Known as one of the world’s most important centres of LGBTQ activism, in 2019 San Francisco’s colorful Castro neighborhood officially became the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District in a move to preserve the area’s heritage and identity. Its streets are packed with historic attractions, vibrant bars, rummage-worthy vintage shops and popular restaurants; in short, the best that the city has to offer. Stay at the heart of it all in one of these brilliant hotels.
Built as a motel in the 1950s, this hotel has had a contemporary renovation while still maintaining some mid-century charm. Extremely clean, brightly colored and spacious, some of the rooms have views of Market Street, and all have TVs, fridges, coffee makers and access to a sun deck. It’s also within walking distance of myriad famous gay clubs and bars, as well as LGBTQ museums and important Castro landmarks. Continuing its namesake legacy, the lodge also offers free parking – a rarity in this busy part of San Francisco.
Travelers at the Parker Guest House will immediately feel like part of the neighborhood. On the edge of the Castro and Mission Districts, it offers a quiet garden sanctuary with charming historic interiors, including a cosy library with a fireplace. Complimentary wine tastings – served daily in the sun room overlooking the gardens – make stays here more sociable, and there’s a complimentary breakfast every day, too, but you should save room for a visit to the city’s most famous café, Tartine Bakery, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel.
Twin Peaks Hotel near Church and Market Street offers budget accommodation in an ideal location. Its rooms are basic, and some have shared bathrooms, but travelers watching their wallets will appreciate the low price tag – which isn’t easy to find in a city as expensive as San Francisco. Rooms also come with TVs and free Wi-Fi, and the hotel is conveniently located right outside a transportation hub with many MUNI train and bus stops.
Willows Inn is a European-style hotel in a century-old Edwardian house. A real home away from home, it’s filled with handcrafted willow furnishings and antiques, and the rooms have large comfortable beds, kimono bathrobes and luxurious bath products. The breakfast spread in the morning is a generous combination of fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, cereal and boiled eggs, served with coffee, tea and juice and a newspaper. Stop by the sitting room before heading out for the night for a complimentary cocktail with the innkeeper, who is always happy to give recommendations.
Another budget option in the neighborhood, the Perramont Hotel is simple, unfussy and slightly dated when it comes to decor, but it does the job after a night out exploring the area’s famous cocktail bars, dance clubs and 24-hour diners. Some rooms have shared bathrooms and others have bay windows that look out over the bustling neighborhood, plus all come with free Wi-Fi (which, surprisingly, doesn’t come as standard in the city’s hotels).