San Fransisco not only makes a fabulous city break, but it’s also a popular base for road trips to nearby destinations.
Some of California’s most beautiful nature spots, like Big Sur and Yosemite, are within driving distance from The Golden City. But with so many things to do in San Francisco and tons of attractions such as the famous Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, the city makes for a unique hybrid of urban adventure and nature vacation.
As in any big city, there are plenty of accommodation choices. Even so, San Fransisco can become crowded during certain times of the year, particularly the summer so if you’re planning a San Francisco itinerary during peak season, be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Read on to discover where to stay in San Francisco for a city break, road trip, or whatever suits your fancy!
Best Areas to Stay in San Francisco
With so many neighborhoods, deciding where to stay in San Francisco for the first time can be a tad confusing. So to help you with your trip planning, we’ve narrowed it down to the 5 best areas.
- Union Square (Downtown): Best for entertainment
- Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach: Best for families
- South of Market (SOMA): Best for budget-conscious travelers
- Marina District: Best for road trippers
- Hayes Valley: Best for foodies and shoppers
Planning a trip to California? Don’t miss all of the other top California guides.
Best Places to Stay in San Francisco
These handpicked options are the top San Francisco accommodation, with hotels and motels close to San Francisco’s top attractions and main transport links. So whether you’re looking to stay in the heart of The Golden City or are after a quiet base for a California road trip, you’ll find your ideal accommodation here.
Best area to stay in for entertainment
Union Square, also known as Downtown San Francisco is the place to be if you’re after a lively and entertaining city break. Here, you’ll be right in the center of the action and only a short stroll from many city attractions along with museums, theatres, and bars.
From here, you’ll also have easy access to the rest of the city, making exploring SF easy. But, road trippers, be warned, it’s not the easiest part of the city to park in. Still, it’s the best area to stay in San Francisco without a car and for first-time visitors.
Top Picks for Union Square
The lavish 4-star San Francisco Marriott Marquis on 4th Street in Union Square boasts 1500 stylish suites with excellent city views. Parking on-site is possible too for an additional fee.
All rooms feature modern decor, air-con, a large flat-screen TV, a comfy couch, and premium bedding. Recommended is the spacious Three Bay Suite with a separate lounge if you really want to splash out.
Orchard Hotel is a lovely boutique hotel just 2 blocks from Union Square. The comfy rooms feature elegant decor, comfortable beds, and a modern ensuite bathroom with a bathtub and shower. In addition, the king suite boasts a separate living area with a TV and stereo with surround sound and a Nespresso machine.
Like with most downtown hotels, there is no parking lot here, but parking is possible at a location nearby for a fee.
The HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel is an excellent option for anyone on a budget. The affordable private rooms are basic but immaculate, and the upgrade price to an ensuite is minimal. You’ll also have access to the shared lounge and kitchen, and there’s a launderette on site. However, note that no parking is available here.
Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach
Best area to stay in for families
The northern areas of Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach are easily the best neighborhoods to stay in San Francisco for those traveling with kids. The districts are close to all the top family activities and attractions and by staying here, you’ll be right by the bustling PIER 39, the Alcatraz ferry tours, and Aquatic Park.
Although different neighborhoods, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach have the same touristic and family-friendly ambiance. They also give the best views of San Francisco Bay!
Top Picks for Fisherman’s Wharf & North Beach
The 4-star Argonaut Hotel on Jefferson Street in Fisherman’s Wharf is just 2 minutes from the beach, has a superb seafood restaurant, and offers in-room spa services. Plus, if you’re looking to stay fit on your vacation, you’ll enjoy the fitness center, in-room yoga channel, and free yoga accessories.
Argonaut is also one of the most eco-friendly hotels in San Francisco and boasts nautically-themed rooms with iconic blue and white furniture and exposed brick walls. The rooms also feature lounge areas with flat-screen TVs, coffee machines, and workspaces. Parking is also available here.
Hotel Caza in North Beach is a lively family hotel with excellent facilities, including a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, mini-mart, and bar. What’s more, private parking is available.
All rooms feature modern decor, seating areas, flat-screen TVs, and air-conditioning. Double queen rooms are available for families of up to 4, and you can upgrade to a higher floor for better city views.
Columbus Inn is situated on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, a 7-minute walk from Fisherman’s Wharf and the piers. The traditional style property has reasonably priced rooms with flat-screen TVs, coffee machines, and ensuite bathrooms. What’s even better is that free private parking is available on-site!
Columbus Inn is perfect for families as the standard rooms feature two extra-long double beds. However, it’s also a top pick for couples, thanks to the cozy yet spacious king rooms with amenities like an individually controlled heat and air-conditioning system.
South of Market (SOMA)
Best area to stay in for budget-conscious travelers
South of Market, or SOMA for short, is a large neighborhood in the city’s east. This bustling district has many bars and restaurants and tons of hotels. Many of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance from here, too, such as Union Square, that’s just 20 minutes away on foot.
This is the area where you will find cheap accommodation like hostels. Still, there are also some fab luxury hotels in the area too. So, if you’re looking for a low-cost getaway but want to be close to San Francisco sightseeing, SOMA is the neighborhood for you.
Top Picks for South of Market (SOMA)
Being San Francisco’s hip district, you’ll find some super trendy luxury hotels like W San Francisco here. Located in east SOMA, the newly renovated highrise boasts modern decor, urban finishes, and excellent in-room amenities. What’s more, they also serve a fabulous breakfast at the on-site sustainable restaurant, Trace.
There are many room options available including the best, Extreme WOW Suite, located on one of the top floors to give the most incredible views over the city. The Fantastic Suite is another excellent option, boasting a spacious lounge area. Unfortunately, there is no onsite parking, but nearby parking options are available.
BEI San Francisco is part of the Trademark Collection by Wyndham and is located on 8th Street in SOMA. Here, you’ll enjoy staying in the modern and stylish suites with fantastic city views while knowing your vacation is not breaking the bank!
On-site, you’ll find a shared lounge, restaurant, bar, and terrace. All rooms feature large, cozy beds, floor-to-ceiling windows, and your choice of a bathtub or shower. And for those who are staying in San Franciso for a road trip, you’ll be pleased to hear that on-site parking is available for a reasonable price, and reservation is not required.
SOMA is one part of San Francisco with accommodation for less than $100 a night. Windsor Hotel is one of the best low-cost options, particularly if you don’t like to share a dorm with strangers. Here you can have a clean yet basic private double room with a shared bathroom.
There are not many amenities in the room, but you’ll have a sink, desk, and small wardrobe. There’s a 24-hour reception and laundrette available for those on longer trips.
Best area to stay in for road trippers
If you’re stopping off in San Francisco while on a California road trip, it’s recommended that you stay in Marina District. There are many affordable accommodation choices here, but it’s also the most accessible area for parking. Unlike in some other central districts, most of the hotels in Marina District offer free or low-cost on-site parking for guests.
Marina District is close to Fisherman’s Wharf and just 4 miles (6.5 km) from the Golden Gate Bridge. There are also plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants in this area and it’s next to the huge Presidio of San Francisco park.
Top Picks for Marina District
There’s not a vast choice of luxury hotels in Marina District, but it does have the coolest hotel in San Francisco; the colorful Hotel Del Sol. This bright hotel screams San Francisco with the multicolor decor, an outdoor pool, and an open courtyard with a chilled vibe.
Recommended is the junior suite, which boasts a queen-size bed, minifridge, and a separate living area. There’s also a sofa bed, allowing the room to sleep up to 4 people. In addition, the hotel offers a complimentary ‘Grab-‘n’-Go” breakfast so you can hit the road early, and there’s on-site parking for a small daily fee.
Cow Hollow Inn and Suites on Lombard Street is a traditional-style hotel with free parking for guests. All rooms feature air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, and a safe. It’s also an excellent choice for families. The large family rooms have two double beds, and some suites feature a fully-equipped kitchen with a dishwasher, oven, and fridge.
Greenwich Inn on Steiner Street is a 15-minute walk from the beach and the Palace of Fine Arts. The motel offers free parking and Wi-Fi for all guests, and all rooms have air conditioning and heating. What’s more, each room features a 49-inch LED TV, coffee maker, and an ensuite bathroom with shower.
Best areas to stay in for foodies and shoppers
All the previous San Francisco districts have plenty of dining and shopping choices. However, the hip district of Hayes Valley boasts streets of upscale boutiques, on-trend restaurants, and the trendiest bars in the city. Hayes Valley is full of style, charm, and beauty and has a welcoming community feel.
If you’ve visited the city before and have seen the top San Francisco attractions, we recommend staying here for a more authentic experience. However, as a small and desirable district, there are far fewer hotels, so be sure to book in advance if you choose to stay here.
Top Picks for Hayes Valley
Move over modern highrises, you won’t find one of these in Hayes Valley. But you will find the Inn at the Opera, a European-inspired hotel with classic furnishings and elegant decor.
The air-conditioned queen studios have TVs, iPod docks, and ensuite bathrooms with bathrobes. Plus, there’s a small sink and counter with a microwave, fridge, and coffee maker. You can park on the property for a small daily fee.
Sonder Hayes Valley is a modern Aparthotel on Gough Street with small but stylish rooms and contemporary bathrooms with spacious showers. The queen room is bright and airy with a small dining table and a flat-screen TV. There’s a cozy communal lounge and ample dining/working space onsite. There’s also free Wi-Fi throughout, but parking is not available at the property.
Hayes Valley Inn may be a budget hotel. Still, it doesn’t feel this way as this cozy bed and breakfast has a homely feel and welcoming customer service. The breakfast room is beautifully decorated, and you’ll enjoy a scrumptious, excellent morning spread, fuelling you for a busy day.
All the private rooms have shared bathrooms, but you’ll have a sink and mirror in your room. Double, twin, and queen rooms are available, and some have bay windows with small seating areas. Unfortunately, no parking is available here.