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The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, bohemian culture, waterfront parks, outstanding culinary options, and famous cable cars are just a few reasons to visit vibrant San Francisco. And surprisingly for a city with a notoriously high cost of living, savvy travelers will still be able to find some excellent, budget options in some of the most popular (and safe) parts of the city, like The Mission District, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, SOMA, and Haight-Ashbury. Still not sure where to stay? Our nine best budget hotels in San Francisco can help you decide.
Best Overall: Orchard Garden Hotel
Perched between the Financial District, Union Square and Chinatown, the Orchard Garden Hotel's central location and eco-cred make it our top budget pick in San Francisco. Rooms have contemporary décor, noise-reducing walls, iPod docking stations, spa robes and nightly turndown service. Guests can stop by the on-site restaurant to order breakfast made with local, organic items, or unwind in the rooftop garden. A business center and cardio room are also available. The hotel is two blocks to the shopping area of Union Square and the famous San Francisco cable cars.
Best Value: Coventry Motor Inn
With free covered parking (a priceless amenity in San Francisco), and an amazing location between the Marina District and Union Square, not far from Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Fort Mason, the 69-room Coventry Motor Inn is an all-around good value. Rooms have free WiFi, as well as basic décor that consists of crimson-maroon shaded drapes, although plenty of lighting fixtures brighten the room. The hotel does not offer any dining options, however there are numerous restaurants nearby, including an IHOP diner, a gourmet burger shop and a build-your-own pizza place. Several TripAdvisor members noted that rooms facing Lombard Street can be noisy, so selecting a room in the back of the hotel is a quieter option.
Best for Solo Travelers: Golden Gate Hotel
The quaint and historic bed and breakfast is a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home in the heart of the city. If you're traveling alone, you can get to know other guests during the hotel's afternoon tea and freshly baked cookies. Breakfast is also included – allowing guests more time to get to know each other. The 24 rooms have their own charming, cozy décor with hypoallergenic down mattresses, antiques, wicker furniture, free WiFi and claw-foot tubs (however, the cheapest rooms have shared bathrooms). The hotel is located near Union Square, within walking distance to Chinatown and the cable cars. TripAdvisor users raved about the friendly atmosphere and that the owners are on hand to assist with any tourism information – or just to chat.
Best in SOMA: Carriage Inn
The trendy “SOMA” neighborhood (South of Market) is full of warehouses, art galleries and nightlife hotspots, so if you want to be in the center of the action, the boutique Carriage Inn hotel puts you there. It's just a five-minute walk from the Civic Center and BART rail station. The hotel has 48 rooms with colorful, yet elegant décor with nods to Asian and historical influences – each celebrating a different San Francisco icon. Rooms also feature iPod docking stations, WiFi, bathrobes and fireplaces (in some). Continental breakfast and morning newspapers are included, and guests can relax in the outdoor garden or enjoy access to the rooftop pool and fitness center at the hotel across the street. Parking is an additional charge.
Best for Romance: Hotel Rex
Part of the established Joie de Vivre hotel chain, Hotel Rex is centrally located in Union Square and has all the added touches that make for a romantic stay. The 1930s-era hotel has 94 rooms and suites with French bohemian décor hand-painted lampshades by local artists, pillow-top mattresses, plush bathrobes, iPod docking stations and premium bath products. Guests can sip a glass of wine during an included happy hour and listen to live jazz music in the library bar, or sample traditional American cuisine served for breakfast or dinner. Valet parking is an additional charge, and guests receive a discount at a nearby fitness center. Several art galleries, theaters and restaurants are all steps from the hotel.
Best Gay Friendly Hotel: Parker Guest House
Although on the higher end of the “budget” price range, the Parker Guest House is perfectly positioned between the Castro and the Mission – two of San Francisco’s famous gay-friendly neighborhoods – just a few blocks from beautiful Dolores Park. Built in the Edwardian style of the early 1900s, the award-winning, 21-room guesthouse is spotless, bright and cheery. Public areas include a garden and sitting area with trickling fountains, two separate lounges with beautiful hard wood floors and ceiling beams, a fireplace, library, piano, as well as a business center and sun room that serves continental breakfast and hosts a free wine social. Lowest priced rooms have semi-private baths outside the room and feature home-like décor with wooden armoires, desks, tile baths with premium products, bathrobes and free WiFi. Parking is additional and a two-night minimum stay is required on most weekends.
Best in the Marina District: Cow Hollow Motor Inn
Between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge is the Marina District, a neighborhood known for its landmark 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. The Cow Hollow Motor Inn makes a perfect home base to explore this area without all the bells and whistles that drive prices up. Rooms were renovated in Spring 2014, and have Serta iComfort beds, individually controlled heating and air and WiFi. Some rooms also have views of the Golden Gate Bridge (ask when reserving). The hotel is light on amenities; there is no pool, lounge or dining, but many restaurants are located nearby. Attached to the hotel in a separate building is the Cow Hollow Suites, which feature private kitchenettes. Free covered parking is included, and a bus station is a block away for those interested in visiting Fisherman’s Wharf or other notable attractions.
Best Historic: Hotel Boheme
Located in Telegraph Hill (North Beach), the Hotel Boheme was first built in the 1880s, but when it opened as a hotel it was designed to capture the spirit of the heyday of the 1950s “Beat” generation. Rooms are on the small side, but are beautifully decorated with European wardrobes, vintage artwork and photo collages. The two drawbacks that TripAdvisor members noted are that there is no elevator (the stairs are steep), and that the street can be noisy at night. The hotel is within walking distance to Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and public transit (just across the street).
Best Boutique: Metro Hotel
San Francisco is well-known as the birthplace of the hippie culture, and the epicenter of it all is Haight-Ashbury. If you want to be in the heart of this bohemian neighborhood (which is home to Golden Gate Park and the famous “Painted Lady” Victorian homes), and are after a boutique experience, the Metro Hotel is what you're looking for. The family-run hotel has personal, welcoming service and a peaceful backyard garden shared by a neighboring wood-fire pizzeria. Rooms have free WiFi, contemporary décor and baths that are a tad on the small side. Be aware that there is no elevator or parking on the premises – so it’s best to use public transportation or walk around the neighborhood.