Francis Hotel, Maiden Lane, and Portsmouth Square. Listen to the emperor tell stories you may not hear otherwise while you walk past some of San Francisco’s top points of interest.
Highlights
  • Skip the usual walking tour for one led by an eccentric fictional historical figure, Emperor Norton
  • See most of downtown San Francisco’s historical attractions in a few hours
  • Hear interesting historical stories you might not otherwise
  • Choose between a morning and afternoon tour to fit your schedule
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All reviewshistorical knowledgebarbary coastafternoon tourthe financial districtunion squarewalking tourgreat tourhistoriannewtonfactssantourscity
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1 - 5 of 21 reviews
Reviewed 8 June 2018
What fun! And very informative

We loved Emperor Norton's tour. He is a font of historical knowledge and brings old-time San Francisco to life with his colorful descriptions of events and places. Emperor Norton was a real person with quite an interesting story. See downtown San Francisco through his eyes...More

Thank okifyoulike
Reviewed 9 May 2018
San Francisco loves this guy

Even though we live in the area, we were drawn to the tour by a feature in the San Jose Mercury-News that this was the #1 unusual travel experience in San Francisco. This Emperor Norton is charming and a wealth of interesting historical detail. As...More

Thank SWH166
Reviewed 23 February 2018
One of the best walking tours I've ever taken!

Its not everyday that you can tour the city with a legend. Emperor Norton brings San Francisco history to life and is incredibly knowledgeable about the city. He gives tips to hidden gems you would have probably missed and great recommendations. It's a great tour...More

Thank Mary D
Reviewed 19 February 2018
Kid's favorite, highlight of our whole trip

In October 2016 we traveled up the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco with 2 kids aged 8 and 11. For the kids this was the highlight of the whole trip and they talked about Emperor Norton for days after. Emperor Norton was...More

Thank Angela S
Reviewed 30 January 2018
Emperor Norton is a hoot!

Emperor Norton's tour was fascinating! It was great fun to learn a bit about San Francisco's history and to discover all these hidden features of downtown SF. More than anything, Emperor Norton is a wonderful performer who really keeps you engaged throughout the tour. Thank...More

Thank Julie N
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Judy G
6 July 2018|
AnswerShow all 2 answers
Response from okifyoulike | Reviewed this property |
San Francisco is hilly, but the tour guide stops a lot to talk about history, buildings, and people. You therefore won't feel the hills as much. The area covered by this tour is not as hilly as some other areas (like... More
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