The Best Cheap Hotels in San Francisco

Save your pennies for the many sights of San Francisco by staying in one of these cheap hotels
Save your pennies for the many sights of San Francisco by staying in one of these cheap hotels | © Matteo Colombo / Getty Images
Photo of Chloe Byrne
17 November 2020

Fog-wrapped San Francisco is rich with historic sites, architectural gems, prohibition-era speakeasies and retro pizza joints. The characterful City by the Bay may seem like an out-of-reach option for those on a budget, but thankfully there are plenty of low-cost hotels in neighborhoods such as Hayes Valley, Tenderloin and the Marina District that won’t break the bank.

YOTEL San Francisco, Mid-Market

Chain Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of YOTEL San Francisco / Expedia
Yotel San Francisco resides in a redbrick building in the heart of the Mid-Market neighbourhood. Inside, the chain sticks to its minimalist aesthetic with sci-fi-style sky cabins, cleverly designed with mezzanine levels, adjustable smart beds and mood lighting to make the most of space and comfort. Premium rooms are just one level with striking city views, while the suites have plenty of space within their exposed brick walls. Get an early morning workout in the gym or wander over to see Alamo Square’s Instagram-worthy painted ladies – a row of colorful Victorian houses.
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Hayes Valley Inn, Hayes Valley

Bed and Breakfast, Hotel
Map View
Hayes Valley Inn
Courtesy of Hayes Valley Inn / Expedia
Tucked amid charming bookshops and boutiques, the Hayes Valley Inn is minutes from San Francisco’s grand opera house and the buzz of Union Square. The European-style inn offers seven rooms (ranging from twin beds to deluxe queen) that are diversely decorated in a mix of ’50s-style florals, Parisian posters and rich chocolate satins. The bathrooms are shared and a complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea is served daily. And when you’re out and about, you can spend all the cash you’ve saved on that tour of Alcatraz or a delectable French dinner at the neighboring Absinthe Brasserie & Bar.
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Harbor Court Hotel, Embarcadero

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Each room at the Harbor Court Hotel is equipped with a yoga mat
Courtesy of Harbor Court Hotel / Hotels.com
Built in 1926, the Spanish Colonial Revival building that houses the Harbor Court Hotel was an army-navy residence in its previous life – serving soldiers who had returned from war. The future-meets-past rooms include bluetooth speakers and a minibar stocked with organic treats. Sip complimentary beer and wine each evening at the hotel café, before treating yourself to a Japanese dinner at the on-site restaurant Ozumo. Next door, the YMCA is free for hotel guests – fitness studio, full-size pool and all. The striking structure sits on the Embarcadero, just a short amble from the Ferry Building.
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Hotel Zephyr, Fisherman's Wharf

Hotel
Map View
The rooms at Hotel Zephyr look out over San Francisco Bay
Courtesy of Hotel Zephyr / Expedia

Hotel Zephyr is an affordable option for those who want to stay by the water, especially anyone with kids in tow. From its colorful maritime theme and art-filled courtyard to its indoor game room, which includes ping-pong and billiards, this hotel is perfect for younger travelers. It even has an on-site food truck. For older guests, the room views can’t be beat. The Bay is just outside the window and the view stretches as far as the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge. Rooms feature smart TVs, docking stations, board games, and luxurious CO Bigelow products in the bathroom. Zephyr’s proximity to Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 shopping center and the beach at Aquatic Park are also major perks.

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Nineteen 06 Mission, Mission District

Eco Hotel
Map View
Nineteen 06 Mission, San Francisco
Courtesy of Nineteen 06 Mission / Booking.com
Nineteen 06 Mission was built following the devastating earthquake of 1906, and has since been restored as an eco-focused hotel. Rooms are lit by energy-efficient lighting and minimally furnished with repurposed building materials and calming slogan art. There are also organic Terra Nova toiletries to use in the shared bathrooms and extra blankets for the colder months. A complimentary continental breakfast is served every morning, and evening libations can be enjoyed by the patio’s wood burner.

King George Hotel, Tenderloin

Chain Hotel
Map View
King George Hotel
Courtesy of King George Hotel / Expedia
The King George Hotel is decorated with a British-inspired collection of delicate floral teapots, old-world portraits and top-hat-shaped lighting fixtures. The theme is continued in the bar, which is kitted out with quintessential pub fixtures such as a dart board, a pool table and even a shuffleboard. Gulp down a draft pint of local craft beer or a hoppy brewtail (beer cocktail) at the Mason Social Club, which has a daily happy hour. Or go full English and take a picture beside the classic red telephone box. Upstairs, rooms with gold silk runners and harlequin lamps are stocked with candy jars and eco-friendly bath products.
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Infinity Hotel, Marina District

Boutique Hotel, Chain Hotel
Map View
Infinity Hotel SF
Courtesy of Infinity Hotel / Expedia
Located in the waterfront Marina District, Infinity Hotel is a stone’s throw from the Palace of Fine Arts, a neoclassical landmark. Rooms are practical but cosy, pairing warm lighting with geometric-print carpets, a microwave and a clock radio. There are also in-room tea and coffee facilities to help you rise and shine, before heading out to see Pier 39’s basking sea lions and snap shots of storied Alcatraz. The rooftop patio is the ideal spot to take that requisite shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it’s just steps away from boutique shops, wine bars, and top restaurants. Finish off your day with jerk chicken and piña coladas in tropical restaurant Palm House, found on Union Street.
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Hotel Triton, Tenderloin

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Hotel Triton / Booking.com
The Hotel Triton oozes bohemian flair – funky chairs, glass-encased butterflies and a twisting burl wood root slab desk are just a few of the pieces found in the lobby. The library is stacked with travel books that echo the collection of globally-curated art and rooms add luxury touches, such as super-smooth Frette bed linens and Carrara marble bathrooms. The hotel is flanked by two popular eateries: the 1930s-style Cafe De La Presse serves up classic Parisian fare such as steak frites, while at Herlen Place you can tuck into a breakfast of vanilla French toast with warm berries. It’s directly across from Dragon’s Gate, the entrance to San Fran’s Chinatown.
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Palihotel San Francisco, Tenderloin

Boutique Hotel, Chain Hotel
Map View
Palihotel SF FI
Courtesy of Palihotel San Francisco / Expedia
Palihotel San Francisco adopts the warm Californian style with its own distinct vintage twist. Rooms are decorated in a soft, earthy palette and feature potted plants, a retro phone and a treat-stocked minibar, while a bespoke table and chair set sits in the bay windows. The all-day restaurant, Fisher Loft, doubles as a Wes Anderson-style bar with an assortment of art mixed among the liquor bottles. Slide into a floral booth to sip on the tequila-infused monk’s delight cocktail. Movie buffs might also like to wander into the back alley to see the plaque dedicated to fictional character Miles Archer, who died in the same spot in film noir The Maltese Falcon.
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Kimpton Buchanan Hotel, Pacific Heights

Chain Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of The Kimpton Buchanan Hotel / Expedia
The Kimpton Buchanan Hotel fuses elements from its Japantown neighbourhood with nods to the storied Barbary Coast. In the lobby, an art installation of 3,100 vintage Japanese whiskey bottles stretches across the ceiling into the moodily-lit living room (reminiscent of a smoky jazz club) where forest-green, wood-paneled walls display a cluster of rich-colored paintings. The rooms are stripped back, but some include quirky touches like a TV on an easel and a yoga mat. Head down to the gym for a high-energy workout or unwind in the courtyard with a game of bean-bag toss.
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Hotel Spero, Tenderloin

Suite Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Hotel Spero / Booking.com
With a name that means “hope” in Latin, Hotel Spero endeavors to be eco-conscious, mindful and philanthropic all at once. Its green-fueled choices span bathrooms stocked with organic BeeKind products (including soap recycled and then donated via the Clean the World Foundation), as well as eco-friendly cleaning products and composting programs. Each room features a seed pencil (which grows when planted), natural wall hangings, geometric headboards and large picture windows that look out onto the cityscape. The high-end fitness center includes Peloton bikes. Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen is a great spot for morning mimosas and bloody marys.
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  • Hotel Vertigo, Nob Hill

    Boutique Hotel
    Map View
    Hotel Vertigo
    Courtesy of Hotel Vertigo / Expedia

    Previously The Empire Hotel, it was re-named for its appearance in Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo. The movie plays on a loop in the lobby, and vertigo swirls are mounted on the walls contrasting the baroque orange and white decor. This hotel’s location is near Union Square, but care must be taken walking at night as it borders The Tenderloin. Breakfast can be purchased from Cafe Vertigo in the lobby, and the use of a small fitness center is included.

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    FOUND San Francisco, Tenderloin

    Hostel
    Map View
    Courtesy of FOUND Hotel San Francisco / Expedia

    FOUND is located three minutes from Powell Street Station and five minutes from Union Square, surrounded by shops and restaurants. The aesthetics are pleasant with thoughtful design touches, from black-and-white tiles in the kitchen to walnut furniture. Private rooms have TVs and bathrooms with showers. Shared rooms sleep up to six in bunks and are gender-specific or mixed. FOUND additionally has a shared workspace for checking those emails and a restaurant. Tenderloin is a gritty area at times and care must be taken at night.

    Chateau Tivoli, Western Addition

    Bed and Breakfast
    Map View
    Courtesy of Chateau Tivoli / Expedia

    Visitors staying at this impressive, 19th century restored mansion will feel like locals, strolling the tree-lined Western Addition residential streets. The nine rooms and suites are lavishly decorated, some with Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper, four-poster beds, turret seating areas, and claw-foot tubs. Like the variations in decor, some rooms have private en suites, while others use the shared bathrooms. A cold continental breakfast is included during the week (think fruit, muffins, cheese), champagne brunch on the weekends, and an afternoon wine and cheese reception.

    The Parsonage, Hayes Valley

    Bed and Breakfast
    Map View
     

    Built in 1883, this Victorian mansion has historic landmark status. Joan Hull and John Phillips are only the second family to own it, opening it to the public in 1995. The hot breakfast is cooked by John with fresh fruit and produce sourced from local farmers’ market, along with bread from the Tartine Bakery. Guests chat in the evening over brandy, port, and chocolates. Each room has its own marble shower, handmade McRoskey mattresses and two even have working fireplaces.

    Hotel Carlton, Lower Nob Hill

    Boutique Hotel, Hotel
    Map View
    Hotel Carlton, San Francisco
    Courtesy of Hotel Carlton / Expedia

    Reflecting San Francisco’s diversity is the bohemian Hotel Carlton. Guests can enjoy a complimentary glass of wine with live music in the evenings in front of the fireplace, while feeling inspired by the eclectic, global decor to plan their next trip. The compact, comfortable rooms will leave guests cheerful with their blue walls and gold accents. The hotel is eco-friendly, with each floor having filtered water stations. Saha Lounge, the hotel’s award-winning Arabic fusion restaurant, is open for breakfast and dinner.

    Christy Taylor and Katrina Nattress contributed additional reporting to this article.

    These recommendations were updated on November 17, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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