Where to stay in San Francisco - a travel guide to San Francisco's neighborhoods

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Choosing where to stay is key to getting your San Francisco vacation off to a good start. Use this guide to help you decide the best neighborhood for choosing your San Francisco hotel.

Union Square & Convention Center

In the heart of the city, Union Square bustles with boutique shops, theatres and restaurants. It's also a convenient base for exploring the rest of the city. South of Market is the SOMA District and the Moscone Convention Center. A stay here puts you within walking distance of cultural institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Yerba Buena Center &Gardens and the Metreon. BART stations to airports and Muni bus stops are nearby.

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East of Union Square off Geary Street is Japantown in the Fillmore district. The centerpiece is the Japan Center Mall's five-story pagoda in Peace Plaza, which looks like a stack of wide umbrellas topped by an antenna. Choose from a handful of Asian-influenced hotels for quiet and understated comfort. A stay here is convenient for cutting-edge art galleries and the haute couture shops of Hayes Valley.

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Fisherman's Wharf

A cable car ride from Powell and Market ends at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 where sea lions bark and bask in the sun. Take a boat to the old prison island of Alcatraz or just fill up on fresh seafood from a seaside restaurant. Ghirardelli's Square chocolate treats are a sweet end to any trip. A stay near the wharf puts North Beach's Italian restaurants and City Lights Bookstore, made famous by the poets of the Beat Generation, within walking distance.

Financial District & Ferry Building

North of Market Street along the Embarcadero, the eastern waterfront of the city, is the Financial District. Bustling on weekdays, this area is a quiet oasis on evenings and weekends. Convenient for the Embarcadero BART, it’s an easy stroll along the waterfront to the Ferry Building for locally-produced food and a short walk from the busy open markets of Chinatown.

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Russian Hill & Nob Hill

Northeast of Union Square are the sophisticated neighborhoods of Nob and Russian hills. Russian Hill is a largely residential area with surprising pockets of quaint shops and restaurants. It's home to the famous painted ladies, restored Victorian houses, and the very crooked Lombard Street. Its more formal neighbor, Nob Hill, is known for high-end hotels bordering Huntington Park. Sip a cocktail in a San Francisco hotel with breathtaking city views before dining at a local restaurant. 

The Castro & the Haight

East of Hayes Valley is the center of hippie culture, the Haight. Vintage stores, cafes and hippie shops keep the '60s counterculture alive. Southeast is the vibrant Castro district. Rainbow flags above stylish shops and popular clubs celebrate gay pride.