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Where to stay in San Francisco: Best neighbourhoods and hotels

Find the best accommodation in San Francisco - Comprehensive Guide

Where to stay in San Francisco - a photo of the Golden Bridge in San Francisco

Choosing where to stay in San Francisco can get you off to a running start, and help you avoid unwanted mistakes. We've put together a list of places worth considering in the city to start your trip in style and end it with memories of a lifetime. Here is what you need to know about picking the appropriate accommodation in San Francisco.

When we think of the city of San Francisco, most of us envisage the iconic Golden Gate Bridge towering through the clouds of mist with the glittering city beyond. Sitting at the edge of a peninsula and surrounded by ocean on three sides, San Francisco is one of America's most recognizable cities and a coveted spot to explore in California.

It has a lot to offer, from enviable cuisine, decadent architecture, renowned museums and art galleries, thriving nightlife scenes, celebrated diversity; and of course spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The city is perfect for families, foodies, couples, LGBTQ crowds, budget to luxury travellers and anything in-between. So, where to stay in San Francisco for first-time travellers?

When you stay in San Francisco, you'll want to be within walking distance from main attractions. Our San Francisco neighbourhood guide will help pick the appropriate hotel to your budget and travel style.

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Where to stay in San Francisco

The major part of the city is walkable and reasonably compact, but it can be difficult to choose between the multitude of fascinating suburbs in which to stay and soak up the vibes. There's so much on offer among the quaint and hip neighbourhoods that everywhere and anywhere is a divine choice.

So deciding what side of San Francisco you wish to see can be a challenge. The most touristy places like Fisherman's Wharf and Haight-Ashbury have their perks. Here, everyone visiting San Francisco must try the clam chowder bread bowl and spend a day sifting through old records in the beautiful old Victorian houses.

But, San Francisco has a lot more in store, being hugely diverse and fun to explore. Discover traditional Italian cuisine in North Beach, or indulge in Mexican flavours in The Mission. Experience the contrast of down-and-out life along the Tenderloin, against the hedonistic lifestyles in Nob Hill and Pacific Heights.

Where to stay in San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco & Union Square

Why stay in Downtown San Francisco & Union Square

Downtown consists of several neighbourhoods in the area between the hills and the waterfront. At the heart of it all is Union Square, which can't be beat for its central location. All the major retail brands are based here, as well as a wide range of hotels and accommodations. It's the perfect spot if you want to be in the middle of everything.

As the cities main shopping district, Union Square has great links to the main transportation lines, including the quaint and rustic cable car lines that make you feel like you just stepped into an old Judy Garland film. If that gets you in the mood, there are a host of theatres close to Union Square to catch a show or two. Locals and tourists alike meander through the hectic squares of glittering shopfronts and restaurants catering to all budgets.

Union Square is also a fantastic for being a great transportation hub. Staying here means quick access to other parts of the city. Besides, it's the perfect location for retails, dinning and nightlife. It's a vibrant neighbourhood in San Francisco.

Tip: Visit San Francisco during winter and see Union Square transform into a winter wonderland with a stunning Christmas tree, an ice rink and countless brilliant decorations.

Why avoid Downtown San Francisco & Union Square

Is there a downside to Union Square? Well, Union Square is a crowded and popular area with numerous people flashing their cash. Be aware of pickpockets and keep your valuables safe. We all know The City is expensive, so being right in downtown San Francisco, you can expect to pay a premium. When visiting San Francisco for the first time it's, however, a great place to stay.

Where to stay in Downtown San Francisco & Union Square

Luxury: Four Seasons San Francisco

Located five minutes' walk to the shops and restaurants at Union Square and Yerba Buena Gardens, this hotel provides a full-service spa, an adult indoor lap pool and a restaurant.
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Affordable Luxury: Taj Campton Place San Francisco

Steps from Union Square, this historic yet modernized hotel features classic European charm and in-room spa services. It includes the 2 Michelin Star rated Campton Place Restaurant and a 24-hour rooftop gym.
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Mid-range: Hotel Warwick San Francisco

Just 5 minutes' walk to Union Square Park, this luxurious hotel blends San Francisco Victorian décor with modern amenities like free WiFi in all rooms.
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Nob Hills San Francisco with incredible views

North Beach And The Hills

Why Stay In North Beach And The Hills

North Beach is the 'Little Italy' of San Francisco, where a passion for pasta, gelato, and espresso comes to life. A place for fabulous food, views and local vibes. The steep residential streets are ideal for wandering and taking in the expanding views of the city. At the top of The Hills, the views are sublime. The rising towers and skyscrapers punctuate the horizon, creating a covetable view whatever the weather.

Stay near the Russian Hill, the quaint and upscale residential community known for the famous Lombard Street. This is also the area for the iconic cable cars in San Francisco.

North Beach is ideal for seafood lovers, known for its excellent restaurants in the area. Try Sotto Mare, Portofino or Sodini's. Who knew the Bay Area is home to so many European style restaurants with incredible food?

The Telegraph Hill and Russian Hill areas feature the more opulent homes with views towards Nob Hill in the South. The area is commonly known as Snob Hill due to its numerous swanky hotels and grand mansions. Nob Hill is one of the original seven hills of San Francisco, and you can definitely sense the nostalgia here. For a taste of the high life, stay in one of the many luxury hotels around the Hills. Some top class hotels here offer rooms with views over the San Francisco Bay.

Why Avoid North Beach And The Hills

If you're on a budget, it's best to stay out of accommodation in The Hills and splash your cash on the cities numerous offerings, like the many celebrated restaurants and galleries. Consider the super steep hills too. Can you walk up and down every single day without a car?

Nob Hill has historically served as a centre for the city's upper class. Nob Hill is, in fact, among the highest income neighbourhood in the States. And as you can imagine, Nob Hill is also one of the most desirable and expensive locations in the whole country.

Where to stay in North Beach And The Hills

Luxury: Hotel Fairmont San Francisco

Atop centrally located Nob Hill, this landmark hotel features luxurious rooms and suites. Fairmont San Francisco is the only hotel in the city where all 3 cable car lines meet.
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Luxury: Hotel Huntington

This 5-star hotel, situated at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. Every room is uniquely styled and offers panoramic views of the city.
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Mid-range: Hotel Nob Hill Inn

This boutique hotel is located in the Nob Hill district (10 min walk from Union Square). Nob Hill Inn rooms have unique décor in the Edwardian style. The suites have a separate seating area.
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San Francisco Skyline as seen from above

Northern Waterfront And Pacific Heights

Why Stay In The Northern Waterfront And Pacific Heights

The Northern waterfront features everything you'd want to see during your first time visit to San Francisco. Stay here for the glorious views over the San Francisco Bay, the numerous commercial areas, major tourist hotspots, and the San Francisco's biggest icon: The Golden Gate Bridge.

On the East side of the waterfront is Fisherman's Wharf, where you'll regularly hear the gruff call of sea lions and taste the cities absolute best seafood. Don't miss the San Francisco classic clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

Fisherman's Wharf is arguably the most touristy area in the city, but it's a must-do on the list of any visitor. It's also an easy place to base yourself for day trips to Alcatraz, the infamous offshore prison, and the surrounding sights of the Bay Area.

Standing sentry in the Northern Waterfront is Pacific Heights, home to the glamorously wealthy and San Francisco's old money. Here you'll find a plethora of luxury hotels surrounding the heights offering outstanding views over the city, though you'll have to dip deep into your pocket for a room.

You'll want to stay here to be just 10 minutes walk from the Presidio San Francisco, with its own golf course, walking tails, scenic beaches, fishing spots and incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Why Avoid The Northern Waterfront And Pacific Heights

Fisherman's Wharf and Pacific Heights are overpriced and unapologetically designed for tourists, but provides easy access for the trip to Alcatraz and Angel Island. It's a better fare for a day trip and to try some serious seafood. Accommodation here, like much of touristy San Francisco, is expensive, but this is a trend in the whole city. If you visit with your family, it's lovely to be so close to the Presidio National Park. It's easy to explore San Francisco from here, as you are just an hour walk from Union Square and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in downtown.

Where To Stay In San Francisco Northern Waterfront And Pacific Heights

Luxury: Hotel Drisco

Built in 1903, Hotel Drisco boasts Edwardian architecture. Atop Pacific Heights on Pacific Avenue, this luxurious San Francisco hotel is only 5 minutes' walk from Presidio National Park.
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Mid-range: Monte Cristo B&B

In one of the oldest neighbourhoods in San Francisco, California, surrounded by restaurants and shopping, this inn offers unique hotel rooms and first-rate services.
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Mid-range: Jackson Court B&B

Ideally situated in the exclusive Pacific Heights' neighbourhood of San Francisco, this magnificent brownstone mansion is close enough to the action of the city, yet far enough away to provide peace and quiet.
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Haight-Ashbury colourful house in San Francisco

Haight-Ashbury And West Of Civic Center

Why Stay In Haight-Ashbury And West Of Civic Center

San Francisco has a rich creative history. Back in the 60s and 70s, famed artists such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Janice Joplin all found a home for their creative and experimental endeavours within the walls of the epicurious city.

Haight Ashbury was once the epicentre of the beatnik movement and counterculture. Attracting the poets, wayward creatives and the peace and love campaigns of the 60s and 70s. The bright and colourful Victorian houses in the area are filled with vintage boutiques, tattoo parlours, record stores, and thrift stores.

The city's artsy heart still beats in the cracks and corners, but these days it's more hipster than hippy. A more modern counterculture in San Francisco is found to the East in Lower Haight. Nearby is Alamo Square, the perfect pitstop to capture one of San Fran's most quintessential views.

The 6 colourfully restored Victorian Houses known as the Painted Ladies set against the backdrop of the modern city. Staying around here offers fabulous views over Golden Gate Park, where 60s freedom fighters would stage impromptu music festivals and performances. Next to Alamo Square is Fillmore, a diverse neighbourhood full of a variety of ethnic restaurants and jazz clubs.

Connected on the East side is Japantown, San Francisco's vibrant Japanese Quarter.

Why Avoid Haight-ashbury And West Of Civic Center

There's not much reason to avoid this lively and vibrant neighbourhood. But it's important to note that it does attract a diverse crowd interested in the hippie vibe San Francisco is well known for. Expect eclectic bars and restaurants, but also some of the most colourful houses in the whole of the city.

Where To Stay In San Francisco Haight-ashbury And West Of Civic Center

Luxury: Hotel Stanyan Park Hotel

Overlooking San Francisco's Embarcadero waterfront, this hotel features an outdoor rooftop terrace, a spa and a restaurant.
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Luxury: Hotel 1 San Francisco

Overlooking San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront, this hotel features an outdoor rooftop terrace. Plush bathrobes, comfortable slippers and free boutique toiletries are provided in the en suite bathrooms.
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Famous Lombard street during sunset in San Francisco

Embarcedero And Financial District

Why Stay In Embarcedero And Financial District

Embarcedero is San Francisco's gateway to the world, and oh “the places you'll go!” The ferry building stands beneath Market Street and houses a food hall, restaurants and a farmer's market. From here, you can also take day trips from San Francisco.

The man made Treasure Island lies across the bay and is easily reached from Embarcadero's ferry ports; as well as nearby Marin County, Vallejo, Oakland, and Alameda. Bordering the Financial district is Chinatown, one of the oldest Chinese settlements in the whole of the US.

The streets and alleys here are full to the brim with rich street foods and traditional eateries. Head here for a taste of Asian culture, elaborate temples, and some of San Francisco's oldest cocktail bars.

For something lovely during your stay in San Francisco, head to the Washington Square Park to enjoy a picnic with your loved ones.

Why Avoid Embarcedero And Financial District

Places close early around Embarcedero and the Financial District, so it's not the best place to find nightlife. However, you'll find some great hotels in the area and this area is ideal for early risers.

Where To Stay In San Francisco Embarcedero And Financial District

Luxury: Four Seasons Embarcadero

Loews Regency San Francisco features stunning views of downtown San Francisco from each spacious guestroom. As a tip, stay in an upper floor to admire the San Francisco skyline at night.
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Luxury: Hotel Omni San Francisco

Centrally located at the intersection of California Street and Montgomery Street, Omni San Francisco boasts a restaurant and elegant rooms.
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Mid-range: Hotel Club Quarters

Club Quarters Hotel is a 3-star hotel situated in the heart of San Francisco's business and financial district.
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California Street in San Francisco

South Of Market (SOMA)

Why Stay In South Of Market

In the South of Market, one popular spot is the Vertigo Hotel, where the renowned auteur Alfred Hitchcock famously shot his hit film Vertigo.

Looking for a hotel in South of market or SoMa maximizes your chances of eating your way through the best of dining experiences on offer in the city. If you want to avoid staying in a hostel but are still wanting a cheap hotel room, there are some nice accommodations here. It's also great to access The Mission, where the burgeoning Latino culture offers up a smorgasbord of delectable eateries.

Surrounding Yerba Buena Gardens, you'll find several museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The area is dotted with upscale dining options and exciting nightclubs.

Why Avoid South Of Market

Wander into the West and South of Downtown, and the utopian view of San Francisco will fall away to reveal the harsh reality of the cities' diversity. The neighbourhood has its fair share of dodgy dealings to be wary of and a startling amount of homeless people.

Nevertheless, being so close to Union Square, expect to find some top class hotels in the area as well.

Where To Stay In San Francisco South Of Market

Luxury: InterContinental San Francisco

Overlooking San Francisco's SoMa area and moments from top city centre sites, InterContinental San Francisco is a fantastic place to stay in San Francisco for first time visitors.
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Mid-range: The Pickwick San Francisco

The Pickwick Hotel San Francisco offers spacious rooms, and it's just 2 minutes' walk from Westfield Shopping Centre.
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Castro district in San Francisco

The Mission And The Castro

Why Stay In The Mission And The Castro

If San Francisco had a heart, it would beat contentedly from the inner suburbs of the Mission and the Castro. Here, San Francisco's diverse culture and personality pulses through the streets. The areas are filled with galleries, local pop up shops, vibrant bars and restaurants and a thriving, rich nightlife.

A melting pot of cultures commandeers the food scene with a mix of hipster cafés, Mexican eateries and traditional taquerías. This is also where you'll find the oldest building in San Francisco - Mission Dolores, built in 1776 and survivor of two earthquakes.

The Mission also has the cities largest and oldest collection of murals. You could spend hours wandering the quaint streets searching for hidden gems. The Mission is the heart of Latino expression, whilst the Castro is literally bursting with Pride; an expanding LGBTQ neighbourhood with regular events and always something new to experience.

Castro is proud to pronounce itself the “gay capital of the world.” Many B&B's in these areas are housed in beautiful historic buildings and offer home cooked scrumptious breakfasts. The towering heights of Twin Peaks stand nearby, with a hilltop park providing an epic 360 view of the Bay Area.

Why Avoid The Mission And The Castro

In many areas of the city, car break-ins are frequent. Be extra vigilant if choosing to drive in the city, especially in the busier neighbourhoods. Although, we don't advise that you drive in San Francisco. The public transport is much faster and more reliable. Besides, you'll want to walk around the city to take it all in.

Where To Stay In San Francisco Around The Mission And The Castro

Luxury: Motel Beck's

The colourful Castro District in San Francisco is home to this charming motel, nestled on a tree-lined street near local attractions. A great place to stay in San Francisco on a budget.
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Mid-range: The Willows Inn B&B

The Willows Inn is 1.2 miles from San Francisco City Hall. A fantastic place to stay in San Francisco to be surrounded by a great deal of eateries.
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Mid-range: Hotel Castro

The Hotel Castro features rooms with air conditioning and free WiFi. The property is around 1.6 miles from San Francisco City Hall, 2.5 miles from Union Square and 2.5 miles from Moscone Center.
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Crossing the golden gate bridge for day trips from San Francisco

Where should I stay in San Francisco for the first time?

Nob Hill and Union Square are both fantastic areas to stay in San Francisco for the first time. They are both centrally located, with great transport links, so any tourist can access all the main attractions in a heartbeat.

Where do most tourists stay in San Francisco?

Most tourists stay in Downtown and Fisherman's Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf, on the northern waterfront, is one of San Francisco's busiest tourist areas. Downtown is ideal for entertainment seekers.

What areas should you avoid in San Francisco?

Tenderloin is a high crime neighbourhood, and you should avoid it when you visit San Francisco. There is no reason to go there as there are no tourist attractions. Geary is the dividing line between the Tenderloin proper and Lower Nob Hill.

What is the safest area in San Francisco to stay?

Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown both have low crime rates, and they are very safe for tourists. Fisherman's Wharf is especially fun and safe and the most popular with tourists too.

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