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Where to Stay in San Francisco

Picking the Best San Francisco Hotel Location

You learn pros & cons of each neighborhood, with an emphasis on safety and convenience.

Choosing the right area to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area makes the difference between a safe and enjoyable visit and one that is not. Whether you want a cheap hotel or a luxury hotel in San Francisco Bay Area, the where to stay in San Francisco information found here helps you make the right choice.

To view current San Francisco hotel neighborhood maps, click on

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and then fill in the city. Then click on the map.

Your hotel neighborhoods within San Francisco:

  1. Union Square East
  2. Union Square West
  3. Financial District - Embarcadero
  4. SOMA - Convention Center
  5. Fisherman's Wharf
  6. Civic Center South
  7. Civic Center North
  8. Marina - Lombard Street

Your hotel neighborhoods near San Francisco:

  1. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  2. San Francisco International North
  3. South San Francisco
  4. Oakland International Airport

Where to stay in San Francisco space bar

Neighborhoods within San Francisco:

1. Union Square East

Union Square East ranks as the most popular San Francisco hotel neighborhood, with many of its best hotels.

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Central to nearly everything, Union Square East offers an extremely convenient neighborhood for your stay. Public transportation is excellent, and fast BART trains take you to San Francisco International Airport from the Powell and Montgomery stations along Market Street. Note that service becomes significantly more limited on Sundays and holidays. See schedule.

Walk or take short taxi rides to Chinatown, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Moscone convention center.

This area has very limited and very expensive parking, especially on weekdays.

2. Union Square West - Nob Hill

Many of San Francisco's most famous hotels are in Union Square West.

These include the Clift, San Francisco Hilton, and Parc 55, as well as the Renaissance Stanford Court and Mark Hopkins "Top of the Mark" Intercontinental on Nob Hill.

You'll usually have a greater chance of getting a bargain on a top 4-star hotel in this area than on similar hotels in Union Square East or the Financial District. Moreover, there are more lower priced 2-star hotels here.

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In Union Square West (except for Nob Hill), you remain within easy walking distance of the city's most famous stores and the Moscone Convention Center.

In general, the Union Square area is fine for walking, but be careful walking too far southwest of Union Square especially at night. Otherwise, you enter enter San Francisco's notorious skid road.

This means do not walk more than two blocks west of Powell or one block south of Geary at night. Although the San Francisco Hilton straddles it, no major hotels are beyond this boundary.

In addition, you will probably be far happier walking down steep Nob Hill than up it. Nevertheless, the views from Nob Hill can be fantastic. Other than Nob Hill, the Union Square area is nearly flat.

3. Financial District - Embarcadero

The Financial District, which adjoins San Francisco Bay and Chinatown, provides a great place to stay for both business and pleasure travelers.

You remain within walking distance of the Moscone Convention Center and Union Square. The historic "F" streetcar line takes you to Fishermen's wharf. BART trains bring you to San Francisco International.

From the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, be sure to take a Golden Gate Ferry to Sausalito, in order to enjoy beautiful views of the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge. These commuter ferries provide a nice alternative to more expensive harbor cruises.

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4. SOMA (South of Market) - Convention Center

Although super convenient to many tourist sights and of course to the Moscone Convention Center, SOMA does not compare to the more interesting and uplifting environments of nearby Union Square East and the Financial District.

However, you can choose from many excellent hotels here like the Intercontinental San Francisco and Marriott Marquis. You also easily access BART trains to San Francisco International Airport.

5. Fisherman's Wharf

Throngs of visitors jam the Fisherman's Wharf area throughout the day and into the evening, which makes it one of the safer areas of San Francisco.

Fisherman's Wharf offers:
  • An uplifting and fun environment,
  • Remarkable views of San Francisco Bay,
  • A good selection of mid-range and first class hotels and motor inns (but no real budget ones), and
  • A more car friendly setting than downtown

From Fisherman’s Wharf, two cable car lines (the Hyde Street one is most scenic) converge on Union Square in the center city. However, you may find the parallel MUNI number 15 electric trolley considerably less crowded.

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The MUNI "F" streetcar line along the Embarcadero (waterfront) to the Ferry Building, Financial District, and Market Street offers an alternative. This line uses restored historic cars, including some from Italy.

For great views, take MUNI line 39 from the Waterfront Park area at Pier 39 to Colt Tower on top of Telegraph Hill and then (during the day) walk back via Washington Square in the picturesque North Beach Italian neighborhood, with some of the city's best moderate cost restaurants. (Locals avoid Fisherman's Wharf restaurants.)

The downsides? The popularity of Fisherman's Wharf may not allow you to get as large a discount on your accommodation compared to other areas, even when bidding on Priceline or using Hotwire. Also, some balk at the commercialization of the wharf area

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6. Civic Center South

With its less expensive accommodation, the Civic Center area beckons budget travelers.

However, carefully consider before heeding this call. The Civic Center South zone lacks appeal to put it mildly. Much of this area comprises or borders San Francisco's burgeoning skid road. Especially in the evening, you may not feel comfortable walking in portions of this area.

On the other hand, the convenient Market Street public transportation artery, with BART service to the airport, runs through Civic Center South, and San Francisco's famed opera company performs here.

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7. Civic Center North - Cathedral Hill

If wondering where to stay in San Francisco and you have a car, less expensive Civic Center North may be for you. Most hotels are along or within a block of very busy U.S. Highway 101.

I do not recommend that you walk directly between Civic Center North and Union Square at night. Taxis are not expensive in San Francisco. Use them.

You can take cable cars east along California Street from its junction with Van Ness to Chinatown and Nob Hill. The California Street route lacks the thrilling changes in elevation and sharp turns of other cable car routes, but provides convenient access to popular tourist attractions.

8. Marina - Lombard Street

After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway 101 turns into Lombard Street before it again travels south. This is San Francisco's motel row.

Although somewhat isolated from the main tourist attractions, staying here puts you in one of the city's most trendy neighborhoods, the Marina District. Best of all, you are within easy walking distance of the Golden Gate Promenade, with some of the best views in San Francisco.

Note though that land is extraordinarily expensive in this area. Your motel may not have enough parking spaces for everyone. Finding street parking here can be a herculean task.

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Outside of San Francisco neighborhoods:

1. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

The main San Francisco International hotel area, which is to the south of the airport terminals, has the largest selection of 3- and 4- star rooms. The usual big names are here, such as Hyatt Regency, Westin, Marriott, Doubletree, and Hilton.

Staying near the airport is nearly always nets you a much cheaper rate than in for similar quality hotels in downtown San Francisco. Moreover,

These large hotels tend to be more frequent airport transfers. On the downside, hotels here are more likely to charge for parking.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains provide service from San Francisco International Airport to downtown San Francisco. Just take the people mover from any terminal to the BART stop. See www.bart.gov for schedules.

South San Francisco, a town near San Francisco airport, also has accommodation, but staying there complicates your transfers unless you have a car.

2. San Francisco International Airport North

The north side of SFO has a larger selection of less expensive accommodation. Moreover, you may not have to pay for parking.

These smaller hotels may offer less frequent airport transfers. In some cases, these may not be available for very early morning or late evening transfers. In addition, because some hotels share airport vans, your transfers may take longer.

3. South San Francisco

South San Francisco, a town between the airport and San Francisco, also has a range of less expensive accommodation, but staying there may complicate your transfers unless you have a car.

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Oakland International Airport (OAK)

With JetBlue and major Southwest service, Oakland International has become a popular gateway to San Francisco.

A range of hotel choices are available, with an emphasis on moderate cost accommodation, such La Quinta and Red Lion. Unfortunately, Oakland International offers far fewer hotel choices than San Francisco International.

An "AirBART" shuttle operates between Oakland International and the nearest BART station every 10 or so minutes from 5:00 a.m. (8:00 a.m. Sundays and holidays) to until midnight. From there, BART trains take you into San Francisco.

You now know the perfect place where to stay in San Francisco. Enjoy America's favorite city!

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