Where to Stay in San Francisco – Neighborhoods & Area Guide

San Francisco, one of the most significant cities in the state of California and the cultural and commercial epicenter of Northern California, is among the top-visited places in the world. The crown jewel of the Bay Area, San Francisco is known to the world for its grand ethnic and cultural diversity, Victorian architecture, gorgeous landscape, summer fog, and of course, it’s extremely liberal community.

Often dubbed as “The Paris of the West” and “The City by the Bay,” San Francisco is home to the second-largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest and the largest Japantown in the United States of America.

Did you know that every year, in the month of February, the city of San Francisco hosts the world’s largest competition of American wines? Also, the next time you get lucky on a fortune cookie, don’t forget to thank Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese resident of San Francisco who is also the person behind Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden.

Let us now explore some of the popular neighborhoods in the city so you can easily plan where to stay in San Francisco on your next visit.

Nob Hill

Nob Hill View

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Nob Hill

One of San Francisco’s exclusive areas and among the original seven hills, Nob Hill is prominent among visitors for its signature hotels and famous landmarks. It’s fame dates back to the Gold Rush era, Nob Hill was once lined with mansions which have been now been replaced by luxury hotels. A hike up the hill offers unprecedented views of iconic structures such as the Fairmont Hotel and the Floor Mansion. Amidst its immaculately maintained pathways and Victorian homes, the gothic-style Grace Cathedral contributes an old-worldly charm. Huntington Park, a well-manicured green space within the neighborhood, serves as a peaceful retreat for locals and visitors alike. An ornate fountain, play areas for kids, and a separate area for the pets make this garden extremely lovable.

Good for: Couples and families.
Other Highlights: Cable Car Museum, Antique Vibrator Museum, Argonaut Book Shop, The Masonic, and Chinese Historical Society of American Museum.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Nob Hill Inn – Set in the heart of the district, the Edwardian style hotel has been serving guests since 1907. Amenities and services include comfy guestrooms with modern facilities, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour front desk, and proximity to important areas in the city. Great for all kinds of travelers.
  • Fairmont San Francisco – An epitome of comfort and elegance, the hotel offers luxurious guestrooms fitted with modern amenities, a fully-equipped fitness center and spa, three fine dining restaurants and bar, and several onsite stores. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • The Scarlet Huntington – The 4-star hotel atop Nob Hill features spacious, well-appointed guestrooms, an adult-only indoor hot tub, a shared lounge with fireplace, a delightful restaurant and bar, and an award-winning Spa with an extensive treatment menu. Suitable for solo travelers and couples.

Chinatown

Chinatown, San Francisco

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Chinatown

The second-largest Chinatown outside of Asia, this culturally unique and vibrant San Francisco district is an absolutely mind-blowing experience for visitors. In fact, it is believed that at least 75% of the tourists who visit San Francisco visit Chinatown. A densely populated area, the neighborhood has plays host to the Chinese New Year Parade every year in February, a tradition which began in the 1860s and now welcomes over 500,000 people and around 3 million viewers on TV. The entrance to the district via the supremely artistic Dragon Gate, also known as Gateway Arch, transports you to the authenticity of Chinese traditions right away.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Portsmouth Square, Tin How Temple, WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall, and Chinese Historical Society of America.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Orchard Garden Hotel – The eco-friendly hotel in the famous Chinatown neighborhood offers fully-furnished guestrooms fitted with flat-screen TV, minibar, bath with free toiletries, iPod dock, and much more. Other facilities include a breakfast café, a fitness room, a travel desk, and a concierge. Great for all kinds of travelers.
  • Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square – Spacious guestrooms, onsite restaurant and lounge, a 24-hour gymnasium, free-Wifi, and parking are some of the features guests can enjoy at this wonderful hotel. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • Cornell Hotel de France – This French-inspired, family-run hotel in the heart of San Francisco offers the charm of France with the modernity of America. Features and services include beautifully designed guestrooms, an onsite restaurant, free Wi-Fi, a delightful breakfast every morning (at an additional cost), and much more. Great for solo travelers, couples, and small families.

The Castro

The Castro, San Francisco

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The Castro

Once covered with dirt roads and dairy farms, the Castro is now one of the liveliest and cohesive neighborhoods of San Francisco. Streets lined with larger-than-life Victorian homes and a thriving LGBT community, an important highlight of the neighborhood in itself. Though the area is buzzing with people all day long, night time is the best to experience the fun and adventure swarming the streets of the Castro. Parties here extend till the morning light. Come October, visitors can enjoy the city’s longest-running street fair. However, the most prominent event in the area is the annual LGBT parade during the San Francisco Pride Month, held on the last Sunday in June.

Good for: All kinds of travelers, especially LGBT community members.
Other Highlights: The Castro Theatre, GLBT History Museum, Corona Heights Park, Seward Mini Park, Mission Dolores Park, and Tom and Jerry’s House.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • The Willows Inn – Nestled in the famous Castro district, the Willows Inn offers comfortable guestrooms with facilities such as flat-screen TV, electric kettle, coffee machine, wake-up service and much more. Great for all kinds of travelers.
  • Beck’s Motor Lodge – A charming motel tucked amidst the tree-lined streets of Castro, the property offers accommodation in well-appointed rooms with cable TV, mini refrigerator, ensuite bathroom, and free toiletries. They can relax at the spacious sundeck or take a 15 minutes’ walk to Dolores Park or the Mission District. Great for couples and families.
  • Parker Guest House – A short distance from Dolores Park, the Parker Guest House is a wonderful hotel featuring comfy guestrooms with flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, and free toiletries, a delectable continental breakfast at no additional cost, and a stroll in the peaceful onsite garden. Great for solo travelers and couples.

Union Square

Union Square, San Francisco

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Union Square

Regarded as one of the most prominent retail and cultural hubs in the city of San Francisco, Union Square is an actual park surrounded by Powell, Post, Stockton, and Geary Street. Built in 1850, the park is now home to a huge collection of boutiques, art galleries, department stores, retail shops, tourist businesses, and salons, making the area one of the finest shopping districts in the world. If you don’t like battling hundreds of other shoppers at a store, a dressing room, or a café, visit during weekdays, especially in the morning. Don’t miss the Cable Car Turnaround, a regular event at the Powell and Market Street intersection where cable car drivers get out of the vehicle and turn the massive cable car around to point to the direction they came from.

Good for: All kinds of travelers, especially shopaholics.
Other Highlights: Union Square Park, Maiden Lane, The Flood Building, and the Hearts of Union Square.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Chancellor Hotel on Union Square – A luxurious boutique hotel, the Chancellor Hotel on Union Square is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the famous shopping stores like Tiffany’s and Macy’s. All guestrooms feature a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, a mini refrigerator, and an ensuite bathroom. The property also offers a fitness center, a bar and a restaurant, and a 24-hour front desk. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • Hotel Nikko San Francisco – A pleasant 5 minutes’ walk from the Union Square, this hotel provides comfortable accommodation in Asian-inspired designer guestrooms with modern facilities, an onsite indoor pool, restaurant, and a full-service Starbucks. Great for couples and families.
  • Hotel Rex San Francisco – Inspired by the 1920s and 1930s, the boutique hotel in the theatre district of San Francisco offers pleasant guestrooms fitted with vintage furnishing and exotic objects. Enjoy dinner and cocktails with live jazz at the onsite Library Bar. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • Axiom Hotel – Well-appointed rooms with smart technology such as online check-in and sensor locks makes staying at the Axiom Hotel a comfortable experience. Additional facilities include a 24-hour front desk, a shared lounge, and a fully-stocked bar. Suitable for all kinds of travelers.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

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Fisherman’s Wharf

Reportedly, Fisherman’s Wharf was once considered the number 1 tourist destination in San Francisco, however, even now, it ranks among the top 3, the first two being the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alcatraz Island, respectively. Amidst its many attractions, activities, and tour options, a trip to the nearby Alcatraz Island remains among the top and the most authentic experiences in the area. Book ahead for tour tickets as they almost always sell out pretty quick. For an adventurous time exploring intriguing exhibits and marina artefacts, visit the Maritime Museum. Other major sights in the area include Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, Madame Tussauds, and USS Pampanito Submarine.

Good for: All kinds of travelers. Especially families.
Other Highlights: Sea Lion Center, the Aquarium of the Bay, SS Jeremiah O’Brien, Hyde Street Pier, and Musée Mécanique.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman’s Wharf – A few minutes’ walk to the famous Fisherman’s Wharf and to the beach, the hotel features luxurious guestrooms with a 55-inch TV, mini-refrigerator, coffee machine, ensuite bathroom, and ironing facilities. A state-of-the-art gymnasium and a self-serve wine bar enhance your experience at the property. Great for solo travelers and couples.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf – Located at a stone’s throw away from the beach, the Courtyard by Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf is a luxury property with world-class amenities and services such as internet and pay-per-view in the well-appointed guestrooms, a 24-hour snack shop, a bistro, a fitness center, a business center, and a lot more. Great for solo travelers, couples, and small families.
  • Argonaut Hotel, a Noble House Hotel – Less than 10 minutes from the USS Pampanito Submarine and less than 5 minutes from the beach, the Argonaut offers its guests well-appointed guestrooms, in-room spa facilities, an onsite seafood restaurant, a bar, a 24-hour business center, a gymnasium, and much more. Suitable for luxury travelers.

Embarcadero

Embarcadero, San Francisco

Source: Clari Massimiliano / shutterstock

Pier 39, Embarcadero

Running along the stretch of the Ferry Building to Pier 39, Embarcadero, on the eastern shoreline of San Francisco, is among the bubbliest and classiest waterfront areas in the city. Home to a number of attractions, Embarcadero’s Ferry Building, constructed in 1898, is home to innumerable shops, restaurants, and food stalls. Another significant attraction in the area, the Exploratorium, is a one-of-a-kind science museum that allows its visitors to experience the world of science and art through interactive exhibitions.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Rincon Park, Ferry Building Marketplace, Pier 24, Aquarium of the Bay, Treasure Island, and Alcatraz Island.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Hotel Griffon – A couple of blocks from the San Francisco Trolleys, Hotel Griffon provides spectacular views overlooking the Bay Bridge. Operational since 1906, the hotel offers comfortable guestrooms with modern amenities, an onsite restaurant, and parking. Perfect for solo travelers and couples.
  • Hyatt Regency San Francisco – Rooms at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco features an unadulterated view of the Bay Bridge accompanied by world-class facilities, a business center, a 24-hour fitness center, a restaurant and lounge offering the best wine and dine experience, and a lot more. Great for all kinds of luxury travelers.
  • Hotel Vitale, a Joie de Vivre Hotel – Overlooking the gorgeous waterfront of San Francisco, Hotel Vitale offers well-appointed guestrooms with top-in-line amenities such as flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, ensuite bathroom with free toiletries, a work desk, and much more. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.

Japantown

Japantown, San Francisco

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Japantown

One of the only three remaining Japantowns in the United States of America, Japantown is the largest and the oldest of its kind. Also known as Nihonmachi, the district is often overshadowed by its Chinese counterpart, however, missing out on visiting the area is an absolute mistake. Quieter and more pleasant than many other areas in the city, the biggest attraction in the neighborhood are the Japan Center Malls – partially-outdoor and partially-underground, these series of malls house most of the shops in the Japantown area.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Peace Pagoda, Origami Fountains, Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, and Cottage Row.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Hotel Kabuki, a Joie de Vivre Hotel – Adorned with traditional Japanese art, the guestrooms at Hotel Kabuki offer comfy beds, flat-screen TV with HD channels, laptop safe, ensuite bathroom, and iPod docking stations. There is also an onsite gymnasium and a bar. A delightful breakfast is included in the room tariff. Great for all kind of travelers.
  • Queen Anne – Less than 2 kilometers from the famous Union Square, this Victorian boutique hotel features wonderfully decorated guestrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen TVs, seating area, and ensuite bathroom. Guests can enjoy a free, sumptuous breakfast and a free town car service every morning. Great for all kind of travelers.
  • The Grove Inn – Highly comfortable guestrooms with modern amenities, a free continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping, TV with cable, and ensuite bathrooms make The Grove Inn a wonderful choice to stay around the Japantown area. Perfect for all kind of travelers.

Civic Centre/Downtown

Civic Centre, San Francisco

Source: Ken Wolter / shutterstock

Civic Centre, Pioneer Monument

Civic Center, also known as Downtown, is the main site in San Francisco for all culturally significant activities and events. Home to the highly famous San Francisco City Hall, the Civic Center is often dubbed as the beating heart of the city. The area comprises some of the most important government and cultural buildings in the city. Civic Center Plaza and the United Nations Plaza are two among the highly renowned edifices in the area. A night at the War Memorial Opera House is also a pleasant experience. And, you absolutely shouldn’t miss the Farmer’s market that sets up at the Union Nations Plaza every Wednesdays and Sunday morning.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco Public Library, SFJAZZ Center, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, SNH Orpheum Theater.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Inn at Union Square, a Greystone Hotel – Just a block away from the prominent Union Square, this European-themed hotel offers comfortable guestrooms with free continental breakfast every day, a flat-screen TV, an in-room service tablet, free Wi-Fi, and many more contemporary amenities and services. Great for solo travelers, couples, and small families.
  • Wyndham Canterbury at San Francisco – Accommodation at the property includes spacious, well-appointed suites with fully-equipped kitchenette, free Wi-Fi around the hotel, a business center, a health center, as well as a games room. Perfect for families.

Marina District

Marina District, San Francisco

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Marina District

It wasn’t until the heart-wrenching earthquake and consequential fire of 1906 that the Marina District saw major infrastructural developments. A dumping ground after the incidents, the Marina, as it is popularly called, is now a dreamy neighborhood filled with boutique stores, shops, diners, and hilly green areas. A favorite among the 20 and 30 somethings, the streets here are buzzing with fun and excitement, especially on the weekends.

Good for: All kinds of travelers, especially the young.
Other Highlights: Crissy Field, Fort Mason, Farmer’s Market (every Sunday morning), Palace of Fine Arts, The Wave Organ, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and Marina Green Triangle.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Cow Hollow Inn and Suites – Every guestroom at this hotel features a flat-screen TV, coffee machine, and ensuite bathroom while the suite rooms also offer a refrigerator, an oven, a dishwasher, and a beautiful fireplace. Several shopping avenues and restaurants surround the Marina District area and are within a walking distance. Great for all kinds of travelers.
  • Seaside Inn – A short walk from the beach, the Seaside Inn is located in the heart of the Marina District and features modern rooms with latest features such as flat-screen TV and ensuite bathroom. 24-hour front desk and breakfast options are available as well. Suitable for all kinds of travelers.
  • Lombard Plaza Motel – Located within a 15 minutes walking distance from the beach, Lombard Plaza Motel features well-appointed guestrooms with flat-screen TV, tea/coffee maker, ensuite bathroom and free toiletries. The motel also offers on-site parking. Great for all kinds of travelers, even larger groups of up to 6 members.

North Beach

North Beach, San Francisco

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North Beach

Among the handful of ultra-cool districts of San Francisco, North Beach, with its rich Italian vibe, has managed to remain a perennial hit among tourists and locals alike. Also known as the Little Italy of San Francisco, North Beach is highly frequented by fans of the Beat movement. Home to some of the most popular nightclubs and pubs in the San Francisco, North Beach’s dining scene is mostly dominated by the Italian influence on the neighborhood. If you are a bibliophile, you just can’t miss a visit to City Lights, one of the best bookstores in San Francisco. Important attractions around the area include Washington Square Park and Saints Peter, Paul Church, and many more.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Pioneer Park and its Coit Tower, Greenwich Steps, Filbert Steps, Beat Museum, North Beach Museum, Alcatraz Island.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Hotel Boheme – Located in the heart of North Beach area, Hotel Boheme, as the name suggests, takes inspiration from the Bohemian culture and has designed the property in the theme of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Vibrant colors, modern art, charming décor, warm and friendly staff, and extremely comfortable guestrooms define the hotel’s level of hospitality. Chinatown and Little Italy are just a short walk away. Great for solo travelers and couples.
  • Green Tortoise Hostel – Set amidst the Little Italy neighborhood at North Beach, the Green Tortoise Hotel is a few minutes’ walking distance to the entertainment hub of the area. The property offers well-appointed guestrooms as well as dorm rooms for solo travelers on a budget. Guests can enjoy a free continental breakfast every morning and a free dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Great for solo travelers and couples.
  • San Remo Hotel – A 10 minutes’ walk from the beach brings you to this European-themed hotel characterized by its antique charm and modern hospitality. Home to the one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the country, Fior d’Italia. Guests can also enjoy free Wi-Fi, private parking, a bar, and an onsite ATM machine. Great for all kinds of travelers.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in San Francisco, California (CA)
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List of Image Sources

Where to Stay in San Francisco – Neighborhoods & Area Guide:

Nob Hill View

  • Nob Hill: randy andy / shutterstock
  • Chinatown: Marco Rubino / shutterstock
  • The Castro: Andrey Bayda / shutterstock
  • Union Square: Tinnaporn Sathapornnanont / shutterstock
  • Fisherman’s Wharf: photo.ua / shutterstock
  • Pier 39, Embarcadero: Clari Massimiliano / shutterstock
  • Japantown: Maks Ershov / shutterstock
  • Civic Centre, Pioneer Monument: Ken Wolter / shutterstock
  • Marina District: Wildnerdpix / shutterstock
  • North Beach: randy andy / shutterstock