After a lifetime’s worth of soulless hotels, sometimes you’re left craving something with a little more character; the perfect bed and breakfast. San Francisco has a number of traditional spots that offer the chance to play house in impeccably restored 19th- and early 20th-century mansions, chateaus and Painted Ladies. Whether a renovated Army officers’ quarters in the Presidio, a history-steeped Edwardian in Pac Heights, or a former 1920s speakeasy, these bed and breakfasts lend an aura of old-world charm to any stay.
Bed and breakfasts in San Francisco
The Presidio’s Main Post was formerly an administrative center for the U.S. Army; today, the site is considerably more romantic, insulated from the bustle of the city. The Georgian-Revival building touts a pretty, rocking chair-lined front porch, which overlooks the woods and red-roofed homes of the Presidio. The main building contains 22 guest rooms (including 17 suites), while the Funston House—which was added to the property in 2013—is fit for larger groups or families, with four rooms surrounding a shared living room, kitchen and dining room. The early 20th-century dwellings have been thoroughly modernized, decked out with wrought-iron beds, Pendleton blankets, black and white photography and gas fireplaces. Your stay includes a continental buffet-style breakfast—think steel-cut oatmeal, pastries, fruit, breakfast meats and eggs—as well as a nightly wine and cheese service.
It’s easy to mistake this six-room gem in Cow Hollow as just another Victorian home. The rooms are elegantly adorned with Tiffany lamps, canopy beds, antique rugs and original art. Breakfast is homemade every morning—fare might be bacon and eggs or pancakes—and wine and cheese is served in the evening. (All rooms include complimentary fruit, chocolate, bottled water and fresh flowers.) Request the Carriage House, a secluded room in the back of the house with direct access to the lavender- and rose-flooded garden, or the English Garden room, which features a private deck overlooking the garden.
This “Painted Lady”-style mansion was originally built in 1892 as a private home. (The architect, William H. Armitage, combined three adjacent apartment buildings on Golden Gate Avenue.) A century later, its nine rooms were fully restored, adorned with Bradbury wallpaper and Victorian antiques from the estates of the Vanderbilts, Charles DeGaulle and J. Paul Getty. Its name comes from its early 20th-century owner, Ernestine Kreling, who helmed the famous Tivoli Opera House. A testament to its historic roots, you’ll find no TVs in the B&B. The nine dwellings include four suites and five standard rooms. The most impressive of the bunch is the Luisa Tetrazzini Suite, which features an elaborate carved oak canopy bed, stained glass detailing and a private parlor. Rates include a continental breakfast and afternoon wine and cheese service; on weekends, a champagne breakfast is served from 9 to 10am.
History runs deep at the Monte Cristo: The building was originally built in 1875 as a bordello and saloon, then became a speakeasy in the 1920s. It sits at the crossroads of Laurel Heights, Pac Heights, the Marina and Presidio Heights, which translates to gorgeous city views (not to mention a vibrant retail and restaurant district.) Daily breakfast includes fresh fruit, fried eggs and bacon, quiche, yogurt, bagels, pastries and granola; gluten-free options are also available. The 13 rooms are quaint, decked with carved wooden beds, chandeliers, Persian rugs and period wallpaper. Several of the deluxe rooms have been newly remodeled, including modernized, private bathrooms complete with rain showers, towel warmers and full tubs.
This opulent B&B survived the earthquake and fire of 1906. Over a century later, the Inn retains its allure. Entering the front parlor feels like a bit of a time warp, where the carved woodwork and stained glass gleams by the light of the fire. The rooms, which range from cozy, one-person nooks to the Garden Cottage, which accommodates up to four adults and two children, are decorated with gilded detailing, antique furniture, and jewel-tone accent paint. Most of the rooms feature private bathrooms. The ample breakfast spread consists of fruit, pastries, cheese and meats, eggs, coffee, and tea, and can be eaten in the garden or on the rooftop sundeck, with panoramic views of the city. The crowning amenity, however, is the wooden hot tub, shaded by a gazebo and stately fig tree.
This butter-yellow B&B between the Castro and the Mission touts 21 rooms spread across two buildings, one of which was recently renovated. Most rooms have private baths, and all include free WiFi. The rooms are modern, clean and sunny, but it’s the house itself that’s a real sight. Common areas are open to guests throughout the home, including a flower-decked front parlor, fireplace-equipped library, sun room, backyard deck and garden. Though the continental breakfast is fairly straightforward—fruit, bagels, yogurt and cereal—there’s a wealth of cafes and restaurants nearby. Before you book, take note: The Muni train rattles down Church Street in front of the B&B, so request a courtyard-facing room if you’re noise-sensitive.
This 1900 brownstone mansion stands among the stunning homes of Pacific Heights. The 10 guest rooms are decked in a combination of contemporary furnishings and antiques. Some overlook the residential Jackson and Buchanan Streets, while others (like the Garden Court Suite) overlook the private garden patio in back. The Executive Suite, Garden Court Suite, Library Room and Francisco Room all have in-room fireplaces. Several of the rooms also feature pull-out couches to accommodate more than two guests. A continental breakfast and afternoon tea and cookies are served each day in the wood-paneled parlor.
This eight-room abode in the Mission offers panoramic views of the city. (You can’t go wrong with the Kendra West Room or the aptly titled View Room.) Each of the rooms is furnished with period wallpaper, king- or queen- sized beds and antique fireplaces or chandeliers. The Garden Cabana offers direct garden access, while the Suite of Dreams has two additional twin beds and is suitable for families. The breakfast spread includes fresh and dried fruit, cheeses, pastries, breads, bagels, hot and cold cereals and eggs for self-service cooking. On weekends, expect specials like frittata or French toast. Noe’s is also one of the few pet-friendly hotels in the city, welcoming animals under 75 pounds for an additional $75 fee.
Repeat guests swear by this petite 8-room Edwardian, helmed by owner Jan de Gier. Though it may not be luxurious, the Castro mainstay is beloved for its friendly service, local color and unbeatable location. The rooms are impeccably clean and awash in character, including splashy accent paint, fresh flowers, and original art. (In the Green Room, colorful parasols adorn the ceiling; ceramic birds dangle in the Yellow Room.) Front-facing rooms have views of Castro Street stretching to Twin Peaks, while back-end rooms—like the Red Room—are more private. The common living room has a large tufted sofa and a fireplace for chilly nights, while the plant-decked shared patio makes a pleasant perch for warmer days. Breakfast includes a spread of fruit salad, cereals, yogurt, pastries and biscuits, and a daily special, which might be waffles, omelettes or a frittata. Bottled water, soda, coffee, brandy and the local newspaper are complimentary.
There’s a sense of old-world charm about the four-story Golden Gate Hotel, from the wrought iron birdcage elevator to the claw-foot bathtubs. The 1913 building is decked out in fresh flowers, antique furniture and floral fabrics—it’s a quintessential throwback B&B. Still, the rooms are clean, comfortable and well-maintained. Breakfast is simple: fresh croissants and baked goods with juice, tea, and coffee. In the afternoon, complimentary tea and just-baked cookies are served. Animal-lovers only, please: Pip, the “house cat” and Cookie, the golden retriever are frequent companions in the parlor, and well-behaved pets are welcome to accompany their owners at the pet-friendly B&B.