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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.