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San Francisco is a melting pot of everything, whether it’s fascinating vistas, the Wild West saloons, the quirky microclimates, excellent food, or its natural highs, if you can think it, you’ll find it here. While its iconic Golden Gate Bridge is the biggest drawcard there’s plenty more that brings visitors to the city. It’s no wonder then that the best hotels in San Francisco are spread out over the city. There’s a wide variety of accommodation to suit all kinds of budgets.
San Francisco is quite small when compared to other renowned American cities but it punches far above its size with all that it has to offer. It’s a city that has left its mark on the country with its defense of various causes. Many social revolutions have found their roots here. Despite its image, San Francisco sits quite high in the rankings of the safest cities in the world.
If you’re looking for big attractions, you won’t be disappointed either. After the iconic bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz Island stand out on people’s itineraries. Chinatown is another popular destination, being the largest of its kind in North America. With all that there is to see in the city, you can be sure that you’ll never run out of things to do in San Francisco.
Where To Stay In San Francisco
San Francisco is filled with many iconic attractions but while tourist brochures showcase this part of the city they tend to leave out the practicalities of staying here. For one, finding the perfect parking spot in the city is difficult. Also, many pedestrian-only areas may not be as safe to explore on your own. That’s why it’s important that you know where to base yourself.
Many of the best hotels in San Francisco lie near the Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina district which is nearby. The Fisherman’s Wharf is great for an escape from the urban hustle but is a little removed from the other attractions. These areas are good for families with kids as they’re easier to get around by car plus they’re cleaner and safer. North Beach or Chinatown are also good options as they’re less crowded and offer easy access to Fisherman’s Wharf.
If you’re in the city but don’t have a car of your own, then it’s best to stay downtown as many of the attractions are within walking distance from most hotels. One of the most elegant neighborhoods in downtown is Nob Hill with its gorgeous views and easy access to attractions. Union Square is another good area to base yourself if you want to be close to the attractions.
Castro is another vibrant area but is more popular with the LGBT community. You’ll find some of our Top 11 Gay Friendly hotels in San Francisco in this area and many other areas too. Hayes Valley and SoMa are also good options.
InterContinental Mark Hopkins
Occupying a prime spot on the tony Nob Hill since 1926, the InterContinental Mark Hopkins is one of San Francisco’s most iconic hotels. On the same block as the impressive Grace Cathedral, the hotel enjoys a prime spot that looks down at downtown’s bustle. Although the hotel is far removed from the noise of downtown, it’s a pain to get back to the top after a day out in the town. One saving grace is the California Street cable car that stops beside the hotel.
Featuring a combination of Spanish Renaissance decor and French chateau, the hotel is a study in good architecture. It rightfully sits in the list of the Historic Hotels of America, occupying the site of an 1878 mansion that burned down in the fires of the great 1906 earthquake. The hotel which eventually took its place became a California Historical Landmark in 1961.
Given the hotel’s rich history, the rooms are a bit of a let down though they feature modernly classic decor. They’re also more spacious than the average San Francisco hotel and big on comfort. The hotel’s unique position means that guests enjoy great views from most rooms.
A clear standout of the hotel is the renowned Top of the Mark lounge and cocktail bar, that occupies the 19th floor. It’s a quintessential San Francisco experience, open to guests of the hotel and visitors. You can look forward to spectacular views of the city from here and also enjoy an exclusive semi-private dining area. Apart from this iconic venue, there’s also a Grab & Go option at the Peacock Terrace in the Lobby. The Nob Hill Club is another space where you can relish a farm to table dining experience.
Argonaut A Noble House Hotel
Many of the best hotels in San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf are housed in repurposed industrial spaces or warehouses. The exposed brick walls of the Argonaut are evidence of its rather boring past as a fruit cannery warehouse. However, there’s nothing boring about the award-winning, boutique hotel though, with its beautiful waterfront location. It’s just a few steps away from Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Other interesting areas of the city are also easily accessible from here. You’ll also find some walking and jogging paths just outside the hotel.
Given its location, it’s no surprise that the hotel features a nautical-themed interior. This extends to the guest rooms that provide stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. However, all rooms don’t look out over the bay. The spacious suites come with oversized bathrooms that feature a Jacuzzi tub and a separate living room with a queen sleeper sofa.
You can’t expect too many extras from a boutique hotel, but this one delivers with its award-winning Blue Mermaid restaurant, fitness center, and in-room spa services. The restaurant features one of the only wharf-side patios in the area. There’s also space for business meetings and events.
Feel like a celebrity when you stay at one of the more posh addresses of San Francisco, Hotel Drisco, at Pacific Heights. The hotel enjoys an enviable location in the midst of swanky Pacific Heights mansions. Take a stroll along the quiet streets that are lined with boutiques and upscale galleries. This is where you’ll get to some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also a few blocks away from the Presidio National Park which offers plenty of historic landmarks and hiking trails. Three blocks west you’ll find the Lyon Street Steps which lead down to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Marina district.
This boutique hotel fits like a glove into the neighborhood with its stylish interiors, especially the tasteful lobby. The elegant guest rooms feature several high-end amenities such as heated floors or plush carpets, goose down duvets, and fine-bone china. Even the standard rooms are quite spacious.
The Drisco is not too high on extras outside the room though. There’s a small fitness center in the basement and a free DVD library in the basement. Guests can enjoy an impressive complimentary continental breakfast plus a wine reception in the evenings. Though there’s no restaurant, in-room dining offers a wide range of delectable dishes. 24 hours room service is also at hand if you need anything else.
At the crossroads of the historic Union Square and the SoMa district in downtown, you’ll find the boutique Axiom Hotel. The century-old building which the hotel occupies combines classic architecture with electric modern design, making it highly tech-savvy. Numerous shopping options are just less than half a mile from the hotel while the entrance to buzzing Chinatown is a mile away. A few steps from the hotel is the Powell-Hyde Cable Car turnaround that makes exploring downtown San Francisco easy. It’s no wonder the hotel ranks as one of the best hotels in San Francisco for its location.
Some of the building’s historic elements, such as the high ceilings and crown moldings, have been retained. However, the hotel touts itself as a beautiful blend of history with the digital revolution so you can expect plenty of modern features too. Dark wood floors, minimalist decor, contemporary furnishings, and modern amenities are what you can expect from the guest rooms. Rooms service can be ordered via the television which also allows streaming from a personal device.
The Turn Cafe the inhouse dining area is not big on seating and is more convenient as a grab and go venue. For those looking out for a bit of recreation, the Cloud level, the mezzanine floor above the cafe is stocked with vintage arcade games, foosball, and seating areas. A small gym in the basement is adequate for those who like to stay on top of their fitness.
The St. Regis San Francisco
Who doesn’t love a swanky, stylish hotel especially if it has a great location to boot! Built in 2005, from the ground up, The St. Regis San Francisco is all that you would want from a luxury hotel. Offering some of the best rooms in the city plus a host of amenities, the hotel climbs right to the top of the best hotels in San Francisco.
Located in one of the better parts of SoMa (South of Market) it puts you in proximity to quite a few attractions such as the Yerba Buena Gardens and the Moscone Center. However, the big attractions of the city are quite far from here. Don’t despair though as a block away from the hotel you’ll find plenty of public transport to whisk you away to other parts of the city. Not that you’d want to go very far when you have so much at the hotel itself!
Glass walls combined with shades of white ensure that there’s plenty of light all around. Guest rooms range from standard Superior rooms to spacious suites, all exuding luxury, and elegance. All rooms feature large windows and are outfitted with generously sized bathrooms.
The hotel boasts a 50-foot heated saltwater lap pool that is open 24 hours a day. There’s also an excellent spa where you can enjoy a selection of treatments, plus a whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and nail bar. The one drawback of the hotel though is its onsite restaurant. For a property that exudes so much style and luxury, Grill is a rather boring space.
Fairmont Heritage Place
Families will love the Fairmont Heritage Place with its vast, apartment-style residences right beside Fisherman’s Wharf. This former Ghirardelli chocolate factory goes all the way back to 1893 and is also marked in the National Historic Register. The hotel sits on the fringes of the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf on Ghiradelli Square. You’ll find plenty to keep you busy in the vicinity with a gamut of shops and restaurants. It’s a convenient location for those wanting to head to Alcatraz, Sausalito, and Tiburon.
Exposed red-brick walls and loft-style ceilings are a throwback to its past but they add the right dose of style. The rooms are big on space and have the feel of an apartment with dining tables, furnished living rooms, and full kitchens. Some come with private terraces that offer stunning bay views. Keep in mind that rooms on the other side provide drab views of the city.
Although the hotel is big on comfort and style, the downside to staying here is the lack of onsite amenities. While the impressive continental breakfast is free, there’s no other dining facility at the hotel except afternoon wine and cheese receptions. The only other extra is the 24-hour gym.
San Francisco’s Tenderloin district may not be the best place to base yourself with its ‘seedy’ reputation, but the undeniable charm of the Phoenix Hotel brings in the guests. The Caravan Lodge motel received a new lease of life when it was taken over in 1987. The new owner transformed the motel into a hip space that began to attract rock stars and a set of loyal patrons willing to brave this side of town. You definitely won’t find any city attractions here but it’s just five minutes from the Great Music Hall and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
An urban oasis, the hotel’s secluded courtyard with its palm-fringed, heated pool sets the mood for your stay here. Floor-to-ceiling windows and whitewashed walls with pop art prints make the rooms bright and trendy. All face the pool area which becomes a hot party venue on the weekends.
One of the best things about the hotel is the free parking which is quite hard to find in San Francisco. Guests also get weekday passes to a nearby Japanese spa and complimentary coffee and pastries for breakfast. Chambers Eat + Drink is a lively brunch venue on the weekends and doubles up as an atmospheric eatery at night.
Taj Campton Place
Just a block off the vibrant Union Square you’ll find the five-star Taj Campton Place, undoubtedly one of the best hotels in San Francisco. The hotel’s location just two blocks from the Chinatown Gate and Maiden Lane gives you the best of both worlds. Many of the city’s attractions are easily accessible from here.
Two historic buildings make up the hotel, so the layout of the guest rooms depends on which building it is housed in. No matter the location of the rooms you can be sure that it’s going to be an elegant space. It’s not a sprawling property given that it only features 110 guestrooms which include nine suites. The standard rooms are quite compact but the higher range rooms are more spacious with a few extras such as bathtubs and window seats.
The hotel’s open-air fitness center on the 9th floor is a clear standout with views of Union Square. During bad weather, the gym is protected from the elements by a plastic tent. Foodies will love the two Michelin starred restaurant that serves a seven-course Cali-Indian feast. Combined with expert wine pairing, you can be sure that a meal here will tantalize your taste buds.
One of the best hotels in San Francisco is the historic Palace Hotel, an iconic landmark in the city. The eight-floor building traces its roots to 1875. However, the 1906 earthquake destroyed the original building which was rebuilt in 1909. It’s not just the gorgeous hotel with its amenities that stands out, but the location too. The hotel is well placed for exploring many of the city’s attractions and the Financial District.
The grand dame among the historic hotels in San Francisco, the award-winning Palace Hotel underwent a massive renovation to give it a much-deserved facelift. Not that it didn’t stand out before! The refurbishment, however, used its historic elements to add an extra touch of class and sophistication. Guest rooms are unique in their layout with a stylish design that effectively incorporates the historic elements. Lofty ceilings and huge windows make the rooms seem more spacious.
The jewel in the hotel’s crown is undoubtedly the Garden Court that features a seven million dollar gold glass-domed ceiling. This iconic restaurant that opened in 1909 is well known for its Signature Tea service and Sunday City Brunch. Apart from the restaurant, the hotel also boasts the Pied Piper Bar & Grill, which was named among the top bars in the world. Another stunning feature of the hotel is the heated, indoor pool with its glass-covered roof. There’s also a well-equipped fitness center and a lobby shop.
Directly across from Oracle Park in South Beach is the new boutique hotel, Hotel VIA. With its charming aesthetic and convenient location, the hotel will rival the best for the top slot of best hotels in San Francisco. Though South Beach was primarily a district of warehouses, a lot has changed over the years to transform it into a trendy area. It’s in proximity to some of the most exciting destinations in the city with SoMa just a 10-minute walk from here.
The fashion-forward style of South Beach is reflected in the dynamic design of the hotel. There’s a subtle nod to Art Deco design in various elements of the hotel such as the sparkling sconces by the lift. Guest rooms feature minimalist furniture to maximize the space. The rooms are sleek and modern with a range of comforts.
One of the best places to hang out at the hotel is the Rooftop at VIA where you can enjoy a variety of drinks and tempting bites throughout the day. The outdoor lounge seating with curtained cabanas and heat lamps is the perfect setting to the end of a tiring day. There’s also a bar at the street level which is popular with locals given its proximity to the ballpark. A fitness center and a technology hub add to the comfort of staying here.
For those wanting to be close to all the action of downtown, the luxurious Four Seasons provides the best opportunity. Though it sits bang in the heart of downtown, the location of the hotel above street level ensures a peaceful rest. The hotel does not occupy the entire SoMa skyscraper but only the 5th to the 17th floors. It’s a good escape from the urban sprawl as the elevators lead straight up from Market Street into the hotel. Union Square with its high-end shopping is two blocks north of the hotel.
This hotel is a little different from the regular Four Seasons’ classic luxury as it has a more modern feel. Metallic fabrics and geometric patterns, plus blue and grey decor give the rooms a modern twist. When it comes to the size and amenities of the rooms and suites, this is one of the best hotels in San Francisco. Even the most basic rooms are spacious at 460 square feet and packed with modern comforts.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied outside the room at Equinox, a private health club that is not part of the hotel. Located beneath the hotel across three floors you’ll find plenty of opportunities for activities. An excellent gym, yoga rooms, a full-size basketball court, and a lengthy pool plus a spa are popular with guests who like to stay active. The best part is that guests of the hotel have unlimited access to this swanky club. For dining, you can enjoy a meal at the onsite MKT restaurant on the fifth floor.
Recommended Restaurants / Bars in San Francisco:
- Secret Food Tours – Discover some of the best places to eat in the heart of the Mission District. It’s not just about the food on this tour but you’ll also get an insight into the culture that makes up this vibrant culinary scene.
- Scoma’s Restaurant – One of the best places to enjoy some chowder and whole roasted crab is at this seafood restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf that has been serving pier to plate delicacies since 1965. If you choose to stay at one of the hotels in San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, this restaurant is a must visit!
Recommended Activities In San Francisco:
- Golden Gate Bay Cruise – One of the best ways to enjoy the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is on a cruise along the breathtaking waterfront. This landmark stands out as one of the top tourist attractions in the USA and attracts thousands of visitors every year. Besides sailing under this landmark you’ll also sail around Alcatraz Island and the former hippy enclave of Sausalito.
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – Since its founding in 1935, this museum has almost tripled in size, featuring seven floors of galleries. It’s one of the best places to marvel at the works of the masters.