As a California local, I’ve made trips to San Francisco almost every year and have expertise in choosing where to stay in San Francisco.
San Francisco receives millions of visitors a year and offers enough accommodation options to house them all. The outright number of places to stay in San Francisco can be overwhelming at first, but I’m here to help!
The neighborhood you choose to stay in should cater to your wants and needs during your time in the big city. If your main goal is to see as many top San Francisco attractions as possible then you will want to stay in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. But, if you prefer to visit San Francisco on a budget, then the Castro District is the place for you. Let’s break it down.
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Stay in San Francisco
- 10 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in San Francisco
- Tips for Staying in San Francisco
- Plan to Stay Near the Main Sites You Want to See
- Keep Noise Levels in Mind
- Plan for Safety
- Use SF’s Public Transportation
- Bring Layers
- Budget on Accommodation
- Know the Special Events
- You May Find Deals in the Off-Season
- San Francisco Apartment Rentals Offer Privacy
- Stay In Family-Friendly Hotels if Traveling With Children
- FAQs About Where to Stay in San Francisco
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Best Places to Stay in San Francisco
Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in San Francisco? Here are my top picks:
- 🏆 Best Overall Hotel – Vintage Inclined
- 💎 Best Luxury Hotel – Palace Hotel
- 👪 Best for Families – Noe’s Nest Bed & Breakfast
- 👔 Best for Business – Club Quarters Hotel
- 🏨 Best Boutique – Washington Square Inn
- 🏰 Best Near Attractions – Riu Plaza Fisherman’s Wharf
- 💵 Best Budget – Twin Peaks Hotel
Ok, let’s do a deep dive of the best areas and neighborhoods in San Francisco.
10 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in San Francisco
North Beach is an urban neighborhood in San Francisco with a misleading name, as there isn’t actually a beach in the neighborhood. This residential community offers San Franciscans many bar, restaurant, and cafe options. North Beach is the perfect place to stay in San Francisco to be close to essential amenities and somewhat removed from the chaos of downtown.
This northeastern neighborhood is also known as “Little Italy,” and is praised for its Italian heritage. North Beach also boasts the best Italian food in all of San Francisco.
A popular activity in this area is the North Beach Festival, which is held every June and is one of the biggest street fairs in San Francisco. The city is also known as a historic hangout spot for beatnik writers like Jack Kerouac.
Visit the famous City Lights Bookstore where such twentieth-century poets performed their lyrical odes or listen to live music at one of the neighborhood’s many live music venues. North Beach is famous for its live jazz performances, so be sure to catch one while you’re in town.
Pros of Staying in the North Beach Neighborhood:
- Away from busy downtown San Francisco crowds
- Delicious Italian food
- House rental options available
- Less traffic
- Live music everywhere
- A lot of history in the neighborhood
- Within walking distance to attractions
Cons of Staying in the North Beach Neighborhood:
- Less tourist attractions
- Mainly a residential area
- Can be noisy
📚 North Beach Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Live Music
- ✨ Best Hotels – San Remo Hotel • Hotel Boheme • Washington Square Inn
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in North Beach
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Sotto Mare ($$), Original Joe’s ($$), Tony’s Pizza Napoletana ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – The Devil’s Acre, The Saloon
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Coit Tower, North Beach Festival, Cobb’s Comedy Club, Washington Square Park
If you don’t know where to stay in San Francisco but love staying busy while on vacation, look no further than Union Square. Union Square is the shopping mecca of San Francisco but you will also find top-notch eateries and attractions in the area as well.
Union Square San Francisco contains the largest concentration of mall stores, boutiques, gift shops, art galleries, and beauty salons in the U.S. You will find upscale hotels, small inns, and rental properties in this district as well.
There’s a sophisticated atmosphere surrounding Union Square, a district with more hustle and bustle than other areas in the city. You will find luxury hotels and rentals in this metropolitan district as well as valet parking options.
Staying in Union Square is ideal for business folks or individuals who prefer to shop on their vacation. Some areas of Union Square are significantly cheaper than others, which may be a good option if you are budgeting while on vacation.
Pros of Staying in Union Square:
- Hundreds of shopping options
- Plenty of accommodation options
- Close to nearby attractions
- Many restaurants, cafes, and bars in the area
- Easy to catch public transportation from Union Square
- Upscale aesthetic
Cons of Staying in Union Square:
- Lodging can be expensive
- Traffic congestion
- The area can be crowded
- Food options can be expensive
📚 Union Square Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Shopping
- ✨ Best Hotels – Sonder at FOUND Union Square • Hotel Parc 55 • Grand Hyatt
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Union Square
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Roka Akor ($$$), John’s Grill ($$$), Sears Fine Food ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Pacific Cocktail Haven, The Irish Bank
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Cable car turnaround, Macy’s Union Square, Market Street
Fisherman’s Wharf is the most popular place to stay in San Francisco and the perfect stop along a California road trip. Situated right on the San Francisco Bay, almost all visitors to San Francisco visit the Wharf area before their trip comes to an end.
This is the best place to find tours, shop for souvenirs, find popular restaurants, and find prime San Francisco entertainment. Due to its close proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf is also the best place to take photos in the big city.
You won’t have to worry about finding accommodation around the city if you stay in this district because everything is either within walking distance or there is a public transportation stop nearby.
Top wharf attractions include visiting the vocal sea lions at Pier 39, learning about marine life at the Aquarium of the Bay, or eating fresh clam chowder in a freshly-baked sourdough bread bowl at the famous Boudin Bakery.
👉 Pro Tip: Here are the main San Francisco tours, many of which depart from Fisherman’s Wharf.
Pros of Staying in Fisherman’s Wharf:
- Top tourist attractions are within walking distance
- Many restaurants, bars, and cafes in the area
- Public transportation is widely available
- Most San Francisco tours leave from this area
- Affordable accommodation prices
Cons of Staying in Fisherman’s Wharf:
- The area is extremely busy
- There is almost always traffic
- It’s hard to find peace and quiet
- Accommodation options fill up quickly
📚 Fisherman’s Wharf Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Central Location
- ✨ Best Hotels – Riu Plaza Fisherman’s Wharf • Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf • Kimpton Alton Hotel
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Fisherman’s Wharf
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Fog Harbor Fish House ($$$), Franciscan Crab Restaurant ($$$), Cioppino’s ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Wipeout Bar & Grill, Hard Rock Cafe
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Pier 29, Aquarium of the Bay, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Boudin Bakery, Golden Gate Bridge
The Financial District of San Francisco is the main business area of the city. You will have a local San Francisco experience if you stay in this area because most residents either work or live in the Financial District.
The largest concentration of skyscrapers in San Francisco is congregated in this area, making it hard to miss or mistake. There’s also no shortage of bars, restaurants, or food trucks in this district. The Financial District comes to life during happy hour.
The Embarcadero is located in the Financial district and faces the waterfront. Most hotels here offer incredible views of the San Francisco Bay from their rooms. Visitors staying in this area have access to a coastline boardwalk that stretches all the way to Pier 39 and beyond.
This is the perfect place to stay for families with little ones because there are many family-friendly activities nearby. You will also want to visit San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building Marketplace for a mouth-watering San Francisco meal you won’t forget.
Pros of Staying in the Financial District:
- Family-friendly attractions nearby
- Waterfront hotel views
- Delicious food options in the area
- Plenty of accommodation options
- Views of the Golden Gate Bridge
Cons of Staying in the Financial District:
- Hotels are usually sold out or expensive
- The area is busy with tourists
- Food options are expensive
📚 Financial District Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Restaurants
- ✨ Best Hotels – Hotel Griffon • Club Quarters Hotel • Palace Hotel
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Financial District
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Wayfare Tavern ($$$), Tadich Grill ($$$), Schroeder’s ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Local Edition, Pagan Idol
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Wells Fargo Museum, Ferry Building, Embarcadero Center
If you don’t know where to stay in San Francisco for the best nightlife, look no further than the Castro District. Historically known as a progressive, LGBTQ+ friendly district, the Castro welcomes people of all backgrounds and preferences and also offers some of the best nightlife in the big city.
There are a few hotel options in the Castro District but many visitors stay in rental properties here. The welcoming neighborhood of the Castro is the perfect blend of popular San Francisco culture and local residential culture.
The main attractions of the Castro District include the Castro Theater, the GLBT Historic Museum, and the Pride parade every June. The parade is the best way to immerse yourself in the rich history of the area.
I like staying in a rental property in the Castro District during Halloween. The area comes to life at this time with spooky celebrations and decorative Halloween bars and clubs.
Pros of Staying in the Castro District:
- The best nightlife in San Francisco
- Not as touristy as other main San Francisco districts
- Opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture
- No shortage of bars and clubs in the area
- Festive events and parades year-round
Cons of Staying in the Castro District:
- A bit far from other main attractions
- Can be loud at night
- More rental properties than hotels to choose from
📚 Castro District Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Nightlife
- ✨ Best Hotels – The Hotel Castro • Parker Guest House • Twin Peaks Hotel
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in the Castro District
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Star Belly ($$), Orphan Andy’s Restaurant ($), Harvey’s ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Twin Peaks Tavern, Hi Tops
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Harvey Milk Plaza, Rainbow Honor Walk, Castro Theater
If you are visiting San Francisco and want to get away from the bulk of the tourists but still want to stay close to the attractions, then the Mission District is the place for you. Home to the famous Mission Dolores Park, the Mission District is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and maintains a vintage aesthetic.
Vibrant murals line the streets of the Mission District, giving the city a residential yet artistic character. This district is a good place to stay for a local San Francisco experience.
Order to-go from an authentic taqueria and have a picnic at Mission Dolores Park, the most popular park in San Francisco. Almost all San Franciscans hang out at this park and you can see sunbathers, family parties, dog walkers, and the likes all enjoying San Francisco’s sun at Mission Dolores.
Mission Dolores is most famed for its eclectic collection of street art and authentic Mexican eateries. Stay in this area for a relaxing San Francisco experience away from the busy tourist crowds.
Pros of Staying in Mission District:
- Delicious, authentic Mexican food
- Street art tours
- Quieter than other busy San Francisco districts
- Nearby entertainment available
- Rentals and hotel accommodation options are available
Cons of Staying in Mission District:
- Farther away from popular tourist attractions
- Not a wide variety of restaurants available
- No luxury hotels are available
- No big nightlife scene
📚 Mission District Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Parks & Recreation
- ✨ Best Hotels – Vintage Inclined • Noe’s Nest Bed & Breakfast • 1906 Mission
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Mission District
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Beretta ($$), Burma Love-Mission ($$), Lolinda ($)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Trick Dog, Teeth
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Southern Exposure Museum, Mission Dolores Park, street art tour
Chinatown San Francisco is the largest Chinatown in the world outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. It’s safe to say that this San Francisco area is quite historic. One of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco, you must see Chinatown on your trip.
There are a few hotels in the area, including big-name accommodation chains and smaller inns. Some of the main attractions of Chinatown are the rich culture and tasty, authentic Chinese food.
San Francisco’s Chinatown also hosts special events year-round like Chinese New Year celebrations, Community Street Fair, a flower fair, Moon Festival, Miss Chinatown, and more. Check if there are any special events happening while you are in San Francisco to experience the pride of one of the city’s most populous groups.
Chinatown is in a prime location in San Francisco and is within walking distance of other major attractions. Stay in this district if you want a local experience, nearby amenities, and less crowded hotels.
Pros of Staying in Chinatown:
- Central location
- Delicious restaurants and cafes
- Special events and celebrations year-round
- Less crowded accommodation options
- Public transportation available
Cons of Staying in Chinatown:
- Less variety of hotels to choose from
- There can be a lot of traffic on the weekends
- Not in the heart of the main tourist attractions
📚 Chinatown Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Culinary Arts
- ✨ Best Hotels – Grant Plaza Hotel • The Ritz-Carlton • Hilton San Francisco
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Chinatown
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Good Mong Kok Bakery ($), City View Restaurant ($$), Great Eastern Restaurant ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Comstock Saloon, Li Po Cocktail Lounge
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Dragon’s Gate, China Live, Red Blossom Tea Company, Sing Chong Building
Nob Hill San Francisco has a luxurious reputation. From high-end restaurants to upscale bars and clubs, Nob Hill is a world removed from tourism.
Stay in Nob Hill if you are looking for 5-star hotels and luxury dining options. Dine at a rooftop restaurant atop one of the area’s steep streets for 360-degree views of the entire city. The location is centrally located and the cable cars run to this part of town from downtown San Francisco for your convenience.
Visit the Gothic-style Grace Theater, take a Nob Hill informational walking tour, or go to a concert at the Nob Hill Masonic Center. You won’t get bored in Nob Hill and the surrounding area’s activities are within walking distance, which will keep you entertained during your stay in San Francisco.
Pros of Staying in Nob Hill:
- Luxury accommodation options
- High-end restaurants and bars
- Top-quality boutiques
- Central location
- Within walking distance of main San Francisco attractions
Cons of Staying in Nob Hill:
- Hotels are extremely expensive
- Restaurants and bars may be out of budget
- Traffic on the hilly streets
📚 Nob Hill Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Luxury Hotels
- ✨ Best Hotels – Ritz-Carlton • Nob Hill Inn • Stanford Court San Francisco
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Nob Hill
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Osso Steakhouse ($$$$), Nob Hill Cafe ($$), Aliment ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Wreck Room, Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Grace Cathedral, Huntington Park, Cable Car Museum
South of Market
South of Market, or SoMa for short, is a huge San Francisco district with warehouses and major tourist attractions. It encompasses Mission Bay and South Beach. Catch a local Giants baseball game in SoMa for a fun San Francisco experience.
The area has high-energy nightclubs, delicious restaurants, and many museums. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a top SoMa attraction and is within walking distance from most hotels in the area.
The South of Market neighborhood has a dense, urban feel with just over 31,000 residents in the area. Many residents rent their homes and you can find plenty of home rentals online for your stay in the big city.
SoMa is one of the coolest places to live in California due to its hipster vibe, plethora of activities to do, and prime location in San Francisco.
Pros of Staying in South of Market:
- Many activities to do
- A lot of accommodation options
- Within walking distance of main San Francisco attractions
- Affordable food
Cons of Staying in South of Market:
- A busy area with many tourists
- A lot of traffic
- Hotels may sell out quickly on the weekends
📚 South of Market Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Museums
- ✨ Best Hotels – Luma Hotel San Francisco • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco • The St. Regis San Francisco
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in South of Market
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Marlowe ($$), Bellota ($$$), HRD ($)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Local Edition, Tempest Bar & Box Kitchen
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Oracle Stadium, The Contemporary Jewish Museum
Alamo Square is a residential area of San Francisco best known for the giant Alamo Square Park. The Painted Ladies are the top attraction in Alamo Square. This is the quintessential San Francisco postcard photo of perfectly aligned, colorful Victorian houses.
Flowerbeds, abundant picnic space, and a dual-level playground define the Alamo Square recreation park. There is also a full tennis court and off-leash dog-walking areas of the park so families can enjoy a playful afternoon in the sun.
If you are considering where to stay in San Francisco with children, then you’ve found the perfect place. There are views of the Pacific Ocean from parts of the neighborhood, playgrounds at all of the area’s parks, and top tourist attractions like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park are within walking distance.
Pros of Staying in Alamo Square:
- Famous landmarks are inside the district
- There are plenty of affordable hotels and rental properties
- Food is affordable and abundant
Con of Staying in Alamo Square:
- It can be noisy at nighttime
- There can be traffic on the weekends
- It may be hard to find hotels that aren’t already full
📚 Alamo Square Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Tourist Sites & Accommodation
- ✨ Best Hotels – Chateau Tivoli Bed and Breakfast • The Grove Inn • The Annex at Hayes Valley
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Alamo Square
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Nopa ($$$), Horsefeather ($$), Che Fico ($$$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Madrone Art Bar, Emporium San Francisco
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Alamo Square Park, Painted Ladies, Victorian houses
Tips for Staying in San Francisco
Plan to Stay Near the Main Sites You Want to See
Choosing a hotel close to your bucket list San Francisco activities is a great way to save on transportation fees in San Francisco. Most things are within walking distance if you stay in a centrally-located area of the Bay Area.
If your main priorities are sites like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Golden Gate Park, then I suggest staying in the Marina District or the Presidio of San Francisco. If you prefer to do more city activities like fine dining and shopping, then the Financial District and Union Square are the best places for you to stay.
Keep Noise Levels in Mind
If you stay in a downtown tourist area in San Francisco, the streets may be loud at night. Keep this in mind if you are on a business trip or are traveling with small children.
Traffic is loud all night in congested areas and loud nightlife clubs and bars in districts like the Castro will interfere with your night’s rest.
If you prefer a good night’s rest to staying in the heart of the San Francisco action, then you should stay on the outskirts of town. Consider staying in the Mission District or in South San Francisco for a quieter experience.
Plan for Safety
San Francisco is a relatively safe city, but you can never be too precautious. In densely populated areas of any big city, theft is more common. Take caution when traveling in tourist areas of San Francisco.
Carry your important items in your backpack and keep your backpack on the front of your body to always monitor it and avoid being pick-pocketed. You should also never travel with all of your vacation money on you at all times.
Take necessary safety precautions while in the big city to ensure your trip sails as smoothly as possible.
Use SF’s Public Transportation
San Francisco has one of the best public transportation systems in California. Many visitors don’t even rent cars due to the accessible public transportation.
Take a public bus, ride the cable cars, go on the BART subway system, call a taxi, or rent a rideshare while in the big city to save money on renting a car. I always rely on the BART to take me to different districts whenever I’m in San Francisco.
Make sure to purchase a reusable, reloadable Clipper Card when boarding either the public bus or the BART.
San Francisco is pretty standard year-round, but you can still encounter random storms or heat waves throughout the city. The Golden Gate city can be chilly throughout the year, even in the summer, so wear layers to be comfortable during your stay.
👉 Pro Tip: If you don’t want to overstuff your suitcase with extra layers, leave some extra room to do some shopping in San Francisco for tank tops and sweatshirts. The Fisherman’s Wharf area has every San Francisco souvenir you need.
Budget on Accommodation
The longer you stay in San Francisco, the more the price of accommodation adds up. Save money on accommodation by looking for deals ahead of time and put the saved money towards San Francisco activities and tours.
Hostelworld.com has some of the cheapest San Francisco accommodations around. Check out the deals on this site before you pay full price for a luxury hotel.
Know the Special Events
Various districts in San Francisco celebrate different events year-round. For example, Chinatown celebrates the Chinese New Year each January with parades and other festivities and the Castro District hosts a Pride Parade each June.
Special events generate a lot of traffic. Keep this in mind when choosing which district to stay in San Francisco if you are trying to avoid large crowds. If you stay in the Castro District during the parade, it may be impossible to find parking and hotels may be completely booked.
You May Find Deals in the Off-Season
The peak tourist season in San Francisco is in the summertime when the weather is dry and there are fewer rain storms. Winters can drop to freezing temperatures, but hotels are nearly half the price at this time.
For example, if budgeting is your biggest priority while on vacation, then the wintertime is the perfect time of year for you to visit San Francisco. There are certain Christmas celebrations around the city at this time which make the cold weather a bit more bearable.
Don’t miss your chance to ice skate outdoors at the Union Square Ice Rink during Christmas time in San Francisco.
San Francisco Apartment Rentals Offer Privacy
Check rental property sites like VRBO when comparing accommodation options in San Francisco for the chance to rent a house all to yourself while you visit the city. I usually stay in rental properties in San Francisco, which I think is the best way to live like a local!
Stay In Family-Friendly Hotels if Traveling With Children
Some luxury hotels cater to guests 21 and over rather than children. Stay at family-friendly hotels in San Francisco as opposed to hotels with rooftop bars and indoor nightclubs.
If you’re traveling to San Francisco with children, the best area to stay in is the touristy downtown wharf area where you can find any kind of accommodation possible.
👉 Read Next: Where to Stay in Berkeley
FAQs About Where to Stay in San Francisco
What area is best to stay in San Francisco?
The most popular place to stay in San Francisco is the Fisherman’s Wharf area. This is the closest location to many of the main tourist attractions and landmarks. Many tourists also stay in Downtown San Francisco when they visit San Francisco.
Where is safe to stay in San Francisco?
North Beach is a safe place to stay in San Francisco. There is a very low crime rate in North Beach, as well as the Nob Hill and Marina areas of San Francisco. These are all prime locations to stay for families.
Where is the best part of San Francisco to stay?
San Francisco Union Square, Nob Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Russian Hill are all great areas to stay in San Francisco. There are many tourist attractions in these areas and visitors never run out of fun things to do.
How long should I stay in San Francisco?
Once you’ve determined where to stay in San Francisco, you must choose how long you want in the big city. Count on spending at least 2 or 3 days in San Francisco to hit all the major sites and attractions.
And that’s a wrap on where to stay in San Francisco. Have fun choosing the best location for you and be sure to check out my guide on the best things to do in San Francisco to be prepared for your trip!
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