San Francisco

History and Architecture Walking Tour of Nob Hill

San Francisco, United States

From $35.00

Select Date and Travelers

Free cancellation
Up to 24 hours in advance.
  • 2 hours 30 minutes (approx.)
  • Mobile ticket
  • Offered in: English


Uncover the scandalous, high-society history of San Francisco's most illustrious hill on a walking tour of Nob Hill. Hear the stories behind the grand hotels and stately mansions built by the city's powerful 19th-century business tycoons and politicians, and learn how the advent of the cable car and the disastrous 1906 earthquake shaped one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.
  • Walking tour of San Francisco's Nob Hill
  • Learn the hidden history behind the city's most elite neighborhood
  • Hear intriguing tales of the railroad tycoons and lumber barons who built their mansions atop the hill
  • Soak up stellar panoramic views of the city and bay
  • Great for history buffs
  • Choice of morning or afternoon departure

What's Included

  • Guided walking tour of Nob Hill
  • Fully-narrated tour
  • Local guide
  • Food and drinks
  • Gratuities
  • Transportation to/from attractions

Meeting And Pickup

Meeting point

  • Hotel Fairmont San Francisco
    950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA

End point

  • Stanford Court San Francisco
    905 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA

What To Expect

Choose from a morning or early afternoon tour to suit your sightseeing schedule. Get a San Francisco–style workout as you ascend to the top of Nob Hill, where rewarding panoramic views of the city and bay await.

Begin at the famous Fairmont Hotel, which debuted as the city's most elegant accommodations just before the devastating earthquake of 1906 destroyed much of the interior. Learn the backstory behind other majestic buildings on the hill’s crest and the affluent families who built them, including recognizable names like Stanford, Huntington, and Hopkins. Hear about the business rivalries and social intrigue that followed these railroad tycoons, land speculators, lumber barons, and governors who ruled San Francisco in its post–Gold Rush days.

As you stroll through the neighborhood, discover how this small, steep patch of land became early San Francisco's most elite address, especially after the introduction of the cable car. Learn how it has changed over the past 100 years while still maintaining its exclusive mystique perched high above the city streets. At the end of the tour, your guide can recommend several local restaurants and other spots to explore on your own.

Nob Hill (Pass By)

This is your departure point.

Hobnob Tours

Of all the many hills San Francisco is famous for, few contain the special history and strange regard of the local population as the hill - Nob Hill at the top of downtown. Once home to governors, lumber barons, railroad tycoons and wealthy land speculators, the hill at the top of California street played an integral part in the special history of what makes San Francisco special, weird, and unique. Your walking history tour of this once uber-affluent neighborhood begins at front of the Fairmont Hotel with your choice of a morning or early afternoon departure. After meeting your guide and the rest of your small group, you will proceed down the street with an introduction of how this single hill become home to some of this city's most famous and wealthy families. Names like Huntington, Hopkins, and Stanford still ring out more than 100 years later as your guide fills you in on the details of the business, social and political rivalries that once dominated the landscape. You'll learn how the cable car changed the perception of where the rich wanted to build their mansions and how this new form of public transportation tied the city together in a whole new way. You'll hear tales of the great earthquake of 1906 and how the fires reshaped the neighborhood permanently while discovering new restaurants, bars, and places to explore on your own. Once your two hour tour is complete, you'll have the option of eating lunch at one of the famous eateries near the top of the hill at your own expense.

2 hours 30 minutesAdmission Ticket Not Included

Additional Info

  • Confirmation will be received within 48 hours of booking, subject to availability
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult
  • A moderate amount of walking on mostly flat terrain is involved
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Stroller accessible
  • Service animals allowed
  • Near public transportation
  • Transportation is wheelchair accessible
  • Surfaces are wheelchair accessible
  • Most travelers can participate
  • Covid 19 restrictions. Guests must wear masks. Gloves will be provided. Guides wear masks and gloves. Guests must be healthy (temperatures taken). Social distancing ) as much as possible. Your safety is important
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 6 travelers

Cancellation Policy

You can cancel up to 24 hours in advance of the experience for a full refund.

  • For a full refund, you must cancel at least 24 hours before the experience’s start time.
  • If you cancel less than 24 hours before the experience’s start time, the amount you paid will not be refunded.
  • Any changes made less than 24 hours before the experience’s start time will not be accepted.
  • Cut-off times are based on the experience’s local time.

Traveler Photos

See more

Traveler Tips

Highly recommend booking this tour whether visiting or living in San Francisco!
62 reviews
Total review count and overall rating based on Viator and Tripadvisor reviews
Reviews by Viator travelers.
Showing 1-10 of 62 reviews
Gray tour
Bruce_K, Mar 2023
Valarie gave us a gray tour of Nob Hill filled with interesting stories of the families that settled the area and their effect on San Francisco. Excellent tour - Highly recommended!
Response from Host, Mar 2023
Thank you for taking the time to write a review. At times, as tour guides , we get the perfect guests who have historical background and a keen sense for history. You were those guests who were interested and enjoyed the research we share. Safe travels.
Our guide was just...
William_H, Mar 2023
Our guide was just average. Nice lady, but didn’t do anything to bring the information to life. Would also have liked more History.
Response from Host, Mar 2023
Thank you for taking time to write a review. I am sorry that our tour was not up to your expectations. Our guide had some jet lag so she may not have been on top of her game.
Take the time for this tour
Rebecca_B, Mar 2023
Learning about the men who shaped the city and their legacy. The buildings were beautiful and the tour guide was so knowledgeable about the history
Response from Host, Mar 2023
Thank you for taking time to write a review. I am glad you enjoyed the unique history of Nob hill and the men who created it. Safe travels.
We enjoyed this peek into San Francisco’s vanished past!
Shelly_O, Feb 2023
We learned so much about the history and architecture of Nob Hill, where we were staying. Valarie was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We came away with a better understanding about what drove the settling of San Francisco and the powerful men and women that formed its character. I was surprised that their names have lingered long after the mansions they built were gone and loved seeing the insides of the hotels that bear them. So ornate—so beautiful! The tour was well paced. We didn’t have to go very far—so much history in a few city blocks!
Response from Host, Feb 2023
Thank you for taking time to write such a nice review. I am glad you appreciated the unique history of such strong characters that lived on Nob Hill. Hobnob hopes to see you again . Safe travels
A great history lesson in three hours.
Vivian_A, Nov 2022
My husband and I were very impressed with level of knowledge Valerie had of the eight wealthy men that built their homes on Nob Hill. She added the important bits of history of our country as well as SF. We learned so much and had a great time!
Response from Host, Nov 2022
We are so glad that you enjoyed the unique history of the eight owners of Nob Hill mansions. We appreciate that you also took time to write a review. Safe travels
Nob Hill Tour
Charles_M, Oct 2022
Our guide was very knowledgeable . She was a pleasure to be with. We really enjoyed our tour of the Fairmont hotel.
Response from Host, Oct 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. Hobnob prides itself on the the professionalism and knowledge of our guides. Hope you will take another of our tours. We are glad you appreciated the beautiful Fairmont hotel.
Loved this tour
Toby_P, Oct 2022
We had a great time and learned a lot. Great tour. Highly recommend My only complaint is this demand for a longer review before I can submit. Xxxccccccccxxxxxxxxxxxxcccccxccccccxccvcxxxccccccccccccxcxxxcccccccvxxxxccccccccccccccccvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
Response from Host, Oct 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. We are glad you appreciated learning the interesting unique history of the people who lived on Nob Hill. Safe travels.
Nob Hill history
Michael_P, Aug 2022
Learning about the railroad tycoons and how they stamped their spot in history at Nob Hill. Comprehending the magnitude of the wealth they acquired through this deal.
Response from Host, Aug 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. We are glad you appreciated the unique history of these powerful men and their families.
Fascinating insight into the lives and history that created the Nob Hill we see today
Ali_M, Jul 2022
Cathy was a lovely and informative guide to the history and architecture around Nob Hill. She answered our many questions with knowledge and patience and took great care of us and the rest of our group. We enjoyed seeing the photos of the people she was telling us about too.
Response from Host, Jul 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review and especially noting that Cathy was an excellent guide. She is an experienced local guide and relates well with our many guests. Hobnob is glad you enjoyed our extensive research into the powerful individuals who lived on Nob Hill
Great tour
Judy_S, Jul 2022
I loved hearing about the history and the tour guide had plenty of interesting stories to tell. We are SF natives and learned several new things.
Response from Host, Jul 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. We are glad you enjoyed learning about the individuals who lived on Nob Hill and their quest for riches and power. We hope to see you on another Hobnob tour.
More gossip than history and architecture, and virtually no walking
Hans_K, Jul 2022
Now that I read the description, I realise I expected a little too much, but it was a little too much scandal, and not enough history. This is an architecture and walking tour, but very little of either really happened. A significant amount of time was looking at old photos, and discussing celebrities at the Fairmont, but that is something that can be explored after the tour.
Response from Host, Jul 2022
We are sorry that you did not enjoy the tour. However, the history we reported is not just gossip but it is based upon several years of research in the San Francisco history library and reading original documents at that time in history. The walking we do is “an easy walk” not a hike. We have photos as many of our guests have requested them. We hope you will enjoy the rest of your time in San Francisco. Sorry to disappoint.
1. View of buildings...
Richard_M, Jul 2022
1. View of buildings from roof garden of Fairmont. 2. Interesting historical characters and tidbits.
Response from Host, Jul 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. We enjoy receiving good reviews. We strive to make our sights and stories interesting in the beautiful Nob hill area.
Interesting SF silver & railroad barons his
Cynthia_F, Jul 2022
Behind the scenes tour of Fairmont Hotel ... interesting historical info. of SF silver & railroad barons. Alas the mansions are mostly gone. Very pleasant tour guide
Response from Host, Jul 2022
Thank you for taking your time to write a review. We are glad you enjoyed our fascinating history of old Nob Hill. We strive to make it interesting. Safe travels.
Fantastic tour of Nob Hill
JamesK_M, Jul 2022
I would highly recommend this tour for both visitors and SF locals. It is funny how one can walk through the streets and neighborhoods of a city and forget to “look up”, passing buildings and sites that are filled with history. Before taking this tour, I was unaware of Nob Hill’s fascinating history that included the “silver kings,” the railroad barons and also the many luminaries associated with the Fairmont Hotel. Valerie was a wealth of knowledge and the pictures she provided as visual aids also really added to the experience. I attended this tour with my husband and parents and we all loved it!!! A+++++++ We are looking forward to taking some of Hob Bob’s other tours in SF!!!
Response from Host, Jul 2022
Thank you for taking time to write such a complimentry review. We love that you appreciated the unique and interesting history of Nob Hill. Hobnob looks forward to seeing you on one of our other tours
Slow and sadly not engaging
Becca_S, Jul 2022
Unfortunately it was very slow and not as engaging as we would have liked. We expected more walking, more sights, but you spend a LOT of time in the fairmont hotel looking at old photographs. The historical information was limited to somewhat petty details about a few people’s lives. It might be a good option for people who need a slower pace. The guide was very kind and passionate but the tour’s structure, pace, and content wasn’t worth the time and money for us.
Response from Host, Jul 2022
I am sorry you had a poor experience on our Nob Hill tour. You may have had a misconception that walking on a hill would be more of a workout. Retelling old history does require old photographs and the Fairmont is proud of their gallery and their iconic rooms that have dazzled guests for many years. We are true historians and we have spent time researching our important City leaders who lived on Nob Hill and who may have not been good human beings; Our guides are experienced. Please accept our apologies and enjoy your other time in San Francisco.
SF history for locals
Gini_B, Jun 2022
Having lived in the Bay Area for more than 15 years it was great to spend the afternoon learning about its history. Such a fun way to explore the city
Response from Host, Jul 2022
Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed learning about our City's founders. We are true historians and we try to make our tours interesting.
San Fran overview
Rebecca_N, Jun 2022
Our guide Valerie did an excellent job with the tour. I especially liked the colorful stories to go along with the history and the visual photos. She spoke loud and clear.
Response from Host, Jun 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. At Hobnob we strive to make our historical characters come to life so that our guests can visualize the early days on our Nob Hill. We are glad you enjoyed our tour.
Nob Hill Tour
Vicki_R, May 2022
We toured Nob Hill which included information on the Railroad and Silver barons and The Fairmont Hotel. The tour was okay except for too much time being spent on the entertainers who had performed at the Fairmont.
Response from Host, May 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. We strive to make our tour interesting for most people. We appreciate your comments and we will consider reducing time spent on entertainers.
Short on information, few steps
Daniel_K, Mar 2022
We enjoyed the tour for what it was. I would have expected to see more buildings and hear more detailed information for 2.5 hours. It was not a great deal of walking, more like a shuffle. I care very little about laminated photo graphs of rail road tycoons and their wives, but we saw a lot of those.
Response from Host, Mar 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. We appreciate our guests comments. I am sorry the tour did not meet your expectations. Some guests enjoy the photos as we have been impacted by Covid still with the continued Huntington Hotel closure that houses large photos of the Railroad barons homes. This tour has a short amount of walking compared to our other tours as we walk on the top of the hill. Hopefully you walked up to Nob Hill from Union Square and then down for more exercise. Safe travels.
Great Guide
DScott_E, Mar 2022
Super knowledgable and kind guide. Really knew her history and was eager to share, with the excitement of learning readily apparent.
Response from Host, Mar 2022
Thank you for taking time to write a review. As a guide I always appreciate an interested patron who asks clever and thoughtful questions. Safe travels and I hope to see you again on a Hobnob tour.