San Francisco is one of the top travel destinations in the world, but unfortunately, it’s also among the most expensive, with luxury hotels regularly topping $300 a night. But don’t panic (and don’t settle for some soulless Lombard Street motel). There’s still affordable lodging to be found throughout the city, from SoMa to the Mission. Whether you’re seeking a quiet retreat steps from the beach or an amenity-packed suite in the heart of Union Square, these inviting, low-cost hotels and B&Bs mean you can spend your travel budget exploring the city.
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Cheap hotels in San Francisco
This year-old boutique hotel is hard to miss: A mega-mural depicting golden brains sprouting from stems, stretches from street-level to rooftop. (It was painted by the anonymous artist BiP.) The facade hints at the arty vibe within, where a glossy red piano resides in the light-flooded lobby, fine art decks the halls, and lemon-yellow beach cruisers are available to guests. The hotel is the seventh property from Pineapple Hospitality—the chain’s first in the Bay Area. As a result, you’ll find pineapple wallpaper alongside a 10-foot crocheted pineapple in the lobby. The 93 rooms are sophisticated, but fun, with flashes of yellow decor popping against dark wood floors and dove-gray duvets. Each includes a king- or queen-sized bed, as well as air conditioning, an in-room Keurig, and high-speed WiFi. Though the hotel is located near the hustle of Union Square, it’s shockingly serene, thanks to the building’s newly upgraded soundproofing.
Many San Franciscans only know the stately Marines’ Memorial Club for its historic bar and 500-seat theater. In fact, the dignified brick building also houses a 138-room military hotel dedicated to the marines, from the historic photos lining the walls to the ship bell from the WWII-era USS San Francisco in the lobby. The rooms are comfortable and understated, with leather headboards and subtle red, white, and blue decorative accents. All include free WiFi, flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, robes, and a daily complimentary newspaper. Don’t miss the rooftop restaurant, Leatherneck Steakhouse, where you’ll run into a smattering of friendly veterans at happy hour and dinner is paired with live piano music. A martini or two—and the 12th floor view—will leave you feeling downright patriotic.
Built in 1926, this Spanish Colonial Revival building has had many past lives. It was originally an Army-Navy YMCA residence, housing soldiers returning from war. Today, the recently remodeled YMCA—complete with fitness studios and a full-sized pool—resides next door and is free to hotel guests. (Reward your workout with the omakase tasting menu at Ozumo, the high-end Japanese restaurant downstairs.) Though the Harbor Court has a rich past, its spacious, golden-hued guest rooms have been updated with the times. Now owned by OLS Hotels & Resorts, perks include Frette linens, free WiFi, complimentary beer and wine each
If this is a bird's nest, it must belong to a magpie because it's an absolute gem. Situated in the heart of Mission, you won't miss it as you walk down from the BART. The exterior is a playful mix of avocado green, lemon yellow, purple and blue, brightening up this Victorian home on 24th Street. Inside is just as lovely, with polished wood floors and scattered rugs livened up by stripes, florals and baroque patterns. There are eight rooms, all with king- or queen-sized beds and views of either the street in front or roofs and treetops falling away out back. A complementary breakfast includes fruit, pastries, cereal and cheese, plus specials at the weekend, like French toast.
This 1911 building artfully melds the old and new. It retains some of its Art Deco charm, including the 1900s-era marble staircase and black and white photos hanging in the lobby and mezzanine. But the 177-room hotel is thoroughly modern, having been renovated in 2013—and then again in 2017. The rooms, including 8 suites, are outfitted with crisp white linens, marble countertops, brass fixtures, and colorful, poppy art. They’re equipped with everyday conveniences like mini-fridges, coffee makers, and hair dryers (and cleaned with green-certified cleaning products). Complimentary coffee and tea is available in the morning, as is wine each night. Don’t miss the rooftop garden, which affords a birds-eye view of Union Square.
This ornate Victorian mansion was originally built in 1892. It was once owned by Ernestine Kreling, the style-savvy head of the Tivoli Opera House. Its nine rooms recall a more civilized time, outfitted with carved-oak beds, polished antiques, stained glass accents, and Bradbury wallpaper. There are no TVs or technological concessions to speak of, making the Chateau Tivoli an ideal place to unplug. (The opulent vibe is better suited for lounging and reading, anyhow.) In addition to a continental breakfast, wine and cheese are served in the parlor each afternoon and champagne is popped during weekend brunch.
This 30-room inn is an excellent choice for visitors seeking proximity to Union Square’s shopping district without the fustiness of some of the area’s more history-steeped hotels. The in-room decor is contemporary, if quirky: striped wallpaper, geometric carpeting. The amenities are well-considered, including high-speed WiFi, plush robes, complimentary chocolates, and upscale bath products. Every room has a king or queen-sized bed, as well as its own mini-fridge and private bathroom. The continental breakfast is complemented by a nightly wine and cheese reception and freshly baked cookies.
This pet-friendly hotel took over the former site of the Monticello Hotel, a spot once beloved for its art shows and literary salons. The Monticello’s former library now houses Abri’s City Room, reserved for meetings and special events. Unlike its boho predecessor, the Abri prides itself on being thoroughly modern, from the iPod docking stations and smart-panel HDTVs to the minimalist terracotta and earth-tone bedding. Each of the 91 rooms includes a coffee maker, 250-thread-count sheets, complimentary wine, snacks, and bottled water. (Street-facing rooms are slightly larger—and louder—than others.) The grab-and-go breakfast bag is a nice touch, as is the cozy radiant fireplace in the hotel lounge.
The real draw of the Parker Guest House B&B is its central location, right at the intersection of the Mission and the Castro where restaurants, bars, and stores abound. Several MUNI routes stop just out front, which is particularly convenient for catching a ride downtown. The 21 rooms are clean and current (of the B&B’s two side-by-side buildings, one was recently renovated). Most rooms have private baths, and all include free WiFi and a simple continental breakfast. Venture downstairs to enjoy the sunroom, library, and front parlor, which are gussied up with flowers and oil paintings. The backyard deck makes a lovely spot for lounging.
The gold sofa in the lobby is the first indication that Triton isn’t like other antique-cluttered, flower-festooned hotels. Originally opened in 1913, the bohemian spot is inspired by Jack Kerouac—pages from ”On the Road” collage the walls and local artists display their work in the mezzanine. The eclectic aesthetic carries through to the 140 guest rooms: a zebra-print headboard here, a high-backed red throne there; psychedelic paintings; checkerboard tile. But the Triton isn’t all razzle-dazzle. Amenities include Frette linens, flat-screen TVs, air conditioning, free cookies, and complimentary wine.
This zen, 86-room hotel situated steps from Chinatown’s Dragon’s Gate is all about the green—the environment, that is. Designed by Architecture International, the LEED-certified building uses an energy-efficient cooling system, key-card-triggered lighting (to cut down electricity costs when you’re not in the room), LED lighting, and non-toxic cleaning products. The in-room furnishings are eco-conscious, as well, from the natural paints and carpets to the blonde wood furniture and (literally) green duvets. The hotel plants a tree in the name of every guest who leaves a TripAdvisor review, in collaboration with Plant a Billion Trees. Thankfully, the hotel’s conservation efforts extend to your wallet: The Orchard Garden offers 10 percent off its nightly rates for California residents.
This iconic mid-century motor lodge in the Castro hasn’t changed much since its opening in the ‘50s—therein lies the basis of its appeal. Today it’s owned by Brittney Beck, the granddaughter of the original founders, and run by Lulu Franco, the manager for nearly 40 years. Though the Palm Springs-style exterior recalls the past, the rooms have been recently remodeled with new furniture and rain showers. Rooms are adorned with yellow and blue accent paint and include refrigerators and coffee makers. On warm days, head up to the convivial rooftop sundeck (you may spot some honeybees buzzing around the hotel’s sustainable rooftop hives). Bonus: parking and WiFi are free.
This cozy Nob Hill B&B is modeled after a French inn, from the welcoming service to the country-quaint decor. Established in 1911, it retains a certain Old World charm. (Happily, though, each room has its own private bathroom). The 26 rooms are unique, decked with Victorian furniture, floral wallpaper, solid wood queen-sized beds, and lace curtains; some include with working fireplaces. The staff’s attention to detail is evident, from the well-appointed breakfast buffet to the fresh-baked cookies, wine and cheese service, and complimentary bottled water, soda, and newspapers. After you’ve had your fill of the early 20th-century vibe (and the free cookies), head over to Del Popolo next door for its legendary, social-media-famous pizza.
Cookie-cutter beige, it’s not. Longtime owner Jan de Gier gives this eclectic Edwardian a healthy dash of local charm. The eight distinct rooms are themed by color: The Yellow room is awash in ceramic birds; the Green room is adorned with paper parasols; the Red room is outfitted with tapestries and red accent paint. (Request a Castro-facing room for scenic views of Twin Peaks.) The comfortable living room has with a working fireplace, while the patio makes a pleasant place to nurse your morning coffee. Breakfast includes fruit, pastries baked goods, cereal, yogurt, and daily specials like scrambled eggs or waffles. There’s complimentary soda and bottled water, sure, but that takes a backseat to de Gier’s free-flowing brandy.
This family-run, 137-room hotel is another historic gem that’s withstood the test of time. When it was built for the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, it was deemed the tallest hotel in San Francisco. Today, the hotel is rooted firmly in the present, offering free HBO and mini-fridges. The rooms are compact, but cozy, with ivy-green walls and warm mahogany headboards. (One space that exceeds expectations is the oversized tub.) Proper attention is paid to a good night’s rest here: Peruse the hotel’s complimentary pillow menu, which offers a dozen poufs of varying firmness. Breakfast is served all day at the hotel’s Lucques Restaurant—opt for the benedict.
This European-style inn feels like a homey haven in the middle of the hottest neighborhood of the city. The inn’s seven rooms range in size from twin beds to a deluxe queen. Each is tastefully decorated, swathed in soothing pastels hues and warmed by colorful quilts and floral duvets. The bathrooms are shared—which cuts down on nightly rates—as are the sunny parlors and spacious kitchen. (Happily, sinks are located in-room.) A generous breakfast spread is served each morning, including fresh fruit, pastries and breads, cheese, cereal, coffee, tea, and juice. The inn goes above and beyond its affordable rates with extras like free WiFi and a shuttle to and from SFO.
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 worth noting also that there is no elevator and no televisions.
This quaint bed and breakfast is a beautifully maintained homage to San Francisco’s Victorian roots. White wicker furniture and French-provincial prints bring the charm but it’s the hotel’s thoughtful accents - claw-foot tubs (in some rooms), the 100-year old birdcage elevator, the tabby-cat Pip snoozing on the lobby’s vintage sofa - that put this 25-room Edwardian at the top of the mid-range hotel list. Breakfast and afternoon tea and cookies are included and well-behaved pets are welcome.
Stepping into the Hotel Mayflower is like entering a time warp. The hotel originally opened in 1929 and throwback touches remain, from the cage elevator to the antique furniture and vintage globes. Though the hotel has never been described as modern—reservations are still accepted solely by phone—each of the themed rooms have undergone a facelift within the past five years and includes WiFi, a kitchenette, and a walk-in closet. The best perk, in this tourist-thronged neighborhood: parking is free for compact cars.