Where to stay in San Francisco – Best Areas and the Best Hotels

places to visit in san francisco

Although it’s not that big, San Francisco (also known as SF, preferably not San Fran or Frisco!) is the largest and most important city in Northern California and a very popular vacation spot in the United States of America! This city truly has something for everyone – interesting architecture, world-famous landmarks (the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf are just some examples), unmissable gastronomy, beautiful streets and parks, a rich culture and history, museums, and more. San Francisco is a big tech hub as well, as there are many big tech companies that originate in the Bay such as Adobe, Nvidia and more.

where is san francisco

Now that you decided to visit this super cool city, deciding where to stay in San Francisco will be the next important thing you’ll have to think about. Luckily, I’m here to help and I created this complete guide on San Francisco accommodation in order to make things easier for you!

Scroll down to find everything you need to know about the 6 best areas to stay in San Francisco, together with my hand-picked hotel recommendations for each of them.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

If you’re in a hurry…

The best areas to stay in San Francisco for first-timers are Nob Hill & Union Square. If you’re all about efficiency and proximity, this is the best area if you’re interested in visiting the most important landmarks and attractions in the city.

Best hotels in San Francisco in a nutshell

Which area should you choose?

First of all, here is a map of San Francisco neighborhoods so you can better visualize the areas I’ll be talking about in this post:

best areas to stay in san francisco

Even though the city is not that big, it is divided into 5 different districts: Downtown, Richmond, Upper Market, Sunset and Bayview. Each one of these is then divided into smaller neighborhoods, each with its own charm and unique advantages.

Okay, but how can you choose? All of them are so different from each other! Well, in order to help you out, I have created a list of personalized recommendations that you can check out below:

  • Where to stay in San Francisco for luxury: Downtown San Francisco
  • Best area to stay in San Francisco for budget travelers: Marina District
  • Where to stay in San Francisco for families: Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Where to stay in San Francisco for nightlife: The Mission

Now that you understand a bit more about how the city is organized and which are the best areas for certain needs and preferences, let me tell you everything you need to know about each of these areas:

1. Nob Hill & Union Square (Downtown San Francisco) – Where to stay in San Francisco for the first time

where to stay in san francisco ca

Downtown San Francisco is one of the best and most popular neighborhood choices for people traveling to the city for the first time!

Downtown San Francisco is defined as the area around Union Square. Nob Hill is extremely close to it, so I decided to combine the two into one recommendation, as they’re both considered to be the most popular tourist spots in the entire city. If you choose to stay here, you’ll be surrounded by tons of amazing shops, restaurants and cafes as well, which you can check out. So you can rest assured that you’ll never get bored in Downtown San Francisco!

Some of the highlights of this neighborhood include Lombard Street, the Ferry Building, the Dewey Monument and, of course, Union Square Park. Ah, and don’t forget to take a ride in the historical cable car! Plus, one of the best advantages of staying here is that you’ll be very well connected to the rest of San Francisco via public transportation (bus, BART, etc.).

If you feel like this is the place for you, check out my hand-picked SF hotels in the Downtown area below:

Luxury (US$250 and up)

best hotels in san francisco for couples

  • Fairmont San Francisco – Do you want to stay in one of the most luxurious hotels located extremely close to Union Square and Nob Hill? You have just found one of the best places to stay for a spoiled vacation! This 5-star hotel awaits with an on-site gym, a spa, an on-site restaurant and more!
  • Orchard Hotel – Here’s another superb hotel located in the best area to stay in the entire San Francisco! Make sure to book a room here if you want to be in San Francisco Union Square and if you want to benefit from free Wi-Fi, an on-site restaurant and bar, traditional decor and superb rooms. Definitely a great place to stay!

Middle-priced (US$180 – US$250)

  • Handlery Hotel San Francisco Union Square – If you’re looking for some of the best places to stay that will offer a great value for the money, while also being super close to Nob Hill, this one’s for you! It’s located in the best area to stay in the entire city and it awaits with an outdoor pool, an on-site American restaurant and a bar – and the list goes on!
  • Club Donatello – Here’s another great place located super close to Union Square and Nob Hill, two important landmarks in the city. Aside from the beautiful and super clean rooms, you will have access to a rooftop lounge, a sauna, free Wi-Fi and even an on-site Italian restaurant as well. So great!

Budget (up to US$180)

  • Found San Francisco – Union Square – Are you wondering where to stay in Union Square (aka one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco) even if you are on a VERY low budget? No worries, I have this amazing option for you! Staying here means you’ll get to enjoy free Wi-Fi, stylish common rooms and a very good location. The dorm beds here cost as much as US$45, so great!
  • HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel – In case you didn’t find the best budget place to stay in San Francisco yet, I have another excellent suggestion that might help you! If you choose to stay here you’ll be only 5 minutes by foot from Union Square and tons of awesome restaurants and shops!

2. Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach – Where to stay in San Francisco with a family

san francisco city

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most iconic spots in San Francisco and it’s my top recommendation for people traveling with their family to the city! Ah, it’s also a great choice if you only have one day in the city!

For my second area recommendation I have decided to combine Fisherman’s Wharf with North Beach, as the two areas are not that big, they’re pretty similar and they’re right close to each other.

FUN FACT: Fisherman’s Wharf used to be the #1 tourist attraction in San Francisco, but it was since dethroned by the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island.

One of the best things about these two areas is that they’re very close to the activities and attractions in the city center (and to Embarcadero and Chinatown as well) and they encompass some pretty exciting things to do themselves: while you’re there, you can take a walk near the water, admire the sea lions at the Sea Lion Center or you can take a ferry and visit the former Alcatraz island prison! Some other cool spots in the city include the Aquarium of the Bay, Musée Mécanique, Pier 39 and the Maritime Museum.

Ah, needless to say: if you love fresh fish and seafood (or food in general, if I come to think about it), this is THE place to be if you want to indulge! If you have your heart set on these two beautiful areas, below you can find my recommended San Francisco hotels around:

Luxury (US$250 and up)

boutique hotel san francisco

  • Courtyard by Marriott Fishermans Wharf – Are you looking for some of the best places to stay in the entire city, located in the best area? This one’s for you! I totally recommend staying in this 4-star hotel if you want to be super close to Fisherman’s Wharf and to the North Beach as well and if you want to enjoy the ultimate spoiled experience. This property awaits with a concierge service, an on-site bistro and more!
  • Argonaut Hotel, a Noble House Hotel – Here’s another excellent choice if you want to be walking distance to many important attractions such as Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge, Washington Square Park and, of course, North Beach as well. This 4-star hotel has an on-site traditional seafood restaurant, incredible views of the Bay and more!

Middle-priced (US$180 – US$250)

  • Hotel Zephyr San Francisco – Do you want to stay in San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, very close to Pier 39, and enjoy a very good service for the money you’ll be paying? Then make sure to book a room here, I definitely recommend this place! This 4-star hotel awaits with free Wi-Fi, an on-site mini-market, 24-hour reception and more!
  • Hotel Zoe Fisherman’s Wharf – In case you want to be close to the Golden Gate Bridge and Washington Square Park during your stay in this beautiful city, you’ll love this hotel! This 4-star property is only two blocks away from the waterfront and it has some superb and very clean rooms – so check it out!

Budget (up to US$180)

  • San Remo Hotel – Are you wondering where to stay on a tight budget during your San Francisco travel? I have two amazing options for you! For example, this cute and cozy 2-star hotel is very close to the Golden Gate Bridge and the North Beach as well. The decor is pretty special as well and I’m sure you’ll like it if you’re into a classical style!
  • HI San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf – If you didn’t find the best place for you yet, make sure to check out this one as well, they have some very good budget rooms for as low as US$40! Staying here means you’ll be in the best area in the city, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge and other important attractions in San Francisco.

3. SoMa / South of Market

san francisco neighborhoods

SoMa is short for “South of Market”, a beautiful area in the East of the city. SoMa is a very big neighborhood, divided into smaller areas, so you can rest assured that you’ll find a good accommodation for all types of travelers here! Plus, there are countless amazing restaurants here, as well as cafes, bars and pubs around – and one of the best things about this area is that, along with Marina District, it’s one of the most budget-friendly ones in the entire city (compared to San Francisco prices, of course).

While you’re here, make sure to check out San Francisco MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the AT&T Park (now called the Oracle Park) to watch a match of the SF Giants! Plus, you can choose from a plethora of great restaurants, nightlife and cafes as well.

Ah, and did I mention that SoMa is very close to Union Square as well (less than 20 minutes by foot)? I think that’s a great advantage because this means you’ll be close to all the main attractions in the city center!

That being said, here are the best hotels in SoMa that you can choose from:

Luxury (US$230 and up)

hotels san francisco

  • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco – Do you want to be located in the best area for sightseeing and indulging in the amazing San Francisco cuisine? Search no more, as you have just found one of the best hotels out there! This 5-star hotel is simply superb and it awaits with bright rooms and a flawless service!
  • W Hotel San Francisco – Here’s another amazing 4-star hotel in San Francisco that has beautiful rooms and a very good service for all its visitors! It’s located in one of the best neighborhoods in San Francisco and some of the advantages of staying here include an on-site fitness center, a restaurant, bar and more.

Middle-priced (US$120 – US$230)

  • Hampton Inn San Francisco Downtown/Convention Center – Do you want to know where to stay in San Francisco so you can enjoy a great value for the money? You just found one of the best options out there! This great property is located in one of the most charming neighborhoods in San Francisco and it comes for some very good prices. Just check out the pictures, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
  • Hotel Via – Book a room here if you want to be walking distance to the Bay Bridge and other important attractions in the city! This 4-star property is located in a beautiful area to stay in the city and it has a great breakfast served each morning, an on-site restaurant and more!

Budget (up to US$120)

  • Ram’s Hotel – Are you looking for a good affordable place to stay very close to the Bay Bridge? Well, you just found it! You’ll be close to many public transportation options and you’ll have access to two on-site restaurants with great food – what more can you wish for?!
  • Winsor Hotel – In case you didn’t find the ideal cheap hotel for your future San Francisco travel, I have another great option for you. You’ll be located in one of the cutest neighborhoods in San Francisco and you’ll stay in some clean rooms with a shared bathroom. Plus, you’ll have free Wi-Fi and many other advantages!

4. The Mission & The Castro – Where to stay in San Francisco for nightlife

downtown san francisco hotels

The Mission and The Castro are the best areas to stay in San Francisco for people interested in nightlife and partying all night long; these are also the most famous LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in the entire country, by the way!

I have again combined two areas that are extremely close to each other for your convenience. The Mission and The Castro are not that big by themselves, but they’re very interesting and similar, catering for almost the same needs.

But just because these two areas come to life during the night, this doesn’t mean you’ll get bored during the day either – for example, you can have a picnic in Dolores Park, admire Mission Dolores (the oldest building in the city), or just explore the area and its multiple vintage shops. Plus, you’ll have tons of ethnic restaurants and coffee places to choose from, as this area has strong Hispanic roots!

If you feel like these are the right areas for you, here are the best hotels that you can choose from:

Luxury (US$250 and up)

san francisco accommodation

  • Inn San Francisco – Do you want to enjoy some luxury in the best area for nightlife? Make sure to check out this property! It’s located in a beautiful and very convenient area to stay for all types of travelers and it’s not far away from the Golden Gate Park either. Check it out, I’m sure you’ll like it!

Middle-priced (US$200 – US$250)

  • Parker Guest House – This beautiful 3-star hotel has some very good prices and an even better service! While you stay here you’ll enjoy a delicious daily breakfast, luggage storage, a concierge service and more. Plus, the staff is very helpful and the location is my favorite in the entire city!
  • The Willows Inn – Here’s another affordable place located near the Golden Gate Park and Mission Dolores building as well. This is actually a super nice 2-star bed and breakfast that has cute and comfy rooms for all travelers. Ah, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the yummy breakfast as well!

Budget (up to US$200)

  • Nineteen 06 Mission – Do you have a very tight budget but still want to stay in the best area for nightlife in San Francisco? I have found the perfect place for you! This nice and cozy bed and breakfast has daily housekeeping, luggage storage, modern rooms, free Wi-Fi and many other awesome facilities and amenities! Plus, you’ll be close to the Golden Gate park as well.

5. Marina District – Where to stay in San Francisco on a budget

marina district

The Marina District is the best area to stay for people who like sightseeing, warm weather and who are also searching for some cheaper prices than in the city center. Marina District is not far away from the Golden Gate Bridge (around 4 miles away / 6.5 km) and the other important attractions around Union Square and the city center.

There’s another VERY rare advantage in this district for those of you who will rent a car during their stay in San Francisco – you’ll actually have cheap parking spots here! There are also many food places there, as well as cool shops, cafes and pubs. Expect to have plenty of fun here!

Some of the unmissable spots around include the Palace of Fine Arts, the Walt Disney Family Museum and Crissy Field as well.

Convinced? Here are the best hotels in Marina District that I can recommend:

Luxury (US$230 and up)

Unfortunately, if you’re searching for great 4-star and 5-star accommodation, I’ll let you know that there aren’t any luxury hotels in the Marina Bay area. In this case, I recommend checking out other areas in this article – such as Fisherman’s Wharf or the North Beach for luxury properties in a neighborhood that has a similar vibe and advantages.

Middle-priced (US$180 – US$230)

  • Cow Hollow Inn and Suites – This awesome 3-star hotel offers free parking, beautiful rooms, and even a very nice fireplace in the living room. Some other advantages of staying here include a 24-hour front desk, concierge services and more. No worries, you’ll also have plenty of interesting attractions nearby!
  • Infinity Hotel SF, Ascend Hotel Collection – Here’s another great 3-star hotel that will offer an amazing value for the money you’ll be paying! The rooms have a very nice and warm decor and the staff is extremely friendly and helpful. Plus, you’ll also be close to Fisherman’s Wharf and the North Beach as well – so great!

Budget (up to US$180)

  • Chelsea Inn – Do you want to stay in the beautiful bay area, very close to the North Beach as well, but you also want to pay a low price and don’t spend all your money on accommodation? No worries, I have an excellent choice for you right here! This nice 3-star hotel has traditional rooms, free covered parking and other awesome perks!
  • Coventry Inn – Are you still wondering where to stay on a budget in the Marina District? No worries, I have another recommendation! This is a great area to stay for all types of travelers and some of the best things about this hotel include free parking, a 24-hour front desk, along with some incredibly clean rooms!

6. Hayes Valley

hayes valley san francisco
photo credits: Roshan Vyas. ”Patty’s”. Photograph under creative commons license. Available on Flickr. All rights belong to the photographer.

Hayes Valley is one of the most charming areas in the city, full of beautiful cafes, shops and restaurants; just taking a walk in this neighborhood will be a great activity during your stay!

If you ask me, this is actually one of the most underrated areas in San Francisco for tourists!

The neighborhood has a small and beautiful square (Patricia’s Green) and many different shopping options for all tastes and preferences – from vintage places to high-end, boutique or jewelry shops. Plus, staying here means you won’t be far away from the city center either – only 30 minutes by foot (and it will be a scenic walk, trust me!)

That being said, here are the best hotels in Hayes Valley that I have carefully selected for you:

Luxury (US$200 and up)

best hotels in san francisco ca

  • Sonder — Archbishop’s Mansion – This awesome 3-star aparthotel awaits with a very good service and some awesome amenities and facilities! You may also enjoy the spacious rooms, luggage storage, and the super friendly and helpful staff. Just take a look at the pictures, I’m sure you’ll like it!

Middle-priced (US$160 – US$200)

  • Days Inn by Wyndham San Francisco – If you want to experience a very good stay for an awesome price right in the heart of Hayes Valley, this one’s for you! This cool 2-star motel has nice and comfy guest rooms, free Wi-Fi, and some rooms that have spa baths as well – so great!
  • Chateau Tivoli Bed and Breakfast – In case you didn’t find the best mid-range hotel for your stay yet, make sure to check out this one as well. The building is just great, by the way! This hotel will offer an extremely comfortable stay to all its guests. Just check out the hotel’s description, I’m sure you’ll see why I’m recommending it!

Budget (up to US$160)

  • San Francisco Zen Center – Here’s one of the best places where you can stay in San Francisco for a very affordable price! A vegetarian breakfast, a fully equipped shared kitchen, free Wi-Fi and an excellent location – these are just some of the best things about staying in this hotel!

Best apartments in San Francisco

alamo square at night

Some people prefer a homey, cozier feeling when traveling to a foreign city instead of booking a hotel room; and that’s completely understandable and I feel the same! Staying in an apartment room or an entire flat is a great idea if you want to save some money (especially considering the high rates that San Francisco has) or if you’re traveling in a bigger group or with your family.

The good news is that San Francisco has plenty of options for Airbnb in San Francisco that you can choose from, and I have selected the best 6 ones for you below, all grouped by budget and with fabulous reviews and good locations:

Luxury (US$150 and up)

boutique hotel san francisco

  • Modern SoMa Loft & Roofdeck- 2BR/2BA w/ City Views – Do you want to enjoy a luxurious apartment while you are visiting San Francisco? I have found an ideal option for you! This place is just perfect for up to 5 guests and the decor is simply superb. Plus, it’s in the best area – right in the heart of San Francisco!
  • Stunning 1882 Victorian Home in Fabulous Hayes Valley – Here’s another amazing, luxurious apartment located in the best area for sightseeing and exploring San Francisco. This Victorian house has high ceilings, it’s super bright and clean and will make you feel right at home – or even better!

Middle-priced (US$100 – US$150)

  • My Beautiful City By The Bay – Here’s a beautiful, clean private room in a house located in the best area for sightseeing and trying out new restaurants and cafes. The building is pretty great (it’s 116 years old actually!) and you’ll also have access to a sun deck. So great!
  • (the 15) Private Room Near Downtown SF – This is another simple but very clean and comfortable room in a house that comes with some awesome advantages, considering the money you’ll be paying. The room is not that big but the bed is very comfy and it’s just perfect for a comfortable night’s sleep!

Budget (up to US$100)

  • Centrally-located, Walk Anywhere – Are you wondering where to stay close to the center so you can enjoy a super comfortable stay for very little money? Well, this room might be the perfect answer for you! It’s right in the center, close to plenty of important attractions and landmarks and it’s very close to public transportation as well.
  • Great Castro location – In case you are visiting San Francisco on a very tight budget and still didn’t find the right place for you, I have another recommendation! This cozy and colorful room has some pretty unbeatable prices and it’s great for all types of travelers!

Best hotels near San Francisco International Airport

airplane sf

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) also called the “gateway to the Pacific” is the main airport and the place where you’ll land when you arrive in the city. The airport is located less than 13 miles from the city center, which means around 25 to 30 minutes by car.

In case you have a very early or very late flight, booking a room close to the airport might be a very wise idea that will save you a lot of time and probably some sleep as well. If you want to do so, I have selected 3 great hotels near the airport for you (one for each type of budget):

  • (Luxury) Grand Hyatt at SFOThis is my recommendation for all those that want to stay in one of the best luxury airport hotels in San Francisco. This awesome 5-star hotel has an on-site fitness center, a bar, an on-site restaurant and many other advantages that you’ll surely enjoy!
  • (Middle-priced) Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport If you want a nice mid-range hotel instead, this 4-star property might be the right choice for you! One of the best things about staying here is that you’ll be able to benefit from the 24-hour shuttle services to the airport – so great!
  • (Budget) Crashpadz SF/DC– In case you’re on a budget instead, here’s a perfectly fine option for you as well. This nice hostel has mixed dormitory rooms for some very good prices and it’s only 11 km from the airport.

BONUS 1 – Where NOT to stay in San Francisco?

police officer sf

It’s a known fact that there are more homeless people in California than in the rest of the United States – and you should be prepared to encounter them in San Francisco as well, especially at the intersection between Turk street and Taylor street. The city is mostly safe (especially the center and the neighborhoods I’m talking about above), but it’s always best to follow some common safety measures such as being mindful of your belongings and surroundings.

That being said, here is my list of areas to avoid when visiting San Francisco:

  • The Tenderloin
  • Bayview-Hunters Point
  • Potrero Hill (during the night)
  • Sunnydale

BONUS 2 – Where should I stay in San Francisco if I have (or don’t have) a car?

lombard street

The advantage of renting a car is that you can stay a bit more far away from the center and avoid the high accommodation prices there – for example, you can even stay in Tiburon (a little upscale village North of the Golden Gate Bridge, also very good for families). Why am I saying this? Because the city center has a lack of parking spots and it’s also kind of crowded, it’s best to avoid making your base in the center if you have a rented car.

If you don’t have a car instead, then any of the 6 areas I’m talking about above are great choices and they’re all very central; you can walk or use public transportation instead.



Booking.com


Conclusion

usa san francisco bridge

Yay, you have reached the end of my complete guide on San Francisco accommodation! I hope you found this post useful and maybe you already found the ideal hotel for your stay.

In this article I have told you everything you need to know about the 6 best areas to stay in San Francisco, with carefully selected hotels in each one of them, all with great reviews and facilities! I have also recommended some amazing apartments and airport hotels as well, so you basically have everything you need in the text above!

Are you going to visit San Francisco in the United States soon? Do you have any other questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments below, I’m curious to know!

Happy travels,

Romina

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best area to stay in san francisco

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best area to stay in san francisco

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