The great thing about figuring out where to stay in San Francisco is that you can stay ANYWHERE!
San Francisco is actually fairly small, and you can reach almost everything you’d want to reach using public transportation and walking.
Having said that, there are neighborhoods better suited for visitors.
If you’re not familiar with San Francisco and you’re looking for the best place to stay, you’ll want to read this guide!
I recommend two places to stay in San Francisco
And they are:
- Union Square
- Fisherman’s Wharf
Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf are the two most popular areas to stay in San Francisco.
They are both extremely popular points of interest, and not surprisingly have a lot of hotel options available in the area.
The most “popular” areas aren’t always the best places to stay, but for San Francisco it is in my opinion!
Why you would want to stay in Union Square
Union Square is basically the centre of San Francisco.
Therefore, MOST of the hotels in San Francisco are located in Union Square and within a block or two surrounding it.
Basically, Union Square is hotel central.
I stayed about a 5 minute walk away from Union Square in a hotel called Parc55 by Hilton when I was in San Francisco. I really enjoyed my stay here. It was comfortable and affordable (San Francisco is an expensive city if you didn’t know).
Parc55 is a great hotel choice in this area because it’s closer to Market Street where the subway (BART) is, while still being in central San Francisco.
Simply put, the biggest reason why you’d want to stay around Union Square is the location. You cannot beat it. It’s essentially the downtown area of San Francisco and you are right in the main transportation hub.
Transportation in Union Square
You can easily grab a taxi here, the hop on-hop off bus stops here, many busses run in and around this area, and the cable car routes begin on Powell Street (which is very close to Union Square).
That, and since you’re in central San Francisco, you can walk to a lot of places.
Union Square is also the main shopping area of San Francisco. Lots of big department stores in this area, including a luxury mall.
The main reasons why you would want to find a hotel in Union Square is:
- The location: you are in the centre of San Francisco. You’re close to a ton of cool neighborhoods, attractions, and places to eat.
- It’s the transportation hub: The best location to get to anywhere, and to get back, whether by public transportation or walking
- Shopping: It’s the main shopping district in San Francisco
- Most hotels are here: Your best bet at finding a cheap hotel in San Francisco is here
Staying in Union Square is definitely my first choice. My main thing when choosing a location is it’s proximity to everything else and available transportation. Which makes the location of Union Square unbeatable!
Why you would want to stay in Fisherman’s Wharf
The second most popular place to stay in San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf.
Fisherman’s Wharf is stretch of land in the northern coastline of San Francisco. Think of it as staying at the top part of San Francisco.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a major tourist attraction. You’ll find many families here along with kids on school trips and other travellers.
Whereas Union Square has more of a “downtown” vibe to it.
If you want to be by the ocean and enjoy the pier/sea life, Fisherman’s Wharf would be a great place to stay.
There are a lot of seafood restaurants right in the Wharf and other businesses like a MT’s wax museum and bike rental shops.
I feel Fisherman’s Wharf is probably a better place to stay if you are traveling with family (the vibe here is more family friendly).
I think the children would like this area better too. Also, there isn’t a homeless problem in this area, where as Union Square is close to the tenderloin district, where the homeless population of San Francisco resides (they’re pretty scary in San Fran, though I never felt threatened by them).
Reasons why you’d stay in Fisherman’s Wharf
- You want to stay by the sea/ocean, be by piers and enjoy a more typical touristic location
- You have a family (Union Square is perfectly fine for families too, it just has a downtown feel to it)
- Safety is extremely important (You’ll probably not run into anyone sketchy here, but no promises!)
The location of Fisherman’s Wharf isn’t as good as Union Square, however there are many major tourist destinations here and nearby.
popular points of interest in/near Fisherman’s Wharf include…
The Golden Gate Bridge (great to rent a bike and ride across the bridge) and some major parks like the Presidio. Trips to Alcatraz depart from the Wharf area, and other sailing excursions as well. A lot of places to eat right in the Wharf (with touristic prices to match though). And of course, the ever popular Pier39 is right here too.
While I was walking through Fisherman’s Wharf, I couldn’t help but notice all the nice looking hotels in the area.
This area is very catered to visitors/tourists. I don’t feel like many business people here for a convention or whatever would stay here. They would probably stay in Union Square.
There are hotels right across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf, like Hotel Zephyr.
There are other hotels within a block or two away. These hotels would be a great place to stay as well.
Other places to stay in San Francisco
The two most popular places to stay in San Francisco (Union Square & Fisherman’s Wharf) are not the only neighborhood choices you have obviously…
But they are your best bet for finding cheap places to stay in San Francisco since they have the most hotels concentrated within the area.
The locations are great too, so if in doubt, stay in one of those areas.
But I want to highlight a few other San Francisco neighborhoods you could stay as well.
Mission District // This area is a bit grungier and doesn’t have a touristic feel at all. Culturally, you’ll find many different types here, with most of the people looking Latin like. This is a great place to stay if you are looking to stay out late at night (it’s a good place to party). It’s also a great place to eat food, especially Mexican foods (your best best to find a burrito is here).
Hayes Valley // Another not-so-touristy place is Hayes Valley. It is centrally located as well which is a big bonus. You’ll find many places to eat and shop here and transportation availability is great too. This area has a neighborhood feel to it, where as Fisherman’s Wharf has a touristic feel and Union Square has a downtown feel. It’s pretty safe here as well!
You do have a lot of choices!
If you’re still unsure where to Stay in San Francisco…
Since San Francisco is pretty small and you can walk everywhere or use public transit (which is reliable here), I would just find hotels that are within your budget and have great reviews.
From there, once you have your list of potential hotels, pick one that is closest to attractions you want to visit most.
Good luck finding a place to stay!
If you have any questions about where to stay in San Francisco leave me a comment below! I’ll try and get back to you asap.