Where to stay in San Francisco

If you have no idea where to stay in San Francisco, we got you. Here are the trendiest neighborhoods, hotels and sights.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/David McSpadden View from Alamo Square
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San Francisco may be only 49 square miles, but it can be hard to know which neighborhood is best for your next stay in the City by the Bay. From the best hotels in San Francisco to outstanding restaurants to the trendiest new shops, we’re highlighting the best of the best in the city’s top five trendiest neighborhoods. Try Hayes Valley or the Mission is you like to be in the thick of the actions or Pac Heights for stately Victorians and classic SF charm. 

Where to stay in San Francisco

Hayes St and Octavia St in Hayes Valley
Photograph: Courtney Stenberg

Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley is one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. Patricia’s Green serves as a mini town square, a small patch of grass where friends gather and dogs play. The main stretch of Hayes Street is dotted with clothing and jewelry stores, most notably Rand + Statler and Reliquary. From there, it’s a short stroll away from San Francisco’s arts district, including Davies Symphony Hall, Nourse Theater, the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Opera House

EAT 

A Mano

Dining at A Mano feels like joining a high-energy indoor-outdoor party, where the floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto Hayes Street and sidewalk tables seat 40. Even the kitchen is open, so you can watch the chefs rolling, cutting, and shaping pasta while you wait. It’s all about wine and handmade pasta here—from spaghetti to agnolotto—expertly made by Flour & Water alum Freedom Rains.

DRINK 

Anina

Anina is colorful and airy, with an inviting, light-strung patio and palm decor. Even the drinks have a tropical feel, like the Lucila, made with mezcal, lime, pineapple, and pamplemousse rose.

DO 

Proxy SF

Hayes Valley activity centers around Proxy, which offers food stands (Ritual Coffee, Smitten Ice Cream), food trucks, and pop-up markets. The space hosts a Fall Film Series on Fridays starting in September, screening indie flicks like The Big Sick and Landline. Warm up afterwards with a stein and a bratwurst at Biergarten.

STAY 

Proper Hotel

This buzzy, 131-room hotel on Market Street is just a 10-minute walk to Hayes Valley’s main drag. The interior was designed by it-girl designer Kelly Wearstler, complete with lush chocolate brown and cream floral wallpaper, raw wood floors, contemporary artwork, and marble accents. Don’t miss the rooftop bar, Charmaine’s. 

If you do just one thing…

Get tickets to SF Jazzthe first standalone venue in America created specifically for jazz, where no one is ever more than 45 feet from the performers. 

Dolores Park in the Mission District
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/smi23le

The Mission

From the authentic Mexican food to the music to the unparallelled density of bars, the Mission is one of San Francisco’s most vibrant—not to mention sunniest—neighborhoods. Valencia Street is lined with restaurants and boutiques, while Mission Street, running parallel, boasts the best tacos and burritos around. Stock up on pirate-themed gifts for a good cause at the original 826 Valencia, a novelty store and kids’ tutoring center, or shop the work of local artists and designers at Little Paper Planes. Paxton Gate, a curiosity shop overrun with oddball taxidermy, natural oddities, maps, books, and plants, is a must-see. The neighborhood is also flooded with live music, from The Chapel—a retrofitted church-turned concert venue—to Old Bus Tavern, a cozy cocktail bar with local bands playing most nights.

EAT 

Son's Addition

Helmed by former Marlowe chef Nick Cobarruvias, this 24th street newcomer is stylish, but casual, offering a combination of shareable small and large plates. The emphasis is on so-called slow-cooking: braised meats, roasted vegetables, flavorful pickled and fermented accents incorporating Latin and Asian flavors.

DRINK 

True Laurel

Lazy Bear’s communal, ticketed dinners can run around $200 for food alone. Luckily, David Barzelay and Nicolas Torres, the duo behind the hotspot, opened True Laurel, a walk-ins-only cocktail bar where you experience some of that Lazy Bear-cool without blowing your budget. While the decor is inspired by mid-century artists like Isamu Noguchi, the drinks are thoroughly modern. Take the “Humps for the Boulevard,” for example, made with sesame-washed bourbon, berto, and persimmon-infused rosso.

DO 

Heath Ceramics

Part gallery, part homegoods store, part event space, and part installation, the Heath Ceramics building is a warren of creativity. You’ll find the Heath Ceramics factory and shop, where the company’s signature dishware and tiles are made and sold alongside covetable tableware, furniture, and accessories. Next door, the Heath Newsstand offers dozens of magazines and journals, as well as travel books, flowers, and cards. Swing around to the Alabama side to visit the Aesthetic Union, a colorful art supply, stationery, and print shop, and the Boiler Room, which puts on regular exhibitions. Then grab a glass of wine or a cup of buffalo milk gelato at Tartine Manufactory, an inviting restaurant and cafe.

STAY 

1906 Mission

This small, spunky B&B is a rarity in the Mission, where zoning laws prohibit the building of traditional hotels. (The AirBnB market, meanwhile, is still going strong.) The modern Victorian is swathed in punchy colors and San Francisco-themed-prints. There’s a sunny patio downstairs, and a continental breakfast is served. But the spot’s main selling point is its location, just blocks from Mission Chinese, Mission Cheese, Tartine Bakery, and Dolores Park.

If you do just one thing…

Step one: Order a burrito. It’s hard to go wrong, but we suggest La Taqueria. Step two: Head over to Dolores Park, a rite of passage for newcomers. Palm trees border nearly 16 acres of lawn, where up to 10,000 people in various states of undress sunbathe, read, drink, smoke, and socialize on warm weekend days.

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Alamo Square
Photograph: Ivy McNally

NoPa

Situated in the bustling center of the city, NoPa is packed with restaurants, bars and coffee shops. The Mill has become an institution, serving coffee and schmancy toast by day, beer, wine and inventive pizzas at night. The design-savvy ambiance is rivaled only by the low-lighting-and-leather-booth vibe at Sightglass down the street (which is about as sexy as a coffee shop gets). The perpetually-slammed Souvla is a solid casual spot for Greek wraps and salads; NoPa (the restaurant) is a lively neighborhood mainstay favored by chefs for its late hours; and Bar Crudo is known for its raw bar and excellent happy hour. And the Sunday farmer’s market along Divisadero Street is a hyper-local, refreshingly low-key alternative to the Ferry Building crowds.

EAT 

Barvale

Chef Patricio Duffoo serves elevated tapas in a festive, lively space, decked with polka-dot walls and cherry-red chairs. The food spicy, citrus-spiked, and rich, from boquerones and pulpo to lamb meatballs and paella. Don’t miss the gin and tonic line-up—one is topped with grapefruit and lime, another with saffron and cardamom.

DRINK 

Horsefeather 

This cocktail bar from former Future Bars alums Justin Lew and Ian Scalzo is sultry and atmospheric, with hanging plants, dark wood-paneled walls and aqua tiling. Grab a seat inside or under a heat lamp on the patio. The drinks run the gamut from smoky to sweet, from the Blackjack (green chartreuse washed mosswood whiskey, sibona amaro, maple and benedictine) to the Matilda Bay, which blends gin and sherry with a kiwi-ginger gastrique. The brunch menu offers a smattering of morning cocktails, like a sweet cold-brew coffee concoction that’s spiked with rye and vanilla almond milk.

DO

The Independent 

This locally-owned concert venue has a rich, storied history, from its past life as a jazz club in the ‘60s and ‘70s to the punk and grunge days of the ‘80s. Today it hosts around 300 shows a year by an eclectic mix of alternative, rock, and pop bands—many of whom go on to play Coachella and Outside Lands. The space holds 500 people, which lends an intimate feel even to big-name headliners.

STAY 

Chateau Tivoli Bed & Breakfast Inn

This “Painted Lady”-style mansion was originally built in 1892 as a private home. 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. 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.

If you do just one thing…

In warm weather, NoPa boasts one of San Francisco’s prettiest parks. Originally established in 1857, Alamo Square is bordered by stately Queen Anne and Victorian homes constructed between the 1870s to the 1920s. Most famous (and most photographed) among them is the colorful, richly ornamented strip along Steiner Street—you’ll recognize them from the Full House opening credits. 

Dogpatch
Photograph: Courtesy Booking.com

Dogpatch

The Dogpatch, a neighborhood of repurposed industrial buildings on the easternmost edge of the city, has become a destination for a diverse creative class. The main drag along Third Street—which you can roam on foot or by hopping on the T Muni line—is a browser’s dream: You’ll find shops for gourmet food (Neighbor Bakehouse, Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous ice cream, and La Fromagerie among them) as well as housewares, accessories and gifts. But despite its hipster charms, the Dogpatch maintains an edgy, thriving art scene.

EAT

Noon All Day

This new cafe—a spinoff of Italian mainstay Piccino—is as delicious as it is beautiful, adorned with black-and-white zigzag tile floors (the setting of many a #shoefie) and marble counters. The menu spans brunch fare, snacks, salads, sandwiches and veggie bowls, taking liberal inspiration from Morocco, Italy and Japan. Don’t miss the pastry case stocked by chef Sarah Hipwell, piled with sweet and savory treats like kimchi danishes and sesame yuzu sandwich cookies.

DRINK 

Third Rail

This seasonally-inspired cocktail bar has a dual specialty, apart from drinks: jerky. (Trust us, it works.) Bartender Jeff Lyon whips up flavorful cocktails like the Evil Twin, made with mezcal, grapefruit, lemon, aperol, habanero tincture, and celery bitters, while chef Phil West an impressive array of smoked and cured meats. The space is loosely train themed, which translates to a giant old-timey clock, leather booths, and low lighting.

DO

Museum of Craft and Design 

Peruse the work of painters, textile artists, technologists, and sculptors at the Museum of Craft and Design, a small, contemporary museum with a frequently rotating list of exhibits. Then head down the street to shop ceramics, prints, clothing, furniture, and accessories by local artists at Workshop Residence, a boutique-meets-artist residency founded by arts patron Ann Hatch.

STAY 

Hotel Via

One of the few new hotels to rise south of Market Street, this 159-room property is sleek, monochromatic, and modern: its inviting rooms are decked with curvy cream chaise lounges and dove gray upholstery, while the halls are swathed in a glinting metallic mesh. But the real selling point is the stunning rooftop bar, dotted with fire pits, cabanas, and ample heat lamps.  

If you do just one thing…

Browse 11 galleries under one roof at Minnesota Street Project, an industrial warehouse-turned-35,000-square-foot art space. The gallerists on display include well-known names like Anglim Gilbert, Bass & Reiner, and Eleanor Harwood.

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Pacific Heights
Photograph: Courtesy Booking.com

Pacific Heights

Pac Heights is quintessential San Francisco, from the Victorian-lined streets, which offer views all the way the Bay, to the picturesque Lyon Street steps (which double as a photo op and a popular workout spot). Fillmore Street is loaded with designer boutiques, while hikers can wander to the Presidio, the neighborhood’s western edge, an idyllic green swath of land that contains three hundred acres of protected eucalyptus, pine, and cypress forests, which include trails for hiking and biking.

EAT 

Spruce

This Michelin-starred restaurant was visited by Barack Obama during his presidency...it’s that good. The impressive space features cathedral ceilings, leather armchairs, and dark, charcoal-gray walls. The food is obsessively seasonal and quintessentially new-Californian, incorporating meat, dairy, and organic produce sourced directly from farms in the North Bay. If you’re feeling less fancy, the cheeseburger is justifiably famous.

DRINK 

The Snug

There’s no better place to decompress after a long, hill-tackling day than the Doug fir bar at the Snug. The cocktails—courtesy of Alembic alum Jacob Racusin—are conversation-sparking sippers, incorporating house-made ingredients and rare spirits, and 18 taps are loaded with craft beers, wine, and cider. (Try the cask ale.)

DO

Alta Plaza Park

This 12-acre hilltop park can be reached by scaling the grand staircase on its southern side. With views of the Marina, Cow Hollow, the Presidio, and Fort Mason, it makes a pretty perch for the Pac Heights crowd (and their dogs) to lounge. Apart from trails and expanses of lawn, the park includes a playground, basketball court, tennis courts, and an off-leash dog play area.  

STAY 

Buchanan

Located on the cusp of Pac Heights and Japantown, this 131-hotel is Japanese-inspired, decked with indigo-dyed textiles, handmade pottery, and wood  salvaged from charred Japanese whisky barrels. Designed by Nicole Hollis, the rooms are cozy, but stylish, incorporating leather, dark wood, and shibori pillows.

If you do just one thing…

The pastry case at B. Patisserie lives up to the hype—particularly the kouign amann and stuffed croissants.

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