Welcome to San Francisco, the city where you don’t just wear flowers in your hair but also seek the perfect spot to stay for your next visit there!
I’ve been to San Francisco numerous times, and I really love the city! Read my ultimate accommodation guide because I compared hundreds of options and hand-picked the best of the best for you below!
Long story short, Union Square takes the top spot for a San Francisco stay due to their central location and many cool attractions.
Not only that, but I will give you a nice round-up of all the areas that are interesting for tourists and suggest cool hotels for each area for each budget.
Whatever you pick, make sure you book a hotel in advance, as rooms in this city sell out fast!
UPDATE: 4% Cashback on hotels booked with links from this post
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Look for the links that have a -4% label next to them, and book any hotel after clicking them in order to take advantage of this unique promotion.
If you’re in a hurry…
Here are the best hotels in Nob Hill & Union Square:
- Best luxury hotel: Hotel Nikko
- Best mid-range hotel: Kensington Park Hotel
- Best budget hotel: Grant Hotel
- If you’re in a hurry…
- 1. Union Square – where to stay for first-timers
- 2. Nob Hill – the best san francisco spot for young people
- 3. Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach – where to stay with family
- 4. Soma & South Beach – best part of San Francisco for foodies
- 5. The Mission – trendiest San Francisco neighborhood
- 6. Pacific Heights – for the best views
- 7. Hayes Valley / Alamo Square – the safest SF areas
- 8. The Embarcadero / Financial District – for business travelers
- 9. Haight-Ashbury – the most artistic area in San Francisco
- 10. Castro – coolest place for nightlife
- Best apartments in San Francisco
- BONUS 1: Best hotels near San Francisco Airport
- BONUS 2: Where NOT to stay in San Francisco?
- FAQs about areas to stay in San Francisco
Watch my video, it will give you a visual explanation of all the areas:
Which area should you choose?
Here’s a map of San Francisco neighborhoods so you can visualize what I’ll be talking about.
The city is divided into 5 big districts (East Bay, North Bay, Peninsula, city of San Francisco, and South Bay), and each district is divided into smaller neighborhoods, each with its unique advantages and disadvantages.
SF is big, and the areas are so diverse – to help you out, I created a list of personalized recommendations that will tell you everything you need to know about each of these areas:
- Where to stay for first-timers – Union Square, Nob Hill and Fisherman’s Wharf
- Best area for families – Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach
- Where to stay in SF for foodies – SoMa/South of Market
- Where to stay for the best views – Pacific Heights
- The safest SF areas – Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, and Hayes Valley / Alamo Square
- Best places for a local vibe – The Mission, Nob Hill
- The most artistic area in San Francisco– Haight-Ashbury and Castro
- Best spots for a business trip – The Financial District & The Embarcadero
- The best San Francisco nightlife – The Mission and Castro
1. Union Square – where to stay for first-timers
Downtown San Francisco, specifically the area around Union Square, is the main tourist spot in the city, with fabulous boutique hotels, popular attractions, and shopping opportunities!
The main highlight of the Union Square neighborhood is the eponymous square, with the Dewey Monument and the 2 ‘Hearts of San Francisco’ sculptures.
When here, don’t forget to go for a ride on the historic Powell Cable Car – it’s one of the best things to do in San Francisco!
During your stay here, you might look for things to do in the evening. Well, one of the best things you can do is catch a live music show, and the best spot for it near Union Square is August Hall, a place that hosts a variety of artists and performances.
NOTE: if you’re traveling to San Francisco in mid-March and want to stay in Union Square, keep in mind that there’s a large conference in the Moscone Center, so you’ll need to book well in advance or consider staying in one of the nearby areas.
If you’re wondering where to stay in San Francisco without a car, the area around Union Square is the best option – you can walk to all the main attractions or hop on one of the many trains passing through here!
If these neighborhoods sound interesting, you’ll be happy to hear they’re home to some of the coolest San Francisco hotels. Check out my handpicked recommendations below.P.S. want to visit neighboring Oakland? Union Square, specifically Montgomery Station, is a great place to start your trip. Take the BART Yellow Line, and you’ll be in Oakland in less than 15 minutes. Plus, there are some great places to stay in Oakland!
Luxury (US$240 and up)
- Hotel Nikko – do you want to stay in one of the most luxurious hotels close to Union Square? This 5-star hotel awaits with an on-site gym, a spa, an on-site restaurant, and spectacular city views. Plus, it’s perfect for a romantic getaway!
- Beacon Grand – this 4-star Union Square hotel offers its guests access to private parking, a fitness center, a restaurant, and a bar. All rooms are air-conditioned, have a private bathroom with a shower, and feature a coffee machine and a flat-screen TV.
Mid-range (US$140 – US$240)
- Kensington Park Hotel – the rooms at this 3-star hotel are elegantly decorated, with mahogany furniture, blackout drapes, and fine white linens. Wi-Fi is available in the rooms as well, and there’s also a flat-screen TV with cable channels.
- White Swan Inn – a fancy hotel designed to represent the Bay Area pop culture. The White Swan Inn offers some of the coolest amenities – each room has a gas fireplace, and there are wine and snacks delivered to the room! The library is an additional plus!
Budget (up to US$140)
- Grant Hotel – guests at this hotel can benefit from a concierge service, a 24-hour front desk, free Wi-Fi, and valet parking. The rooms are spacious and clean, and the staff is friendly and always willing to help.
- HI San Francisco Downtown – this hostel is decorated in cool tones and furnished with modern and practical furnishings. Some rooms have private bathrooms, and there’s a shared kitchen and a lounge.
2. Nob Hill – the best san francisco spot for young people
If you’ve ever seen a movie set in San Francisco, it’s more likely that you’ve seen those uphill streets – an SF trademark. So, if you want to see the “classic San Francisco” – that’s Nob Hill!
The Nob Hill neighborhood is situated on a steep hill just above Union Square – just a 20-minute walk away! Going up and down this steep hill every day might be a little challenging, and that’s why I recommend Nob Hill as a good spot for young, energetic people.
Also, if you plan on staying in Nob Hill, keep in mind that it’s more expensive than most SF neighborhoods, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re staying with family, especially if you have young kids.
They call it “Snob Hill” for a reason. 🙂
While you’re here, you have to visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum, where you can see some of the city’s antique cable cars.
Grace Cathedral is one of the main landmarks in Nob Hill, so you should definitely stop by and snap a photo. Afterward, you can spend a relaxing afternoon in the nearby Huntington Park.
When talking about Nob Hill attractions, we have to mention the Fairmont Hotel (map). This hotel first opened in 1907 and has since been the location of many historic events – the UN Charter was drafted and signed by 50 countries in the Garden Room of the Fairmont!
Besides hosting political and cultural events, the Fairmont SF has also been featured in many famous movies. The hotel appears in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 Vertigo and the 2015 comedy The Intern, among others.
You don’t have to stay in the hotel actually, you can just check out the lobby or check out their bar – Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.
On that topic, there are plenty of cool bars and restaurants in the area, but at Top of the Mark, you can have a cocktail with a view. And if you’re in the mood for good food, the Nob Hill Cafe serves amazing Tuscan pasta.
And lastly, before we get into the top Nob Hill hotels, I have 2 other suggestions.
Venture outside the neighborhood to Russian Hill and Lombard Street, the World’s Crookedest Street. Then, head to the nearby Chinatown, established back in 1848, which makes it the oldest Chinatown in the US!
Luxury (US$240 and up)
- Fairmont San Francisco – a historic hotel with an on-site art gallery and several designer stores. You can unwind at the spa or enjoy the view from the rooftop terrace. The hotel is also home to the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, a famous tiki-themed lounge.
- The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco – a lovely hotel a few steps from Union Square, where modernity meets classic European charm. You’ll have everything you want with in-room dining, 2 restaurants, and a very good breakfast!
Mid-range (US$120 – US$240)
- Holiday Inn Golden Gateway – at the Holiday Inn hotel, guests can swim in the outdoor pool or just relax on the sun loungers. The staff is friendly and always ready to assist you, and there’s also a tour desk that can help you plan activities during your trip.
- Executive Hotel Vintage Court – this is a pet-friendly hotel that offers a buffet breakfast free of charge and dry cleaning/laundry services. You can also work out at the gym and spend your leisure time in the garden or in the lobby, in front of the fireplace.
Budget (up to US$120)
Nob Hill doesn’t have a large variety of budget hotels, so the ones I recommend here are rated lower than my usual recommendations.
If you’re on a tight budget and want to stay in Nob Hill, these are the 2 best options. However, you can always check out the budget accommodation in neighboring Union Square.
- Nob Hill Motor Inn – the inn has a 24/7 front desk and a shuttle service, but it also provides free parking and free Wi-Fi throughout the property. There’s also an on-site restaurant that adds to the convenience of staying here.
- Nob Hill Hotel – guests at the Nob Hill Hotel can benefit from the luggage storage option, concierge services, and the multilingual staff manning the front desk 24/7. The rooms are clean, with private bathrooms and flat-screen TVs.
3. 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 would be my other recommendation for anyone staying in San Fran for the first time and wishing to see the main sights! I can specifically recommend it for families with (older) kids because Fisherman’s Wharf is packed with all kinds of family-friendly activities.
North Beach is just around the corner (10-15 min walking) and is also great for families, so I decided to merge 2 recommendations into one.
If you’re based in Fisherman’s Wharf, start your day with a walk along Pier 39 and admire the sea lions. When here, don’t miss Ghirardelli Square and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience, where you have to try the World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae.
Fisherman’s Wharf is the ultimate location to visit the former Alcatraz island prison. But there are a variety of other cruises you can embark on from Fisherman’s Wharf! You can go on a cruise of the Golden Gate Bay or opt for a bridge-to-bridge cruise.
However, if you’re traveling with kids, there are two other spots you just have to visit: the Musée Mécanique, where you’ll encounter coin-operated instruments and vintage arcade games, and the Aquarium of the Bay, home to some spectacular sea animals.
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.
When in North Beach, you must visit Washington Square Park and spend some time relaxing in the park. And since North Beach is known as Little Italy, you have to get some pizza – I recommend Tony’s Pizza Napoletana!
Luxury (US$230 and up)
- The Fairmont Heritage – experience luxury in a beautiful, exquisitely renovated historical building. Enjoy your spacious apartment with a fireplace and exposed brick walls, and get the concierge to arrange chef services for you.
- Argonaut Hotel, a Noble House Hotel – this eco-friendly, nautically-themed hotel offers comfy rooms with fab views. Yogis will love the free yoga accessories, and businessmen will appreciate the business center! The delicious clam chowder is a plus!
Mid-range (US$150 – US$230)
- Courtyard by Marriott Fishermans Wharf – all the rooms at this hotel have a seating area, Wi-Fi access, and feature TVs with pay-per-view movies. Guests can have breakfast at the on-site bistro or grab a snack from the 24-hour snack shop.
- The Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf – this all-suite hotel offers fully equipped, spacious suites with a living room, dining area, and a kitchenette. However, the highlight is the rooftop terrace overlooking San Francisco Bay.
Budget (up to US$150)
- HI San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf – staying here means you’ll be super close to the Golden Gate Bridge. Other perks include a 24-hour reception, a tour desk, a recreation room, and a shared kitchen and lounge.
- Green Tortoise Hostel – comfortable beds in shared dormitories, a communal kitchen, and the amazing Grand Ballroom. Here, you can listen to live music, play ping pong, and enjoy complimentary tea/coffee. A buffet breakfast is served every morning.
4. Soma & South Beach – best part of San Francisco for foodies
SoMa is short for SOuth of MArket and refers to the part of San Francisco that’s south of Market Street.
This is a very large neighborhood, and there’s plenty of diversity, especially when it comes to food.
Right next to SoMa, you’ll find South Beach, a smaller waterfront area overlooking the bay and a spot you mustn’t miss during your stay in this part of San Francisco.
In SoMa, you can get anything from typical Californian food at Marlowe to Brazilian at the Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse. For a more upscale dining experience, I’d suggest the Michelin-starred Mourad, offering a new twist on Moroccan cuisine.
Besides being a food haven, SoMa is home to many museums, the most notable one being San Francisco MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), with works from the likes of Frida Kahlo and Gerhard Richter.
Your stay here would be incomplete without visiting the extraordinary Yerba Buena Gardens in SoMa and Oracle Park in South Beach, home of the San Francisco Giants (so it is a great area for sports fans too!).
The Yerba Buena Ice Skating & Bowling Center has an ice rink that’s open year-round. So, regardless of the weather, you can have some fun on the ice!
Luxury (US$250 and up)
- LUMA Hotel San Francisco – guests at this hotel can expect to get a private parking spot, access to a fitness center, and the option to order room service. Concierge services are also available, and there’s an ATM at the property.
- The St. Regis San Francisco – an amazing 5-star hotel with an on-site gym, 2 restaurants, and a bar. A classic luxury hotel experience you can’t go wrong with!
Mid-range (US$150 – US$250)
- Hotel Fiona – a chic hotel renovated in 2023 with laundry services, luggage storage, and valet parking. The staff is extremely helpful, and all rooms have desks, smart TVs, and separate sitting areas.
- The Mosser Hotel – even though slightly lower rated than the other recommendations, this accomodation is quite affordable and close to many sights and a great choice if you’re in SF to attend a concert at Oracle Park.
Budget (up to US$150)
- Plush Victorian Bedroom on a Tree Alley – SOMA – a cozy room decorated in Victorian style, with a Queen-sized bed (with a memory foam mattress), a sleep sound machine, and plenty of other modern amenities for a comfortable stay.
- Charming Cozy Private Room – situated in a fully-renovated property from 1908, the room is furnished with a large bed, a sofa, a mini fridge, and extra pillows and blankets for ultimate coziness. Guests can also use a shared bathroom.
5. The Mission – trendiest San Francisco neighborhood
The Mission District is one of the oldest San Francisco neighborhoods, bustling with history and featuring an abundance of boutique shops and fantastic restaurants.
San Francisco’s Mission District was named after the Mission San Francisco de Asis, the oldest building in the city, built by the Spanish in 1776.
One of the first things you should explore during your stay in the Mission District is street art. The best spots are Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley, narrow streets lined with murals by local artists.
But while you’re in the Mission, there’s another thing you mustn’t miss – the Mission-style burrito. To try this famous burrito, I recommend Taquería El Farolito, a small Mexican restaurant that serves these delicious burritos.
To truly experience the trendy vibes of the Mission District, you have to take the time to explore Valencia Street. This street is lined with plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, clubs, and shops.
And finally, you have to pay a visit to Mission San Francisco de Asis, the historic building that provided the name for this hip and trendy place. After this stop, you can have a picnic at Dolores Park, a favorite gathering spot among the locals.
To sum up, this area has lots of trendy restaurants, and it is easy to reach any attractions from there using BART (~10 mins to Downtown) or Uber/Lyft.
Luxury (US$250 and up)
- Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast – a charming B&B set in a Victorian house, offering a delicious breakfast buffet and rooms with private marble bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. Some rooms even have private spa baths!
- Parker Guest House – even though this hotel is slightly less luxurious than my usual choices, it’s one of the most upscale options in the Mission. The hotel has a garden and a library and offers its guests concierge services and tour/ticket assistance.
Mid-range (US$150 – US$250)
- Inn San Francisco – a unique Victorian-style inn with welcoming staff, comfy rooms, and even a charming rooftop terrace. At the inn, you can look forward to the delicious daily breakfast and 24-hour refreshments.
- Victorian Home in the Mission – a spacious and bright room in a Victorian house near Valencia Street. Guests also get access to shared spaces in the home and a lovely garden, but they can also benefit from free street parking and Wi-Fi access.
Budget (up to US$150)
- 1906 Mission – if you’re on a tight budget, this hotel is a great choice. Offering daily housekeeping, luggage storage, free Wi-Fi, and many other awesome facilities! The property also has a garden and a picnic area – perfect for nature lovers!
- Union Hotel – even though the hotel is rated lower than the other options, it’s extremely affordable and provides easy access to public transport stations. Plus, the hotel provides daily housekeeping, free Internet access, and luggage storage.
6. Pacific Heights – for the best views
The Pacific Heights neighborhood is primarily a residential area, but it has begun to attract more and more tourists because it offers unparalleled views of the Bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
I’m sure you can spend the whole day walking around the neighborhood and admiring the views, but there are other ways to spend your time in Pacific Heights. I’d suggest spending some at the park!
Pacific Heights has two great parks – Lafayette Park and Alta Plaza Park. Both of these parks have tennis courts, so that’s one thing you can do, but both also offer spectacular panoramic views of the city and the bay.
Seeing as this is a residential area, there aren’t that many notable attractions. If that’s something you’re interested in, venture out of the neighborhood and head to the Presidio of San Francisco. Here, you’ll see the Yoda Fountain and visit The Walt Disney Family Museum.
I recommend the Presidio as a great destination for a day trip, but I would not advise you to stay here – it’s far from the downtown area and the main attractions.
NOTE: Golden Gate Bridge may be the symbol of the city, but is actually quite far from everything (15 min by car, but 1h by public transportation to Downtown), so you’ll need to drive out if you want to see it up close!
On your way to the Presidio, you have to stop by the Lyon Street Steps (map). From here, you can witness a spectacular view of the Palace of Fine Arts and the surrounding area.
FUN FACT: have you seen “Mrs. Doubtfire”, the movie? That house is also located here, you can take a peek (map).
Luxury (from US$250 and up)
- Hotel Drisco – a 5-minute walk from Presidio Park, this hotel features deluxe rooms with Egyptian cotton sheets The hotel also offers a weekday car service to Union Square, a complimentary gourmet breakfast, and a wine and cheese reception.
- The Laurel Inn –a non-smoking, pet-friendly hotel in the heart of Pacific Heights. Guests will get access to free Wi-Fi and a coffee and tea service available 24 hours a day.
Mid-range (US$170 – US$250)
- Jackson Court – all rooms at this hotel are individually furnished and have Wi-Fi access. You can also spend time at the arcade/game room, use the laundry services, and enjoy the free continental breakfast.
- Inn on Broadway – this motel has a front desk open 24/7 and provides concierge services. There’s free self-parking on the property, while the rooms are air-conditioned, have Wi-Fi access, and feature in-room safes.
Budget (up to US$170)
- Nap York San Francisco Sleep Station – the hostel offers beds in shared dormitories and provides linen and towels. Guests can use the shared bathrooms and lounge and even store their luggage at the property.
- Pacific Heights Victorian Home – a suite in a Victorian house, consisting of a bedroom, and a separate, private bathroom. The bedroom is furnished with a queen-sized bed, a desk, and a wardrobe.
7. Hayes Valley / Alamo Square – the safest SF areas
Hayes Valley is one of the most charming areas in the city, full of beautiful cafés, shops, cool restaurants, and the safest hotels in San Francisco!
The neighborhood has a small and beautiful square, Patricia’s Green, where you can spend a relaxing afternoon. Walk around and admire the sculptures, or pack a picnic and enjoy the greenery of the park.
If you venture to the outskirts of the neighborhood, you’ll stumble onto the Church Of 8 Wheels (map), a roller skating rink situated in an old, abandoned church.
Nearby, you’ll find Alamo Square and The Painted Ladies, a row of historical Victorian houses that you’ve probably seen on TV!
And while you’re staying here, I highly recommend you walk around the neighborhood and explore the many little alleys – you’ll definitely get a sense of the true San Francisco spirit. When doing the rounds, don’t miss Grove Street – it’s definitely worth your attention!
Plus, it is relatively close – you will need 30-40 mins by foot or ~20-25 min by transport to reach Downtown. One of the first stops outside the neighborhood is the Civic Center, where you can see the Asian Art Museum, the War Memorial Opera House, and much more!
If you want to venture further out, you can go on to explore the Theater District – be sure to make a stop at the Golden Gate Theatre!
It is also a great area for families due to its proximity (30 min walking/15 min by bus 21) to the Golden Gate Park (a huge park with a Botanical garden, Japanese Tea garden, and California Academy of Sciences).
NOTE: Hayes Valley is quite a small area, so some of the hotels you’ll find below are not in the exact neighborhood but nearby. I picked these hotels so that you have enough good options per price category.
Luxury (US$240 and up)
- Chateau Tivoli Bed and Breakfast – a cozy bed and breakfast just outside Hayes Valley, located in an 1892 building. Guests can book one of the 9 rooms and suites and enjoy the relaxed environment and the delicious American breakfast.
- The Grove Inn – enjoy all the comforts of this Victorian 3-star hotel: great location, spacious rooms, and super friendly staff! There’s central heating and air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi throughout the property as well.
Mid-range (US$160 – US$240)
- Inn at the Opera – this contemporary inn is recognizable for its elegant decor and European furnishings. It’s super close to Hayes Valley and public transport stations, so it makes exploring San Francisco extremely convenient for people staying here.
- Sonder Hayes Valley –a historic Hayes Valley hotel that has retained its original charm. The hotel offers a contactless check-in, virtual support available 24/7, and super fast Wi-Fi. The rooms are very clean, and each has a private bathroom.
Budget (up to US$160)
- Casa Loma – this accommodation is rated a bit lower, but it’s very budget-friendly, and you get to stay near Hayes Valley. The property is smoke-free and provides services such as luggage storage and contactless check-in and check-out.
- Hayes Valley Inn – a cozy inn with rooms for up to 4 people, comfy beds, and private bathrooms. It’s rated lower than I’d usually recommend, but budget options are thin on the ground in this area.
8. The Embarcadero / Financial District – for business travelers
Financial District or the Embarcadero are 2 adjacent areas bustling with life and the perfect spots to observe the locals as they go about their day-to-day lives.
The Financial District is known as the ‘Wall Street of the West Coast’, so you can expect to see a lot of people in suits, especially during the morning rush hour. If you are coming in town for business, chances are, your meetings will be around this area.
However, the neighborhood is great for all kinds of travelers – there are a lot of points of interest here too!
The main point of interest in the district is the Ferry Building, originally built in 1898 and repurposed for modern use. Here, you’ll find many boutique shops and food vendors, so this is an excellent opportunity to try local food.
Moving on to Embarcadero, you might be interested in visiting the Exploratorium, an interactive science museum where you can easily spend a few fun hours.
And if you go just a little further from the Embarcadero, you’ll come upon the Coit Tower, a historic building that offers 360-degree views of the city. I highly recommend climbing up to the top!
And last, but not least – pay a visit to Rincon Park! This is a wonderful waterfront park offering amazing views of the Bay Bridge; you can walk along the promenade and admire not only the view but also the sculptures scattered throughout the park.
Luxury (US$300 and up)
- Four Seasons Hotel – each of the rooms at this upscale hotel offers a view of downtown San Francisco while you can also enjoy the on-site gourmet dining and order the in-room massage services.
- 1 Hotel San Francisco – guests at this hotel can marvel at the views of the Embarcadero waterfront from the rooftop terrace or relax in their comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, stocked with plush bathrobes and boutique toiletries.
Mid-range (US$150 – US$300)
- Hotel Griffon – the hotel overlooks the Bay Bridge and is minutes away from the famous Ferry Building. All the rooms are European-inspired, while the on-site restaurant serves American cuisine and delicious drinks.
- Club Quarters Hotel – a gym, a terrace, and an on-site coffee shop are some of the shared spaces you can use during your stay here. You can also lounge by the fireplace in the lobby or enjoy the comfort of your clean and bright room.
Budget (up to US$150)
- ITH Pacific Tradewinds Hostel – the hostel offers affordable accommodation in shared dorms. The bathrooms are also shared, and there are communal spaces where you can meet and get to know the other guests – perfect for solo travelers!
- Royal Pacific Motor Inn – just outside the Financial District, the inn has spacious rooms, where you can enjoy free coffee and pastries. The front desk also provides tour and shuttle arrangements, and you can also benefit from the laundry facilities.
9. Haight-Ashbury – the most artistic area in San Francisco
Haight-Ashbury, west of Union Square and at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, is one of the most iconic San Francisco neighborhoods! Its architecture is absolutely gorgeous, particularly the bright and colorful Victorian homes that line the Haight streets.
Buena Vista Park borders the Haight-Ashbury and it’s a great spot to relax and escape the city’s hustle and bustle. There are quite a few hiking trails within the park and vistas from where you can enjoy amazing city views.
The neighborhood is famous for the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ (hippie movement) phenomenon, when between 75,000 and 100,000 young people flooded the streets of Haight-Ashbury.
People who visit Haight-Ashbury today can still feel the spirit of the Summer of Love – there are many streets lined with street art celebrating love!
During your stay in this neighborhood, you’ll want to stop by the Dangling Legs at the Piedmont Boutique (map) – they’re a cult classic!
If you’re more into music culture, I suggest you visit Amoeba Music, one of the city’s most legendary music stores. And if you’re lucky, you may even catch a live music show!
To get a true feeling of the neighborhood’s artsy vibe, I suggest taking a day to walk the streets and stop at a few of the various boutique shops, bookstores, dive bars..and if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe even a tattoo parlor!
Divisadero is a street that stretches from Haight Street all the way to the Marina District. You might want to check it out, especially if you’re looking for places to eat. Otherwise, I wouldn’t advise staying here as it’s just one street and there aren’t any good hotels.
Keep in mind that this is more of a local, peaceful neighborhood, so there aren’t too many hotels in the area. If you want to stay here, it might be a good idea to consider staying in apartments, or in the nearby areas.
Luxury (US$250 and up)
- Stanyan Park Hotel – this beautiful hotel offers Victorian-style rooms with free Wi-Fi and other amenities. An expanded continental breakfast is served daily, and there’s a Wine & Cheese hour, as well as an evening tea service every weekday.
- The Metro Hotel – conveniently located in the heart of Haight-Ashbury, the Metro Hotel offers a garden, air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi, and spacious family rooms for a comfortable stay!
Mid-range (US$150 – US$250)
- Gorgeous Victorian Flat – a beautiful Victorian 3-bedroom house with a TV, washing machine, and fully equipped kitchen that can fit up to 6 people.
- Modern 2B/2B – this 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment can comfortably accommodate as many as 5 people. There’s a spacious living space, but there’s no kitchen, so it’s a great choice for people for prefer to eat out.
Budget (up to US$150)
- Centrally-Located, Walk Anywhere – if you want to save money without renouncing full comfort, this is the place for you! Check out the private room in this cozy home. There’s a comfortable bed, and you get full access to the rest of the house.
- Haight Ashbury Experience – enjoy your spacious and sunny room in a historic Victorian house with a queen bed, a sitting area, bay windows, and high-speed Internet. The accommodation is close to public transportation stations and Golden Gate Park.
10. Castro – coolest place for nightlife
The Castro district has the best nightlife in all of San Francisco, and it’s also the city’s main hub of gay culture. Here, you can take your pick among many bars and clubs, but if you’re a member or supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, you don’t want to miss San Francisco Pride.
The San Francisco Pride is one of the oldest and largest parades in the world, held on Sunday at the end of June. Even though you’ll want to be in Castro for this event, I suggest you get there one day early for ‘Pink Saturday’ – a large street party in Castro the night before the parade!
If you want to dive straight into the night scene, Twin Peaks Tavern is a great place to start – it’s a Castro landmark! 440 Castro and Hi Tops are also great spots to grab a drink in the neighborhood.
But if you’re looking for something to do during the day, stop by the Castro Theatre, the neighborhood’s main landmark.
And if you’re interested in learning more about the SF gay scene, then you need to pay a visit to the GLBT Historical Society Museum.
One of the best ways to experience the area (besides clubbing) is to walk along Castro Street, the neighborhood’s main street, and check out the murals of famous gay people on the Rainbow Honor Walk.
Near Castro, you can also explore the Twin Peaks – a renowned park with numerous hiking trails and 180-degree views of the Bay Area.
But Castro Street offers much more than exquisite murals; there are also plenty of shops where you can find many unique souvenirs. You can shop for art from local artists, vintage clothes, antiques, cosmetics, and much more!
If you’re traveling with family and want to stay near the Castro to explore the area, Noe Valley is a great choice. The neighborhood has its own Town Square with a playground that’s packed with kids, and there’s also a recreation center offering various family-friendly activities.
Luxury (US$250 and up)
- The Hotel Castro – the neighborhood’s most famous hotel offers air-conditioned rooms and access to free Wi-Fi. However, the main highlights are the art walls in all of the rooms, each
- Bali Hai Castro – this unique holiday home is influenced by Balinese culture and offers amazing city views. Guests are welcomed with chocolate and Prosecco, and they’re also invited to use the outdoor hot tub.
Mid-range (US$170 – US$250)
- The Willows Inn – an affordable 2-star accommodation with comfortable rooms, free Wi-Fi, and continental breakfast. The guests can use the shared lounge and benefit from the daily housekeeping service.
- 4BR/2BA Remodeled Home – a newly renovated apartment in the heart of Castro that can host up to 8 people in the 4 bedrooms furnished with queen-sized beds. The apartment also features 2 bathrooms, a living area, and a full kitchen.
Budget (up to US$170)
- Beck’s Motor Lodge – a colorful motel in Castro with cozy and clean rooms, each with an en suite bathroom. There’s free Wi-Fi and parking, cable TV, and on-site laundry facilities.
- Airy Private Room – this room is spacious and bright and features two single beds, a walk-in closet, a desk, and a dresser. There’s a private bathroom, and guests are free to use the garden space.
|👑 Luxury price:
|💵 Mid Range:
|📍 Best area:
|🛎️ Best luxury hotel:
|💵 Best mid-range hotel:
|Kensington Park Hotel
|👛 Best budget hotel:
Best apartments in San Francisco
Instead of booking a hotel room when traveling to a new city, some people want a homey, cozier feeling, so staying in an apartment or a flat is a great idea if you want that home-like feeling.
You can also save some money by staying in an apartment, considering the high rates of San Francisco accommodation. This is especially true if you’re traveling in a bigger group or with your family.
The good news is that San Francisco has plenty of options you can choose from!
Luxury (US$200 and up)
- Super Clean Artist Loft – do you want to enjoy a luxurious apartment while visiting San Francisco? This creative and comfortable private loft apartment is located in the heart of the artistic Mission area and boasts superb decor.
- Private Guest Cabana – here’s another amazing, luxurious apartment in the Mission District. This Victorian house has high ceilings. It’s super bright and clean and will make you feel right at home. Bonus – there’s a bubbly jetted hot tub!
Mid-range (US$120 – US$200)
- Powell Place Studio III on Nob Hill – situated in an Edwardian building in Nob Hill, the suites at Powell Place feature a bedroom with a queen bed, a private bathroom, and a kitchenette. Wi-Fi is free of charge, and there’s valet parking at an additional cost.
- Quiet Calm Bed and Bath – another Mission District accommodation! This time, it’s a bright room with a private bathroom and a bed with a super-comfortable mattress. You can also use a shared kitchen and living room area.
Budget (up to US$120)
- Immaculate Studio Space – a lovely room with a private entrance and a parking space right next to it. There’s also a dedicated seating area and a kitchenette, so you’ll have everything you need during your stay.
- Great Castro Location – this cozy and colorful room has a large bed, a walk-in closet, a work desk, a flat-screen TV, and a shared bathroom. It’s just 5 minutes away from Castro and close to many public transport stations.
BONUS 1: Best hotels near San Francisco Airport
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), also called the “gateway to the Pacific,” is the main airport in SF, located less than 13 miles (20 km) from the city center, or 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 wise – it will save you a lot of time and sleep, and it’s the perfect option for people traveling on business!
I selected 3 great hotels near the airport, one for each type of budget.
- Luxury (US$250 and up): Grand Hyatt at SFO – this awesome 5-star hotel has an on-site fitness center, a bar, and an on-site restaurant. The rooms are soundproof and it takes just a couple of minutes to get to the hotel with a free air train.
- Mid-range (US$150 – US$250): The Dylan Hotel at SFO – a family-owned, boutique hotel offering spacious rooms. The hotel is just 1 stop away from the airport with the BART subway, and if you arrive by car, parking is free for the first night of your stay.
- Budget (up to US$150): Hotel Aura SFO Airport – the hotel offers a free airport shuttle, and the front desk is available to help with transportation schedules and travel itineraries. There’s also parking for anyone who gets here by car – free of charge!
BONUS 2: Where NOT to stay in San Francisco?
The city is mostly safe (especially the center and the neighborhoods I’m talking about above), but it’s always best to follow common safety measures, such as being mindful of your belongings and aware of your surroundings.
If you’re getting around San Francisco with a car, I strongly urge you NOT to leave anything in the car because in order not to tease potential robbers.
And a couple of other safety tips – in case you decide to rent a car for your stay in San Francisco or a Bay Area day trip, make sure to get full insurance! The same goes for traveling to SF with your personal vehicle – check whether your insurance is up to date and covers everything.
That being said, some of the areas where it’s more common to run into homeless people, drug addicts, or to be cat-called are:
- Tenderloin (some call it the Harlem of San Francisco)
- Bayview-Hunters Point
- Potrero Hill
Some locals also say that these areas are pretty depressing, and unless you start a fight, you won’t fall victim to any crime. Just exercise general precautions, and don’t walk alone at night.
If you need to return to your accommodation, get a taxi or an Uber, and if you must walk, stay on well-lit streets.
All in all, San Francisco is just as safe as any other major city.
FAQs about areas to stay in 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?
The best places to stay in San Francisco with your family are Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach.
🚗 Where to stay in San Francisco with a car?
The best place to stay in San Francisco with a car is the Marina District, because it’s a bit further from the center but still a quiet and beautiful place and it offers lots of low cost parkings solutions.
⛱️ Where to stay in San Francisco near the beach?
👩❤️👨 Where to stay in San Francisco for couples?
🛏️ Where to stay in San Francisco for 1 or 2 nights?
If you’re in San Francisco only for a night or two, I recommend staying in the central city area around Union Square. You’ll be within walking distance of all the main attractions and the best hotels and restaurants. If you have a flight to catch, stay near the airport.
🍂 What is the best time of the year to visit San Francisco?
The best time to visit San Francisco is in the fall, specifically between September and November. The weather is nice and warm, and there aren’t as many crowds as in summer.
🗓️ How many days do you need to visit San Francisco?
To get the full San Francisco experience, you’ll need to spend at least 3 days in the city. However, if you have a limited amount of time, don’t worry – you’ll be able to see the main attractions in 2 days.
✅ What are the safest neighborhoods to stay in San Francisco?
North Beach is a very safe SF area, and that’s why I also recommend it for family stays. However, Nob Hill and the Marina District are quite safe, too, so if safety is your main concern, book your accommodation in any of these 3 areas.
We’ve reached the end of my San Francisco neighborhood guide! Now you know everything you need to decide where to stay in San Francisco. After reading about the 10 top-rated areas, you probably have your eye set on something.
Still not sure where to stay? I can’t blame you – there are so many options… check out my top 2:
- Hotel Nikko – I love the hotel’s central location and the indoor swimming pool
- Kensington Park Hotel –I appreciate the hotel’s elegant decor and evening sherry pours
Whatever you choose, make sure to book it in advance – I don’t want you to miss out on San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge!
If you plan to continue traveling across the state, check out this post about the top areas and hotels in California.
If you have any other questions or concerns, let me know in the comments below!
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