What you need to know!
Such an interesting deep dive into the Castro and Mission neighborhoods, for which we had an incredibly sunny warm summer day. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, having grown up in the area, and pointed out not only historical places, but beautiful murals, homes and fun nooks and crannies (like hidden stairways to streets) that we never would have seen on our own. We definitely came away with much more of an appreciation for Castro and the Mission (love Dolores Park!) and will seek out other neighborhoods on our next trip!
I had the most amazing time, as a solo traveller doing a small group tour is perfect. My tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. He gave us lots of fun facts along the way and the whole experience was very interesting. Bring your walking shoes we started at 10 am and finished at 6 pm, I highly recommend you do this tour. We went to places tourist didn’t go.
My Boyfriend and I booked an all Day SF tour with Christofer and had an amazing time! He knew a ton of history which we loved and we were able to see a ton. We loved it as it had been our first time visiting. Would highly recommend to anyone wanting to be shown around the city.
Did a wonderful tour with these guys while I was in San Francisco on business. I’d also done a tour with the sister company in Los Angeles several years ago. Kevin, who was the guide, was great and it was so nice to be outside. We learnt tons about SF. Definitely recommended!
Our guide Damien was so very knowledgeable about the area and history of SF. We experienced different methods of transport (avoiding those big hills!) and areas we would not otherwise have known about.
Damien was the best! Friendly & very informative. He took into consideration our interests & made it very enjoyable. Great exercise- best way to see SF. Liked Haight Ashbury the most.
We had a two day layover in San Francisco, so we wanted to make the most of our time there. It’s always been somewhere we wanted to visit and on this tour we got to all the places we most dreamed of going – downtown, Nob hill, Castro, Haight Ashbury, painted ladies, Lombard St, North beach and Chinatown. It was only a small group and the guide was amazing. It wasn’t tiring at all and we had a great time jumping from trains to buses to cable cars. AWESOME DAY!!!
Where to Stay in San Francisco
The Bay Area is enormous, its various cities and neighborhoods are hugely varied in all kinds of ways, and of course there's the region's topography and geography – very hilly and with a huge body of water in the middle of it. On top of that San Francisco has a lot of great attractions spread around its area and it has a reputation for being pretty expensive, so finding moderately priced accommodation can be hard. Bearing all these things in mind, deciding where to stay in San Francisco is no easy matter.
What we've done here is break down the various different cities and neighborhoods that are most convenient and suitable for the majority of visitors coming to the Bay Area. Then we give you the benefits, and any disadvantages, of staying there. List is in no order of preference.
Union Square / Financial District / SOMA
This is where to stay in San Francisco if you want to be in the heart of the city. Think downtown Manhattan. There are lots of things to do in the area, tons of bars, restaurants and shops, but also more people, more noise – and it's more expensive, since the hotels here tend to be more high-end.
This area also includes the Tenderloin, which is known for being San Francisco's Skid Row, with the largest number of people experiencing homelessness sleeping on the streets. This is definitely not something we're proud of in SF, and it's not a "good look", but statistically-speaking crime isn't higher in the neighborhood than the surrounding area. Nevertheless, for this reason, the hotels are cheaper in the Tenderloin because of it.
An option here is:
Saint Francis Hotel: beloved by Republican Presidents when staying in San Francisco (don't tell them Gerald Ford was nearly assassinated there). The hotel's right on Union Square, at the bottom of Nob Hill.
Sometimes known as Snob Hill here, this is where to stay in San Francisco if you want the high end experience, quite literally (it's nearly four hundred feet above the sea level a few blocks away).
Nob Hill has a number of attractions of its own, such as the Cable Car Museum, as well as being close to a lot of other interesting neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, North Beach, Union Square, the Polk Gulch and Russian Hill – all of which are downhill.
One option here is:
Fairmont Hotel (top photo): traditionally the home of Democratic Presidents, when they visit SF. The hotel looks down on the city from the very top of Nob Hill.
This is where you want to be staying in San Francisco – as long as you aren't looking for quiet.time. North Beach is right in the middle of Chinatown, downtown, Fisherman's Wharf and it's not far to the Marina District. The neighborhood is full of great bars, clubs, restaurants, cafe and small shops.
The cable cars rattling through the streets at night, as the fog rolls in off the bay, certainly adds to North Beach's already considerable charm.
This neighborhood needs no introduction if you're coming to San Francisco, it's one of the first attractions that pops up in a Google search. The neighborhood itself isn't that big, but it packs quite a few hotels into it. Fisherman's Wharf itself is "touristy" but, beneath the surface it is an interesting area, and it's close to North Beach and not far from Chinatown.
The Alcatraz tours all leave from one of the piers here too (and you're probably going to go to Alcatraz while you're here) so, for all kinds of reasons, Fisherman's Wharf is very conveniently located for exploring SF.
There are a lot of things to see and do in Fisherman's Wharf, but the neighborhood itself can be easily explored in a day.
Castro & Mission Districts
These historic neighborhoods are definitely where to stay in San Francisco if you want to have fun.
Pound for pound the Mission is probably the best area in the city for food and it has a vibrant after dark scene of bars and clubs. The Mission District is the spiritual centre of the Mexican community in San Francisco, so it's still real though.
Castro is famous for being one of the first openly Gay neighborhoods in the U.S. and it still has a risque flavor, which only adds to its attractions of course! It also has some great bars and restaurants within its boundaries, as well as some beautiful parks and Victorian houses.
We have a food tour, the SF: Food + History + Art tour, that takes in some of the best murals and samples some of the best street food in the city. Tour runs every Sunday, starting 12 midday.
This is probably where to stay in San Francisco if you want it bit of everything. It's relatively easy to get to downtown, Fisherman's Wharf and the Mission. The Haight and surrounding area is mostly quiet, but there are some vibey parts AND you're close to Golden Gate Park, one of the city's treasures.
Haight Ashbury is of course associated with the 1960's Hippie Movement and the Summer of Love and there are some beautiful murals distributed around the historic area. Also, although the Painted Ladies are more famous, the streets here have many of the most beautiful Victorian houses in SF.
The East Bay in this context basically means Alameda, Oakland and Berkeley. These cities are where to stay in San Francisco if you don't mind not staying in SF itself. Accommodation on this side of the bay is a little more reasonably priced, so you can get more for your money.
There are ferry services to all 3 cities from San Francisco, but check times on the company website. Most ferries operate a commuter timetable, so it won't be a turn up and go schedule.
A lovely island city which, although quiet, has a lively downtown with plenty of bars, restaurants and a historic cinema.
Alameda isn't on BART network though, which means taking buses or taxis to the stations or into San Francisco, if you don't have your own car.
Unfortunately, over the years, Oakland has been sliced up by several freeways, so it can feel fragmented. Nevertheless there are some lovely, historic parts of Oakland and it has some great food.
If you are thinking of staying in the city be sure to get accommodation near a BART station though, as you really don't want to have to rely on the local buses.
Justly famous for its illustrious university, Berkeley has a lot of charm and no small number of attractions. It's a great option if you want better value for money and don't mind the commute into San Francisco to see the sights.
Just make sure you're staying near a BART station though when looking at places to stay.
If you have any feedback on Where to Stay in San Francisco, or if you have some recommendations of your own, please email us and let us know. We’ll be sure to take it into account.
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