With many hotels charging hundreds of dollars a night in San Francisco, affordable accommodation can be hard to come by. Despite that, the city’s bohemian spirit lives on through its hostel culture.
Many hostels in San Francisco go further than affordability by offering guests the chance to get to know other travelers on guided pub tours, games nights or in-house yoga classes. Since many offer free breakfast and complimentary Wi-Fi, too, it’s no wonder many choose to sleep at hostels during their stay in the City by the Bay.
Green Tortoise Hostel
Green Tortoise Hostel, located in North Beach, has a mix of dorms and private rooms | Courtesy of Green Tortoise Hostel / Booking.com
A party hostel with a computer lounge, sauna and a 24-hour fully-equipped kitchen, Green Tortoise Hostel is a great place for backpackers and budget-conscious travelers. The family-owned hostel, located in the Italian neighborhood North Beach, is also a great place for solo travelers to make friends. The hostel encourages guests to join the guided pub crawl to get to know the locals’ favorite spots. Dinner – everything from pasta to curry – is offered to guests three times a week, and a filling, free daily breakfast includes bagels and eggs.
Built as an economic way for musicians to travel to San Francisco, Music City Hotel and Hostel has emerged as an incubator for performing artists. Located in the Polk Gulch neighborhood, you can choose between dorms, private rooms with shared bathrooms or a suite with a private bathroom and kitchenette, all of which are decorated with nods to San Francisco’s musical past. Below the hotel, the fifteen rehearsal studios come with all-inclusive rental packages. Not with the band? Listen in on a session with a Backstage Pass.
One of the most popular hostels in the city, USA Hostels located in Union Square, is a one-stop-shop for active travelers who like to seize the day early. The daily breakfast is a free spread of all-you-can-make pancakes, fruit and baked goods, there’s a yoga room and you can sign up to free walking tours and hikes, plus they offer discounts on bike rentals for cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge. Each room features four beds, while privates offer cable TV, a microwave and a mini-fridge, and you can mingle with other travelers at the weekly events (such as wine and cheese or bingo nights). For those looking to explore the rest of California, the hostel offers a door-to-door shuttle to another USA Hostels branch in Hollywood.
Located in the center of San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin District, near Little Saigon, HI San Francisco – City Center is perfect for those who want to explore outside the usual tourist destinations. Housed in a 1920s boutique hotel (now a landmark building), the decor has a vintage vibe, and there’s a speakeasy-style café that serves a free breakfast every day. There are numerous cheap eats in the bustling surrounding area, and the hostel runs free and cheap tours including day trips to sites like Muir Woods and Yosemite.
Steps away from Union Square, Chinatown and the Theatre District, Amsterdam Hostel is convenient if you want to explore on foot. Popular with a young crowd, it has a small terrace, free Wi-Fi and runs movie nights for when you don’t feel like joining the lively pub crawls. The place is older than other hostels in the city – and the wear and tear shows in some of the facilities – but overall it’s a great option for anyone on a shoestring budget.
The sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz set this hostel apart from the other Hostelling International branches around the city. You’ll find it in historic Fort Mason, just a short walk from buzzing Pier 39. Prepared for Fog City’s ever-changing weather, it has a sun deck for relaxing on during milder days, and a cosy lounge with a gas stove or cinema room for curling up in on blustery, overcast evenings. There’s a free continental breakfast and plenty of free activities to get involved in, too.