San Francisco

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California San Francisco

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Introduction

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

© All Rights Reserved davidarow

San Francisco's cosmopolitan feel and somewhat European charm make it one of the most popular stops in the USA. Located along the northern California coastline, the weather here can be a little less sunny and generally colder compared to the southern parts. September and October are considered the most reliable months for a visit. Famous for the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, San Francisco will occupy you for at least a few days, but its friendly atmosphere and diverse suburbs will probably keep you longer than you intended to.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Alamo Square - This area surrounds the Alamo Square park where locals picnic and relax outside. It is home to the famous "painted ladies" houses which were highlighted in intro to the 1980s sitcom "Full House."
  • Bernal Heights - Located at the southern edge of Mission Valley, Bernal Heights is a small, trendy community filled with small restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. Travel along Cortland Avenue, the neighborhoods main drag to get a feel for this rather unique neighborhood.
  • Castro-Noe Valley - Colorful and cohesive, the Castro is historically known for being the cultural center of the city's LGBTQ community. Nearby Noe Valley offers excellent restaurants and shops along pleasantly walkable streets.
  • Chinatown - Full of history, culture, and touristy gimmicks, Chinatown is a must-see neighborhood. It's located between the Financial District and Nob Hill. The main commercial street is Grant St, but for a more authentic experience wander down Stockton. People crowd the streets that are lined with local shops selling produce and meats and restaurants providing dim sum specialties.
  • Cole Valley - small neighbourhood southwest of downtown San Francisco
  • Deco Ghetto - also southwest of downtown, just north of Market Street
  • Fisherman's Wharf - At Fisherman's Wharf you'll find Pier 39 and 41, which offer touristy shopping, restaurants, seafood, and views of Angel Island and Alcatraz Island. Fisherman's Wharf is also the location where travelers can catch ferries to Alcatraz.
  • Golden Gate - Fashionable neighborhoods, e.g., the Marina District, Cow Hollow, and Pacific Heights, with extensive views and historical landmarks - Fort Mason, The Presidio, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Truly a park for the people, Golden Gate Park reaches into San Francisco from Ocean Beach to Stanyan Street. Larger in area than Central Park in New York, Golden Gate Park is home to bison, the Murphy Windmill, a Japanese tea garden, and a rich variety of museums, including the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
  • Haight - Also known as Haight-Ashbury, this vibrant neighborhood was the center of the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1960's. It still retains much of its' hippie culture today.
  • Marina - Home to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium.
  • Mission - This vibrant area is home to a large Hispanic community as well as new urban artisans, and is a center of San Francisco night life. For visitors wishing to get off the beaten tourist paths and catch some local flavor, this is the place to go.
  • Nob Hill - Nob Hill is historically known as the place where the rich came to see and be seen. The top of the Hill (at the intersection of California and Jones) offers stunning views of the Financial District and Angels Island in the bay. Grace Cathedral is a must see as well. Down the hill you will find Polk Street, an area frequented by locals for it diversity of ethnic restaurants and shopping.
  • Noe Valley - This neighborhood is home to many young families. You'll see many young couples pushing baby carriages while they enjoy a weekend brunch at a trendy restaurant.
  • North Beach - North Beach is San Francisco's Italian neighborhood, replete with the obligatory trattorias, as well as lovely parks, visas, and walks and serves as a launching-off point for bicycle and walking tours.
  • Pacific Heights - Home to many well known dot-comers, Pacific Heights has large mansions in a trendy, young, and hip neighborhood. It houses many boutiques and specialty shops, trendy restaurants, and popular bars.
  • Potrero Hill- Best known for the Anchor Steam Brewery.
  • Presidio - The Presidio is a lovely place to walk, picnic, and take pictures.
  • Russian Hill - When you've had your fill of zigging and zagging on Lombard Street, take a stroll around ritzy Russian Hill to get a glimpse of some of the city's finest homes.
  • SoMa - SoMa is a pretty expansive area. It has a rather industrial feel, but is home to nightspots, bars, restaurants, and loft apartments. A few stretches (e.g., along 6th street) can be iffy, but your best bets are South Park near the Giants' ballpark, the area around SF MOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens, and on Folsom near 11th and near 7th streets.
  • Southeast San Francisco - A mostly lower income residential area, this district contains several bay-side neighborhoods and many nice parks.
  • Telegraph Hill - When it comes to neighborhood vibe, classic San Francisco architecture, and great views, Telegraph Hill can't be beat.
  • Tenderloin - has a reputation for crime, but also has a unique working class personality not common in the rest of the city. This neighborhood has many unique ethnic restaurants well worth checking out.
  • The Avenues - Includes both the foggy Sunset and Richmond Districts, separated by the scenic and lush Golden Gate Park and bounded on the west by Ocean Beach.
  • Twin Peaks-Lake Merced - Covering most of southwestern San Francisco, this area is home to many of the taller hills of San Francisco and the large Lake Merced park, which contains the San Francisco Zoo.
  • Union Square - Financial District - The plaza is known for its many shopping and dining opportunities in the surrounding blocks. It is also a major transportation hub and a great place to hop on the famous San Fransisco streetcars.
  • Western Addition - west of downtown, sandwiched between Van Ness Avenue, the Richmond District, the Upper and Lower Haight neighborhoods, and Pacific Heights. A historic neighborhood with many Victorian homes that was once a hotbed of African-American culture. Within the area is also Japantown, once the center of San Francisco's Japanese population, still populated with many Japanese stores and restaurants, and hotels that cater to Japanese travelers.

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Sights and Activities

San Francisco is awash in fun activities for practically everybody. Events and happenings in everybody's favorite city are always changing. The local visitors' bureau has a really good events calendar, with information about what's currently going on in town. Alternatively, try the Fisherman's Wharf website for a list of everything happening at the city's most popular tourist attraction.

Don't forget to check on which days museums offer discounted entrance, or are hosting special events such as film festivals or parties!

Alcatraz Island

alcatraz

alcatraz

© All Rights Reserved rob laurie

A trip to Alcatraz Island should be at the very top of every visitor's agenda to San Francisco. Fascinating history and amazing views make this a most memorable day. A highly recommended automated walking tour brings the experience to life. For a more eerie take on Alcatraz Island, pay a little more and do a tour after sunset at night. Check the official Alcatraz website for more information or if you want to, Alcatraz Cruises offers boat trips and is the official ticket company for the museum entrance fees and boat transfers. There is also some flora and fauna to be found on the island, but the prison museum is the highlight you are visiting for. To avoid disappointment, buy your tickets online in advance, especially during high season and weekends.

DeYoung Museum

The newly renovated/built DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park is simply spectacular. Gazing at the building and going into its tower for a most unexpected perspective on San Francisco is enough of a reason to visit. But, the fine art collection strikes the visitor as much like the city itself, eclectic, vibrant, beautiful and unlike any other in the world.

Golden Gate Bridge

If you haven't walked across Golden Gate Bridge in the evening, toward sunset, you really haven't lived. The setting sun's rays reach into the glowing city and make for a spectacular scene. Below you, the peace of the bay clashes and mixes with the drama and power of the endless Pacific ocean. At times, some locals say it can be better than the Grand Canyon. Bring someone you love to make the moment complete. After walking or biking north across the Golden Gate Bridge, coast down to the absolutely charming village of Sausalito. When you've had your fill of galleries and coffee shops, take the ferry back across the bay. The ride is nearly as romantic as the bridge, and affords a lovely view of Alcatraz and Angel Island.

Pier 39

Positioned as the center of Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 is a multilevel facility offering many options for dining and shopping. Pier 39 is also home to the famous sea lions.

Pier 41

Located in Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 41 offers spectacular views of both Alcatraz Island and Angel Island. This is the location where travelers catch the ferry to go to Alcatraz Island. However, as the ticket booth usually sells out in advanced, it would be wise to purchase tickets ahead of time.

The Cannery

The Cannery is located at Del Monte Square on Columbus St, and once was an old Peach Canning Plant. Today, The Cannery offers some of the most unique shopping and dinning experiences in the entire city. This is a must see location in Downtown San Francisco, as it is sure to not disappoint.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a part of Fisherman's Wharf with shops and restaurants and part of it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Angel Island

Angel Island, in the bay, is accessible by public ferry. Hiking and biking trails circle the island and offer incredible views of the city skyline.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is a great place to spend a few hours. You can walk through the rose garden, explore the Japanese Tea Garden (for a small fee), or bike. The park is San Francisco's answer to Central Park in New York City. There is a small pond where you can rent paddle boats or you can simply relax with a picnic lunch.

San Francisco Dungeon

The San Francisco Dungeon is an exciting theatrical visitor attraction. Stories of old San Francisco are brought to life with a full theatrical actor cast, special effects, gripping storytelling, 360 sets and an awesome underground boat ride. It’s hilarious fun and sometimes a little bit scary. This is the ultimate live action journey through the Bay Area’s authentic past.[/listing]

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.

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Weather

San Francisco can be downright cold at some times. Because it's right on the bay the temperature stays about the same all year round. Even in the summer, a thick jacket is needed in the evenings if you're going to walk around. September and October are normally the more stable months with the highest chance of dry and sunny weather.

The months of May through September are dry with temperatures during the summer to peak at 21 °C on average and with an average low of about 10 °C. From November through March, rain is a common occurrence with mild winter temperatures at an average low of 7 °C and peaking at about 15 °C. Snowfall is extremely rare in San Francisco, as is frost. Fog can be a problem year round, reducing visibility sometimes for days.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max13.1 °C15.2 °C16 °C17.7 °C19.2 °C21.3 °C22 °C22.4 °C23.1 °C21.2 °C16.9 °C13.4 °C
Avg Min5.4 °C7.2 °C7.7 °C8.4 °C9.8 °C11.4 °C12.2 °C12.8 °C12.9 °C11 °C8.4 °C5.9 °C
Rainfall110.5 mm80.5 mm77.7 mm34.8 mm4.8 mm2.8 mm0.8 mm1.3 mm5.1 mm31 mm72.6 mm78.5 mm
Rain Days87.484.81.30.50.20.30.92.66.47.6

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Getting There

By Plane

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), located 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of San Francisco, is a major gateway to Asia, Europe and Oceania and there are numerous domestic flights as well. After Los Angeles International Airport, it's the second biggest in California and in the top 25 of the world regarding the number of passengers.

United Airlines and American Airlines are the biggest carriers with almost half of the flights to San Francisco, mostly domestic, operated by them. Destinations include New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Detroit, Washtington, D.C., Philadelphia, Honolulu, Orlando, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Foreign carriers include Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Singapore Airlines. Destinations with these and other airlines include London, Paris, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Beijing, Auckland, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Dubai, Frankfurt, Munich, Manila, Singapore, Sydney, Zürich and a number of places in Canada and Mexico.

To/from the airport:

  • Rail: The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) BART station, located in Parking Garage G of the International Terminal, is the only direct rail link between the airport, the city of San Francisco, and the general Bay Area.
  • Bus: SamTrans, San Mateo County's transit agency has three lines connecting Terminal 2, Terminal 3, and the International Terminal to San Francisco and the Peninsula down to Palo Alto.
  • Car: The airport is located on U.S. Route 101, 13 miles (21 kilometres) south of downtown San Francisco. It is near the US 101 interchange with Interstate 380, a short freeway that connects US 101 with Interstate 280.
  • Taxi: Taxis depart from designated taxi zones located at the roadway center islands, on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim Level of all terminals.

Other large nearby international airports include Oakland and San Jose, both mainly serve US destinations. Both fly to a few Mexican places though and there are seasonal flights from Oakland to Bermuda and Terceira, one of the Azores Islands.

By Train

Although officially there are no Amtrak trains operating to and from the city of San Francisco itself, there are several trains travelling from Emeryville and the San Francisco Bay Area (Sacramento, Oakland) which can be of use for travellers definately wanting to travel to or from San Francisco by train. These are:

Amtrak's Coast Starlight route runs between Vancouver, Canada and San Diego, California, with Bay Area stops in Martinez, Emeryville, Oakland and San Jose. If you can swing it, the Coast Starlight is a priceless experience: the observation cars afford you hours and hours of gorgeous views of Northern California if you're coming from the north, or the coast if you're coming from the south. It's fast, affordable, and comfortable. Plus, you can schedule in layovers along the way and discover the jewels along the way!

By Car

  • Highway 101 runs from the south through San Jose along to east coast of the peninsula where it turns into surface streets through San Francisco. The highway meets the one and crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and off into Marin County in the north.
  • Interstate 280 runs from San Jose through the centre of the peninsula into San Fransisco.
  • Interstate 80 runs from the northeast through Vallejo and the east bay before crossing the Bay Bridge and terminating in San Francisco.
  • Highway 1 offers a scenic route along the west coast of the peninsula through Half Moon Bay into San Fransisco.

By Bus

Greyhound buses pull into the Transbay Station on Mission Street. Tel: 415-495-1569.

Station Hours:

  • Monday-Sunday: 12:00am-1:00am, 5:30am-11:59pm
  • Holiday: 12:00am-1:00am, 5:30am-11:59pm
  • Greyhound Package Express Monday-Sunday: 5:30am-11:59pm
  • Holiday: 5:30am-11:59pm
  • Ticketing Monday-Sunday: 5:30am-11:59pm
  • Holiday: 5:30am-11:59pm

By Boat

In addition to the numerous Cruise Ships that dock in San Fransisco, there are the following ferry services linking up many cities in the bay area:

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Getting Around

By Car

Skip the rental car, because having a car in San Francisco is a hassle and a huge expense. Parking is pricey if you can find it, traffic is horrendous, and out-of-towners are bound to get lost in the twists and one-way streets of this city for walkers.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget, Payless Car, and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

BART Metro-style commuter rail system running below Market St. in downtown San Francisco to points all over the bay area including Fremont, Millbrae, Pittsburg Bay Point, and Richmond, California. Has connections with the Caltrain station and the San Francisco Airport.

The Muni system consists of buses and streetcars that can take you just about anywhere you'd want to go within the city. Single- or multi-day passes can be purchased from kiosks at the Powell & Market and the Beach & Hyde cable car terminals; check the website for other locations. Muni also runs the city's famous Cable Car system. A single ride on the cable car is $5; it is also covered by the Muni pass. Clanging through some of the city's loveliest neighborhoods, the cable cars promise a great time and a scenic piece of San Francisco history. If a ride isn't enough, swing by the Cable Car Museum where you can even see the cables that keep the cars going to this day sliding past!

Blue and Gold Fleet offers ferries to a number of places in the Bay Area.

By Foot

San Francisco is the perfect city to just roam around, so long as you don't mind walking your feet to the bone! Grab a map and a water bottle, and set out to experience the best sites - and everything in between - by foot.

By Bike

Despite San Francisco's ubiquitous hills, bikes are actually a great way to see the city. If you're not in racing shape, you can still keep to the water along Marina Boulevard and The Embarcadero, where the land is relatively flat. Taking a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge is certainly a treat, and you can coast down to Sausalito to catch a ferry back across the Bay. Go to North Beach for bike rentals and bike tour companies like Bay City Bike, Bike & Roll, Blazing Saddles and Citizen Chain‎.

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Eat

San Francisco is a food lover's paradise. For an extensive overview pick up a Zagat guide. Every neighborhood has its specialities:

  • The Mission has a lot of trendy but reasonably priced restaurants, many specializing in Mexican. Tartine's and Pizza Delfina are popular spots close to each other.
  • Pacific Heights is known to be a yuppie neighborhood but they have many good bars such as Harry's Bar, which serves fresh mango mojitos.
  • Chinatown and Outer Richmond (the "new Chinatown") have excellent Asian selections.
  • Check out Japantown for a modern twist on Japanese food.

Specific restaurants around the city include:

  • Crustacean- 1475 Polk Street - Great Dungeness crab served with a Vietnamese twist. The recipe is a strong held family secret.
  • Shanghai Dumpling King - 3319 Balboa Street (between 34th Ave & 35th Ave) - some of the best dumplings in town. Take the No. 1 to this residential neighborhood and you'll find a local secret.
  • R & G Lounge - 631 Kearny Street - Great upscale chinese food. Famous for it's Dungeness crab.
  • Cafe Mason - 320 Mason Street - Conveniently located near Union Square, this restaurant has great Italian and California style food.

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Drink

The best way to find a good bar or club is to ask the advice of a local; but barring that a copy of The SF Bay Guardian or the SF Weekly or a quick search on yelp/google will help you find something suited to your personal taste.

The great diversity of nightlife in San Francisco, sometimes within one neighborhood, reflects the diversity of cultures there.

San Francisco, despite being much smaller than New York City, sports more microbreweries. Anchor Brewing Company (makers of Anchor Steam, found throughout the US) is brewed on Potrero Hill, though it is generally not open to the public (tours are available by reservation). Similarly, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers opens its doors on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, though its location in Hunter's Point makes it a long Muni ride if you're traveling without a car.

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Sleep

San Francisco offers a wide range of accommodations, from a healthy supply of hostels and budget hotels to the lavish, luxurious hotels in the city center, as well as just about everything in-between. The majority of accommodations are in the northeastern portion of the city, in and around the popular areas of Downtown, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf. As one moves into the mostly residential neighborhoods to the west, the sleeping options filter down to small inns and bed and breakfasts.

Decide if you want to be in walking distance of your destinations, or are up to driving and parking (which can be quite an undertaking in some of the busier areas of San Francisco) or taking public transit. If you have a specific destination in mind, look also in the Districts sections.

If you'd rather stay closer to the San Francisco International Airport, there are plenty of standard airport accommodations in the cities surrounding the airport - Brisbane, Burlingame, Millbrae, San Bruno and South San Francisco. From there, you can drive or take BART or Caltrain into San Francisco.

The new trend in both budget and luxury accommodation (and everything in between) is apartment sharing to short-term renting. Check Craigslist to scan for ads or post your own. Or go the more professional way, and have a vacation rental broker like VacationRentals.com, Home Away, Mississippi Street Vacation Rental, or Only In San Francisco (among many others) hook you up.

LGBT Travelers might want to check out Purple Roofs (highly recommended), GayCities, World's Foremost, or Personality Hotels.

Budget

  • Hostelling International-Downtown, 312 Mason St (at O'Farrell), ☎ +1-415-788-5604. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Clean, cheap, safe and fun. Dorms $27-30, privates $69-109.
  • Hostelling International-Fisherman's Wharf Hostel, Fort Mason, Building 240 (Upper Fort Mason), ☎ +1-415-771-7277, e-mail: info@norcalhostel.com. Check-in: 2:30PM, check-out: 11PM. Even if you're unsure about hostels, you should still consider this place; the location alone makes it worth your while, as it is in a park-like setting with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and is within easy walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf. It has a total of 150 Beds in dormitory style rooms. Quite clean and safe, with wi-fi, laundry facilities, lockers, and free breakfast. Dorms: $26-30 Private family rooms: $65-100.
  • Pacific Tradewinds Backpackers, 680 Sacramento St (between Kearny and Spring), ☎ +1-415-433-7970, e-mail: info@pactradewinds.com. Check-in: 8AM-11:30PM, check-out: 10:30AM. The highest rated and smallest hostel in San Francisco. On the edge of Chinatown and the Financial District. Friendly, clean, modern and safe. Free internet. $26-29.50/night.
  • San Francisco International Hostel, 140 Mason St, ☎ +1-415-982-5010, toll-free: +1-888-919-0140. Check-in: 11AM dorms, 2PM privates, check-out: 10AM. Can't beat the convenience right in the main hotel district, a block from Powell Station and Union Square. Dorms $29+, privates $45+.
  • Hotel Mithila, 972 Sutter St (at Hyde), ☎ +1-415-441-9297, fax: +1-415-441-2379, e-mail: mithilahotel@aol.com. Established in 1920, this is a relatively clean hotel and reasonably priced. Average price $115.
  • Grant Plaza Hotel, 465 Grant Ave (at Pine St), ☎ +1-415-434-3883, fax: +1-415-434-3886, e-mail: info@grantplaza.com. Check-in: 2:30PM, check-out: noon. Good for 1 or 2 night stay. Rates are reasonable. Make sure you ask for one of the outside rooms that overlook Grant Avenue, the inside rooms are small, dark and dingy. Close to parking garages and walking distance to many restaurants, bars and attractions. Staff is friendly. $70-95.
  • The Green Tortoise Hostel, 494 Broadway St (at Columbus Ave), ☎ +1-415-834-1000, toll-free: +1-800-867-8647, fax: +1-415-956-4900, e-mail: hostel@greentortoise.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. A favorite of backpackers world-wide, price includes free internet and wi-fi, free breakfast every morning and dinner 3 nights a week, a 24-hour sauna, pool table, common room, free beer at the Beer Olympics on Tuesday nights and free live music on Sundays. An ideal location, right between Chinatown and North Beach and a short walk from downtown. dorms from $25, private from $59.
  • Adelaide Hostel, 5 Isadora Duncan Ln (between Geary St and Post St), ☎ +1-415-359-1915, fax: +1-415-614-1940, e-mail: info@adelaidehostel.com. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. This is a popular backpacker hostel just two blocks from Union Square. Dorms: $23 and up, Private rooms: $60 and up.
  • Hostelling International-City Center, 685 Ellis St (at Larkin St), ☎ +1-415-474-5721, fax: +1-415-776-0775. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Clean, cheap, safe, fun. The hostel has 75 beds in total, some are 4 or 5 bed dorms and others private rooms. All rooms have their own private bathroom. They offer a free breakfast and free wi-fi. Dorms: $27-42, Private Rooms: $89-129.
  • Pontiac Hotel, 509 Minna St (at 6th), ☎ +1-415-863-7775, toll-free: +1-800-504-1005, fax: +1-415-552-4491, e-mail: pontiachtl@aol.com. Clean and comfortable hotel. $35+.

Mid-Range

  • Holiday Inn Express San Francisco Airport North373 South Airport Boulevard, South San Francisco, CA 94080.
  • Sir Francis Drake450 Powell Street at Sutter San Francisco, CA 94102 – Located just off Union Square in Downtown San Francisco.
  • The Donatello, 501 Post St (at Mason), ☎ +1-415-441-7100. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. 94 deluxe rooms, the most spacious accommodations in San Francisco. Elegantly decorated with original Italian art, Travertine marble, Venetian glass and European antiques.
  • Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary St (between Powell and Mason), ☎ +1-415-781-7800, fax: +1-415-781-0269. A family hotel with a European flair, and the feel of upscale boutique accommodations providing warm, personal attention. The cable car is located at the corner and attractions are within walking distance.
  • Hotel Abri, 127 Ellis St, ☎ +1-415-392-8800, fax: +1-415-398-2650. Recently renovated hotel that lacks a pool or free breakfast. Rooms are small but has everything you need for a reasonable price. The cable car, MUNI and BART stations are within walking distance.
  • Hotel des Arts, 447 Bush St (between Grant Ave and Kearny St), ☎ +1-415-956-4322, fax: +1-415-956-0399, e-mail: reservations@sfhoteldesarts.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The hotel displays the work of contemporary local artists. $69-149.

8 Hotel Carlton, 1075 Sutter St (at Larkin), ☎ +1-415-673-0242, fax: +1-415-673-4904, e-mail: chickman@jdvhotels.com. A reasonably-priced boutique hotel with decorations that feature international travel. Non-smoking and pet-friendly hotel, and certified as a green business. Saha Restaurant in the lobby serves Arabic fusion cuisine.

  • Wharf Inn, 2601 Mason St (at Beach St), ☎ +1-415-673-7411, fax: +1-415-776-2181, e-mail: info@wharfinn.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Small, friendly, and in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf. It has free parking. $160-195.
  • Lombard Motor Inn, 1475 Lombard St (between Van Ness Ave and Franklin St), ☎ +1-415-441-6000, fax: +1-415-441-4291. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Standard motor inn at an affordable price. The building interior is getting a bit old and worn, however it is clean. If you're a light sleeper, try to get a room that doesn't overlook the busy street. $77-135.
  • Hotel Boheme, 444 Columbus Ave (between Vallejo St and Green St), ☎ +1-415-433-9111, fax: +1-415-362-6292, e-mail: info@hotelboheme.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Hotel Boheme is located in a popular Italian neighborhood with decorations that pay tribute to San Francisco's Beat Generation. The building may be hard to find, with only a single innocuous doorway covered by a small awning. You have to buzz at the door to enter but you get a key for this door on check in. Past the door is a steep and narrow staircase leading up to the next floor. On the second floor to the right of the landing is the hotel office. A bottle of Sherry surrounded by cordial glasses is set out for guests on the landing sideboard each night. Hotel staff are always friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about everything San Francisco. $174-194.
  • Columbus Motor Inn, 1075 Columbus Ave (Columbus and Francisco), ☎ +1-415-885-1492, fax: +1-415-928-2174. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The Columbus Motor Inn is in the nice part of North Beach, on the border of the Fishermen's Wharf district, within easy walking distance of all Fisherman's Wharf attractions, and from Washington Square. Public transportation is very convenient, with the No. 30 bus stopping at the door, and the Bay and Taylor Cable Car Turntable a short walk away. Rooms are spacious, with good views and balconies on most Columbus Side rooms. Parking is limited, but covered: the first two floors of the building are parking, with all guest rooms above. No on-site food, but nearby restaurants cater to every budget and taste. $90-295.
  • Hotel Metropolis, 25 Mason St (between Eddy St and Turk St), ☎ +1-415-775-4600, e-mail: Reservations@PersonalityHotels.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. It's on the eastern outskirts of the Tenderloin, but there can be people sleeping in stairways and panhandling right next to the hotel, so it's authentic enough. Inside it is perfectly clean. $99-299.
  • Best Western Americania, 121 7th St (between Minna and Natoma), ☎ +1-415-626-0200, toll-free: +1-800-444-5816, fax: +1-415-863-2529, e-mail: Reservations@haiyihotelca.com. Chain motel with a few more amenities than the typical Best Western; outdoor swimming pool, internet access, cafe on-site, pet friendly. $149–169.

Upscale

  • Westin St. Francis335 Powell Street, San Francisco, California 94102 – Walk out the front door and you are in the heart of Union Square. It has a great location for shopping and many fine restaurants.
  • Four Seasons San Francisco757 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.
  • San Francisco Marriott Fisherman's Wharf1250 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, California 94133.
  • Chancellor Hotel, 433 Powell St (between Sutter and Post just north of Union Square), ☎ +1-415-362-2004, toll-free: +1-800-428-4748, fax: +1-415-362-1403, e-mail: info@chancellorhotel.com. A classic hotel overlooking Powell Street. Offers a menu of pillow options for your sleeping comfort. $90–200.
  • The Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St (at Taylor St), ☎ +1-415-775-4700, fax: +1-415-441-4621, e-mail: cliftreservations@morganshotelgroup.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Hotel features Jeffrey Chodorow's Asia de Cuba restaurant, the Redwood Room, the Living Room, private apartments, penthouse suites and meeting facilities. $275-325.
  • Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St (between O'Farrell and Ellis), ☎ +1-415-394-1111, fax: +1-415-394-1106, e-mail: info@hotelnikkosf.com. Swanky large hotel with a boutique feel and very large bathrooms. Rooms are equipped with high-speed Internet, stereos and large flat panel televisions, and you can ask for the few rooms with Japanese style amenities. There is also an indoor fifteen-meter heated pool, whirlpool and a 24h gym. Hotel dining includes restaurant ANZU, which serves fresh sushi and excellent steaks. Also located inside the hotel's lobby is the Rrazz Room Theater, with nightly cabaret and R&B and the Imperial Club rooms on the top floors provide some great views of the city. $101–200/night.
  • Hotel Vertigo, 940 Sutter St (on the corner between Hyde and Leavenworth), ☎ +1-415-885-6800, e-mail: Reservations@PersonalityHotels.com. A hotel with lots of bright colors and relatively few amenities compared to other splurge hotels in the area, but with nice rooms and a friendly staff.
  • Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St (at California), ☎ +1-415-772-5000, fax: +1-415-772-5013, e-mail: sanfrancisco@fairmont.com. One of the most famous hotels in the city, having been gutted in the 1906 earthquake and fire, and rebuilt. The lobby is fantastic, and many rooms have fantastic views. The grandest suite costs $10,000 a night, but you can get a nice room for $300-400.
  • Argonaut Hotel, 495 Jefferson St (at the end of the Powell-Hyde cable car line and right across from the historical ships, with nautical exhibits next to the lobby), ☎ +1-415-563-0800, fax: +1-415-563-2800. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A high-end luxury boutique hotel overlooking the bay and very centrally located on the Wharf. Ask for a room away from the front if you mind noise. It's a 100% smoke free environment. $250-450.
  • Francisco Bay Inn, 1501 Lombard St (at Franklin St), ☎ +1-415-474-3030, toll-free: +1-800-410-7007, fax: +1-415-567-7082, e-mail: franciscobay@staysf.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Located conveniently on Lombard St and has newly renovated rooms. All of the rooms and hallways are 100% non-smoking. Free parking. $149-214.
  • Washington Square Inn, 1660 Stockton St (at Washington Sq), ☎ +1-415-981-4220, toll-free: +1-800-388-0220, fax: +1-415-397-7242, e-mail: info@wsisf.com. Check-in: 3PM-9PM, check-out: 11AM. Modeled after boutique European hotels it offers many services including a complimentary breakfast, and evening hors d'oeuvres. Rooms are well appointed with European antiques, cable TV, private baths, and free wi-fi. Centrally located in North Beach, it has views over Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill, and Washington Square Park. $179-395.

8 Hotel Adagio, 550 Geary St (between Taylor St and Jones St), ☎ +1-415-775-5000, fax: +1-415-775-9388, e-mail: info@jdvhospitality.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A luxury boutique hotel featuring a fresh design that bridges its Spanish Colonial Revival architectural roots to a clean and contemporary design aesthetic. 2½ blocks away from the Powell St Cable Car line, 6 blocks from the Moscone Convention Center. $189-289.

  • The Hotel Monaco, 501 Geary St (at Taylor St), ☎ +1-415-292-0100, fax: +1-415-292-0111. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A fun and hip boutique hotel. This is part of Kimpton Hotels, a San Francisco based hotel and restaurant company. $249-299.
  • Serrano Hotel, 405 Taylor St (at Taylor St and O'Farrell St), ☎ +1-415-885-2500, fax: +1-415-474-4879. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. This is a deluxe boutique hotel in a 17-story Spanish Revival building. They have free high speed internet and a wine appreciation hour every evening. $239-329.
  • The Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery St (at Market), ☎ +1-415-512-1111, fax: +1-415-543-0671. Established in 1875, The Palace has 552 guest rooms. In 1945, the official banquet honoring the opening session of the United Nations was held in The Garden Court at The Palace.

View our map of accommodation in San Francisco or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Work

While San Franciso's economy is linked to it being a world-class tourist attraction, its economy is diversified. The largest employment sectors are professional services, government, finance, trade, and tourism. Its frequent portrayal in music, films, literature and popular culture has helped make the city and its landmarks known throughout the world. San Francisco has developed a large tourist infrastructure with numerous hotels, restaurants, and top-notch convention facilities.

While it's been a long time since people considered Montgomery Street in the Financial District to be the "Wall Street of the West", San Francisco remains the undisputed financial capital of the West Coast, home to the headquarters of some of the world's major financial institutions such as Wells Fargo Bank as well as the regional headquarters of the United States Federal Reserve. Many major financial institutions and banks are based in the city or have set up regional headquarters here.

San Francisco's proximity to Silicon Valley has made the city increasingly attractive for high-tech companies. While most of the large technology companies are in the valley, many tech workers live in San Francisco and commute to work. In recent years, San Francisco has also been making itself a center of biotechnology.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

The following carriers operate in the San Francisco area (carrier, network, frequency are given below):

  • AT&T Wireless (Cingular), 2G 850/1900, 3G 850/1900, Data Roaming: Yes
  • T-Mobile (SunCom Wireless) - 2G 1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: Yes
  • T-Mobile - 2G 1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming Yes
  • Cincinnati Bell - 2G 1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: Yes
  • PCS ONE - 2G 1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: Yes
  • AllTel (Western Wireless) - 2G 850/1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: Yes
  • Amerilink PCS - 2G 1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: No
  • Airadigm - 2G 1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: No
  • Manx North America - 2G 1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: No
  • Nextel Comms. (ESMR) - 2G 850, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: No
  • Union Wireless - 2G 850/1900, 3G Not available, Data Roaming: Yes

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 37.775196
  • Longitude: -122.419204

Accommodation in San Francisco

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in San Francisco searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in San Francisco and areas nearby.

Contributors

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San Francisco Travel Helpers

  • Docdotcalm24

    I spent the first 18 years of my life living in and just south of San Francisco. I still go there at least once a month for the last forty some years. I take both public transit and drive to San Francisco. I am very familiar with all forms of public transit and the SF International Airport (SFO) which is located about twelve miles south of SF. Aside from the great tourist attractions there are many special places like such great stair walks and parks to see that are often overlooked by the infrequent visitor. I would be happy to answer any questions. Just beware that I sometime frequent this site only once a week or so.

    Ask Docdotcalm24 a question about San Francisco

This is version 136. Last edited at 12:56 on Dec 24, 18 by Utrecht. 82 articles link to this page.

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