Along with New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, San Francisco is one of the most desired vacation destinations in America. In fact, San Francisco saw nearly 15 million visitors in 2021, which is 25% more than it did in 2020. In 2019, before the covid-19 pandemic, the city reached a new record with nearly 27 million visitors.
That being said, finding a place to stay in San Francisco can be tricky. San Francisco law prohibits Airbnb hosts from allowing guests for more than 90 days each year, so they tend to book up quickly. Alternatively, booking a hotel in America’s second most expensive city can be pricey.
While the vast majority of visitors have no intentions other than vacationing, Utopia Management notes that some visitors come to the Bay Area to explore the possibility of relocating. Either way, to make sure you get the most out of your time in San Francisco, it is important that you not only book your airbnb or hotel well in advance with your budget in mind, but also choose a neighborhood to stay in that can help make your visit all that you imagined it to be. Below, we have outlined some of the coolest spots in San Francisco to make your decision a bit easier.
Best Neighborhoods for Airbnbs
1. Mission District
The Mission District is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in San Francisco. Located at the top of a large hill, Mission Dolores park has a stunning view of the city and is the perfect place for a picnic. Along the edge of the park, you will find the Painted Ladies, famous for their appearance in the ABC family sitcom, Full House.
The streets surrounding the park are among the most charming in the Bay Area. The townhomes and buildings are vibrant in color and accented by equally colorful plants and flowers. As you walk along Mission Street, you will find plenty of dining and nightlife destinations with latin flares.
Haight-Ashbury is an absolute must-see for anyone with a love for 60s hippie culture or American cultural history. Known as the birthplace of the counterculture movement in America, walking through Haight-Ashbury is like stepping into the past. You will be surrounded by murals, vintage clothing stores, music shops (notably Amoeba Records), psychedelic gift shops, quaint coffee and tea houses, and local music venues.
If you follow Haight street west, you will find the beautiful Golden Gate Park, which is home to the Japanese Tea Gardens, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and plenty of gorgeous green space and sidewalks, perfect for a picnic or an afternoon with the book you just scored at one of Haight street’s many local bookstores.
Best Neighborhoods for Hotels
1. Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is known as one of San Francisco’s most bustling tourist destinations. Located along the bay in the northeast region of the city, the wharf offers plentiful dining options for the seafood lover. At any time of day, one is sure to find San Franciscan sea lions lounging on the docks, and when the famous bay area fog lifts from the water, Alcatraz island and the Golden Gate bridge command the horizon.
The wharf is also within comfortable walking distance to other must-sees in the city, including the picturesque Lombard Street, known for its eight hairpin turns, as well as many museums, including Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and the Cartoon Art Museum. Hyatt, Marriott, and Holiday Inn all have affordable hotels located in Fisherman’s Wharf. If you are interested in supporting a local hotel, check out Hotel Zephyr, Hotel Riu Plaza, and The Wharf Inn.
2. Financial District
Downtown San Francisco, otherwise known as the Financial District, is the best area in the city to stay on a business trip. Hotels in the area– namely the Hilton, Hyatt Regency, and Le Meridien by Marriott– are constantly hosting professional conferences and events and are great places to network and be productive while also enjoying some of the city’s best ocean-side views.
The Financial District is also centrally located, just southwest of Fisherman’s Wharf and just north of SoMa, a warehouse district now home to the Giants at AT&T Park, as well as many museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California Historical Society, and the Museum of the African Diaspora, to name a few.
3. Union Square
While Union Square literally refers to a large public plaza, it is a name given to the surrounding neighborhood as well. Home to the most department stores, retail shopping, and specialty boutiques in the city, Union Square is sure to be a hit for any shopaholic or anyone in need of a little retail therapy.
But shopping can be as tiring as it is fun; Luckily, Union Square is also home to a bounty of dining options, from fine dining to casual grab-and-gos. The neighborhood is also home to the city’s performing arts centers, so be sure to grab tickets to a show following a nice dinner. Some hotel options in Union Square include Westin St. Francis, San Francisco Marriott, and the Hilton Union Square, and dozens more.