SF Travel 101: Where to Stay in San Francisco

Ah, the age old question! Where should you stay in San Francisco? It doesn’t make a huge difference, because the city isn’t that big- right? Wrong! Where you stay in San Francisco will shape the experience of your trip. From the accessibility of public transportation to the walkability of restaurants with reasonable price-tags (ie. not in “touristy” areas), the location of your SF vacation headquarters should be determined by your style as a traveller, and what the ideal vacation looks like for you.

1. By The Guidebook: If your SF itinerary involves going to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ghirardelli Square, followed by a cable car ride and an evening showing of Beach Blanket Babylon, you’ll want to stay in Fisherman’s Wharf. For a unique hotel experience that is smack dab in the middle of all of the previously mentioned activities, check out the Argonaut Hotel.

2. Whichever Way the Wind Blows: If you prefer to explore a new neighborhood each day, or want to have the option to leave the city for a day trip to the North, South or East Bay, Union Square would be a good home base for you. Being downtown and close to Market Street guarantees you easy access to the BART and MUNI lines- read up on the public transportation in advance to make it a little less confusing. Check into the Westin St. Francis for a classic San Francisco experience.

3. Fancy is as Fancy Does: If elegant travel is your style, Pacific Heights or Nob Hill could be the right neighborhoods for you. Pacific Heights is closer to the Presidio and is a great location to stay if you plan on heading north to Napa or Sonoma. Check into Hotel Drisco for a lovely vacation. If you want to be closer to downtown, try Nob Hill, where the Fairmont Hotel never disappoints. Featuring the Tonga Room, a tiki themed restaurant where it rains indoors, the Fairmont is a San Francisco institution.

4. The Local Experience: If you prefer to get to know a city from the local perspective, try out an AirBnB in Hayes Valley, the Mission District, the Lower Haight, or the Inner Sunset. All of these neighborhoods are easily accessible, have great shops and restaurants, and offer insight into what it is like to live in San Francisco.

5. Real and Gritty: If you’ve never been to San Francisco before, you may be surprised to find that the most central neighborhood of the city, the Tenderloin, gets very real- very quickly. If you’re into experiencing the real grit that gives SF its backbone, check out the Phoenix Hotel. Not the best area to stay if you’re traveling with children. Definitely a good neighborhood if proximity to karaoke bars is important to you.

Pro-tip: Be aware that Market Street and SOMA can become a little unpleasant at nighttime, and neighborhoods west of the Civic Center tend to feel safer at night.


About the Author // Eliza Dropkin is a Vantigo Tour Guide. She enjoys live music, good food, and cruising around town in Lillie (though she loves all the vans equally).


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