There’s no getting past the fact that San Francisco is a pricey city, both to live in and to visit. But those in the know can book a great hotel that’s still affordable.
The Best Cheap Hotels in San Francisco
Read on for our list of the best budget hotels in San Francisco.
San Remo Hotel
If you’re looking for cheap hotels in San Francisco, you can’t do better than the lovely European-style San Remo Hotel in the heart of North Beach, an easy walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. Decor at this pension-style place is charming and eclectic. Its petite rooms’ details are made from brass, iron, oak, and wicker—and bathrooms are shared, though everything is extremely clean. Staffers are kind and warm, adding to the San Remo’s coziness and value for adventurous travelers.
Amenities: Free massage chairs, free beverages, free Wi-Fi, plenty of towels in shared bathrooms, and the option to book the penthouse suite with its beautiful views and private space. Its downstairs eatery, the upscale Fior d’Italia, claims to be America’s oldest Italian restaurant.
Hitchcock fan on a budget? Vertigo is the place for you. Of all the cheap places to stay in San Francisco, this one is the most thoroughly themed, based on the fact that this is the building where Kim Novak’s character stayed (room 401) in the 1958 thriller Vertigo, which plays on loop in the funky lobby.
Atmospheric touches throughout the hotel provide retro references back to the movie and its era: swirly wall art, horse lamps, an orange-and-cream palette, and fuzzy white pillows. Still, rooms are modern, comfortable, and recently renovated. Hotel Vertigo is in Lower Nob Hill, within easy reach of Union Square, and is a great pick for film buffs and travelers with a sense of humor.
Amenities: Free Wi-Fi, free coffee and tea, free morning newspaper, in-room mini fridge, flat screen TV, fitness center, and business center.
Hotel Diva is hipper than you’d expect for a budget hotel in San Francisco. It’s minimalist and modern, with loft-style rooms and a fantastic location just a block and a half off Union Square. Everything is super clean, beds are comfortable, and staffers are friendly.
Amenities: Serta mattress, 400-thread-count sheets, down comforters and pillows, designer toiletries, makeup mirror, climate controls, windows that open, 43-inch HDTV, in-room refrigerator, adjacent to the Colibri Mexican bistro, as well as a Starbucks.
Best Western Plus Americania Hotel
One way to find good cheap hotels in San Francisco is to look in neighborhoods that are a bit grittier, if you don’t mind some urban bustle outside. (If you’re traveling with kids, however, you may want to choose a more sheltered spot.) The Best Western Plus Americania Hotel is fantastic on the inside, with modern style, plenty of amenities, and colorful guest rooms that are kept very clean. The location’s silver lining is that it’s in the heart of the city, near theater, nightlife, and public transit.
Amenities: Free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, iPod docking station, in-room safe, in-room coffee and tea, heated swimming pool, fitness center, valet parking, pet-friendly policies, complimentary computer and printer kiosk, onsite restaurant.
Villa Florence is smack in downtown in a charming 1908 building. The boutique hotel’s interiors were recently remodeled to modernize the cozy rooms—accommodations are cute and comfortable with desks and dressing tables. Agate lamps and metallic headboards add a touch of sophistication. At many of the cheap places to stay in San Francisco, staffers can be curt, but not here: They go out of their way to be friendly and warm. Need to get anywhere? Jump on the trolley car line, which goes right by.
Amenities: C.O. Bigelow toiletries, luxe linens, 55-inch TV with premium movie channels, in-room coffee maker, iHome docking station, personal safe, concierge service, fitness studio.
Hotel Rex is a classic boutique hotel with nostalgic decor inspired by the 1920s and 1930s. Original pieces made by local artists hang throughout the hotel, including in each recently renovated room. Accommodations are colorful and eclectic, with hand-painted lampshades and other lovely details. Two of the garden-view suites are inspired by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
As far as budget hotels in San Francisco go, this one is cooler than most and comes with a better location than most: in the downtown theater district. The onsite Library Bar delights its patrons with literary-themed cocktails and live jazz.
Amenities: Jonathan Adler bath products, terry bathrobes, comfort beds with pillow-top mattress, in-room safe, 32-inch TV, iPod docking station, onsite bar, and garden.
The boutique Carlton Hotel manages to encompass old-world grace while offering the utmost in eco-chicness, all at prices that make this one of the most desirable cheap hotels in San Francisco. Done up in warm Mediterranean tones and curated throughout with trinkets from Asia and Africa, this museum-like Joie de Vivre property in lower Nob Hill is a reasonable walk from Union Square, SoMa, and Chinatown.
Guestrooms offer city views, remodeled bathrooms, blackout drapes, walk-in closets, and the same eclectic global decor as the hotel’s public spaces. Friendly staffers keep the place exceptionally clean and are happy to make excellent recommendations about what to see and eat in town.
Amenities: Jacuzzi tub, luxury bath products, in-room Keurig coffee maker, iHome clock radio dock, Serta mattresses, 32- or 42-inch HDTV, free Wi-Fi, in-room safe, pet-friendly policies, laundry and dry-cleaning service, 24-hour business center, complimentary lobby wine reception, complimentary town car service, and the onsite Phlox Commons restaurant.
Queen Anne Hotel
Named for its architectural style, the Queen Anne Hotel is full-on and unapologetically Victorian. In a historic building filled with character, decor is classic and opulent; by looking at it, you’d never guess that this is one of the budget hotels in San Francisco. Though there are 48 rooms, this petite property has more of a bed-and-breakfast feel, especially thanks to the free morning meal served amid red velvet curtains and flocked wallpaper.
Service here is charming and friendly, rooms are fresh and clean with large windows, and the quiet Lower Pacific Heights location puts you near Japantown, Cathedral Hill, and not too far from the San Francisco Opera and Symphony.
Amenities: Complimentary continental breakfast, flat screen TV, free Wi-Fi, free afternoon tea and sherry in the parlor, 24-hour front desk and concierge, some suites with parlors and wood-burning fireplaces, town car service.
Kimpton Buchanan Hotel
This stylish boutique hotel in Japantown near the shops and Fillmore Street features an eclectic mix of Japanese and American touches, imparting a zen feel throughout. Though price-wise, it’s one of the more budget hotels in San Francisco, this property has the great style and service Kimptons are known for; public spaces are sedate and sophisticated with comfy chairs and a worthwhile art collection.
Guest quarters are warm and spacious, and some rooms have balconies and city views. Staffers are helpful and offer great recommendations for nearby restaurants and things to do.
Amenities: Atelier Bloem bath products, European linens, 37-inch LCD HDTV, yoga mat and umbrella in closet, Japanese-style deep bath tub in Spa King room, free coffee in lobby, free bicycle rentals, indoor-outdoor fitness center, pet-friendly policies, evening wine hour and sake reception, electrical vehicle charging spots, firepit, and the onsite shabu-shabu Mums restaurant.
Cornell Hotel de France
Francophiles rejoice: This 50-room inn has all the European charm you’d hope for, with prices that make it one of the most darling cheap hotels in San Francisco. Built in 1910, the property has been owned by the same hospitable family for 50 years and running. Each of the pretty, petite guestrooms is uniquely decorated (featuring paintings and trompe l’oeil) to be cozy, comfortable, and thoroughly French.
A turn-of-the-century elevator shuttles guests between floors, and each hallway features a single artist’s prints—Matisse, Chagall, and so forth. The lower level’s Jeanne D’Arc restaurant is as French as the rest of the property, with a wine list, cuisine, and artworks to match. Just two blocks above Union Square and below Nob Hill, Cornell Hotel de France is in the middle of it all.
Amenities: L’Occitane toiletries, comfort beds, 32- or 40-inch flat-screen TV, free breakfast if booking through hotel’s website, free Wi-Fi, in-room coffee and tea, and preferentially priced parking garage across the street.
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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.