One of the western United States’ biggest and most-visited cities is San Francisco. Located in California, San Francisco sees a high density of tourists mixed in with the nearly 1 million people who reside here.
From a bustling nightlife to the tech scene of Silicon Valley, this city has a lot to offer to every visitor. No matter why you find yourself in San Francisco, you will have something to do and something to see. This is what makes this a beacon of the American west coast.
The best way to see everything on your San Francisco bucket list is by staying in the best neighborhood for you. Specifically picking a place that suits your interest will help maximize your trip.
Luckily, there is a range of options including being in the heart of the action, business districts, and quiet neighborhoods. Here are five of the best areas to stay in while visiting San Francisco!
South of Market
Also known to the locals as SoMa, South of Market is one of the biggest areas in all of San Francisco. Actually, it is so big that there are subdivisions within SoMa that have their own identities.
SoMa has gone through a pretty big transformation over the years. A while back, this area was known as an industrial district full of warehouses and plants. Once the techies moved in, this neighborhood has become much more advanced and with the times.
The culinary scene of San Francisco has a stronghold in SoMa. There are some fantastic food options located here. Some bar and restaurant options include South Park Café, House of Shields, Saison, and so many more.
If you find yourself in San Francisco in the summer, be sure to stop by Oracle Park and watch a Giants game. This is one of the top-rated baseball stadiums in the entire country, so it is worth paying a visit even if you aren’t a fan of baseball.
Best place to stay in SoMa
Hotel St. Regis. Address: 125 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA.
Hotel Via. Address: 138 King Street, South Beach, San Francisco, CA 94107, United States of America.
If you want a more historic experience in this very old city, Haight-Ashbury can cater to those desires. The architecture is beautiful, and the streets have the iconic San Franciscan look. This is also where the 1960-70s hippy vibe is still alive. So, if this culture is a turn-off for you, it is probably best to avoid this area.
If you are still interested, there are a number of things to do in Haight-Ashbury. Some of the options include shopping, Golden Gate Park, and take in the classic buildings. The Golden Gate Park has nothing to do with the bridge but is a great place to take a load off and enjoy the weather. This neighborhood isn’t for everyone, but there is a lot of value in at least stopping in the area.
The biggest perk of Haight-Ashbury is its central location in the city. When staying here, you will have quick access to many of the other neighborhoods. By using the local transit systems, you can navigate yourself quickly and for cheap.
Best place to stay in Haight-Ashbury
Stanyan Park Hotel. Address: 750 Stanyan Street, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, CA 94117, United States of America.
Union Square is one of the most visited areas in all of San Francisco. If you are a first-time visitor, this is probably at the top of your list of places to visit. That being said, this has a high density of tourists and tourist attractions. So, if you want a more local experience, this might not be the place to stay.
One of the best things to do in Union Square is to shop. The streets surrounding the square itself have incredible shops, boutiques, and cafes. This is a fantastic place to spend a day spending some money.
Union Square itself isn’t too much to brag about, but it is a cool place to walk around and relax. In the summer, there are smaller festivals and live music events held here. For the holiday season, there is an ice rink and a big Christmas tree to bring along the festivities. During these times, stopping by the square is great.
Best place to stay in Union Square
Grand Hyatt Union Square. Address: 345 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA.
One of the most picturesque neighborhoods in San Francisco is Hayes Valley. This is because of the mixture of nature, buildings, small shops, and boutiques. The cute, quirkiness of Hayes Valley is a big part of the appeal.
However, this is also one of the most expensive places to stay. Because of its local establishments and proximity to other neighborhoods. A great perk of Hayes Valley is its walkability. Having a car here can be a huge hassle, so be prepared to walk or take the public transit systems.
Hayes Valley also has a wild side. The nightlife here is probably within the top two spots in San Francisco and is a great place to let loose and meet new people. Just be prepared to see some wacky personalities because people really let loose. Even if you choose to settle down in a different neighborhood, stopping by Hayes Valley to experience this subculture is well worth it.
Best place to stay in Hayes Valley
Hotel Inn at the Opera. Address: 333 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, United States of America.
Finally, we have The Castro. This is one of the biggest LGBTQ-heavy communities in the entire city. This is a friendly, safe environment that encompasses this culture and turns it into an experience for everyone.
One of the highlights of The Castro is Dolores Park. This is one of the best public spaces in San Francisco and is a great place to relax, have a picnic, and enjoy the weather. Especially in the summer, Dolores Park is home to live music, social events, and fun parties.
Because of the young, vibrant community, The Castro is home to some of the best nightlife options in the entire city. At night, the lineup of bars will be packed full of young people looking for a good time. With this comes great food littered throughout the neighborhood.
Overall, The Castro is a great place to let loose, relax, and just enjoy your time in the city.
Best place to stay in The Castro
Parker Guest House. Address: 520 Church Street, The Castro, San Francisco, CA 94114, United States of America.
Where travel critics stay in San Francisco
Want to know where travel critics from publishers like The New York Times, Frommer’s, Fodor’s and Lonely Planet stay in San Francisco? Check out our overview of all recommended hotels, hostels and B&Bs in San Francisco.
“The downtown location of this ‘tech-savvy’ boutique hotel is especially convenient: guests can step out of the building and right into the queue at the Powell-Hyde Cable Car turnaround. Contemporary rooms and vintage arcade games make for a fun and fashionable meeting of old and new.” — Telegraph.
Address: 28 Cyril Magnin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA.
“The refurbished Palace Hotel, reopened in June 2015, has gone through several iterations since it first opened in 1875. The latest renovation modernized rooms, the gym and the skylit swimming pool, leaving intact the early 20th-century neo-Classical ambience.” — New York Times.
Address: 2 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA.
“One of San Francisco’s most exclusive properties occupies floors 5 through 17 of a skyscraper in the heart of the shopping district. Contemporary art lines the hallways and guest rooms.” — Fodor’s.
Address: 757 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA.
Best things to do in San Francisco
There are a lot of things to do in San Francisco and surrounding areas, including day trips, attractions, museums, sightseeing tours and many other activities. Here’s our list of 3 things you should definitely do when you’re in San Francisco:
San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge Catamaran Cruise
Take in views of San Francisco’s iconic skyline, Alcatraz Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge like never before on this 1.5-hour catamaran adventure. Feel the wind in your hair and enjoy the ocean air as you look for sea lions lounging in the bay. Price: $60. More info.
Napa and Sonoma Wine Country – Full-Day Tour from San Francisco
Escape to California’s famous wine country on this full-day tour from San Francisco. Taste regional varietals at multiple wineries in Napa and Sonoma, including both big-name and family-run estates. Price: $149. More info.
San Francisco Zoo Admission Ticket
Visit more than 2,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals set over 100 acres of majestic and peaceful gardens located directly on the Pacific Coast. Watch talks and feedings throughout the day as you find adventure around every corner. Price: $23. More info.
Deciding where to stay in San Francisco
As you can see, there are a lot of things to explore, and deciding where to stay in San Francisco is important. Whether you stay in Haight-Ashbury, Hayes Valley, SoMa, Union Square or The Castro, all those neighborhoods are in good locations.
The atmosphere of the area, whether you travel for leisure or business, whether you travel with your family or friends, and proximity to the attractions you prefer to visit should probably be the deciding factors. Whatever your preference is, you’ll have a great time in Washington.
Check out our other articles about San Francisco: