These 10 Beautiful Hotels Will Give You a Reason to Visit San Francisco (2024)

Those planning a trip to San Francisco have a growing number of excellent hotels to choose from—and they range from luxury properties that embody the spirit of the city to boutique hotels with rooftop bars that draw locals. You’ll find a lot of options around the central but busy downtown area around Union Square, which can be fun if you’re in the mood for it, but neighborhoods like the Embarcadero or Nob Hill offer a quieter (yet still central) retreat. Or, consider basing yourself in Japantown, one of our favorite neighborhoods in the city.

Afar’s latest Hotels We Love list reveals the 10 best hotels in San Francisco, whether you want a luxurious spa vacation, a hip boutique stay with a sense of place, or a dreamy escape on the fringes of the city.

1 Hotel

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Photo by Douglas Friedman

  • Neighborhood: Embarcadero
  • Why we love it: A wellness-minded property that has a sustainability ethos and overlooks the bay
  • Book now

If you seek a serene, wellness-minded stay in one of San Francisco’s most central neighborhoods, the 1 Hotel, which opened in 2022, should be at the top of your list. Afar Deputy Editor Katherine LaGrave said of a recent stay that the 200 guest rooms and 14 suites feel “plucked out of a Nancy Meyers beachside rom-com in the best way possible: Think upcycled wood furniture and headboards, knitted beige throws, white and cream-colored linens. They are cool, calm, and offer a respite from the hubbub of the city, which really, truly, is right outdoors—the Ferry Building, visible from my room, was a three-minute walk.”

The hotel’s sustainability credentials are also truly impressive. Beyond the standard reusable water bottles and bulk-sized toiletries that are fairly standard in San Francisco, the hotel features local and reclaimed materials for the biophilic interior design, sustainably sourced bedding, a rooftop garden with beehives, and a zero-waste philosophy for the kitchen. It also sources “ugly” (but edible) produce for the lobby snack bar from the weekly farmer’s market across the street.

On sunny days, grab a seat at the happening large terrace patio of the 1 Hotel’s restaurant, Terrene, for a drink or dinner. Or, retreat to the spa and wellness center for a massage and a relaxing bath on the property’s rooftop. From $500

The Battery

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The Battery

  • Neighborhood: Jackson Square
  • Why we love it: Interiors with a sense of place, and access to a lively private social club of San Francisco entrepreneurs, creatives, and bon vivants
  • Book now

Most people in the city know The Battery as an exclusive social club, but it also houses a 14-suite boutique hotel, open to members and nonmembers alike. Featuring a maximalist decor that channels the many sides of San Francisco—be it Chinatown-inspired motifs on the curtains or beams from the old ships that used to dock in the immediate location (the area was once water)—the hotel’s design has a distinct sense of place.

Hotel guests have access to the club’s social spaces, bars (yes, there are multiple, including a lovely outdoor terrace and a cozy, secret bar hidden behind a movable bookcase), restaurant, and near-daily events, such as comedy and burlesque shows, readings, and concerts. Thanks to the built-in community and social vibe, the Battery is a unique place to stay that will allow you to truly get to know the city and the people who live here.

The location in the historic Jackson Square neighborhood is a draw, too: It’s central yet quiet, and a short walk to nearby North Beach and the Embarcadero. From $495

Beacon Grand

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The Beacon Grand

  • Neighborhood: Union Square
  • Why we love it: A historic boutique hotel that has been reimagined and revitalized for today, complete with one of the buzziest co*cktail bars in town
  • Book now

The Beacon Grand, formerly known as the historic Sir Francis Drake, underwent a major renovation before reopening in the spring of 2022. In the central and bustling Union Square neighborhood, this iconic building originally opened its doors as a hotel in 1928. Although it has since received a very modern upgrade, elements of the historic building—such as the lobby’s grand staircase, marble floors, and chandeliers (one of which is said to still have a bullet lodged in it from a kerfuffle in the 1920s)—have been preserved. The 418 guest rooms have been refreshed with oak hardwood floors, white bathrooms with brass fixtures, and a jewel-toned color scheme. Small San Francisco–themed touches abound, such as sourdough motifs in the wallpaper.

One of the highlights of the property is the rooftop co*cktail bar and lounge, the reimagined Starlite Room on the 21st floor. In its prior heyday in the mid-20th century, it was a popular dance hall. Today, it’s reclaiming that reputation and has quickly become a popular downtown nightlife spot. The hotel also has an excellent whiskey program in the downstairs bar that will suit any guest who prefers a more subdued drinking atmosphere. From $229

Cavallo Point Lodge

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Cavallo Point Lodge is technically in Sausalito, but gives guests unparalleled views of the city.

  • Location: Sausalito
  • Why we love it: A historic escape within easy reach of San Francisco
  • Loyalty program: I Prefer (Preferred Hotels & Resorts)
  • Book now

Cavallo Point Lodge is not technically in San Francisco, which is just a few minutes’ drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge. But it does have one of the best views of the city. In the former residences of high-ranking U.S. Army officers in the middle of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a popular Bay Area attraction for locals and tourists alike, it’s a standout choice for its historic charm and beautiful, nature-filled setting.

The 142 accommodations are in either the original colonial revival residences with large verandas or newer lodgings with floor-to-ceiling windows facing San Francisco Bay. Contemporary interiors feature wood and leather furnishings and gas fireplaces. If you can, ask for one of the 12 newly remodeled suites, designed by Restoration Hardware. Fresh-air activities range from paddleboarding and surfing in the bay to hiking along nearby hiking trails. Guests can also explore the area on one of the hotel’s vintage electric bicycles.

The 11,000-square-foot Healing Arts Center & Spa (day passes are also available to nonguests) offers soaks in a heated outdoor meditation pool, saunas, and massages. Launched in Fall 2022, the New American–meets-Mediterranean restaurant Sula showcases regional ingredients in such dishes as oysters from nearby Point Reyes and Niman Ranch beef filet. From $735

Fairmont San Francisco

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The Fairmont

  • Location: Nob Hill
  • Why we love it: A reinvented grande dame steeped in history
  • Loyalty program: Accor Live Limitless
  • Book now

Built by California architect Julia Morgan, who also designed Hearst Castle, Fairmont San Francisco opened to much fanfare in 1907 at the top of Nob Hill (a previous build of the hotel burned down in the 1906 earthquake and resulting fires). Today it’s filled with a century’s worth of stories: It was the first U.S. hotel to hire a concierge, and it served as a film location for Alfred Hitchco*ck’s Vertigo. The late Tony Bennett sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for the first time here in 1962. The Polynesian-themed, Mai Tai–slinging Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is legendary. In 1926, the hotel added a 6,000-square-foot penthouse suite with a two-story library that prominent guests (including John F. Kennedy and Mick Jagger) have checked into.

The hotel has evolved with the times—having added everything from a health club to honeybee hives—while serving as a perennial playground and meeting place in the heart of San Francisco, with views of the city and bay to match. The historic building and newer tower together feature 606 guest rooms and suites that were recently renovated and now feature a palette of grays and browns. For some of the best views, ask for a Golden Gate suite. From $249

Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco

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Courtesy of The Four Seasons.

  • Neighborhood: Downtown
  • Why we love it: Modern luxury in a central, downtown location
  • Book now

San Francisco is lucky enough to have not just one, but two Four Seasons hotels. The original Four Seasons commands a central location on Market Street, while the Four Seasons Embarcadero—the hotel group’s newer property, a 12-minute walk away, in the Embarcadero neighborhood—features warm-toned decor and stunning views of the Transamerica Pyramid. Although business travelers tend to gravitate toward the original, 277-room hotel, it’s our pick for leisure travelers, too.

The Market Street location gives travelers easy access to major attractions like the SFMOMA, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Yerba Buena Gardens, as well as to excellent dining and nightlife (don’t miss an evening of jazz at historic The Dawn Club, right next door). A stay at this Four Seasons also comes with access to a multilevel Equinox gym, complete with an indoor swimming pool and a basketball court.

Although the city is teeming with incredible dining options, it’s worth reserving a night for a meal at the hotel’s California-centric, fine-dining establishment, MKT Bar & Restaurant. Thanks to its views overlooking the main thoroughfare, Market Street, the restaurant is a popular spot for watching the annual Pride Parade. Both the restaurant and the hotel’s lobby have lots of subtle nods to the area’s former, post–Gold Rush life as a hub for the printing industry. From $499

The Jay Hotel, Autograph Collection

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The Jay

  • Neighborhood: Embarcadero
  • Why we love it: A well-located retreat with minimalist decor that exudes calm
  • Loyalty program: Marriott Autograph Collection
  • Book now

The cozy and quiet Jay Hotel was the most anticipated addition to the city’s hotel scene in 2023. This boutique hotel is in the brutalist building that formerly housed Le Méridien. The 360 guest rooms and suites have warm, textured, minimalist decor (like comfy, neutral-hued sofas and natural wooden headboards) that evokes calm and serenity. Adding to the oasis vibes are seriously comfortable beds, blackout curtains, and minibars stocked with local goodies, such as St. George gin. If you can, book a room with a balcony (a rarity among the city’s hotels), and enjoy the impressive views of the Bay Bridge and the nearby Transamerica Tower.

Guests and locals alike also won’t want to miss the hotel’s aptly named bar and restaurant, The Third Floor, which has an expansive terrace complete with firepits, co*cktails, and food by restaurant group Omakase (also behind several beloved local restaurants, including Niku Steakhouse and Dumpling Time).

But one of the best parts of this hotel is its location. Tucked away on a relatively quiet block of the city’s downtown Embarcadero neighborhood, it’s central without feeling chaotic. Guests can easily walk to the bayside promenade (also called the Embarcadero), the Ferry Building, Jackson Square, and North Beach. From $429

Kimpton Hotel Enso

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Courtesy of Hotel Enso

  • Neighborhood: Japantown
  • Why we love it: Welcoming staff and a chance to stay in a fascinating—but underrated—corner of the city.
  • Loyalty program: IHG
  • Book now

San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of hotel options outside of the downtown area, but branching out to other areas, such as the six blocks of Japantown, is one of the best ways to get to know the city like a local. In the heart of this petite neighborhood is Kimpton Hotel Enso (formerly the Buchanan Hotel) a warm and welcoming boutique hotel.

In 2022, the rebranding of the property brought with it a complete renovation, bringing light and airiness to the once-dark interiors of its 130 guest rooms and introducing more eco-friendly features like water-efficient showers in lieu of bathtubs. Little touches, such as kimono-style bathrobes, light wood furniture, and indigo-dyed textiles, bring a distinctly Japanese feel to the hotel’s interior design—a nod to the area’s heritage. Some of the rooms even include a small balcony. If you can, request one that overlooks the iconic Peace Plaza.

Characteristic of Kimpton properties, the staff here are warm, welcoming, and eager to help guests get to know this corner of the city—be it with a restaurant recommendation or sake tasting in the lobby (to give you some ideas). From $260

The St. Regis San Francisco

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Don’t miss the newly opened indoor pool, a rarity among San Francisco’s hotels.

  • Neighborhood: Downtown
  • Why we love it: Understated elegance and top-notch service next door to the SFMOMA
  • Loyalty program: Marriot Bonvoy
  • Book now

In the heart of the downtown SoMa neighborhood, the St. Regis San Francisco is an oasis of calm and unpretentious luxury. Opened in 2005, this property has earned its status as one of the city’s most luxurious stays, thanks to the impeccable service—from the personalized butler service to world-class concierges—and the handsome 260 guest rooms and suites. With comfortable beds, bespoke toiletry products, and large windows overlooking the city below, the guest rooms are all built to maximize privacy, comfort, and quiet.

In 2022, the hotel’s lobby and the ground-floor restaurant, Astra, were redesigned, transforming the space into a bright, maximalist bar area. The colorful and geometric-pattern–filled space beckons guests to linger at the start or end of their day.

Other notable on-site amenities include a sunny indoor pool area designed by San Francisco–based firm TEF Design and a state-of-the-art fitness center. As part of its efforts to give back to the city, the hotel houses the Museum of the African Diaspora on the ground floor of the building, as well as several notable sculptures in the public spaces. Art lovers will also be pleased to know the SFMOMA is directly next door. From $475

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

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Courtesy of The Ritz Carlton

  • Neighborhood: Nob Hill
  • Why we love it: Classic, over-the-top luxury—and a mean martini
  • Loyalty program: Marriott Bonvoy
  • Book now

In Nob Hill, The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco makes a strong impression from the outset. It’s housed within a neoclassical building that was originally designed as the Pacific Coast headquarters of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The entrance’s large columns and ornate stonework befit its 1909 birth year, a style that continues in the chandelier-and-marble–decorated lobby.

Though historic, the hotel is not stuck in time. A 2015 revamp brought the 336 guest rooms and suites squarely into the present day, with elegant decor (think floor-to-ceiling drapes, plush armchairs, and touches of marble and silver throughout), luxurious Frette linens, and comfortable, lounge-worthy spaces. And despite the culinary temptations that await just beyond the top-hatted valets, be sure to enjoy at least one co*cktail at the in-house bar and lounge (our favorite: a martini shaken with a novel turn-of-the-century contraption) or a glass of champagne in the sunny outdoor courtyard. From $489

These 10 Beautiful Hotels Will Give You a Reason to Visit San Francisco (2024)
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