San Francisco Lodging Guide

San Francisco is a wonderful mosaic of overlapping neighborhoods that border each other and sometimes blend into each other, making the variety you can find within one block either delightful or confusing, depending on your personality type! For those planning on staying in San Francisco for a few nights or longer, here’s a rundown of just a few of the more popular neighborhoods and what you might find in each one.

Union Square

air view of Union Square

Many of the big chains and well known brand names are located near Union Square, just up Powell Street from the popular Cable Car Turntable at Market Street, and just a few blocks west of the Financial District, and southeast of Chinatown. The streets leading west from Union Square, Geary, Post, Sutter and Bush have dozens of small hotels with rich heritage, cozy rooms and convenient locations with intimate restaurants plus many amenities close by. You will also find many of the largest hotels in San Francisco within 3 blocks of the Union Square: the Westin St. Francis, the Hilton, the Parc 55, the Nikko, and the Grand Hyatt, all catering to tourists and business travelers alike. Union Square itself is surrounded with the best known names in shopping, like Macy’s, Saks, Disney, Nike, and Williams Sonoma, and there are hundreds of places to eat, from hole in the wall pizza and subs, to black-tie luxury. Post and Geary streets west of Powell are also know as the Theatre District, where you will find several of San Francisco’s best known theatres, showcasing touring Off-Broadway and local productions.

Union Square also is the southern boundary of Nob Hill, on top of which you will find two of the best-known and grand, old hotels in San Francisco, the Fairmont and the Mark Hopkins, known for its Top of the Mark restaurant with great views and luxurious surroundings. Many of San Francisco’s affordable Hostels are also located just west of Union Square.

Financial District, Market Street and Convention Center

buildings and hotels in front of the bay  bridge

Most of the hotels in the Financial District are on Market Street, or just south of it, starting with the Four Seasons near the new Westfield Shopping Centre between Fourth and Fifth Streets, and ending at the Hyatt Embarcadero, within sight of the Ferry Building at the end of Market Street. The Marriott is on Fourth Street just South of Market on the way to the Moscone Convention Center, and across Mission Street from the Metreon Entertainment and Movie complex. On other low-numbered streets South of Market you will find the Palace, the Mosser, the Park Central, the Milano, the W, the Palomar and the Pickwick. The streets of the financial district are some of the oldest and narrowest streets in San Francisco and many businesses cater only to the daytime crowd, but there are hidden gems nestled in between the towers, like the restaurants of Belden street. Don’t forget Chinatown its with many restaurants open for business lunches and evening dinners for tourists.

Fisherman’s Wharf

The famous Fisherman’s Wharf is also full of large hotels with brand names like Hyatt, Marriot, Hilton, and Riu, but there are a fair number of smaller hotels with unique atmospheres, like the Zoe and the Argonaut. And all of the them are close to great seafood restaurants and shopping, the two Cable Car Turntables, Ghirardelli Square, the Cannery, and the wonderful sights and sounds of San Francisco Bay. Fisherman’s Wharf between Pier 33 and Pier 45 include some of San Francisco’s most popular destinations for world travelers, including Pier 39’s shopping mall on stilts, with its resident California sea lion population, and the departure points for the Bay Cruise, Alcatraz, and commuter ferries to Sausalito and Larkspur in Marin County.

Chinatown and North Beach

mural on a wall in chinatown

Two famous San Francisco neighborhoods, with Columbus Street acting as the approximate diagonal border from northwest to southeast. At the southeast end is the Transamerica Building and Financial District. Nearby is the Hilton Financial District on Kearney. The Club Quarters and the Omni are a little further south into the Financial District, and there are a few small hotels and hostels in the area. Many of the restaurants cater to the business crowd at lunch and the dinner crowd and tourists at night. At the other end of Columbus is the Cannery and Fisherman’s Wharf. In between is San Francisco’s Little Italy – North Beach, we call it. The beach was filled in 150 years ago, but the name stuck. From Broadway to Beach is a wonderful array of dozens of Italian restaurants, bars, cafes, coffee shops, music venues, a comedy club, Washington Square park and access to Coit Tower on top of Telegraph hill, but not very many hotels. You’ll probably want to stay near Union Square or Fisherman’s Wharf.

Well, there are about 50 more neighborhoods in San Francisco that you may well want to visit, but the five described above hold about 90 percent of the hotel rooms within the city limits, and the major transportation lines run through and around these neighborhoods, so staying in any of them makes a good jumping off point for any trip to San Francisco.