Top Things To Do And See In Union Square
- Shop till you drop in big-name stores like Neiman Marcus and Macys and treat yourself at one of Maiden Lanes boutiques.
- Sample gourmet delicacies from around the world at the Ferry Building.
- Admire the striking Frank Lloyd Wright Building.
- See free summertime cultural performances at the square.
- Ride the historic cable cars and watch as people turn the cars by hand at the Cable Car Turn Around on Market Street and Powell Street.
- Discover quirky museums, like the Museum of Ice Cream and the Kiosk Museum.
- Snap a picture of the Dewey Monument and take a selfie with the hand-painted hearts in Union Square Park.
- See historic pre-earthquake architecture at The Flood Building and The Westin St. Francis Hotel.
Visit The Cable Car Museum
To learn more about the history of the San Francisco cable car visit the Cable Car Museum in Nob Hill. Learn more about the historical impact the cars have had on the city. View old photographs of some of the original lines and cars and even watch the actual cables turn, as they keep the cars moving up the hilly streets of San Francisco.
San Francisco Travel Tips
Before we dive into our San Francisco neighborhood guide, here are a few quick tips that youll need to know before you start planning your trip.
Weve got some more helpful and only mildly helpful tips for visiting San Francisco in our guide to things nobody tells you about San Francisco!
If your check-in and check-out times dont sync up with your need to roam the streets and you need a place to store your bags check out LuggageHero, a service that helps you find a safe place to keep your luggage while youre running around! Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
Now that weve got that out of the way, lets dive into which areas to stay in San Francisco!
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Why Stay In Embarcedero And Financial District
Embarcedero is San Francisco’s gateway to the world, and oh âthe places youâll go!â The ferry building stands at the foot of Market Street and houses a food hall, restaurants and a farmers market. The man made treasure Island lies across the bay and is easily reached from Embarcaderoâs ferry ports as well as nearby Marin County, Vallejo, Oakland, and Alameda. Bordering the Financial district is Chinatown, one of the oldest Chinese settlements in the whole of the US. The streets and alleys here are full to the brim with rich street foods and traditional eateries. Head here for a taste of Asian culture, elaborate temples, and some of San Francisco’s oldest cocktail bars.
Where To Stay In The Marina
Chelsea Inn This 3-star hotel features a great location in terms of public transport theres a bus stop just outside from where you can catch a bus right to the Golden Gate Bridge! Its also surrounded by a load of high-end shops and restaurants, plus Union Street is nearby. The rooms are done in Mock Tudor style, are spacious, clean, and feature wood paneling and large wooden beds. This is a great option for an affordable stay in the city.
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More San Francisco Planning Resources
Travel Planning Resources
Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.
Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner
Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO.
Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:
- World Nomads – Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
- Allianz – Occasional Travelers.
- Medjet – Global air medical transport and travel security.
Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.
Where To Stay In Russian Hill
Comfort Inn By the Bay Hotel With top sights like Lombard Street and Fishermans Wharf within easy walking distance, this hotel is a good option for anybody who wants to get out and about on their San Francisco trip. The staff are friendly and helpful and serve up free, tasty waffles for breakfast every day. The rooms are decorated in a traditional style and come with dark wood furniture. Plus, theres free coffee provided in the lobby at all times of the day.
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Best Hotel In The Mission: Inn San Francisco
In the heart of The Mission, Inn San Francisco has double, queen, and family rooms, some with spa baths and some with terraces. All rooms have a private bathroom.
Other room facilities include a TV, Wi-Fi, hairdryer, fridge, and wardrobe. Take a stroll through the garden, soak in the hot tub, unwind in the lounge, and have fun in the games room. A buffet breakfast is included in the room price.
What Is The Bart Schedule
There are seven BART routes or lines, and four of them travel through downtown San Francisco. They are:
- Berryessa/North San JoséRichmond
- Berryessa/North San JoséDaly City
- Oakland International Airport
Note: BART is running a modified schedule due to the pandemic. On weekdays, trains run every 15 minutes. On nights and weekends, trains run every 30 minutes. Be sure to check the schedule before you go.
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Best Airbnb In Nob Hill: Bright & Central Apartment
Want to stay in the heart of the action? Then check out this awesome apartment in Nob Hill! The studio is ideal for couples but can sleep up to four guests, and features a kitchenette and wifi. San Franciscos best places to visit are within easy reach Chinatown, North Beach, and Polk Street all just a short walk away.
Get Discounts On Admission Fees
San Francisco CityPASS includes a seven-day Muni Pass good for unlimited rides on the cable car, historic trolley and other public transport, along with admission to various attractions and a San Francisco Bay Cruise. The Go San Francisco Card also includes several attractions and offers more options.
For deep discounts on bay cruises, guided tours, and lots of entertainment and performances, see how we use Goldstar to save money.
The Tix ticket booth in Union Square offers same-day discounts to many kinds of performances.
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Which Area Should You Choose
First of all, here is a map of San Francisco neighborhoods so you can better visualize the areas Ill be talking about in this post:
Even though the city is not that big, it is divided into 5 different districts: Downtown, Richmond, Upper Market, Sunset and Bayview. Each one of these is then divided into smaller neighborhoods, each with its own charm and unique advantages.
Okay, but how can you choose? All of them are so different from each other! Well, in order to help you out, I have created a list of personalized recommendations that you can check out below:
- Where to stay in San Francisco for luxury: Downtown San Francisco
- Best area to stay in San Francisco for budget travelers: Marina District
- Where to stay in San Francisco for families: Fishermans Wharf
- Where to stay in San Francisco for nightlife: The Mission
Now that you understand a bit more about how the city is organized and which are the best areas for certain needs and preferences, let me tell you everything you need to know about each of these areas:
How Do I Purchase A Ticket
To ride BART, you will need to purchase Clipper card . Clipper is an all-in-one transit card that can be used on BART and other modes of travel throughout the Bay Area, including San Franciscos Muni System, the Golden Gate Ferry, Bay Wheels bike share and AC Transit. Learn more on the Clipper website.
To purchase a Clipper card, visit the kiosk within any BART station. To find your fare, or check the chart posted on the ticket vending machine. There is a $3 fee to purchase a Clipper card. Weekly or monthly passes are not available.
You can add value to the card at Clipper Add Value machines at any BART station.
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Best Places To Stay In Nob Hill
Fairmont San Francisco Set inside a wonderful historic building, this grand, historic hotel provides a high level of service for a supremely comfortable stay. The rooms come with heritage features like high ceilings, big windows, and balconies with incredible views across the city. On-site, youll find a restaurant that serves up Polynesian food, as well as a selection of other bars and restaurants to choose from. Catching the cable car from here to the Downtown district is easy, but its also close to the Grace Cathedral and other sights.
Huntington Hotel This iconic 5-star hotel takes as much inspiration from Singaporean Chinese heritage as it does from high-end fashion. The rooms are spacious and quiet for a comfortable and peaceful nights sleep. Theres a relaxed atmosphere here, plus a romantic bar onsite. There is also a spa for even more relaxation and a hot tub, too. The Cable Car Museum is close by, so are Union Square, Curran Theatre, and a whole lot more in terms of San Francisco sights.
Where To Stay In The Castro
Becks Motor Lodge With an exterior that looks like a classic American motel, the interiors here have been tastefully renovated for a stylish, simple, yet quirky and comfortable stay in San Francisco. The big communal balcony at Becks Motor Lodge is a great place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing. Theres free parking for guests, but at the same time, its conveniently located for public transport and surrounded by restaurants. Mission Dolores Park is close by.
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Best Neighborhoods In San Francisco For
Best Neighborhood in San Francisco for Families: Fishermans WharfStaying at Fishermans Wharf means being within walking distance of the harbor, a vast range of family-friendly attractions, whale-watching and boat trips to Alcatraz, a wide array of eating options , and even access to those fun cable cars. Kids will love quirky attractions such as the Musée Mécanique and Madame Tussauds San Francisco, plus the historic boats on Hyde Street Pier, the Aquarium of the Bay and the barking sea lions lounging off Pier 39.
Best Neighborhood in San Francisco for First Timers and Sightseeing: Union SquareThough Fishermans Wharf is San Franciscos tourist hub, we recommend Union Square for anyone traveling without kids. Its the citys bustling commercial heart, its primary shopping district, and peppered with iconic bars and eateries. Theres also plenty of accommodation, and its one of the central hubs of San Franciscos public transportation system, meaning relatively easy access to the whole city. From here its relatively easy strolls to the attractions of Chinatown and North Beach, the museums of SoMa, and the mansions of Nob Hill.
Where To Stay In San Francisco: A Locals Complete Guide
We love San Francisco, which is where we met, got married, and lived for almost a decade. Its an incredible conglomeration of neighborhoods, all with their own unique style and vibe. For example, in the Marina youll run into bar-hopping twentysomethings who just moved out of the fraternity, while the Outer Sunset is basically a beach town. There are so many different neighborhoods in San Francisco, its hard to keep track of all of them even as a local. How can someone who is visiting for a long weekend be expected to?
When people ask us where to stay in San Francisco, we have a pretty strong perspective. We lived in San Francisco for years before we took off to travel the world full time, and were here to give you the inside information on the best places to stay in San Francisco for your trip.
Why listen to us? We lived in San Francisco for more than seven years Alysha was there for almost a decade . One of our favorite things to do is to explore the best neighborhoods in San Francisco on foot, looking for new coffee shops, cafes, and interesting things to do and see. Wed say hey, on Saturday, lets do the Castro and head out there to explore. Weve been to all the places listed in this guide, and know the reality of each of the neighborhoods listed below.
DO NOT STAY IN FISHERMANS WHARF. That tip alone is worth the price of admission. Which, of course, is free.
While youre in trip-planning mode, dont miss our other San Francisco travel guides!
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Ways To Be A Smart San Francisco Tourist
Browse through the 12-part San Francisco Vacation Planner: It will bring you more tips than we can give on this one page.
Know the Weather: Many San Francisco tourists don’t realize how cold San Francisco feel in summer, and dozens of cheap sweatshirt shops are thriving because of their ignorance. Maybe you wanted that souvenir shirt anyway, but your trip will be more comfortable if you know that the average low in June and July is in the mid-50s or that’s it’s sunnier in October than in May.
Stay in the Right Place: People sometimes ask about hotels along Van Ness and Lombard Streets, but they’re not ideal: inconvenient and sometimes noisy. The best areas in the city for tourists are Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Spend Smart: Discover 8 surprising ways to save money in San Francisco. It includes how to save on transportation, attractions, tours, and hotels.
Go Car-Free: It’s not just an environmental statement, it’s a smart choice. San Francisco is small, and most tourist sights are close together, so you don’t need one to get around. Even worse, some hotels charge more than the price of a nice lunch just for parking. If you think you’ll just park on the street, snagging a spot there requires more luck than a box of that sugary breakfast cereal with those little chalky marshmallows in it. Pick a hotel in a convenient area , use public transportation, Uber or taxis, and rent a car for just one day if you want to take a side trip.
Where To Stay In San Francisco Around The Mission And The Castro
Beck’s Motor Lodge
The colorful Castro District in San Francisco is home to this charming motel, nestled on a tree-lined street near local attractions. Free WiFi and free parking are included. A small refrigerator and cable TV are provided in each guest room at Beck’s Motor Lodge. An en suite bathroom is included.
The Willows Inn
Situated in San Francisco, The Willows Inn features free WiFi, 1.2 miles from San Francisco City Hall. A continental breakfast is available every morning at the property.
Business Ready Room in Castro
Business Ready Room in Castro is located in the The Castro district of San Francisco, 1.8 miles from San Francisco City Hall and 1.9 miles from University of San Francisco. Guests may enjoy free WiFi. The holiday home has a cable TV. A dishwasher, an oven and a microwave can be found in the kitchen.
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Where To Stay Around The Northern Waterfront And Pacific Heights
From east to west, San Franciscos Northern Waterfront begins with crass commercialism, passes through areas of vast wealth, and ends at the citys most famous landmark.
This is an area that almost every visitor at least drops into. Its stunning vistas, opulent neighbourhoods and even the tourist schlock seem to hold something for everyone.
Overpriced and unapologetically tacky, Fishermans Wharf is convenient for trips to Alcatraz and Angel Island. Things take a turn for the affluent in the Marina and Cow Hollow neighbourhoods, where yacht clubs and boutiques dominate the scene. Perched on the tall hill above stands stately, exclusive Pacific heights. This is where much of San Franciscos oldest money resides, and some of its new wealth as well.
Best for budget cool: Hotel del Sol
An offbeat, updated motor lodge with a tropical theme. It has a small but inviting outdoor swimming pool .
Best for a boutique B& B: Grand Lady Victorian
Gloriously restored Victorian building enjoying its second life with gold-accented Rococo furniture and bunches of silk flowers.
Discover The City By The Bay: San Francisco Highlights
Grab your love beads, dust off your caftan, and paint a peace sign on your cheek, were heading to San Fran baby, yeah! Okay, so actually, you can forget all that, because one of Americas most iconic destinations left its Summer of Love reputation behind a long time ago, and is now a 21st century hot-spot for trendy travellers. Its still rebellious, but it does it digitally. And its turning into one of the best foodie paradises on the West Coast, too.
The enormous tech industry just up the highway in Silicon Valley has provided San Francisco with a new generation of pioneers, trailblazers, and visionaries. That means theres an explosion of cool bars, trendy restaurants, and boutique hotels popping up left, right and centre, making San Francisco one of the best spots to holiday in northern California. Youre right in the middle of wine country, and youve got iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate bridge, the wonderfully wiggly Lombard Street , and the imposing Alcatraz Island to explore.
Our San Francisco holiday packages are designed to put you right in the middle of all this uniquely Californian lifestyle. Its genuinely one of our favourite destinations in the world, and one visit is never enough. So hop onboard a streetcar named Desire, hold on tight, and lets take a look at San Francisco in all its crazy glory.
Theres so much to see and do on San Francisco holidays that its difficult to know where to begin. Not to worry, weve got a few ideas to get you started.
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