San Francisco is undeniably one of America’s finest cities. Located in Northern California, the city features a rich history, beautiful architecture, and great weather all year-round. But with its many distinct areas & neighborhoods, each with unique cultural vibes and fabulous hotels, choosing where to stay in San Francisco isn’t always simple.
Whether you’re looking for nightlife, history, or world-class cuisine, the best hotels in San Francisco will put it all on your plate. Many travelers stick with downtown areas like Fisherman’s Wharf or Union Square. But the city center is home to plenty of other unique neighborhoods, from Nob Hill to North Beach to SoMa.
Ready to find the perfect accommodations in San Francisco? Pack your bags and check out this complete guide to the best places to stay in San Francisco, CA.
Best places to stay in San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA, is well-known for its vibrant and colorful neighborhoods, incredible coastlines, and bohemian vibes. It was one of the hubs of the counterculture movement in the 60s and 70s and remains a favorite travel destination for artistic types, free-spirits, and adventurers today. Travelers from around the world love visiting this free-spirited, coastal city every year.
Each of the city’s unique neighborhoods offers amazing hotels, great restaurants, and historical architecture. There’s so much to explore, and the city is ripe with experiences for every type of traveler.
When choosing which neighborhood to stay in, you’ll want to pick a central location so that you can experience all the city has to offer during your San Francisco trip.
San Francisco is a big city, but each individual neighborhood feels like its own distinct village. Each area maintains unique features and charming elements that make them stand out. The most tourist-friendly areas all have a mix of great hotels, delicious restaurants, and tourist attractions to keep you busy.
The best areas to stay in San Francisco are:
✓ Best area to stay in San Francisco for first-time visitors & families
Visiting San Francisco for the first time? Fisherman’s Wharf is one of our top picks for places to stay in San Francisco, CA. Located on the waters of San Francisco Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf is close to many of the best things to see & do in San Francisco, with the added benefit of being close to the water.
With historic buildings, great restaurants, and fun things for everyone to enjoy, Fisherman’s Wharf is an amazing place to base yourself during your San Francisco travels. (You’ll even find a couple of the most beautiful beaches in San Francisco within a short drive!)
Some might consider the area around Fisherman’s Wharf too touristy. But if you’re traveling to San Francisco for the first time, it provides just the right blend of activities, nightlife, and picturesque settings to make your trip special.
There are tons of great hotels around Fisherman’s Wharf. Keep in mind that the prices here can tend to be higher than elsewhere in the city.
The Marriott Vacation Club Pulse is a six-minute walk from the beach and a four-minute walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. The eco-friendly hotel offers large rooms and a fitness center. You’re close to everything in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. The hotel even has on-site parking for a fee, something that’s rare in San Francisco!
Just two minutes from the beach, Argonaut Hotel is housed in a historic building and has fun nautical-themed guest rooms offering the perfect ocean-themed aesthetic for your San Francisco vacation. The on-site restaurant, The Blue Mermaid, serves clam chowder and fresh seafood and features a fully-stocked bar with California wines and sea-themed cocktails.
For good value and a central location, check out the Courtyard Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re walking it’s four minutes from the beach, five minutes from Fisherman’s Wharf, five minutes from the Hyde Street Cable Car, and ten minutes from Pier 39. The on-site Bistro offers breakfast if you want to have a bite at the hotel before hitting the city.
Fairmont hotels never disappoint. And The Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square is no exception. With luxurious rooms that include fireplaces, exposed bricks, and fantastic views of the bay, it’s one of our top choices in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Take the elevator down to the famous Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate shop and enjoy Ghirardelli Square’s boutiques and shops within seconds.
✓ Top neighborhood to stay in San Francisco for shoppers and nightlife
If you’re looking to shop until you drop before hitting up some San Francisco nightlife, head to Union Square. Located in the center of downtown San Francisco, this neighborhood is one of the top choices for where to stay in San Francisco. It offers great shopping, tons of restaurants, and a convenient central location for hopping around the city.
Almost every name-brand store you can think of has a storefront in the 2.6-acre Union Square. Looking for something more unique? Check out the cool boutiques on Stockton Street. There are plenty of green spaces for walks and people watching, making this an ideal base during your San Francisco trip.
Like Fisherman’s Wharf, the hotels around Union Square fetch a premium. The neighborhood is also home to some of the best luxury hotels in San Francisco.
Built in 1910 and still family-owned and operated, the Cornell Hotel de France is the perfect blend of history, charm, and modern luxuries. The old-world European decor creates a charming atmosphere for you to enjoy during your stay. It’s close to everything. Chinatown is a ten-minute walk and the famous Powell Street cable car stop is just a seven-minute walk away.
Steps from the heart of Union Square, Citizen M San Francisco Union Square is incredibly hip. Fun colorful murals cover the common spaces, and the rooms are comfortable and modern. Many of San Francisco’s most famous sites are within two miles including Colt Tower, Oracle Park, Lombard Street, and Ghirardelli Square.
Orchard Hotel is the perfect downtown spot and includes extra amenities like a workout room and a restaurant. It’s close to the subway station, the Cable Car Museum, and two blocks from Union Square. The rooms are classic with cool black and white photography of famous spots in San Francisco decorating the walls.
The JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square offers the comfort and dependability that you can expect from a Marriott hotel, but with a chic and modern edge. The on-site restaurant & bar serves up international cuisine, Northern Californian wines, and classic cocktails. Other amenities include a fitness center and a tasty breakfast.
✓ Top-rated district to stay in San Francisco for history buffs & sightseeing
Another great option for first-time visitors, Nob Hill is right in the center of the action. It’s close to Chinatown, the museums, and the iconic Lombard Street. It’s hilly but still walkable, and you’ll be able to experience some of the most famous views in San Francisco.
The Nob Hill neighborhood was once the home of San Francisco’s elite during the railroad boom. After the earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed many of the mansions, the Nob Hill area was rebuilt with lavish hotels, high-end condos, and a Gothic cathedral.
The area is rich in history with iconic spots like the hotel where Tony Bennet sang “I Left my Heart in San Francisco,” along with the bar where the soldiers shipping out for WWII had drinks before setting sail across the Pacific. Nob Hill is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a nice mix of history, luxury, and fun for your San Francisco itinerary.
The rooms at Nob Hill Inn are cozy with antique furniture and floral decor. Each room is unique with vibrant wallpaper, clawfoot tubs, and large wrought iron beds. The hotel itself is a historic location, built in 1907 as a private home before being converted into an inn.
Stanford Court San Francisco is a boutique hotel with a ton of tech-friendly amenities. For travelers who are working remotely, this is the perfect option. The hotel offers a state-of-the-art business center with MacBooks, iPads, iPad minis, and high-speed WiFi.
In the rooms, you can connect your personal devices to all of the electronics and stream your own content on the 49-inch flat-screen TV. Other amenities at this Nob Hill hotel include an on-site restaurant and bar that serves craft cocktails, beer, and whiskey.
The Ritz Carlton is synonymous with luxury and the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco delivers on that promise. With gorgeous room amenities like Italian marble bathtubs, high-end toiletries, and fine dining at The Parallel 37 restaurant, it’s the best pick for a luxury stay in Nob Hill.
South of Market (SoMa)
✓ Recommended area to stay for foodies
Once a warehouse district, South of Market (SoMa) has evolved into one of the trendiest spots in San Francisco. The area is home to plenty of fun options for dining and nights out, including live music venues.
Stretching from Embarcadero to Eleventh Street, SoMa features a ton of nightclubs, dining options, hotels, and museums to keep you entertained until well after the sun sets. The area has undergone a revitalization in recent years and has now become one of the hottest spots for locals and tourists alike.
South of Market offers travelers a great selection of boutique hotels and luxury hotels at prices that offer better value than elsewhere downtown.
Hotel Zetta San Francisco is a super hip spot with reclaimed and repurposed furniture, a recreational game room, and upscale amenities. With 116 high-end rooms, guests will love just hanging out at the Hotel Zetta as much as crashing there. There’s a TV lounge, a restaurant and bar, and a nice co-working space with Mac computers.
The Clancy Autograph Collection is a Marriott luxury hotel, located in the SoMa District. It features sleek modern decor and interesting artistic elements throughout, including large murals, unique lighting, and upscale amenities. You’ll be close to everything if you stay here, you’re just over half a mile from Union Square and under two miles from Embarcadero.
Relax at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco and enjoy the state-of-the-art spa before exploring the sights of San Francisco. The rooms are elegant and luxurious with big bathtubs, places to sit and read, and cloud-like beds. The hotel also has a restaurant and a bar with handcrafted cocktails.
✓ Recommended neighborhood for hipsters and free-spirits
Situated between the Financial District and Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach gives you the perfect blend of everything San Francisco has to offer. Also known as Little Italy, the area is filled with picturesque cafes, independent bookstores, good restaurants, and lots of bars and nightclubs.
The vibe is very free-spirited and bohemian in North Beach. Unique bars and cafes will take you back to the days of Beatniks and flower children. The North Beach neighborhood is walkable with great shops, Italian food, and plenty of live music.
If you’re looking for an escape back in time to the 1950s and 1960s, head to the Hotel Boheme. With trendy mid-century modern decor, modern art, and a location that’s close to jazz clubs, Lombard Street, and more, you’ll love this North Beach pick.
Steps from iconic Lombard Street, Columbus Inn is one of the only options that includes free, covered parking for guests. If you’re driving into the city, this is a great way to save yourself some money as San Francisco is best experienced by foot or by cable car. Simply leave your car in the lot, and explore the city in the best way possible.
San Remo Hotel is only a ten-minute walk from the beach and features quaint rooms with an old-world European style of decor. The rooms are filled with antique furniture and vintage photographs that bring a sense of coziness and historical elegance to the space. You can reach the famous Powell Street cable car and Ghirardelli Square by foot. Best of all, the hotel is home to Fior d’Italia, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the United States!