Where to stay in San Francisco on the relatively cheap
Your choices in San Francisco hotels are overwhelming. The prices can be too. So during our staff visit to the City by the Bay, we looked for reasonably priced hotels that had charm, location or both. We came back with 14 ideas on places to bed down. It’s not a complete list, but it is eclectic, like the city itself.
Mystic Hotel. This property, which opened in April, stands on a tunnel-adjacent block of Stockton Street that you’ll never see on a picture postcard, yet it has style, as do the Burritt Tavern bar and restaurant downstairs. Union Square is close too. Chef Charlie Palmer, who has done hotels before, is the personality behind this venture. 417 Stockton St.; (415) 400-0500, https://www.mystichotel.com. Doubles fetch $159 to $269.
— Christopher Reynolds
Hotel Triton. The Triton is a short stroll from Union Square, a block from Chinatown, with the popular Cafe de la Presse downstairs. The 164 guest rooms, many of them small, were redone in 2012 with a Beat theme (that’s a Kerouac typescript on the wallpaper). The lobby still has the same circus/outer space décor it’s had for years. 342 Grant Ave.; (415) 394-0500, https://www.hoteltriton.com. Doubles from $250.
Hotel Bijou. This lodging isn’t about charm as much as it’s about price. The Bijou (its 65 rooms are named for movies shot in San Francisco) stands next to a sports bar on a block of hostels just off Market Street. It’s near Union Square, but the rooms are small and often less than $120 a night. On a January stay booked through https://www.priceline.com, I paid $83. To dodge sports-bar noise, ask for a room on the fifth or sixth floors. 111 Mason St.; (415) 771-1200, https://www.hotelbijou.com.
Kensington Park Hotel. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is the home of the Elks Club or that you can’t use the pool or spa if you’re not an Elk. There’s plenty to like in this Union Square hotel besides its location (which is great), especially if you admired the way your Aunt Mildred decorated her living room, which is what the lobby looks like. The elevator is so enormous that I found it giggle-worthy. (How many elevators have a padded bench?) You’d think the rooms would be proportionately huge, but they’re not; a queen is about 300 square feet but perfectly fine. The bath lacked shelves or counters so it may take some toiletry juggling. Still, a deal worth taking. 450 Post St.; (415) 788-6400, https://www.kensingtonparkhotel.com. Doubles from $169.
— Catharine Hamm
Hotel Rex. It’s easy to imagine Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op casing the joint from the hotel’s noirish, dimly lighted Library Bar. There was no sleuthing the night I was here. Instead of the detective, locals practicing their French packed the small space. The noirish vibe continued in the slightly spooky hallway leading to my room, which was small but surprisingly cheerful with butterscotch-colored walls and vibrant ceramic lamps and shades. Nice touches: The tiny elevator is wallpapered with pages from an old San Francisco social register, and don’t forget to pet Max, the lobby pug, on your way out to nearby Union Square. 562 Sutter St.; (415) 433-4434, https://www.thehotelrex.com. Doubles from $189.
Argonaut Hotel. The location of this boutique hotel, in a former brick warehouse at the western end of Fisherman’s Wharf, makes it prime lodging for families exploring the waterfront. It shares first-floor space with the visitor center for the Maritime National Historical Park. Across the street is the Hyde Street Pier, where the Balclutha and other historic ships are docked. Around the corner is the Powell & Hyde cable car line, and a block away is Ghirardelli Square. Nautical motifs — anchors, ships’ wheels, fish — abound throughout the hotel, but I was particularly fond of the kinda cool, kinda creepy octopus-print wallpaper in my bathroom. I asked for a quiet room and got one, which meant a view of the central air shaft. However, it was spacious, and the king-size bed, dressed in crisp blue and white linens, was comfortable. 495 Jefferson St.; (415) 563-0800, https://www.argonauthotel.com. Doubles from $229.
Hotel Bohème. Here are 15 charming rooms in a great neighborhood — North Beach, full of Italian restaurants, Beat-era echoes and the beloved City Lights bookshop. With its upstairs rooms and muted lighting, the hotel has a European feel. Also free Wi-Fi. 444 Columbus Ave.; (415) 433-9111, https://www.hotelboheme.com. Doubles from $184.
Seal Rock Inn. This quirky little hotel way out west of downtown is an ideal escape from the clatter of the city. Not plush but spacious, and many rooms are furnished with wood-burning fireplaces. Beachy vibe aided by ocean views and a casual courtyard with table tennis and badminton. Best known as the place Hunter Thompson wrote “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.” “Dawn is coming up at the Seal Rock Inn … out here at the far end of Geary Street: This is the end of the line, for buses and everything else, the western edge of America,” Thompson wrote. Ask for Room 305, his old hangout, 545 Point Lobos Ave.; (415) 752-8000, https://www.sealrockinn.com. Doubles from about $124.
Days Inn San Francisco. This standard courtyard hotel isn’t just cheap, it’s easy. Rooms start at less than $100 for one, and there’s no parking fee. The BART station is four blocks away, and it’s a two-minute walk to the vibrant restaurant scene along Gough Street. Sure, the creature comforts and the towels at this Hayes Valley location aren’t world class. But the value is. There’s even a Zipcar rental lot a half-block away. 465 Grove St.; (415) 864-4040. https://www.daysinn.com. Doubles from $95.
Hotel Diva. Just how hip is Hotel Diva, which advertises itself as “sexy, modern and chic”? Hip enough to be painted in shades of gray (three, not 50) and have window shades featuring a larger-than-life silhouette of a woman in thigh-high fishnet stockings. The downtown hotel, renovated in 2012, has 115 rooms, a stylish look, high-end bedding and a central location just off Union Square across from the Curran Theatre. You’ll find the ambience fun and friendly. 440 Geary Blvd.; (415) 885-0200, https://www.hoteldiva.com. Doubles from about $181.
Grand Hyatt. Shopaholics will love the location of the Grand Hyatt, just around the corner from Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and scores of other Union Square retailers. The high-rise hotel, which just underwent a $70-million renovation, has spectacular city and Bay views, a grand lobby and Hyatt’s signature bedding, with plush mattresses, pillows and duvets. If you’re looking for cozy, this isn’t it; it’s more for the convention crowd, which accounts for 30% of the hotel’s business. 345 Stockton St.; (415) 398-1234, grandsanfrancisco.hyatt.com. Doubles from $169.
Phoenix Hotel. The Tenderloin is no longer synonymous with drugs and crime, and the Phoenix Hotel, a remodeled midcentury motor lodge, has arisen to prove it. It calls itself “San Francisco’s rock ‘n’ roll hotel,” with a young and edgy clientele that can get loud. A heated outdoor pool, tropical-themed rooms and a trendy restaurant and bar called Chambers Eat & Drink make it a popular destination for locals and travelers. Reservations come with complimentary passes to the Kabuki Springs & Spa. 601 Eddy St.; (415) 776-1380, https://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/sanfrancisco/phoenix. Doubles from $129.
Galleria Park Hotel: The Galleria Park, which is in a building that’s more than 100 years old, underwent a renovation that updated its facilities and look while keeping its Art Deco artwork and lovely skylights. This boutique hotel is just a block off Market Street, within walking distance of Union Square and one of San Francisco’s oldest restaurants, Tadich Grill. A well-appointed mini-bar, comfortable bed, free Wi-Fi and an outdoor jogging track and garden on the third floor make this an appealing urban oasis. 191 Sutter St.; (415) 781-3060, https://www.jdvhotels.com/galleria_park. Doubles from $161.
Hotel Tomo. This gem in Japantown may be one of the best values and most fun in the Bay Area. You’ll find anime murals all over the place (including the guest rooms), but you don’t have to be into that colorful graphic form to appreciate a well-designed room (with a desk, thank you) and a location that’s central to all that’s fun about Japantown (about a block to the Peace Plaza and some of the most interesting shops in the area). Plus, you know when you check into a place where there’s a UC San Francisco sleep testing laboratory (it occupies the fifth floor), you’re probably going to sleep tight. 1800 Sutter St.; (415) 921-4000, https://www.jdvhotels.com/tomo/. Doubles from about $109 a night.
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