Where to Stay in San Francisco – What is the Best Area to Stay in San Francisco ?

 

Most visitors to San Francisco are initially confused as to where about is best to stay for their trip. Fortunately, San Francisco is a fairly small city with good transport infrastructure so the simple answer is anywhere there really isn’t a bad place to stay.

But of course some good choices are better than other so this guide is designed to help you decide what is the best area to stay in San Francisco for you. We will run you through the different districts with their pros and cons to help you decide Where to stay in San Francisco.

City Layout

The San Francisco Peninsular has a fairly basic layout. At the heart of it are Union Square and the downtown area surrounding it. In the north is the fisherman’s Wharf Area.

Districts

Union Square / Downtown

Most hotels are centred around Union Square and the Downtown area. Being in the heart of the City has many advantages and really very few disadvantages. That said it’s not always the most inspiring place to stay. You are unlikely to get anything in the way of a view or hotel grounds to relax in.

However, the Hotel is not normally the actual focus of a City break and a Hotel in the heart of the City gives you easy access to most things. Of course, there are great transport links from here out to any of the more distant attractions that you would want to visit.

Dining options are Numerous but more Chain type restaurants than some of the more trendy eateries of San Francisco. You are also a stone’s throw from China Town so you can alway try some of the best “western style” Chinese food in the world.

Being in the most populated area of the City Parking can be at a premium so check your hotel can cater for that at a reasonable cost if you are planning on having a car.

Union square san francisco

North Beach

Moving away from the Centre North Beach offers plenty of options for staying nearer the coast. Quieter and much less built up North Beach can offer more tranquil stay However it’s still very much in the thick of things.

Being the Italian Quarter means there are plenty of restaurant options especially if you enjoy Italian food. One of the plus points of North Beach is its proximity to Fishermans wharf and its multitude of seafood restaurants. Meaning you will never be stuck for something to eat.

Transport to most other areas of the city is still very convenient from North beach. It may mean a trip to Union Square first but generally, you can get anywhere you may want to go very easily.

North Beach San Francisco

Marina District

The Marina District is a charming district a bit further out on the hills overlooking the bay. While dining options and transport links are a little thinner on the ground it is much less built up. This often means Hotels offer free parking. An option much more restricted in the more built up districts.

Prices are also a little more competitive here. It’s the perfect choice for anyone wanting to rent a car during their stay.

Marina District San Francisco

Others

The majority of hotels are clustered around the above districts however there are plenty of other options in the remaining district. Soma has a number of hotels and these offer fantastic dining options. There are a few places in more residential parts of the City offering a more “authentic” experience. You can always stay further out however, we can’t think of any really good reason to do that.

Recommendation

We tend to book our hotels either in North Beach, to be near fisherman’s wharf, or at Union Square right in the heart of things. Both offer excellent positives. However, hotels in the marina district do offer better parking options should you want a hire car. As we normally only hire a car when we head out of San Francisco, We don’t tend to find parking an issue.

Which Hotel?

Tripadvisor lists over 250 hotels in the San Francisco Area. And it would be quite a task to rate that many different hotels to try and give a fair answer to that question. The competition in the City is quite fierce. Truly bad Hotels will be run out of business, so whatever hotel you choose should be of a decent standard. We feel it’s far more important to pick the best area so you can really enjoy the City…As that’s why you are here not to review the inside of a Hotel room.

Find a hotel in the District you like and check the online review on sites such as Tripadvisor. Take with a pinch of salt as there will always be some people who just love to complain. And book it. We can’t guarantee the best hotel, but we can promise the City outside is FANTASTIC.

Best place to Book

There are a seemingly infinite number of different booking sites out there. Gone are the days where you simply asked your travel agent or rang the actual hotel. Of course, you could still do that if you wished. While the most obvious answer to the question could be to book at the cheapest site, How would you know which is the cheapest? There are a vast number of comparison sites all promising to find you the cheapest room.

For us, there is a fairly simple solution that works 90% of the time. And has some other fairly striking benefits as well. Our preferred booking site is Booking.com. As said 90% of the time we find they are the cheapest. When a Cheaper price is found elsewhere it’s normally an obscure name we don’t really trust.

We find the Map view on Booking.com very easy to find hotels in the districts we have want, and it also shows prices so you can quickly narrow down the hotels that suit you before carrying out further research.

Finally, one of the biggest reasons we use Booking.com is the ability to book without charge and cancel for free right up until a few days before the booking. This way you can guarantee the cheapest price. as if you find it cheaper elsewhere (or even on the Booking.com) you can just cancel the original booking and get the cheaper price. We find most of the time this doesn’t happen and we stick with the original booking but there have been occasions where we swap to a cheaper price.

We wrote an in-depth guide to booking hotels on booking.com for New York but the same principles can be applied to San Francisco or any destination whatsoever.

San Francisco Hotels

 

Hopefully, our guide to where to stay in San Francisco has been useful for you. Let us know if you have a preffered area to stay? Or let us know your requirements and we can see where we think would suit you best? Or if you just have anything at all to say. Just drop us a comment. We would love to hear from you.

 

 

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12 comments

  1. Hi Steve,
    Good stuff. I’ve only ever heard great things about San Francisco but I’ve never been. It looks like an absolutely awesome place to go and see. The landscapes look incredible.
    I like your suggestion of being near North Beach. The wharf sounds like a nice location to be near.
    I hope I get to take your recommendation soon!
    Best wishes,
    Kevin

    1. Hi, Kevin.

      Hope you get there soon it is a very awesome city. Has a very relaxed feel for a big city. We really like north beach as this vibe is even stronger there. Thanks for reading and the comment.

  2. My brother used to live in the LA area and we would frequently visit him, but I have yet to make it to San Francisco. That being said, fantastic site all around. I have been looking for something like this that will help give me a layout ahead of time. Thanks so much for the info.

    1. Hi Jen. Thanks for the comment. Hope you make it to San Francisco soon, ts a great City. Glad you like the site. LA is next on our list of Cities to tackle to help people get the most out of them.

  3. Hi Steve, we are planning a trip to San Francisco next year so this has been enlightening. My wife is from South East Asia so I would like to stay near Chinatown if possible. The closer the better to be honest. I can check out hotels in the area on TripAdvisor but maybe you can help with a couple of things…is the area around Chinatown safe and are the hotel prices cheap there or more expensive than other areas, say Fisherman’s Wharf? How far from FW to Chinatown? Is it walking distance?
    Thanks – Craig

    1. Hi Craig. San Francisco as a whole is a very safe city. China Town is no exception. Hotels, in general, are quite cheap in China town, The Dragon gate end (junction of Grant Av and Bush St) has plenty of cheaper options. The plus side of this is they are meters away from both china town and Union Square. Putting you right in the heart of the city but saving a little bit over Union Square hotels.

      Unfortunately, this is not really within walking distance of Fishermans Wharf. It is walkable but would be a trek, approx 1.5 miles or 30minutes. Nothing is too far in San Francisco, but 1.5miles isn’t something you want to do too often. There are local buses (Number 30) that are very regular and will whisk you there (or anywhere else) in less than 5mins though.

      Hope you have a great trip

  4. Great guide here, Steve. Thanks for a map of the city, too. Usually when I go to a new place I don’t even bother looking at the map, but that only leads me to getting lost. I really need to be more convenient! My trip to San Francisco is at the end of this year. I’m saving a lot of money up so I can have a great time while I am there. Your ideas are amazing and have definitely helped me out. Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Brandon, Hope you enjoy your upcoming trip. San Francisco is such a great City we are sure you will. Stay tuned and we will provide lots of ways you can save tons of money on your trip.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. Wow! Love your post, great memories for me, I visited over ten years ago with my Husband and then young boys and we could have done with your well planned out and informed guide to help us. We travelled from the UK direct to San Francisco and after 11 hours felt exhausted but overwhelmed when we landed, for us it was a dream come true 🙂 Our travel company arranged all the details, I wish we had your post back then, we had to find out everything once we arrived, so much to see and do, we only had three days there to before moving on.

    Loved Fisherman’s wharf, North Beach, China Town and of course we had to tour Alcatraz.

    I have no doubt that your information will help tourists enormously.

    1. Hi June, Thanks for the comments, Loved reading about your trip. Its certainly is a long Flight and very exhausting. But definitely worth it. Glad you enjoyed the post and think it will be useful to others. A bit of fore knowledge and planning can really help a trip go smoothly.

      I’m sure those 3 days flew by.

  6. Very useful post on finding accommodations in San Fran. I have never been, but would love to go. The North Beach area looks like the spot I would target. I use booking dot com as my go to for finding affordable accommodations as well. It seems to have options for all budgets. How many days would you recommend for seeing the whole city?

    1. Hi Jason, Glad you like the look of North beach, Its our favorite too, We just like being close top the water wherever we go. Booking.com really does have the other beat in our opinion, but always worth shopping around too.

      3 days is what you would need to see most things in a semi relaxed manor, 2 days would give a rushed whistle stop tour, and you would be amazed how much you can pack into just one day!!! Any more and you can begin to get into the real San Fran Vibe, and start finding the more niche less tourist attractions.

      Hope you make it there soon, I am sure you will love it!

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