Where to Stay in San Francisco: Best Areas and Hotels

Where to stay in San Francisco will depend on a number of factors. As the largest city in the bay area, it provides plenty of attractions to keep different types of visitors entertained. With that in mind, we have created a San Francisco neighborhood guide covering all the best areas.

This will give you with everything you could possibly need to know about all the major San Francisco neighbourhoods, including things like which have the best hotels and dive bars. This ensures you will be able to select the perfect place when you visit San Francisco for yourself.

See more about California: Where to Stay in Napa Valley: 7 Best Areas

Before we begin, I want to give you some tips and info. These will be things you must consider to ensure you select the perfect place to stay in San Francisco.

For example, Union Square is the heart of San Francisco’s downtown area. This makes it a great choice for anyone seeking a convenient location, surrounded by many of the most popular neighbourhoods in the city.

Fisherman’s Wharf has the most famous and abundant tourist attractions. This makes it a great choice for anyone who wants to do all of the stereotypical things while in town and doesn’t mind paying a little extra for a convenient location to do it from.

Those from the LGBT community will more than likely want to stay in either The Castro or SoMa. While San Francisco as a whole is a very LGBT friendly city, these areas have the most facilities designed with the community in mind.

The Mission District is the best choice for those on a budget, as it features some of the cheapest accommodation in the city. It also has the highest concentration of Mexican culture if that interests you as well.

That said, if ethnic enclaves intrigue you, Chinatown, Japantown, and North Beach have plenty to offer too. If you keep these and similar issues in mind while reading, it will make choosing where to stay in San Francisco as straightforward as possible.

💖 Best Area: Fisherman’s Wharf
💎 Best luxury hotel:The Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Argonaut Hotel, a Noble House Hotel
💰 Best budget hotel:Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Fisherman’s Wharf, an IHG Hotel

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTEL DEALS IN SAN FRANCISCO <<

📌14 Best Areas to Stay in San Francisco

So, now you know exactly what to look for, I’m going to show you what I feel are the 14 best neighbourhoods to stay in San Francisco. This will hopefully give you everything you need, to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Best areas to stay in San Francisco map

1. 💖 Fisherman’s Wharf, where to stay in San Francisco for the first time

Fisherman’s Wharf, best area to stay in San Francisco for the first time

We begin our search in the northeast of San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf is undoubtedly the most famous tourist area in San Francisco, originally settled in the 1800’s by Italian fishermen who came to the area to take advantage of the quickly growing population that the gold rush was causing.

To this day it remains one of the most important fishing areas on San Francisco, with local delicacies like clams and Dungeness Crab some of the most common catch. This ensures visitors will have easy access to some of the finest, freshest seafood they will find anywhere in the city.

A perfect example would be spending an afternoon at the Buena Vista Café. One of the oldest remaining restaurants in the Fisherman’s Wharf, this Irish restaurant allows you to combine history and the area’s iconic cuisine in one location.

In 2010, the San Francisco council poured $15 million into rejuvenating the area. This was done not only to encourage more tourists to visit Fisherman’s Wharf but also to try and bring local residents back as well.

The most famous destination within Fisherman’s Wharf is undoubtedly Pier 39. Here you’ll find an abundance of shops, restaurants, street performers, an arcade, and the Aquarium Of The Bay. There is even a number of rides, including an iconic, two-story carousel that dominates the pier. 

Pier 39 is also where you’ll find the famous California sea lions of Fisherman’s Wharf. Indigenous to the San Francisco Bay, they have been a staple attraction of Fisherman’s Wharf since the late 80’s. 

You’ll find them lazing about all over the end of the pier and playing in the water, providing a wonderful experience for nature lovers. 

At the far end of the district, you will find San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. This contains a fleet of historic vessels, the San Francisco Maritime Museum, a library and research centre, and a visitor centre, where you can learn more about the maritime history of San Francisco.

It also includes two of the other famous piers in Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 45 and the Hyde Street Pier. 

Pier 45 contains a number of historic vessels and preserved museum ships for you to explore and learn from. Meanwhile, Hyde Street Pier has some more modern vessels as well, allowing you to explore San Francisco Bay. 

This connects to Ghirardelli Square, a city block that was originally dedicated to the production of goods by the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. It has been listed on the National Register Of Historic Places since 1982.

Converted into a shopping and dining complex in the 60’s, many of the original shops and restaurants still remain. When combined with modern shops, stunning architecture, and a historic hotel in the original clock tower building, it makes for a truly diverse and relaxing day out.

San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf isn’t all about shopping, dining, and maritime history though. For starters, you have a great collection of museums and art galleries, ensuring you have plenty of culture to indulge in throughout your stay.

Then there are tourist attractions like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, The Wax Museum At Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. There are also the filming locations from numerous major movies, allowing film fans to search out iconic locations from their favourite flicks.

With so much on offer, all within easy walking distance, it makes Fisherman’s Wharf the easy choice for those seeking a laid-back, touristy San Francisco experience.

Stay In Fisherman’s Wharf If you want to see the San Francisco sea lions; you want countless attractions within walking distance of one another; you are interested in the maritime history of San Francisco; you like museums, art galleries, and tourist attractions; you love fine food and drink, especially fresh seafood.

Best places to stay in Fisherman’s Wharf:

Best luxury hotel: The Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square This 5-star resort offers luxurious apartments with free WiFi and fully equipped gourmet kitchens. the hotel elevators open directly to Wattle Creek Winery, Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, local San Francisco boutiques and restaurants on Ghirardelli Square. Within walking distance to San Francisco Maritime National Museum, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, and the dog-friendly Crissy Field.

Best mid-range hotel: Argonaut Hotel, a Noble House Hotel This 4-star eco-friendly hotel has beautiful views across the San Francisco Bay, it provides a traditional seafood restaurant, nautically-themed rooms with rich blue and white furniture. Close to the USS Pampanito Submarine, the Exploratorium, San Francisco Duck Tours, Musée Mécanique, Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, Red & White Fleet, and Lombard Street. You can easily find beaches nearby such as Crissy Field East Beach, Marshall Beach, Sand Springs Beach, and Perles Beach.

Best budget hotel: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Fisherman’s Wharf, an IHG Hotel Located close to Buses and cable cars stop, and Pier 39. You can aslo easily find attractions such as Coit Tower, Beach Blanket Babylon, and Ghirardelli Square.

>> 🔍CHECK BEST HOTELS IN FISHERMAN’S WHARF <<

Check my virtual tour about the best places to stay in San Francisco in this video:

Where to stay in San Francisco: Best Areas to Stay in San Francisco

See more:

2. Embarcadero, best area to stay in San Francisco for business

Embarcadero, best area to stay in San Francisco for business

The Embarcadero district lies at the very east end of Fisherman’s Wharf. It makes up the area that covers all of the San Francisco bay waterfront from Pier 39 to South Beach Harbor. It is credited with the renaissance and economic revival of the bay area.

Embarcadero has easily the largest collection of piers in San Fran and, while those in Fisherman’s Wharf are largely tourist based, many of these still have primarily industrial uses. The Embarcadero Piers Historic District was even added to the National Register Of Historic Places in 2002.

The Embarcadero Center is one of the most prominent structures in the area, consisting of five, 30 to 45 story towers. Contained within are 2 luxury hotels, 2 movie theatres, 5 blocks of offices, a fitness centre, and more than 125 shops, bars, and restaurants. 

The centre even has an outdoor ice-skating rink during the winter months. This makes it a great place to stay in San Francisco for anyone who wants shopping, business, health, and entertainment facilities all within walking distance of one another.

Another similar yet much smaller complex, Embarcadero Plaza, is also located just a short way away.

Beside the Embarcadero Centre, you have perhaps the most iconic and popular building in the district, the San Francisco Ferry Building. Known for its stunning clock tower, the Ferry Building is a food hall and ferry terminal for countless vessels crossing the San Francisco Bay.

The most popular of these routes is the one that takes you to the legendary Alcatraz Island. Featuring a lighthouse, military fortification, military prison, and federal prison, it has become one of the most popular attractions in the United States in the 20th century.

The prison, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, is the primary attraction on the island and was in use from 1934 to 1963. The cold water and strong currents around the island made escape almost impossible, leading to many high-risk inmates being housed there.

While its numerous escape attempts made it infamous, its high-running cost, poor conditions, and deteriorating buildings led to its closure in the 60’s. Now a museum and guided tours teach visitors about its incredible past.

Meanwhile, the rest of the attractions and landmarks on the island are a great way to spend a morning, strolling around, taking in some history, and enjoying views of the San Francisco skyline. 

With only one company authorised to dock on the island and tours often selling out months ahead of time, it is essential you book in advance if you want to visit Alcatraz Island during your stay in San Francisco though.

Stay In Embarcadero If you want to visit Alcatraz Island; you want a great range of shops, bars, restaurants, and entertainment facilities; you are traveling on business; you want to see the iconic Ferry Building or the largest collection of piers in San Fran.

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN EMBARCADERO <<

3. Marina District, an upscale residential area to stay in San Francisco

Marina District, an upscale residential area to stay in San Francisco

The Marina District is set immediately to the west of Fisherman’s Wharf. It was established in 1915 after the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world’s fair to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, as well as to showcase the city’s recovery from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

While most of the district was rebuilt after the fair, the one building that still remains is the Palace Of Fine Arts. Built to depict the decaying ruins of ancient Rome, it features a lagoon, walkways, and stunning architecture that make it one of San Francisco’s most iconic landmarks.

The palace was at the very heart of the exposition and was campaigned to be saved after it ended. While it originally contained permanent exhibits, it has since taken to hosting rotating exhibitions, and has even been used as the filming location for many movies, and game and TV shows.

The majority of the Marina District is a wealthy, residential area, which is one of the more upper-class San Francisco neighbourhoods. This makes it ideal for those who like to stay in style while they are away, without having to deal with the crowds of more tourist focused areas.

The marina itself is usually filled with stunning yachts and other vessels. 

Whether you need somewhere to keep your vessel during your San Francisco trip, you want to try and book a trip out on the water, or simply want to enjoy a meal or a drink while watching boats bob up and down in the water, the Marina District is the perfect place to start. 

In the south of the district, you also have a campus of San Francisco’s Academy Of Art University. Not only does this further the vibrant, bohemian feel that is present in much of San Francisco, it also makes it a great choice for anyone visiting the university or somebody studying at it.

Perhaps the most popular attraction in the area, and a reason many people choose to stay in the Marina District, is Presidio Of San Francisco. A 1,500-acre park, it lies at the San Francisco end of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

Built between 1933 and 37, the Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge that used to be both the longest and tallest in the world. Considered the most photographed bridge on Earth, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the main reasons many people choose to visit San Francisco in the first place.

The Golden Gate Bridge even has its own shade of red that is continually being reapplied to keep it looking nice. You combine this with the plaques and memorials located on the bridge, and a stroll across its 1-mile length is an absolute must for any visitor to San Francisco.

The Presidio Of San Francisco is no slouch in its own right either. The beautiful, wide-open green spaces offer stunning views of the Bay Area and the city skyline. This provides people a perfect way to relax and get some fresh air while visiting San Francisco.

Meanwhile, attractions like the San Francisco National Cemetery, Walt Disney Family Museum, Yoda Fountain, World War II West Coast Memorial, and even beaches, photo opportunities, and a golf course provide plenty of things to keep you busy during your stay in San Francisco.

Stay In The Marina District If you want to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or just see it up close; you want to play some golf during your stay in San Francisco; you prefer a wealthier, more residential area; you want to explore the Presidio Of San Francisco.

Best hotels to stay in Marina:

>> 🔍CHECK BEST HOTELS IN MARINA DISTRICT <<

4. Russian Hill, where to stay in San Francisco to be near the most famous attractions

Russian Hill, offers views of Oakland Bay Bridge

Located directly south of the Fisherman’s Wharf and Marina District neighbourhoods, Russian Hill is a primarily residential area. Anyone looking at where to stay in San Francisco to be near the most famous attractions, yet without all the crowds, will enjoy what this neighbourhood has to offer.

Located on a steep hill, the area provides some of the most stunning views of the bay area you will find. Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, and even neighbouring Marin County are all visible, providing a perfect opportunity for photographers.

The area is also incredibly popular with artists of other types as well. 

The San Francisco Art Institute and Academy Of Art University are both located in the neighbourhood. Containing classrooms and studios, aspiring painters, musicians, photographers and videographers flock here to study and progress in their desired disciplines.

The university also has facilities for sports as well, particularly in the athletics field. Combined with both indoor and outdoor community basketball and tennis courts, it makes Russian Hill a great place to stay in San Francisco for anyone hoping to watch or play some sport during their visit.

There aren’t many tourist attractions in Russian Hill, although one that does draw many visitors is Lombard Street. Known as the “crookedest street in the world”, it features switchback hairpin turns on a steep decline, making for a unique and exciting driving experience.

In fact, Lombard Street is so popular that you will sometimes find queues of up to 20 minutes just waiting to enter it.

The street and views in the surrounding area have led to Russian Hill being frequently used as a filming location for movies throughout the years. Hit films like 48 Hrs, Bullitt, Vertigo, and Star Trek 2 & 3 have all had scenes shot here.

As a primarily residential area you aren’t going to find many large hotels in Russian Hill. However, if you are looking for a private guest house or boutique hotel, there are accommodation options available to meet your needs.

Stay In Russian Hill If you want to take a drive down Lombard Street; you want to spot locations from the various movies filmed here; you want a more residential area, not too far from the main attractions; you are planning to study art or are visiting someone who already is; you are a photographer or just want to take in stunning views of the bay area; you are happy staying in a boutique hotel or guest house.

>> 🔍CHECK BEST HOTELS IN RUSSIAN HILL <<

5. Nob Hill, a  high-class neighbourhood on San Francisco

San Francisco cable car

Located directly south of Russian Hill, Nob Hill is one of the most high-class neighbourhoods in not just San Francisco but the US as a whole. Beautiful tree lined streets and stunning buildings make it an ideal choice for those looking at where to stay in San Francisco for the most luxurious experience.

A collection of some of the best hotels, Michelin starred restaurants, and boutique stores make Nob Hill perfect for a laid-back vacation, enjoying the best things in life. Meanwhile, a collection of art galleries, cultural institutions, and historic landmarks gives you plenty to do and see.

One popular institution in Nob Hill is the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. With San Francisco being well known for its cable car network, what better way to learn about these icons of the city than by seeing some of the original cars and learning about how they are made and operate.

The Nob Hill neighbourhood also has a number of beautiful parks you can relax in. Perhaps the most popular is Huntington Park. A grand park with wide open spaces, elaborately designed fountains, and native plant species, it will allow you to enjoy the more natural side of San Francisco.

It even backs onto the James C. Flood Mansion. One of the oldest and most stunning buildings in Nob Hill, it gives you a great opportunity to enjoy the historic architecture of the city. In a similar vein, you also have the Grace Cathedral.

Built in 1849, the Grace Cathedral is an absolutely stunning building, that is the largest place of worship in the San Francisco Nob Hill area. This will let you see not just the style of the city through the years but its religious history as well.

As Nob Hill is surrounded by some of the busiest, most famous locations in the city, it offers easy access to all of the attractions you are likely to want to visit. While it certainly isn’t cheap to stay here, it is well worth it if you have the money and are looking for the most stylish vacation possible.

Stay In Nob Hill If you aren’t worried about money; you want to stay, dine, and shop in the city’s best hotels, restaurants and stores; you want easy access to the famous attractions, while staying in a less touristy area; you are a fan of architecture or parks; you are interested in the history of the San Francisco cable car network.

Best hotels to stay in Nob Hill:

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN NOB HILL <<

6. Chinatown, where to stay in San Francisco for foodie

Chinatown, where to stay in San Francisco for foodie

Located immediately to the east of Nob Hill, separated by Powell Street, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia, as well as the oldest and most iconic Chinatown area in the entire United States.

With three other Chinese enclaves located in San Francisco, there is much more of an authentic feel to this community that you will find in many Chinatown areas across the country. Traditional culture, customs, languages, social clubs, and places of worship make it a wonderful place to experience.

Low priced, great value housing has continued the trend of new immigrants to San Francisco taking up residence in Chinatown, as opposed to the rest of what is generally an expensive city. This is particularly true with those from east Asia, who feel much more at home here.

The Dragon’s Gate archway at the southern end of the district lets you enter Chinatown in style and gives you a taste of what you are about to experience. Shops, bars, restaurants and more offer “local” wares and cuisine, allowing you to immerse yourself in the spirit of the area.

Even the nightlife offers a different experience to what is on offer in the rest of San Francisco. Nightclubs and cocktail bars offer a distinctly Oriental feel, giving you the chance to get the full Chinatown experience around the clock.

Depending on the time of year you choose to visit, there are also a number of incredible festivals to be enjoyed in the city as well. The most famous is the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival And Parade, which takes place for two weeks in January and February each year. 

The streets are filled with parades, floats, acrobats, marching bands, school, performances, street dances, martial arts, music performances, and fashion shows. 

As the grand finale, a 268 foot long Golden Dragon, worn by 100 performers, dances though the heart of Chinatown, to signify the celebrations have come to an end.

You also have the Autumn Moon Festival, celebrated in September each year, to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Celebrations include, bazaars, entertainment and a delicacy known as mooncakes.

You can also find traditional Chinese funeral processions taking place regularly. While not designed as an attraction, marching bands and motorcycle escorts create quite an experience for those who have never seen one before.

Even the outdoor parks and areas here help to create a sense of culture and community. Portsmouth Square in the east features playgrounds, historical markers and statues, while Woh Hei Yuen in the northwest is elaborately designed, with a tai chi court, pagoda, art, rec center, and play area.

For those seeking a more traditional park there are other options as well though. St. Mary’s Square and the Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground offer playgrounds, benches, athletic courts, statues, memorials, and an outdoor gym, perfect whether you want to play, relax, or work out.

While many may feel that staying in Chinatown won’t give them an authentic experience of San Francisco’s culture, it is centrally located among some of the best neighbourhoods in the city. 

This means you can enjoy everything it has to offer, while having easy access to many of the most “traditional” parts of San Francisco. 

Stay In Chinatown If you want to visit the oldest, largest Chinatown area outside of Asia; you want better value accommodation in a central location; you want an area with its own unique culture; you want to attend one of the festivals held here.

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN CHINATOWN <<

7. Japantown, best area for Japanese culture and cusine

While Chinatown is undoubtedly the most famous Asian enclave in San Francisco, it is by no means the only one. Located roughly a mile and a half to the west, Japantown is a compact, historic district, that is also known by the names Nihonmachi and J-Town. 

Like its neighbour, it is also considered one of the oldest and largest Asian enclaves in the United States. Covering 6 city blocks, it features numerous restaurants and supermarkets that specialise primarily in Japanese cuisine, along with a few Chinese and Korean additions.

Whether you want to prepare the food yourself or spend a relaxing evening having it served to you, Japantown is a perfect place to sample delicacies like ramen, sushi, and shabu shabu. However you choose to dine, you can complete your evening with a night at a karaoke bar, an incredibly popular pastime in Japan.

Indoor shopping malls host countless stores selling Japanese products, including one of the only American branches of the popular bookstore chain Kinokuniya. Meanwhile, a collection of local and souvenir stores sells more traditional wares.

A range of beautiful hotels and Asian style day spas ensure you can not only experience Japanese culture, but you can also treat and pamper yourself while doing so. A number of international businesses, such as banks, are also available, to ensure all your needs are catered to.

Undoubtedly the heart and soul of the district is the Japantown Peace Plaza. A courtyard with a stunning, five-tiered Peace Pagoda, it not only features beautiful architecture but also hosts most of Japantown’s cultural events, including its two annual festivals.

The larger of the two festivals, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, takes place over the course of two weeks each April. This includes festivities such as Kabuki Theatre, parades, and floats, as well as educational events.

Meanwhile, the other festival, the Nihonmachi Street Fair, takes place for one weekend each August. Craft activities, face painting, music performances, street food, fashion and classic car shows, plus a number of community events are held to celebrate and educate people about Japanese culture.

Stay In Japantown If you want to attend either of the festivals; you are a fan of Japanese culture or cuisine; you want to treat to yourself to a day of pampering at an Asian spa.

>> 🔍CHECK BEST HOTELS IN JAPANTOWN <<

8. North Beach, best places to stay in San Francisco for Italian atmosphere

North Beach, best places to stay in San Francisco for Italian atmosphere

Our next destination of North Beach keeps the theme of ethnic enclaves but moves away from Asia. I say that as North Beach is primarily known as the location of San Francisco’s “Little Italy” district. 

The area is home to a large population of Italian Americans, the vast majority of which have immigrated from northern Italy or are descended from those who did. That said, a great number of different ethnicities have moved into the area in recent years, creating a really diverse destination.

A large number of Italian restaurants, shops and cafes are present throughout the neighbourhood. This makes North Beach a great place to stay in San Francisco for anyone wanting to sample some Italian cuisine or sit in a coffee shop sipping some Italian style coffee.

The Italian Heritage Parade is also held every Columbus Day. The longest running Italian festival in the United States, it runs from the Fisherman’s Wharf neighbourhood to Washington Square Park. Speaking of which, Washington Park Square is a fabulous attraction in its own right. 

It has a collection of amenities including the Park Tavern restaurant and Liguria Bakery, as well as attractions like Saints Peter And Paul Church, the Ben Franklin Statue, and the Volunteer Firemen Memorial. This makes it great for a relaxing day outdoors, enjoying the culture and architecture.

North Beach is also known as one of San Francisco’s main nightlife hubs. Italian bars, blues clubs, jazz clubs, vibrant nightclubs, and countless restaurants and trattorias give you options to spend your nights however you please. It also borders the legendary Barbary Coast. 

A historic red-light district, now known as Jackson Square, North Beach has taken inspiration from its neighbour. While it isn’t a red-light district, North Beach does now feature the best collection of strip clubs in San Francisco, so is ideal for anyone seeking that type of entertainment.

The beatnik subculture that was prominent between the 40’s and 60’s is also still very prominent in North Beach. This makes it a good place to stay in San Francisco for anyone who enjoys a retro vibe.

If you plan your trip’s date right, you can even attend the North Beach Festival. A street fair held on Fathers-Day weekend in June, it is one of the largest in San Francisco and oldest in the US. This is a perfect opportunity for anyone seeking a round the clock party during your stay in San Francisco.

Stay In North Beach If You want to attend either of the festivals held here; Nightlife is a priority during your stay; You are a fan of Italian culture and cuisine; You are interested in beatnik culture or strip clubs.

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN NORTH BEACH <<

9. The Financial District & Union Square, staying downtown San Francisco

The Financial District & Union Square, staying downtown San Francisco

The Financial District, Union Square, and parts of Chinatown, Tenderloin, and SoMa (South Of Market) combine to form what is unofficially known as Downtown San Francisco. This is where you’ll find the largest concentration of corporate headquarters anywhere in San Francisco.

All six San Francisco Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the Financial District, as are many major brands, like Levi Strauss and Chevron. In addition, numerous diplomatic missions are located here, including those of countries such as France, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.

With so many workers coming in and out of the district on a daily basis, it unsurprisingly has some of the best public transportation options in the city. Combined with numerous restaurants and stores catering to the workers, it makes the Financial District an incredibly convenient place to stay.

The Union Square district is a particularly popular spot for those seeking a traditional “downtown” area during their stay in San Francisco. It is located it what is considered the very south-west portion of “downtown” San Francisco.

Union Square is centred around the San Francisco Union Square itself, a beautiful plaza with the Dewey Monument at its heart that is a California Historical Landmark. In recent years, the city has even commissioned additional art installations around the Union Square plaza to add to its appeal.

The single block that Union Square lies on has the largest collection of department stores, gift shops, beauty salons, art galleries, and upscale boutiques in the United States. Then, for several blocks in all  directions from the plaza, Union Square is filled with malls, shops, dive bars, restaurants, and hotels. 

This is ideal for those seeking plenty of choice during their stay in San Francisco. There’s even a  Theater District on the outskirts of Union Square, giving you the opportunity to catch performances by both established and up and coming performers.

Union square also has some of the best public transportation options in the city. Two cable car lines serve Union Square, as do multiple subway systems, and trolleybus and bus lines. This makes Union Square an ideal place to stay in San Francisco for those relying on public transportation to get about.

Stay In The Financial District & Union Square If you want to stay in Downtown San Francisco; you want to see the Union Square plaza or are interested in the theatre; you will be relying on public transportation during your stay in San Francisco; you want a great range of shops, bars, restaurants, salons, and hotels nearby; you are working for one of the corporations or missions in the Financial District.

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN FINANCIAL DISTRICT <<

10. SoMa/South Of Market, where to stay in San Francisco on  budget

We are now going to move slightly out of the most built-up part of the city, beginning with a neighbourhood known as SoMa. SoMa stands for South Of Market, as the neighbourhood is separated from all of the others we have looked at by Market Street.

Located at the exit to the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, it is the first part of the city most people will experience when driving in from the east. While still located close to the main bulk of the city, you will begin finding more deals available on both accommodation and amenities.

This makes South Of Market a good choice for those looking at where to stay in San Francisco on a budget that won’t add a huge amount of travelling each day. This is especially true given the attractions located within SoMa itself, which include a number of the city’s most popular museums.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum opened in 1984 and hosts a rotating collection of exhibits, designed to make the Jewish experience relevant to a 21st-century audience. The Asian Art Museum offers visitors the chance to see one of the world’s finest collections of Asian art.

The San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art features more than 33,000 works of art, across disciplines like painting, sculpting, photography, architecture, design, and media arts. There’s also the Moscone Convention Centre, which hosts some of the largest conventions and exhibitions in the city.

South Of Market is even perfect for sports fans looking at where to stay in San Francisco to catch a game. Chase Center and Oracle Park, home to the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association and San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball respectively, are both found here.

South Of Market is also known for being the home of the Leather And LBGTQ Cultural District. With San Francisco as a whole known as one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the country, this is an ideal spot for people in the community to feel at home, or for others to learn more about their history.

The Folsom Street Fair, Up Your Alley Fair, How Weird Street Faire, and even events during the city’s Pride Festival all take place here, allowing visitors to learn and embrace the culture with a wild party atmosphere.

LGBT festivals aren’t the only ones that take place in South Of Market either. Numerous Filipino cultural events are held throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to learn more about another group that calls the area home.

If you like the sound of South Of Market but are worried by the budget accommodation I mentioned don’t be, as there are other options as well. The South Beach part of the district, located near Oracle Park, is an affluent neighbourhood, that will provide options to allow you to enjoy SoMa in style.

Stay In SoMa/South Of Market If you are travelling on a budget but still want to be near the city centre; you want to catch a baseball or basketball game; you are attending an event at Chase Center, Oracle Park, or the Moscone Convention Centre; you are part of the LGBT community; you are interested in Jewish or Filipino culture; you love museums; you are travelling by car from the east.

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN SOUTH OF MARKET <<

11. The Mission District, where to stay in San Francisco near airport

Also known simply as The Mission, the Mission District is located immediately to the south-west of SoMa. It is named after the 6th Alta California Mission, the Mission San Francisco De Asis which, built in 1776, is the oldest building in San Francisco.

Also known as Mission Delores, it is a museum and California Historical Landmark, teaching people about the city’s past. Meanwhile, the newer basilica built next to it in 1918 continues to serve an active congregation, giving a perfect view of the evolution of religion in the city.

Mission Delores Park surrounding the buildings is the largest park in the district, providing wide open spaces, designed in a Mediterranean Revival style, for you to enjoy the architecture in. The Mission Pool and Playground is an ideal spot to take the kids, located two blocks east on Valencia Street.

The local community includes one of the largest Mexican populations in San Francisco, giving a number of unique opportunities to the area. For example, an incredible number of taquerias and Mexican restaurants are present, allowing you to sample their fabulous, iconic cuisine.

You will also experience a great deal of Mexican art throughout the neighbourhood. From street art, murals and even dedicated art galleries and centres, to a vibrant music scene, the entire spectrum of the arts is available here, all with its own Mexican flavour.

That means whether you want to catch a live performance, attend an exhibition, or simply roam around the neighbourhood looking at the fabulous street art, you will have plenty of ways to embrace the culture.

The Mission District is also a great choice for those looking to have quick, easy access to the airport. While San Francisco International Airport is located 11 miles away, in South San Francisco, being in a quieter part of the city, right at an on-ramp to the freeway, you can be there in just 15 minutes. 

This makes it ideal for anyone worried about missing their flight or dragging their baggage all over town, as they won’t have to stay so far away that the rest of their trip becomes a chore.

Stay In The Mission District If you want to visit the oldest building in San Francisco; you are interested in Mexican cuisine, art, and culture; you are travelling on a budget; you want quick, easy access to San Francisco International Airport.

>> 🔍CHECK BEST HOTELS IN MISSION DISTRICT <<

12. The Castro, best area to stay in San Francisco for nightlife

The Castro, best area to stay in San Francisco for nightlife

Located at the south end of Market Street, immediately west of the Mission District, The Castro is an area dominated by the LBGT community. With numerous cultural institutions and events, it is widely considered one of the primary LGBT hubs in the entire world.

The Castro Theater, Twin Peaks Tavern, and GLBT Historic Museum all provide glimpses into the history of the LGBT community and their growth within the district. Perhaps the most enjoyable historic attraction for most though will be the Castro Street History Walk.

A sidewalk installation featuring 30 historical fact and event plaques, you can learn about the history of The Castro between 1776 and 1960. It explains many of the most significant events that helped shape the neighbourhood from its humble beginnings to the LGBT hub it is known as today.

In a similar vein, the Rainbow Honor Walk, an LGBT walk of fame, was installed in 2014. Much like the iconic walk of fame in Los Angeles, it features plaques dedicated to LGBT icons, who were considered inspirations and experts in their given fields.

With its historic attractions combined with a great collection of Adult stores, LGBT tourism is one of the primary sources of income to the neighbourhood. There is even a great collection of gay bars and clubs, for anyone who wants to enjoy the culture around the clock during their stay.

Not everything revolves around sexual identity in The Castro though. It is also known for its incredible collection of restaurants. With lower prices than the city centre, this means The Castro is perfect for foodies looking to sample some of the city’s finest cuisine, without breaking the bank.

Stay In The Castro If you are interested in, or are a part of, the LGBT community; you want a great choice of adult shops, as well as gay bars and clubs; you are travelling on a budget; you want to sample some of the best cuisine in San Francisco.

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN CASTRO <<

13. The Haight & Ashbury, best place in San Francisco for sightseeing

The Haight & Ashbury, best place in San Francisco for sightseeing

Our penultimate destination takes us immediately north of The Castro, to the twin neighbourhoods of The Haight and Ashbury. This is where the hippy counterculture movement of the 1960’s was born, with many iconic locations still remaining.

Those interested in retro stylings will find vintage clothing boutiques, record shops and bookstores, letting you to spend your days scouring for treasures from the past. There are even a few historic locations, such as the infamous Grateful Dead House, for you to get a true sense of the area’s past.

For those less interested in the area’s history, there are also a number of bars and fabulous cafes and restaurants for you to try out. This lets you kick back and relax, enjoying the unique style and vibe of the neighbourhood, without being surrounded by mobs of people.

On the second Sunday in June, the Haight – Ashbury Street Fair also takes place each year. With live music, street food and vendors, as well as an all-round party atmosphere, it offers a great opportunity to let loose and have some fun if it is taking place during your visit.

The area is even known for including a number of large, fabulous parks, such as Buena Park. Containing 36 acres of trails, oak tree groves, and stunning views of the city, Buena Park is a great way to enjoy a little slice of nature during your stay.

However, it is a park located outside the limits of Haight – Ashbury that is the crowning attraction. That’s because the neighbourhood borders Golden Gate Park to its west.

Golden Gate Park covers over 1,000 acres, making it 20 percent larger than Central Park in New York City. It is also the 3rd most visited city park in the United States, behind only Central Park and the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Natural features including a botanical garden, bison paddock, and countless lakes, plants, and wild animals make it ideal for anyone interested in the native wildlife of San Francisco. 

In addition to its wide-open green spaces, it features museums, a science academy, a Japanese tea garden, a nursery, and a conservatory, as well as instillations such as windmills, memorials, statues, a carousel, a “hippie hill”, and even a beach chalet.

Golden Gate Park also includes a number of features that makes it popular with those involved in a variety of sports. A polo field, archery range, and Kezar Stadium, which hosts football, soccer, track and field events, and lacrosse, draws plenty of visitors who plan to either participate or spectate.

This all makes Haight – Ashbury incredibly convenient for those seeking a truly relaxing vacation.

Stay In The Haight & Ashbury If you want to visit Golden Gate Park or Buena Park; you are interested in retro stores and hippie culture; you are attending the Haight – Ashbury Street Fair; you are going to play sport or attend an event at Kezar Stadium.

>> 🔍CHECK BEST HOTELS IN HAIGHT <<

14. Hayes Valley, where to stay in San Francisco for local vibe

The final neighbourhood we are going to look at is Hayes Valley, located between Haight – Ashbury and Japantown. It takes its name from Hayes Street, which runs through the centre of Hayes valley, which itself was named after 19th century San Francisco landowner Thomas Hayes.

Townhouses featuring Edwardian, Victorian, and Queen Anne architectural styles gives Hayes Valley  a certain historical flair all of its own. The close-knit community that calls the neighbourhood home give it a very homely feeling and are more than welcoming to visitors who appreciate its charm.

A community park and pocket garden allow you to unwind and relax outdoors, getting to know the locals and experiencing a more authentic way of life than you will find in most parts of the city. They also feature a number of art installations, further adding to the local style.

High-End boutiques sell local fashions, while restaurants provide gourmet cuisine options for those who are seeking a stylish vacation, without dealing with the crowds of the city centre. Meanwhile, a range of bars, cafes, and desert shops provide choices for the days when you want pure relaxation.

For those seeking entertainment during their stay in Hayes valley, the Civic Center is surrounded by a number of venues that play host to theatre and musical shows. One such venue is the SFJAZZ Center, known as the first free-standing building in the west built for jazz performance and education.

One of the most common tourist attractions in the area actually lies just outside the limits of Hayes Valley. The location in question is a row of houses known as “The Painted Ladies”, a row of stunning Edwardian and Victorian town houses, painted in 3 or more colours to accentuate their features. 

The Painted Ladies have been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including Mrs. Doubtfire and the Full House franchise. This has made them and the fabulous park opposite a popular destination for movie buffs, hoping to get a feel for where some of their favourite films were shot.

Stay In Hayes Valley If you want to visit “The Painted Ladies”; you like Edwardian, Victorian, and Queen Anne architecture; you want high-end shops and restaurants; you want a neighborhood with a homely feel, with plenty of parks and cafes to relax in.

>>🔍 CHECK BEST HOTELS IN HAYES VALLEY <<

See more:

Visiting San Francisco should be a truly memorable occasion, as it is such a wonderful, diverse city. Hopefully, this article will have given you all the information you require to decide where to stay in San Francisco to experience everything you have in mind. 

That means all that is left is to start getting things booked as soon as possible. That way, you won’t miss out on any of the best hotels and, before long, you’ll be exploring San Francisco and all its wonders for yourself.

Leave a Comment