Best areas to stay in San Francisco

Soak up the best areas to stay in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most vibrant cities that the USA has to offer, filled with charming condos, colourful street art and iconic streetcars. Each neighbourhood has its own unique charm and appeal, with a wide variety of experiences to choose from! If you want to splash the cash then opt for the hilltop prestige of Nob Hill, while you can make the most of the bayside breezes at Fisherman’s Wharf. Wanna sing your heart out at a karaoke bar? Castro might be the perfect place for you. Or to make the most of the city’s delectable food scene, hole yourself up in North Beach’s Little Italy, or nearby SoMa.

  1. North Beach
  2. SoMa
  3. Castro
  4. Nob Hill
  5. Fisherman’s Wharf

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. North Beach

The North Beach area of San Francisco is home to Little Italy, and here it’s like stepping into the European hotspot; on a much larger American scale, that is. As is expected, the hotels here have a certain European charm and flair to them, while the pasta restaurants, pizza joints and gelato stores are waiting to fill your belly! Once you’ve soaked up some of the best Italian food and drink that San Fran has to offer, it’s probably best to rest up in the spacious Washington Square for a little downtime. Or, if you’ve got a second bout of energy, head up to Telegraph Hill, and ride the lift to the top of Coit Tower for stunning, city-wide views.

Best for: Foodies.

While you’re there: Make sure you arrive early or book ahead for the top spots.

2. SoMa

Another bustling area to stay in San Francisco for foodies is SoMa (or South of Market). The food scene here is well-varied, so no two meals, restaurants or bars are the same. If food isn’t a priority on your travel itinerary, then head to one of three museums in SoMa. There’s the Museum of Modern art which spans a collection from the 16th century onwards; the Museum of the African Diaspora which shines a light on the African Diaspora and celebrates Black culture; and the Contemporary Jewish Museum which features regularly changing exhibitions about contemporary art, figures such as Levi Strauss and historic photography displays.

Best for: Culture vultures.

While you’re there: Go ice-skating at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Centre; it’s open year-round!

3. Castro

Castro is full of energy, at all times of the day. Located slap-bang in the middle of the city, vintage streetcars pull through the streets, transporting passengers down to the likes of Fisherman’s Wharf. But aside from the scenic streets and twee trams, Castro’s real draw is its people that make the area what it is. There’s a thriving LGBTQ scene here: think rainbow-painted roads, inclusive bars and a community spirit. It will leave you wanting to stay just one more night, if not just to make new friends in the variety of bars and public spaces. This was where Harvey Milk lived and worked, so it really is a prominent place for LGBTQ activism heritage, too. If you’re browsing San Francisco holidays, Castro really is one of the most exciting places to stay.

Best for: LGBTQ travellers and allies

While you’re there: While away the evening at a jazz, pinball, karaoke or drag bar.

4. Nob Hill

Nob Hill is one of the most well-heeled areas to stay in San Francisco. Located on one of the city’s seven hills, expect to find luxury hotels, restored condos and other affluent accommodation options in this prime neighbourhood. Stroll around Huntington Park with its grandiose Fountain of the Tortoises, admire the Gothic architecture of the Grace Cathedral and round it all off at a rooftop bar for a swanky sundowner. And, thanks to its hilltop position, there’s great views to be had in seemingly every direction.

Best for: Hilltop views.

While you’re there: The cable car museum is a must (and only 5 minutes away).

5. Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular areas to stay in San Francisco, largely thanks to its waterfront position. The perks don’t end with the bayfront views, though. There’s fresh seafood to devour, Pier 39 to stroll along (keep an eye out for sea lions!) and tons of weather-proof sights and attractions. Base yourself here and you can leave the land behind with a bay cruise or boat tour to the notorious Alcatraz, or even take to the skies by seaplane. In fact, you could easily spend most of your time in San Francisco here, making it an ideal spot to base yourself; but you’ll find it difficult to peel yourself away from this area when it’s time to check out! Don’t say we didn’t warn you...

Best for: Waterside San Fran.

While you’re there: Head to the Sea Lion Centre on Pier 39 to see the giant water beasts lazing on the pontoons.

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