As a Colorado local, I know firsthand that Boulder is a beautiful city to explore and offers tons of fun activities for visitors. Whether you’re an avid outdoor adventurer who wants to climb a mountain or a foodie who wants to try the hottest restaurant, you’ll find plenty to do here!
If you’re visiting for the first time and wondering where to stay in Boulder, Colorado, you’ll probably want to stay in the Pearl Street neighborhood.
The Pearl Street area has a beautiful pedestrian mall, with plenty of shopping, restaurants, and even small parks and outdoor spaces for kids to play. It’s near some of Boulder’s main attractions, and is a short distance from the University of Colorado Boulder. It’s also home to some popular hotels like the St. Julien Hotel & Spa and the Hotel Boulderado.
If you’re looking for more information on where to stay in Boulder, CO and the neighborhoods that make up the city, I’ll break it all down for you here!
Table of Contents
- 7 Best Places to Stay in Boulder
- 7 Best Neighborhoods and Areas to Stay in Boulder
- Tips for Staying in Boulder
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Boulder
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7 Best Places to Stay in Boulder
Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Boulder, CO? Here are my top picks:
- Best Overall Hotel – Hotel Boulderado
- Best Luxury Hotel – St. Julien Hotel & Spa
- Best for Families – Boulder Adventure Lodge
- Best for Business – Courtyard by Marriott Boulder
- Best Boutique Hotel – Basecamp Boulder
- Best Near The University – Boulder Marriott
- Best Budget – Boulder University Inn
That’s the short answer, but now let’s do a deep dive of the best areas and neighborhoods to stay in Boulder:
7 Best Neighborhoods and Areas to Stay in Boulder
Most people looking for hotels in Boulder are going to want to stay near CU or along Pearl Street in downtown Boulder.
CU – short for University of Colorado Boulder – is the largest college in the state. College buildings and students make up a big part of the city and contribute to its laid back vibe. If you’re looking for places to stay in Boulder, Colorado that are near campus, you’ll want to look at The Hill, just next to CU.
If you want to be in downtown Boulder and be near all the sightseeing and Boulder landmarks, you’ll want to stay in the Pearl Street neighborhood.
This map shows all of Boulder’s neighborhoods and might be helpful as you consider where to stay in Boulder.
Pearl Street Mall Neighborhood
If you’re visiting Boulder for the first time, you want to stay near the Pearl Street Mall! The area is an outdoor pedestrian mall in downtown Boulder that stretches many blocks and is full of things to see and outdoor areas where kids can play.
You’ll be within walking distance of lots of restaurants, bars, and shops. A bike and walking path along Boulder Creek is also within walking distance.
The mall is the historic center of Boulder, with lots of beautiful buildings and, always, views of the Flatirons looming in the distance. The area is especially beautiful in spring when hundreds of tulips bloom all along the pedestrian streets of the mall.
Pros of Staying in the Pearl Street Mall Neighborhood:
- The center of the best stuff to see and do in Boulder
- Pedestrian and bike-friendly
- Close to bars, restaurants, and shopping
Con of Staying in the Pearl Street Mall Neighborhood:
- Hotels can be pricey, especially during peak travel periods
📚 Pearl Street Mall Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for First-Time Visitors
- ✨ Best Hotels – St. Julien Hotel & Spa • The Bradley Boulder Inn • Hotel Boulderado • Basecamp Boulder
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Pearl Street Mall
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Frasca Food & Wine ($$$$), SALT ($$), The West End Tavern ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – The Bitter Bar, Pearl St. Pub & Cellar
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Boulder Creek Bike Path, Boulder Theater
University Hill Neighborhood
If you’re headed to visit a student at CU or going to watch the Buffs play at Folsom Field, University Hill is the best place to stay in Boulder, CO. The college town neighborhood is close to CU and you can walk or bike to make of the places on campus. Just be aware – “The Hill” is an actual hill and you may need to stop and catch your breath while walking it!
While at University Hill, you’ll be near the great dive bars and funky shops that always seem to surround college campuses. Be sure to grab a meal at The Sink, where Robert Redford once worked as a janitor before getting kicked out of CU.
Pros of Staying in the University Hill Neighborhood:
- Close to CU
- Lots of bars, restaurants, and shopping
Con of Staying in the University Hill Neighborhood:
- Parking is hard to find (and probably not free!)
📚 University Hill Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for College Visitors
The Colorado Chautauqua is a National Historic Landmark that encompasses hiking trails that include a hard but rewarding hike up the Flatirons for amazing views of Boulder and the Rockies.
The area also has cottages built in 1925 for rent, and you can eat at the delicious, historic Chautauqua Dining Hall. The park originally hosted performances, concerts, and lectures, and still has concerts, films, and other events to this day.
Pros of Staying in the Chautauqua Neighborhood:
- Lots of hiking
- Quieter and calmer than downtown
Con of Staying in the Chautauqua Neighborhood:
- Need to drive to get to most bars, restaurants, and shopping
📚 Chautauqua Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Outdoor Lovers
- ✨ Best Hotels – Colorado Chautauqua Cottages • Boulder University Inn
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Chautauqua
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Chautauqua Dining Hall ($$), Flagstaff House Restaurant ($$$$), Black Cat ($$$$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Chautauqua Dining Hall, No Name Bar
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Chautauqua Park, Chautauqua Auditorium
👉 Best Area For Arts & Breweries | ✨ Best North Boulder Area Hotels: Hampton Inn & Suites Boulder North • Holiday Inn Express Boulder • Residence Inn by Marriott Boulder Canyon Boulevard
North Boulder is popular with young families, and trendy businesses like breweries and wineries are sprouting up in the area. This area used to be industrial, but is now being transformed by small businesses moving into the region. There are also plenty of restaurants and shops to browse.
Pros of Staying in the North Neighborhood:
- First Friday Art Walks showcase local artists
- Breweries, wineries, and small businesses
Con of Staying in the Chautauqua Neighborhood:
- More suburban-feeling than Pearl or The Hill
📚 North Boulder Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Art And Craft Beer Lovers
- ✨ Best Hotels – Hampton Inn & Suites Boulder North • Holiday Inn Express Boulder • Residence Inn by Marriott Boulder Canyon Boulevard
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in North Boulder
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Wapos ($), Dagabi Cucina ($$), Little Tibet ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Upslope Brewing, Settembre Cellars
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – First Friday Art Walk, Wonderland Lake
Twenty Ninth Street
There’s lots of shopping at Twenty Ninth Street – it’s an outdoor shopping mall district with brand-name stores. It also has gorgeous views of the mountains beyond.
Twenty Ninth Street isn’t far from CU or downtown Boulder but it has a completely different vibe with its modern stores. In summer, there are outdoor concerts and live music.
Pros of Staying in the Twenty Ninth St. Neighborhood:
- Lots of shopping
- Plenty of places to eat or grab coffee
Con of Staying in the Twenty Ninth St. Neighborhood:
- Lots of chain stores and restaurants
📚 Twenty Ninth St. Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Outdoor Shopping
- ✨ Best Hotels – Embassy Suites By Hilton Boulder • Boulder Marriott
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Twenty Ninth St.
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse ($$), Native Foods ($$), Verde Boulder ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Bluff Street Bar & Billiards, Outback Saloon
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Twenty Ninth St Mall, Trader Joe’s
👉 Best Area For Parks | ✨ Best South Boulder Hotels: Hilton Garden Inn Boulder • Residence Inn by Marriott Boulder Canyon Boulevard • Boulder Marriott
South Boulder is a calm suburban area with plenty of outdoor parks and trails. The Rocky Mountain foothills loom above the area, providing a beautiful backdrop for everything that goes on there!
Play disc golf at Harlow Platts Community Park, or walk around Viele Lake to get some fresh air. There are also several pubs and restaurants where you can grab a pint or get some lunch.
Pros of Staying in the South Boulder Neighborhood:
- Lots of outdoor parks & trails
- Quiet and laid back
Con of Staying in the South Boulder. Neighborhood:
- Lacking the nightlife of downtown
📚 South Boulder Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Outdoor Parks & Trails
- ✨ Best Hotels – Hilton Garden Inn Boulder • Residence Inn by Marriott Boulder Canyon Boulevard • Boulder Marriott
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in South Boulder
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – South Side Walnut Cafe ($$), Southern Sun Pub & Brewery ($$), Dark Horse ($)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Southern Sun Pub & Brewery, Murphy’s South on Broadway
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Harlow Platts Community Park, The US National Center for Atmospheric Research
Gunbarrel is known for their delicious craft beer scene. You can also check out Twin Lakes, and the Boulder Reservoir, where you can boat, swim, fish, or walk along the loop trail.
Pros of Staying in the Gunbarrel Neighborhood:
- Lots of hiking & outdoor activities
- New breweries
Con of Staying in the Gunbarrel Boulder. Neighborhood:
- Removed from downtown
📚 Gunbarrel Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Breweries & Hiking
- ✨ Best Hotels – Boulder Twin Lakes Inn • Hampton Inn & Suites Boulder North
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Gunbarrel
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Sancho’s Gunbarrel Mexican Restaurant ($), Proto’s Pizza ($$), Cafe Blue ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Gunbarrel Brewing Company, Avery Brewing Company
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Twin Lakes, Valmont Bike Park
Tips for Staying in Boulder
It’s a common joke in Colorado that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes. During all four seasons here, you can get warm sun and cold breezes. In fact, it has snowed in every month of the year at some point here!
Layers are key for spending a day exploring Boulder and the surrounding areas. Thin, warm layers you can easily take on and off are going to make your exploring much more comfortable. And, of course, you’ll want a backpack to carry them around!
⛰️ Read Next: Best Places to Stay in Colorado
Always wear sunscreen
Cloudy days can trick everyone into forgetting to sunscreen up, but you can easily get burned on those days! If you’re here in winter, reflection from snow can make UV rays even more intense. You’ll definitely want a sunscreen formulated for your face, plus a sport sunscreen for the rest of your body!
You Can Go Hiking Right From Town
One of the wonderful things about Boulder is all of the many hiking trails close to Boulder. Several of the best ones don’t even require a rental car – the trail entrances are close enough to downtown that you can just go by foot!
Boulder is a Great Day Trip Base
With that said, if you do have a car, Boulder has very easy access to the mountain and makes a great base for exploring the nearby nature. Check out my guide to the best trips to take for a day from Boulder for some ideas.
Denver and Boulder Have Very Different Vibes
For tips on what to do, eat, and more, check out our full Denver travel guide.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Boulder
What is Boulder known for?
Boulder is known for its outdoor activities, which go on year-round. In the warmer months, hiking, biking, rock climbing, and boating are all popular. In winter, people head to a Boulder mountain park nearby for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
There are also many world class Colorado ski resorts, and so of course winter sports are another popular outdoor activity. Boulder is also known for its craft beer scene, and for Pearl Street Mall, which has plenty of outdoor shopping and food.
Can you see the Rocky Mountains from Boulder?
You can definitely see the Rocky Mountains from Boulder! The Rockies are visible from Pearl Street Mall, and from many other parks and areas of the city.
If you want an even closer look at the mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park is just an hour’s drive from the city and you can drive more than 12,000 feet up into the mountains along Trail Ridge Road on your visit!
Do I need a car in Boulder?
You do not need a car in Boulder. If you’re planning to stay in the city itself, you can walk to many places you’ll want to see. There are also great bike rental programs, so you can ride. If you want to take a day to explore Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, or other areas outside of Boulder, you may want a car for that.
Hopefully, this look at areas and hotels in Boulder has given you a good idea of the neighborhoods where you want to narrow your search. Pearl Street and The Hill are the most popular choices for hotels in Boulder, because they’re near a lot of spots people want to visit.
However, the serenity of The Chautauqua, the shopping along Twenty Ninth Street, and the up-and-coming areas of North Boulder are all interesting places to consider as well.
Once you’ve determined where to stay in Boulder, Colorado, be sure to check out my extensive list of things to do in Boulder, as well as the best hikes in the area. If you’re staying for more than a day or two, you may also want to check out this list of the best day trips from Boulder to the surrounding areas.