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, rich culture and history, museums, and more! San Francisco is also a big tech hub and many big companies such as Adobe and Nvidia originated in the Bay.
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 7 best areas to stay in San Francisco, together with my hand-picked hotel recommendations for each of them. Just make sure to book you hotel in advance as beds in this city sell out fast!
Are you ready? Let’s go!
- If you’re in a hurry…
- 1. Nob Hill & Union Square – where to stay for first-timers
- 2. Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach – where to stay with family
- 3. SoMa / South of Market – where to stay on a budget
- 4. The Mission & The Castro – where to stay in SF for nightlife
- 5. Marina District – where to stay in San Francisco with a car
- 6. Hayes Valley – the most authentic area
- 7. Haight Ashbury – the most artistic area in San Francisco
- BONUS 1 – best apartments in San Francisco
- BONUS 2 – best hotels near San Francisco Airport
- BONUS 3 – where NOT to stay in San Francisco?
- Frequently asked questions about San Francisco
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.
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:
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.
In order to help you out, I have created a list of personalized recommendations that you can check out below and will tell you everything you need to know about each of these areas:
1. Nob Hill & Union Square – where to stay for first-timers
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 and Nob Hill is extremely close to it. 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)
- Taj Campton Place – Check out this lovely hotel only a few steps from Union Square, where modernity meets classic European charm. With in-room spa services, a 2 Michelin Star rated Campton Place Restaurant and a 24-hour rooftop gym, here you have everything you need!
- Hotel Nikko – Do you want to stay in one of the most luxurious hotels located extremely close to the heart of Union Square? 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. Perfect for a romantic getaway!
Middle-priced (US$180 – US$250)
- 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 family rooms. Definitely, a great place to stay!
- 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)
- Nob Hill Inn – If you’re looking for great value for money, you should check out this beautiful and quaint hotel. The property offers a great central location, really friendly and helpful staff, fantastic rooms with unique décor in the Edwardian style and comfortable beds, for a perfect stay in two or with the family!
- Kensington Park Hotel – 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 2 minutes by foot from Union Square and tons of awesome restaurants and shops!
Things to do in Downtown San Francisco:
2. Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach – where to stay with family
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. From here you’ll have the best views on the beautiful San Francisco Bay!
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.
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.
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$400 and up)
- The Fairmont Heritage – Here’s another excellent choice if you want to experience luxury in a beautiful historical building exquisitely renovated and offering the highest possible standard. This 5-star hotel has spacious apartments with a fireplace and a high-end entertainment system!
- 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 a concierge service, an on-site bistro and more!
Middle-priced (US$250 – US$400)
- The Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf – 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, spacious rooms, a rooftop terrace and more!
- Holiday Inn Express – Offering a great location just nearby the Fisherman Wharf, this hotel will please you with a delicious complimentary breakfast, big family and comfortable rooms with free wifi, and a fitness center- so check it out!
Budget (up to US$250)
- Samesun Hotel – This little and cute hotel will offer you great value for price and an even better location, in a quiet and safe area close to San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf. The rooms come with free parking, wifi, and private bathrooms!
- 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.
Things to do in Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach:
3. SoMa / South of Market – where to stay on a budget
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 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)
- 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 bright rooms and flawless service!
- W Hotel San Francisco – Here’s another amazing 4-star hotel in San Francisco that has beautiful rooms and 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$130 – US$230)
- 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!
- Kensington Park Hotel – Book a room here if you want to be in the heart of downtown San Francisco shops, galleries and fine dining! This 3-star property is located in a beautiful area to stay in the city and it has an on-site bar, restaurant and more!
Budget (up to US$130)
- Cozy & Comfy Room – Are you looking for a good affordable place to stay very close to SOMA? Well, you just found it! You’ll be in an old European building in the middle of many attractions – perfect for couples, solo adventurers, and business travelers!
- Orange Village Hostel – 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 at an only 5-minute walk from “Union Square”and you’ll stay in a clean room with a shared bathroom. Plus, you’ll have free Wi-Fi and many other advantages!
Things to do in SOMA:
4. The Mission & The Castro – where to stay in SF for nightlife
The Mission and The Castro are the perfect choices to stay in San Francisco for people interested in the best 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, in dive bars and live music joints, 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)
- Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast – Do you want to enjoy some luxury in the best area for nightlife? Make sure to check out this great Bed and Breakfast set in a charming Victorian house! It’s located in a beautiful and very convenient area to stay for all types of travelers: take a look, 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 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, free Wi-Fi and many other awesome facilities and modern amenities! Plus, you’ll be close to Golden Gate park as well.
- Private room in residential home – Feel at home in this bedroom with shared bathroom set in a charming Victorian building, but with modern amenities! With a great location in between Castro and the Mission districts, you’ll be in the middle of restaurants, cafes and boutiques!
Things to do in The Mission & The Castro:
5. Marina District – where to stay in San Francisco with a car
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! If you don’t have a car instead, any of the other 5 areas I am talking about in this post are good, being very central and having easy access to public transportation!
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 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 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!
Things to do in Marina District:
6. Hayes Valley – the most authentic area
Hayes Valley is one of the most charming areas in the city, full of beautiful cafes, shops and trendy 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!)
Luxury (US$200 and up)
- Queen Anne – Welcome to this beautiful and historic Victorian boutique hotel, where you can enjoy every morning a delicious full continental breakfast, and tea with biscuits every afternoon… you will get the right energy to visit all the surrounding attractions!
- BEI San Francisco – This modern and beautiful hotel will surprise you with exceptionally clean rooms and comfortable beds. The accommodation location is perfect, overlooking most of the city and close to so many attractions, plus the staff is very friendly!
Middle-priced (US$160 – US$200)
- Beck’s Motor Lodge – This awesome 3-star motel awaits with very good service and some awesome amenities and facilities! You may also enjoy the spacious rooms, free WiFi, free parking and the super friendly and helpful staff. Just take a look at the pictures, I’m sure you’ll like it!
- The Grove Inn – Enjoy all the comforts of this Victorian 3-stars hotel: the great location, the spacious rooms and the super friendly staff… You will feel at home from the very first moment!
Budget (up to US$160)
- Private cozy room in Hayes Valley – Here’s one of the best places where you can stay in San Francisco for a very affordable price, located within walking distance to downtown San Francisco, shops, restaurants and parks. From this beautiful room, you’ll have access to the living, sitting, dining room and kitchen.
Things to do in the Hayes Valley:
7. Haight Ashbury – the most artistic area in San Francisco
Haight-Ashbury, located on the west of Union Square, is one the most iconic and historic neighborhoods in San Francisco! In fact, its architecture is absolutely gorgeous, and you will notice that from the bright and colorful Victorian homes that line the Haight streets.
This beighborhood is also the artistic heart of San Francisco, home of hippies, hipsters, vintage boutiques, tattoo shops, record stores, and thrift stores.
Nearby the area you’ll find is Alamo Square, the perfect place to have the best panoramic views of San Francisco, and over Golden Gate Park (which borders the area). While if you love music, you cannot miss Fillmore, just right next to Alamo Square, a cool neighbourhood full of a variety of jazz clubs!
This is more of a local neighborhood there aren’t so many hotels in the area, so if you want to stay here it might be a good idea to also consider staying in apartments.
Luxury (US$250 and up)
- Hotel Kabuki – Are you ready to be amazed? In this elegant hotel the traditional Japanese style decor meets modernity to create a luxurious experience! The property features amazing on-site dining and even an indoor garden with a fishpond! This one is’t quite in the neighborhood but is a good alternative if you don’t want to give up your luxury but still want to stay nearby
Middle-priced (US$160 – US$230)
- The Metro Hotel – Conveniently located in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, the Metro Hotel offers a garden, air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, and spacious family rooms for a stay with full comfort!
- Stanyan Park Hotel – This beautiful hotel offers Victorian-style rooms with free WiFi, a delicious expanded continental breakfast served daily and fully equipped suites. A big plus? The Golden Gate Park just steps away!
Budget (up to US$160)
- Centrally-located, Walk Anywhere – If you want to save some money without renouncing to full comfort, this is the place for you! Check out the private room of this cozy home located in the perfect location for exploring or catching public transport.
- Haight Ashbury Experience – Enjoy your spacious and sunny room in a historic Victorian house with a queen bed, close to public transportation, the Golden Gate Park and Historical Haight-Ashbury!
Things to do in the Haight Ashbury:
- Gaze at the best city views from Alamo Square!
- Have a picnic at the Golden Gate Park
- Do some alternative shopping in Haight Street!
BONUS 1 – best apartments in San Francisco
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)
- Mission Artist Residency – Do you want to enjoy a luxurious apartment while you are visiting San Francisco? I have found an ideal option for you! This creative and comfortable, private loft apartment, is located in the heart of the artistic Mission area and the decor is simply superb.
- Private Guest Cabana – 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!
BONUS 2 – best hotels near San Francisco Airport
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 sleep, the perfect option for business travelers! 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 SFO –This 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) La Quinta – In case you’re on a budget instead, here’s a perfectly fine option for you as well. This nice hotel has a pool, a fitness center and even laundry facilities and is super close to the airport!
BONUS 3 – where NOT to stay in San Francisco?
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)
Frequently asked questions about San Francisco
🏨 Which is the best area where to stay in San Francisco?
⛔ Where should I avoid staying in San Francisco?
The areas you should avoid in San Francisco for the high density of homeless people are The Tenderloin, Bayview-Hunters Point, Potrero Hill (during the night), and Sunnydale.
👪 Where to stay in San Francisco with the family?
🚗 Where to stay in San Francisco with a car?
Yay, you have reached the end of my complete San Francisco neighborhood guide! 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!
Still not sure about where to stay in San Francisco? I can’t blame you, we went through so many options… so let me give you my best reccommendations with the best location and reviews:
- Hotel Nikko – Superb luxury hotel located in the best area to stay in the entire San Francisco!
- Handlery Hotel San Francisco Union Square – If you’re looking for a great value for the money, located super close to Nob Hill, this one’s for you!
Which ever you choose, make sure to book it in advance, I don’t want you missing out because you left it too late to find a good room in this amazing city!
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!
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