Where To Stay In San Francisco: The Ultimate Neighborhood Guide
Where to stay in San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities in the entire United States. It's no wonder that millions of tourists come every year to the City by the Bay to enjoy world-class cuisine - including the best brunch in San Francisco - unrivaled cultural offerings, and incredible natural scenery.
Of course, anywhere you get millions of tourists, you're going to get thousands of hotels. Add in the many short-term apartment rentals you can find in the city, and your options for where to stay in San Francisco can start to seem overwhelming. Luckily, getting around San Francisco is made relatively easy by an excellent public transportation network. Still, it's a good idea to do a little research on the city's most popular neighborhoods before deciding where to stay in San Francisco. After all, each part of the city has a different atmosphere. From the luxury hotels of Nob Hill's tree-lined streets to the anarchic energy of the Mission, staying in different parts of town can give you a seemingly infinite number of twists on the classic San Francisco experience.
Wherever you choose as a base while you explore San Francisco, know that you'll have an easier time of it if you drop off your belongings at one of our luggage storage San Francisco spots. By providing safe and convenient luggage storage throughout the city, Bounce makes any stay in San Francisco that much easier.
The Marina/San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco is a fantastic city to explore on foot. With that in mind, you may want your San Francisco hotel to be within walking distance of some of the city's top attractions. If that's the case, the area around Fisherman's Wharf is hard to beat.
Yes, it's something of a tourist trap. But you will find everything you need close by in this central location. With the endless attractions of Fisherman's Wharf right outside your hotel room, you won't need to go far. Plus, this area has some excellent restaurants, and the nightlife is just as good as the daytime activities. Staying close to Fisherman's Wharf gives you easy access to the Ferry Building so you can take a boat to visit Alcatraz, Angel Island, or just enjoy the San Francisco skyline.
If you visit San Francisco with kids, you can't avoid Fisherman's Wharf. And there's so much to do in a small area, from playing in the arcades to feasting on candy in the saltwater taffy stores to watching the antics of the resident sea lions, that the family is unlikely to get bored. Plus, if you do want to see more of the city, you'll be close to downtown and in an ideal spot to get public transit anywhere in the city you want to go.
Probably the only downside of staying near Fisherman's Wharf is that you will be surrounded by tourists. Plus, budget hotels in this area can be few and far between. But sometimes, you get what you pay for. Being this close to the heart of the action is always going to come at a price.
Downtown San Francisco
If your plans while visiting San Francisco revolve around enjoying incredible restaurants, getting some retail therapy, and being centrally located for some of the best activities the city has to offer, don't neglect the many hotels you'll find downtown. Yes, it's busy and crowded, and luxuries like spacious rooms and free parking can be hard to find. But downtown is where to stay in San Francisco if you want to enjoy the unrivaled atmosphere of the city and experience some of its best nightlife. This area contains the most unmissable things to do in San Francisco at night, and there's nothing quite like being able to walk back to your hotel after a night out to encourage you to get out and enjoy yourself.
Downtown San Francisco also offers more variety than you might expect. Yes, it's close to Union Square, the financial district, and many of the city's top museums. But you'll also find some of San Francisco's less desirable areas here, so it pays to do your research. If you're looking for some of the best high-end restaurants in the city, head south of Market Street, or SoMa, where you'll also find some fantastic art galleries and studios and might be lucky enough to snag a boutique hotel for your stay in San Francisco. North of Market Street, you'll find the Tenderloin, a notoriously down-at-heel neighborhood that is best avoided for all but the most adventurous travelers.
Chinatown and North Beach
San Francisco is famously home to the oldest Chinatown in the United States, and this neighborhood has been an important part of the city for generations. In many ways, San Francisco's old Chinatown preserves a glimpse of a China that no longer exists, mixed with American influences and others from around the world.
If you like good food, you can't overlook this neighborhood when considering where to stay in San Francisco. Plus, Chinatown is home to some of the city's most intriguing tourist attractions, including the famous City Lights bookstore and the Tien How Temple. It's also home to a variety of different hotels, ranging from cheap and cheerful to downright luxurious. When visiting San Francisco, you can't not visit Chinatown, so why not stay there?
Plus, Chinatown is close to another immigrant neighborhood that feels entirely different: the Italian enclave of North Beach. As if there wasn't enough good food to choose from in Chinatown, North Beach is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the entire city. Back in the 50s, this area was ground central for the Beat generation, and is still preserves a little bit of that countercultural vibe to this day.
If you're wondering where to stay in San Francisco to get the best views of the city, look no further than the upscale neighborhood of Nob Hill. Historically, this is where the city's wealthiest residents built their mansions, and the well-maintained streets and parks still speak to that old-school luxury. But modern-day Nob Hill and nearby Russian Hill are home to countercultural artistic types as well as millionaires, making this a great area to stay in San Francisco.
And best of all are the views. Nob Hill and Russian Hill offer unbeatable views across the city and the bay, making this a place well worth visiting no matter where you choose to stay in San Francisco. Step off a cable car and make the climb to the top of the hill, staring out over San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, and there'll be no doubt that you're enjoying one of San Francisco's most quintessential experiences.
Living up in the clouds may make you feel close to heaven, but it comes at a price. Hotels in Nob Hill tend to be on the more expensive side. Also, as beautiful as the neighborhood is, it's not necessarily the easiest to get to. You'll probably find yourself making extensive use of San Francisco's public transit network. Heading down the hill toward Union Square will let you find cheaper hotels along with fabulous restaurants and some of the city's most interesting bars.
San Francisco has always been on the cutting edge of societal trends, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Mission District. This is possibly San Francisco's trendiest district, and the place to be if you want to experience the city's famous countercultural vibe. The Mission District has a strong Latino flavor, and is known around the world for the gigantic Mission burrito which is a must-try during your stay in San Francisco. But relatively cheap rents have made the Mission the hippest part of town, full of avant-garde fashion boutiques, interesting cafés, and lively bars.
If you're a night owl, this is a great place to stay, since you'll be within walking distance of some of the coolest bars in the entire city. But don't expect to find too many luxury hotels in this area. Instead, you'll most likely be staying in a short-term rental apartment or perhaps a boutique hotel. Still, where you stay doesn't matter so much. You'll be so busy enjoying all the great food and drink in this area that you'll really only need a room to crash in overnight.
If your San Francisco trip wouldn't be complete without seeing perhaps the world's premier LGBTQ location, the Castro is your answer to where to stay in San Francisco. This neighborhood has a long history at the forefront of civil rights and alternative lifestyles going back to San Francisco's history as a port city. Now, The Castro is an absolute haven of LGBTQ culture, and can feel almost like its own countercultural rainbow-flagged kingdom in this already progressive city.
The Castro is also a great place to eat, and a neighborhood where you'll never be short of entertainment. The Castro Theater is one of the city's best-known landmarks, and watching a movie here is a rowdy experience unlike any you'll find elsewhere. Of course, the Castro is also the best place in San Francisco to learn more about the history of gay culture in the city and to understand why San Francisco was a haven for gay people for so long.
The Castro isn't particularly close to downtown attractions like Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf. However, its excellent public transport links make it a good place to stay no matter what you want to explore in San Francisco. You can even ride one of the historic streetcars directly from the Castro down to the Embarcadero whenever you feel like mixing it up with other tourists. In that sense, the Castro offers a little bit of everything during your stay in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco is a city where there's always something going on, and so you may despair of ever getting some peace and quiet. However, the area around Golden Gate Park can offer you a retreat from the busyness of downtown San Francisco while still keeping you close to the action. Golden Gate Park is one of the city's most beloved parks. It's also home to some incredible attractions, including many of the best museums in the city. The presence of the California Academy of Sciences makes the park a must-visit, especially for families, and an excellent place to stay in San Francisco if you're traveling with kids. Plus, Golden Gate Park offers a beautiful space to unwind and get some fresh air on the many hiking trails. Located close to the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park offers a real oasis in the heart of the city.
Head west to the ocean, and you'll encounter the atmospheric remains of Sutro Baths and hiking trails that will give you incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll also find a variety of interesting restaurants, and staying a little way out of downtown San Francisco makes it easier to avoid some of the busier tourist traps.
Of course, all this peace and quiet comes at a price. The further you get from downtown, the more limited your transit options become. Still, Golden Gate Park is one of the most visited areas of the city, so it's not too difficult to get from here to anywhere else you want to go.
Your decision on where to stay in San Francisco will depend to a large degree on what you want to do in the city. If you're traveling with kids, Fisherman's Wharf or a stay near Golden Gate Park can provide everything you need without straying too far from your hotel. On the other hand, if you prefer the hipster side of San Francisco, the Mission District or the Castro are your best bets. And foodies will have a great time in North Beach and Chinatown sampling the collision of cultures that happens here. But wherever you choose to stay in San Francisco, you'll find it's a city that always rewards further exploration. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage and immerse yourself in the variety of San Francisco's neighborhoods, and you'll discover a lifetime's worth of adventure.