View of the skyline in Oakland before sunset

Where to Stay in Oakland, By a Local (Best Areas & Places)

There are plenty of great places to stay in Oakland, but not all areas of the city are created equal. Sometimes referred to as “Brooklyn By The Bay”, this city is full of arts and culture. But picking where to stay in Oakland is just as important as the things you do there.

I’ve been an Oakland local since last summer and have quickly fallen in love with my new home. While most people visiting the Bay Area tend to head straight to San Francisco, the fact that you’re here means you know Oakland is a hidden gem under the guise of a large, bustling city. 

To help savor your time in Oakland, this article is filled with my insider tips and tricks about the best areas and neighborhoods for staying in Oakland.

Let’s dive in!

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Best Places to Stay in Oakland

Aerial view of Downtown Oakland

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Oakland? Here are my top picks: 

Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods for your stay in Oakland: 

5 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Oakland

Oakland is located in the innermost part of the bay, across the bridge from San Francisco and south of Berkeley. Locals generally refer to the Oakland area as “The East Bay.”  For more information, check out this map of Oakland’s neighborhoods as you navigate where to stay in Oakland. 

Downtown Oakland

View of historical architectures in Oakland
A glimpse of modern buildings coexisting with Oakland’s historic architecture

👉 Best Area For Historic Attractions | ✨ Best Downtown Hotels: Oakland Marriott City CenterMoxy Oakland DowntownCourtyard Oakland Downtown

Nine miles from the Oakland International Airport, downtown Oakland is truly a melting pot of personalities. From video game designers to civil rights lawyers, there is no doubt a place for you on the main strip of Broadway near the Oakland City Center. 

The main architecture of downtown is from the mid-1800s, such as the well-known Cathedral Building, which makes this the ideal stay in Oakland for any historical architecture lover. But it doesn’t stop there – in-between the historic attractions of downtown lies renovated, colorful shops like the boutique ice-creamery Awaken Cafe

In the middle of downtown is the 12-block Oakland Marriott City Center which hosts free noon-time concerts throughout the year. From the shopping scene to the unconventional street art, downtown is welcome to anyone.

Pros of Staying in Downtown Oakland:

  • Easy transportation via the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station
  • Historic buildings and closest area to the Oakland museum
  • Lively nightlife 
  • Around 15 minutes from the Oakland International Airport with traffic

Cons of Staying in Downtown Oakland:

  • Reservations need to be made in advance because hotels fill quickly
  • Can be loud and hectic
  • Hotels tend to be more expensive
  • Free parking is not available

📚 Downtown Oakland Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Oakland for Historic Attractions
Google Map

Jack London District

View of people enjoying their day on Jack London Square
Soak up the sun at one of Jack London Square’s many bars and restaurants (photo: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Access to San Francisco | ✨ Best Jack London District Hotels: Waterfront Hotel in Jack London SquareZ Hotel Jack London SquareThe Washington Inn

My personal favorite place to stay in Oakland, The Jack London District is great for those wanting easy access to the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s also home to the exquisite Waterfront Hotel (it has an outdoor pool) and some great activities.

Near the Port of Oakland, this location offers ferry transit that will take you right downtown San Francisco (the San Francisco skyline view from the ferry is phenomenal.) But that’s not the only reason the Jack London District is a convenient place to stay – while here, I recommend going on a wine tasting at urban wineries like Rosenblum Cellars, participating in bocce, and bowling at Plank, or tuning into a music night at Yoshi’s

Whatever you are in the mood for, Jack London Square hosts an event made for you with the best hotels for your stay in Oakland.

Pros of Staying in Jack London District:

  • The best waterfront hotels in Oakland
  • View of the waterfront alongside the BayTrail
  • Easy access to the San Francisco ferry / Alameda for less than five dollars
  • Lots of great restaurants and breweries
  • Jack London Square Farmers Market and street music
  • Dog-friendly neighborhood 
  • Roughly 15 minutes from the Oakland International Airport with traffic

Cons of Staying in Jack London District:

  • Quieter for those seeking vibrant nightlife
  • Bustling Amtrak station nearby means trains are heard throughout the day
  • Free parking is not available

📚 Jack London Square Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Oakland for Access to San Francisco
Google Map

Temescal

View of people in the Temescal Farmers Market
Visit the Temescal Farmers Market and cafes with your family (photo: cdrin / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Families | ✨ Best Temescal Hotels: The Claremont ClubHyatt PlaceBroadway Motel

One of the oldest Oakland neighborhoods, Temescal is now mostly inhabited by younger families and is the go-to place for anyone looking to explore the hip, family-friendly side of Oakland. 

The streets are lined with gorgeous murals, and it’s home to the luxurious hotel Claremont Club and some of the most unique eats Oakland has to offer. There is even an alley dedicated to shops and restaurants – I recommend enjoying a donut at Donut Dolly’s, having a sit-down meal of wood-fired pizza at Pizzaiolo, or even enjoy the smells of herbs and oils in the Homestead Apothecary. 

Temescal is a great option when deciding where to stay in Oakland because of its unique, fun vibe.

Pros of Staying in Temescal:

  • Art galleries, unique cafes, and vintage boutiques
  • Perfect for those who prefer a quieter area
  • Near Lake Temescal

Cons of Staying in Temescal:

  • Reservations should be made in advance 
  • Pricier than other Oakland locations
  • Upwards of ~20 minutes of travel to the Oakland International Airport with heavier traffic

📚 Temescal Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Oakland for Families
Google Map

Piedmont Avenue

View from the inside of a bar in Oakland
Enjoy the nightlife at any of the lively attractions on Piedmont Avenue (photo: cdrin / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Nightlife | ✨ Best Piedmont Hotels: Imperial Inn OaklandWestwind LodgePiedmont Place

Piedmont Avenue is where to stay in Oakland for travelers interested in trendy bars, a Michelin-starred restaurant, vintage shops, and local goods. Although Piedmont Avenue is stacked with stores, it also has a small-town vibe with historic sites like the Chapel of Chimes, so travelers can get the best of both worlds. 

Walking along Piedmont Avenue, you’ll run into local graduate students, couples and families walking their dogs, and friends catching up while listening to live music at Cato’s Ale House.

Pros of Staying in Piedmont Avenue:

  • Lively nightlife within walking distance
  • One-of-a-kind shops and historic attractions
  • Great place to shop for vintage clothing and home antiques

Cons of Staying in Piedmont Avenue:

  • Locals frequent the restaurants and bars, so wait times can be longer
  • Not as many family-friendly attractions
  • The furthest location from the Oakland International Airport

📚 Piedmont Avenue Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Oakland for Nightlife
Google Map

Grand Lake / Adam’s Point

View while having a stroll near the Grand Lake
Take a stroll near the lake with your morning coffee

👉 Best Area For Casual, Quaint Stay | ✨ Best Grand Lake Vacation Rentals: Arts & Crafts Mediterranean-Style Home Secluded Garden Cottage Lake Merritt One Bedroom

Grand Lake / Adam’s Point is where to stay in Oakland if you’re looking for more of a quaint, relaxed vibe. This neighborhood soaks up the sunshine and rests directly by Lake Merritt, one of the top attractions in the Oakland area. 

After riding the Lake Merritt gondola, try grabbing a bite to eat from any of the local food trucks by the water. Music is often performed on the street here nearly every night of the week. 

This area is great for a romantic stay in Oakland – and I recommend couples catch a film at the exquisite Grand Lake Theater. Built in 1926, where you will be mesmerized by starry ceilings and chandeliers while purchasing your tickets. 

Pros of Staying in Grand Lake / Adam’s Point

  • “Mom-and-pop” shops create a communal atmosphere 
  • Multiple attractions are within walking distance
  • There’s rarely traffic on the way to the Oakland International Airport
  • Plenty of opportunities for free parking

Cons of Staying in Grand Lake / Adam’s Point

  • Not the best area if looking for hotels in Oakland, so opt for a vacation rental
  • Traffic and parking are difficult at most times of the day
  • The nearest BART subway station can be a 30-minute walk depending on where you are in Grand Lake / Adam’s Point

📚 Grand Lake / Adam’s Point Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay in Oakland for Casual, Quaint Vacation
Google Map

Tips for Staying in Oakland, California

Take Advantage of Oakland’s Public Transportation

Rideshares can be incredibly expensive in the bay. I highly suggest utilizing the public transportation upon your arrival from the Oakland International Airport using the BART train. If you are wanting to head to San Francisco or Alameda from Oakland, I suggest checking out the San Francisco Bay Ferry routes and schedule

When using public transportation, download the Clipper Card app where you can pay from your phone for easy access to any of the transits mentioned above. For example, using my Clipper card only costs me $4.50 to visit San Francisco from Oakland on the ferry, compared to a $30 rideshare (without traffic). 

Enjoy Oakland’s Diverse Food Options

Oakland truly is a melting pot of diverse cultures and communities. Within miles of downtown exists Chinatown, authentic Mexican-food joints, vegan soul-food, and food trucks with Singaporian, Columbian, and Jamaican cuisine – to name a few. 

In order to survey all the food options Oakland has to offer, try heading to Lake Merritt where you’ll run into a variety of food trucks alongside locals enjoying their meals by the lake. 

Visit a Street Market or Farmers Market

Oakland farmers’ markets are communal spaces that provide street music, unique art from local vendors, and strawberries like you have never seen – even in the off-season.

I enjoy farmers’ markets because they are a great way to show love and support for the city, and they provide visitors a real look into the welcoming and celebratory space that is the center of Oakland. Also, these are notable stops for anyone interested in getting souvenirs for loved ones at home during your stay in Oakland. 

Stop and Enjoy the Murals

Street art is a popular form of artist expression in Oakland. As a visitor, you’ll witness a city where people truly love to explore their creativity – as evidenced on both residential and commercial streets. 

The eclectic collection of murals in Oakland encompasses civil rights movements, dedications to the city, and colorful whirlwinds that inspire those lucky enough to stumble upon them. 

Attend a Sports Game

Many people may wonder if Oakland is still a sports-centered city after the Raiders relocated to Las Vegas. The answer is, absolutely! 

Oaklanders continue to strongly support teams across an array of sports. During baseball season, head to an Oakland A’s game at the RingCentral Colesium. There’s also exciting news ahead for anyone who is an A’s fan, as a new stadium will be in the works within the next few years. 

For soccer fans, the Oakland Roots are held dear in the hearts of Oakland residents. There are also a plethora of sports bars in the area where you’ll see owners proudly displaying banners for Oakland-based teams.

Take a Peaceful Stroll in the Redwoods

My personal favorite, the Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is a 10-minute drive from Oakland. When you’re needing an escape from the urban sprawl, consider exploring the shade of the towering Redwoods. This also gives you a beautiful view of the cityscape during your stay in Oakland from an irresistible vantage point. 

The Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, one of many easy access points to the Redwoods, offers a selection of trails for both beginner hikers and experts alike. If you’re traveling with your dog, there are also many trail options that are dog-friendly. It amazes me that Oakland is a city that can offer both a high-spirited nightlife and a relaxing, natural escape within a short drive.

🌴 Read All Our Guides to Staying in California:

FAQs About Where to Stay in Oakland

What is the best part of Oakland?

The best part of Oakland is the Jack London District. The location is perfect for your first stay in Oakland because it is extremely safe and easy to get around without a rental car. It also gives travelers the option to visit the San Francisco Bay Area without hassle. 

What is considered downtown Oakland?

The main strip of downtown Oakland is considered to be Broadway, from 8th to 17th street. This strip is considered the commercial heart of the city of Oakland, with its main attraction being the Oakland City Center. The easiest way to get downtown is by heading to a BART station and exiting at 12th Street/City Center. 

Do I need a rental car in Oakland?

Rental cars are not necessary when visiting the city of Oakland. Public transportation is easy to navigate, cheaper, and can minimize stress for your stay in Oakland. Anytime you’re visiting other areas of the city, use the nearest BART station, the bus, or the ferry. However, rent a car if you plan on visiting neighboring places like Napa Valley (a 50-minute drive) or Santa Cruz (a 90-minute drive).

Is it safe to stay in Oakland?

Oakland is generally a safe place to visit. Just like most big cities, there are areas of Oakland where crime is more common. However, the places most tourists tend to visit are considered safe. The most common crimes that occur in Oakland are car break-ins, so it is best to avoid leaving valuables in a car.

***

Whether you’re looking for a quaint, peaceful stay to explore local shops and cuisine or vibrant nightlife, Oakland has a place for you. Hopefully, this guide has given you a better understanding of where to stay in Oakland and which attractions give you the most excitement.

If you plan to head south in California, then check out this great list of fun things to do in Oceanside, CA!

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