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Garden Court at the Palace Hotel
Photograph: Courtesy Palace Hotel

The best hotels in San Francisco

Headed to the City by the Bay? From luxe suites to budget-friendly rooms, these are the best hotels in San Francisco

Written by
John Vlahides
,
Shoshi Parks
&
Danielle Goldstein
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Sure you could stay at the Hyatt or the Hilton, but some of the best hotels in San Fran are boutique or historic locations. Whether you're visiting, hosting family or booking a staycation, there's something suitable in every neighborhood and price range. Book something downtown to be near the best attractions, or the North Beach neighborhood to be near touristy Fisherman's Wharf. Either way, try to check off the best things to do in the city from a comfy base at one of the best hotels in San Francisco.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to San Francisco's best boutique hotels

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Cheap hotels in San Francisco

  • Hotels
  • Hostels
  • Fort Mason
  • price 1 of 4

Overlooking one of San Francisco’s most beautiful landscapes is the city’s best hotel bargain – so long as you aren’t squeamish about sharing a bathroom. Nestled in one of the Presidio’s historic army barracks, this Hostelling International location feels secluded even though it’s within walking distance of the bustle and excitement of Fisherman’s Wharf to the east and iconic Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge to the west. Whether you’d prefer a private room (without bath) or dorm (options range from four to 24 beds, co-ed or single-sex), you’ll have access to the hostel’s impressive amenities including a cozy, fireplace-warmed common area, 25-seat movie lounge (with free pool table and jukebox), large kitchen, laundry facilities and outdoor patio. Breakfast at the on-site Cafe Franco is included.

  • Hotels
  • North Beach
  • price 1 of 4

San Remo is temporarily closed due to the pandemic.

Formerly a home for those working on the docks, this quaint colonial-style structure is now a higgledy-piggledy hotel full of charm. There are 64 rooms of varying size and style – although most of them have chintzy floral wallpaper and bedspreads – with Oriental rugs and Victorian-inspired furniture scattered throughout. While some rooms have sinks, the bathrooms are shared – unless you splash out on the penthouse, a self-contained bungalow in the roof that has an en suite and a great view of North Beach. It's also worth noting that there is no elevator and no televisions.

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  • Hotels
  • Lower Haight
  • price 1 of 4

The Metro will reopen on August 1, 2021.

Centrally located near Alamo Square, Haight-Ashbury and the Panhandle, The Metro is one of the city’s best deals for those in need of a private bathroom. The eco-friendly hotel is clean but fairly no-frills – just 24 small, simple rooms with free wifi. You can’t beat the location, though, in a hip-but-friendly neighborhood with excellent restaurants, bars and several nearby must-see landmarks (like the famed Painted Ladies, a beautiful row of Victorian houses).

Mid-range hotels in San Francisco

  • Hotels
  • Cow Hollow
  • price 2 of 4

Saturated with color, this Joie de Vivre property is right at home in San Francisco’s beachy Marina District. One of only a handful of hotels in the city with a pool, Hotel del Sol’s bright and playful rooms are kid- and pet-friendly and feature modern technology, including free high speed wifi. Paid parking is available on-site.

  • Hotels
  • B&Bs
  • Union Square
  • price 2 of 4

A lovely, pet-friendly hotel in a visually unique, towering Edwardian building. Inside is just as charming as the exterior, with the odd floral touch – but not too much. There's an ancient, birdcage elevator to get you from floor to floor, free wifi throughout and complementary breakfast and afternoon tea with cookies. Union Square and the Theatre District are a few minutes' walk away, just remember to say hi and bye to The Golden Gate's resident cat Pip.

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Inn at the Presidio
  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Presidio
  • price 2 of 4

A National Historic Landmark, the Inn at the Presidio is nestled within its namesake park at the north end of the city—close enough to the action, but with comfortable distance between SF’s bustle. Its many amenities include a stunning golf course, countless scenic walking and hiking trails, and a cozy outside fire pit with Golden Gate views. The 22-room hotel also boasts a charm distinct from its competitors: the red brick facade and white columned porch offer cozy spot to people watch as the evening winds down.

Inspired by the Beat Generation of the mid-20th century, this boutique hotel expresses itself through dark and brooding public spaces, words printed on the walls and floors, a few mid-mod touches and typewriters. Situated in the heart of Union Square, guests can take in great theater, shopping, eating and drinking. Then cap off the night in the hotel's Obscenity Bar & Lounge, where there is regular live jazz and slam poetry (although it's temporarily closed due to the pandemic).

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  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • North Beach
  • price 2 of 4

This 120-year old hotel, extensively renovated in 1995, is a tribute to late-1950s North Beach when the neighborhood was a hotbed of Beat Culture. Allen Ginsberg even called room 204 of the Boheme home in his final years. Ginsberg may be gone but he and his fellow Beats live on in the photos, poetry and sheet music that adorn the hotel’s rooms and hallways. In true North Beach fashion, most rooms are small but smartly styled in vintage color schemes and wrought iron. You can’t beat the location among the neighborhood’s plentiful sidewalk cafes but leave the car at home; parking in North Beach is a nightmare.

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Tenderloin
  • price 2 of 4

The Axiom offers modern style at a great price. Located mere steps from Market Street, San Francisco’s main downtown thoroughfare, minimalist rooms are outfitted with fiber-optic wifi, smart TVs and complimentary iPads and iPod docking stations. The hotel’s airy lobby is complete with a marble-topped bar at the Turn Cafe and a cozy library stocked with plush chairs and leather couches. This hip, inviting hotel also has a well-stocked gym and a games area with arcade games and a foosball table.

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  • Hotels
  • Spa hotels
  • Lower Nob Hill
  • price 3 of 4

There aren't many hotels that'll let you apply a five-finger discount to their in-room amenities, but Staypineapple (formerly The Alise) positively encourages it. Well, they do when it comes to their robes and slippers anyway, which, let's face it, are the items you ultimately want. The decor is playful and colorful, with golden pineapples dotted about the place and plush fabrics to match. The Pineapple Bistro is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, but their 'Everything Person' (seriously, that's what they're called) will sort you out with Quick Bites & Bevvies, including locally sourced craft beer. Guests can enjoy free use of the yellow bikes outside and another neat perk is the Pineapple Pup Package (separate fee applies) for those travelling with their furry friends. This includes half off the daily pet fee, a dog bed, water bowl, treats and poo bag dispenser.

Luxury hotels in San Francisco

  • Hotels
  • Chain hotels
  • Nob Hill
  • price 3 of 4

Everything about this classy hotel screams San Francisco, from the Julia Morgan-designed building and gorgeous bay views to the state-of-the-art wellness spa and the iconic tiki bar in the basement. Thanks to a refurb in 2014, each of the Fairmont's rooms were decorated in calming, earthy tones, dark wood and marble. If you're willing to splash out – and we mean really blow some bucks – the 1920s-themed Penthouse Suite is the stuff of San Francisco legend. Covering the entire eighth floor, it has a two-story library, billiards room, 24/7 butler service and it's own chef, plus a secret door in a bookcase that leads to a rooftop helipad.

  • Hotels
  • Spa hotels
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • price 3 of 4

This nautical-themed hotel has been a mainstay of San Francisco’s best hotel list for years. Constructed of red brick and Douglas Fir back in 1907, this Fisherman’s Wharf behemoth pays homage to San Francisco’s Barbary Coast days with ship paraphernalia and sea mythology galore. Despite the anchor prints and porthole-shaped mirrors, though, the Argonaut manages to stay classy with dark fabrics and careful attention to detail (like a yoga mat in every room) that keeps guests coming back year after year. With fantastic views of the San Francisco National Maritime Park, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, this is a great luxury hotel for the whole family, including the pets.

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  • Hotels
  • Spa hotels
  • SoMa
  • price 3 of 4

What’s your dream bay-cation without a gorgeous waterfront view? Jawdropping views of the San Francisco Bay await at the decadent Hotel Vitale, where you can post on the wood-paneled rooftop or penthouse-level spa to catch a gorgeous sunset. The rooms' relaxing, earthy color palette will have you at ease all the way to dinner at in-house Americano Restaurant—or take advantage of the hotel's easy access to the Embarcadero to grab a bite at the Ferry Building and enjoy on the dock of the bay.

  • Hotels
  • Yerba Buena
  • price 3 of 4

SoMa’s Hotel Zetta juxtaposes its historic neo-classical exterior with the unexpected shapes and colors of an ultra-modern interior. Completely gutted in 2013, the 116-room hotel features explosive artwork and a variety of sculptural elements made from repurposed materials, such as chandeliers made of discarded spectacles in the hotel’s entryway. Large functional rooms cater to the Silicon Valley crowd with high-quality electronics and plush beds with luxury linens. Burn off some steam at the pool table, giant Plinko wall (it's 30 feet!) or full-service bar S&R (Salvage and Rescue) in the playful-yet-stylish lobby.

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  • Hotels
  • Yerba Buena
  • price 4 of 4

In the early 20th century, The Palace was the place for wealthy and powerful visitors to see and be seen. American presidents frequented the hotel and one, Warren G. Harding, never left – he died of a heart attack in his upstairs room in 1923. Today, it’s no longer cutting edge, but The Palace’s tasteful yet simple guest rooms make a nice counterpoint to its lavish lobby and dining room. With Austrian crystal chandeliers (each weighing 750 pounds), Ionic columns of Italian marble and a domed glass ceiling, the 8,000-square-foot Garden Court remains one of the most magnificent dining rooms in the state. Under a second domed glass ceiling, beneath silhouettes of the city skyline, is one of San Francisco’s only indoor pools. And that mural behind the bar at the Pied Piper? An original Maxfield Parrish.

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Pacific Heights
  • price 3 of 4

This posh Pacific Heights boutique hotel is decorated throughout with modern stately home glamor and is eminently inviting. Situated at the top of a hill, Hotel Drisco's imposing Edwardian structure offers uninterrupted city views, plus luxury amenities like nightly wine receptions and weekday chauffeur service. In fact, the complimentary evening wine reception is not to be missed. There are local California wines, artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, fresh fruit and hot hors d’oeuvres.

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  • Hotels
  • Union Square
  • price 4 of 4

The Michelin-starred restaurant is the biggest draw at this recently renovated luxury hotel in Union Square, just steps away from some of the best shopping and eating in San Francisco. Guests will be pleased to know that room service comes directly from the aforementioned eatery, so you can enjoy their culinary delights from the comfort of silky-soft Frette linens in bed. There are 110 rooms in all, but the least expensive rooms at the hotel are very cramped. If you can afford to upgrade, you won't regret it.

  • Hotels
  • Sausalito
  • price 3 of 4

Not just the jazz band in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, Sausalito is also a magical place just across the Golden Gate Bridge from SF. Make the journey there and the Inn Above Tide awaits with private balconies and unparalleled views of the bay. Take in the sunset, complete with frolicking sea lions and soaring gulls, each evening with a selection of complimentary wine and cheese. Make the experience even more special by upgrading to a suite complete with fireplace, cushy sofas and free-standing tubs beside floor-to-ceiling windows.

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