Deciding where to stay in Berkeley is a key component of planning a trip to Berkeley or the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area. In this guide, I’ll you everything you need to know to find the best place to stay in Berkley for your travel style.
Famously known as a college town, Berkeley is one of the most charming cities in California.
I’ve lived in California my whole life and know the ins and outs of the best places to stay in the state. I’ll break down the best neighborhoods and hotels in Berkeley. You can also check out my guide to the best things to do in Berkeley.
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Stay in Berkeley
- 5 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Berkeley
- Tips for Staying in Berkeley
- FAQs About Where to Stay in Berkeley
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Best Places to Stay in Berkeley
Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Berkeley? Here are my top picks:
- 🏆 Best Overall Hotel – Graduate Berkeley
- 💎 Best Luxury Hotel – The Claremont Club & Spa
- 👪 Best for Families – DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
- 👔 Best for Business – Hotel Shattuck Plaza
- 🏨 Best Boutique – Berkeley City Club Hotel
- 🏙️ Best Near Downtown Berkeley – Bancroft Hotel
- 💵 Best Budget – Berkeley Inn
Ok, let’s do a deep dive of the best areas and neighborhoods in Berkeley:
5 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Berkeley
Who doesn’t want a view of the San Francisco Bay while in Northern California? The Berkeley Marina is the best place to stay for pristine bayfront views.
Located in the westernmost portion of Berkeley, you will find some of the best seafood in town in the Berkeley Marina. This is also a great place for visitors to sit and watch the boats roll in and out of the harbor and to catch a sweet sea breeze.
The hotels in this area offer some of the best views in all of Berkeley, making this district a city hotspot. Visitors who choose to stay in the Berkeley Marina neighborhood can enjoy boating, picnics, and close access to other main attractions in town.
Adventure Playground is one of the top attractions of the Berkeley Marina area. Take your little ones here for a playtime they won’t forget.
Pros of Staying in Berkeley Marina Neighborhood:
- Best oceanfront views
- Kid-friendly activities and parks
- Cozy accommodation options available
- Best seafood restaurants in town
Cons of Staying in Berkeley Marina Neighborhood:
- Not a lot of accommodation options
- There can be traffic here on the weekends
- A seafood scent is present throughout the area
📚 Berkeley Marina Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Bayfront Views
- ✨ Best Hotels – DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel • La Quinta Inn • Berkeley Inn
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Berkeley Marina
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse ($$$), Skates on the Bay ($$$), Oceanview Diner ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Canela Bistro and Wine Bar, Tupper & Reed
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Adventure Playground, Cesar E. Chavez Park
Downtown Berkeley is where most of the action happens in the Northern California college town. While neighborhoods near the university are usually packed with college students and families, downtown caters to individuals of all backgrounds.
Downtown Berkeley has the widest variety of sports bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, and entertainment out of all Berkeley neighborhoods. Almost everything is within walking distance, which saves you money on renting a car or using public transportation.
Make new Berkeley friends by attending a Downtown Berkeley happy hour or “Thirsty Thursday” event or enjoy trying on different vintage pieces at one of the many vintage shops in town.
Staying in Downtown Berkeley means close proximity to the main Berkeley attractions on your itinerary.
Pros of Staying in Downtown Berkeley Neighborhood:
- Central location
- Plenty of accommodation options
- Abundant public transportation is available
- Many bars, shops, and restaurants in the area
Cons of Staying in Downtown Berkeley Neighborhood:
- Crowded streets, restaurants, and hotels
- There can be traffic
- The area can be noisy at night
📚 Downtown Berkeley Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Central Location
- ✨ Best Hotels – Hotel Shattuck Plaza • Downtown Berkeley Inn • Bancroft Hotel
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Downtown Berkeley
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Eureka! ($$), La Note ($$), Comal ($$$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Triple Rock Brewing, Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley YMCA
If hiking is high on your Berkeley itinerary, then you should consider staying in the Berkeley Hills neighborhood. This area is backdropped against the rolling Berkeley hills, making it one of the most scenic areas in the big city.
Berkeley Hills is removed from most of the hustle and bustle of other busy neighborhoods and provides residents with a sense of peace and quiet. Stay in this neighborhood if you prioritize a good night’s rest over sightseeing and nightlife.
The Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve is the best place to go hiking around this area. Most of the Berkeley hiking trails are near the Berkeley Hills neighborhood and they are suited for individuals of all fitness levels. Berkeley trails are some of the best hikes in California.
👉 Pro Tip: The Berkeley Hills neighborhood is the perfect place to go bird watching and spotting other wildlife. Make sure to bring your binoculars on your hike for the chance to catch native California wildlife.
Pros of Staying in Berkeley Hills Neighborhood:
- Quieter than other Berkeley neighborhoods
- Close to the main hiking trails in the city
- Very little traffic
Cons of Staying in Berkeley Hills Neighborhood:
- Fewer accommodation options are available
- Fewer restaurants in the area
- The neighborhood is suited more for residents
- Few tourist attractions around
📚 Berkeley Hills Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Hiking
- ✨ Best Hotels – Cottage in Albany • SenS Hotel • Nash Hotel
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Berkeley Hills
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Jerusalem Organic Kitchen ($), Ajanta ($$), Noah’s NY Bagels ($)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Henry’s Bar & Restaurant, The Starry Plough Pub
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Indian Rock Park, Codornices Park, Cragmont Rock Park
Southside Berkeley is directly adjacent to the University of California, Berkeley campus. This is the best area to stay if touring the campus is your main priority.
Most of the residents and guests in the Southside are university students and their families. Here, you will find dorms, student apartments, and sorority and fraternity houses. This neighborhood is a great way to experience local Berkeley camaraderie.
Southside Berkeley was initially established to house university students. This may be the perfect neighborhood for you if nightlife is high on your experience Berkeley list due to the high number of bars in the area.
Check out Telegraph Avenue while you’re in the area. Spanning 4.5 miles from Oakland to the UC Berkeley campus, this is the best spot to shop for souvenirs, check out a local bookstore, or go vintage shopping.
Pros of Staying in Southside Neighborhood:
- Close to UC Berkeley
- Has a lively nightlife scene
- Many affordable restaurants and bars in the area
- Quality accommodation options
Cons of Staying in Southside Neighborhood:
- Accommodation can be expensive
- College students can be loud at night
- There is usually traffic in this area
📚 Southside Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Campus Access
North Berkeley is just north of downtown and its boundaries extend all the way to the northwestern end of the UC Berkeley campus. The primary business district in Berkeley is situated here, known as the Gourmet Ghetto.
Try some of the most well-known California cuisines in the Gourmet Ghetto area including premium coffee, rich chocolate, California pizza, and high-quality wine.
With a small population count, North Berkeley remains an under-the-radar tourist destination with less traffic than other neighborhoods and more accommodations options available. It is within walking distance of main bus stops, the university, and some of the other top Berkeley attractions.
Guests can rent houses and apartments in North Berkeley or opt to stay in one of the area’s affordable hotel options.
Pros of Staying in North Berkeley Neighborhood:
- Close to the University of California, Berkeley
- Delicious eateries and bars in the area
- Affordable hotels and house rentals
Cons of Staying in North Berkeley Neighborhood:
- Far from other Berkeley attractions
- Not many hotel options are available
- There can be traffic from university students, especially during special events or sports games
📚 North Berkeley Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Restaurants
- ✨ Best Hotels – Aiden by Best Western at Berkeley • Residence Inn by Marriott Berkeley • Quality Inn University
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in North Berkeley
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Berkeley North ($$), Grégoire Restaurant ($$), Crepevine Restaurants ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Revival Bar + Kitchen, Spats Berkeley
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Gourmet Ghetto, UC Berkeley, North Berkeley Farmers Market
Tips for Staying in Berkeley
Pack for the Weather
Berkeley experiences cold weather year-round. While the summer months may have a few days or weeks of sunshine, the nights are still chilly.
Your best bet is packing layers so you stay as comfortable as possible on your trip to Berkeley. If you visit in the winter, late fall, or early spring months, you will want to pack your heaviest coat.
Use Public Transportation
Public transportation is so reliable in Berkeley that most visitors don’t even rent a car. This will save you some serious money in the long run.
Take the public BART high-speed subway, public buses, or rideshares to get around efficiently in Berkeley.
Tour the Campus
One of the biggest draws to Berkeley is to visit the famous UC Berkeley campus. Berkeley is only a short, 25-minute commute from San Francisco and many visitors take a day trip from the Golden Gate City to tour the campus.
Schedule an official tour ahead of time or simply walk the campus yourself next time you’re in town.
Fly into Oakland International Airport
Fly into Oakland International Airport when you visit Berkeley. This is the closest area to Downtown Berkeley and will save you money on the commute.
Visit Telegraph Avenue for Souvenirs
Located in Downtown Berkeley, Telegraph Avenue is the best place to buy souvenirs from the Bay Area. They are cheaper here than in nearby San Francisco souvenir stores and you are guaranteed to find everything you need.
FAQs About Where to Stay in Berkeley
What is the best hotel in Berkeley?
The Claremont Club & Spa hotel is the best hotel in Berkeley. It is one of the most luxurious in the area and is a highly popular option.
How do you get around Berkeley without a car?
You can get around Berkeley without a car. Most visitors don’t bother renting a car in Berkeley because public transportation is so reliable.
Where is the best place to live in Berkeley?
Is Berkeley a good location?
Berkeley is only 25 minutes from San Francisco in Northern California. It is in the perfect location and close to other major metropolitan areas.
Now you’re ready to book your trip to Berkeley! Thanks for reading my complete guide on where to stay in Berkeley. For more Northern California travel information, check out my guide to where to stay in San Francisco.
(Featured Image Credit: ZikG / Shutterstock)
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