Ever since the 1960s, San Francisco has been a vibrant melting pot of free thinkers, bohemians, and anything a little unconventional.
The Californian city has been at the forefront of many progressive movements from the Beat Generation to the revolutionary gay rights crusade.
With its reputation for being alternative and funky, it’s not surprising that you can find so many fabulously creative hotels nestled amongst its hilly districts.
Here are my favorite cool, hip, and unique hotels in San Francisco (in no particular order) guaranteed to inject lashings of color, fun, and uniqueness into your city stay…
This 4-star exceptionally rated luxury hip boutique hotel has seen all the coolest magazines falling over themselves to name as one of the best-designed hotels in America. Bright, colorful, and arty with enough eccentricity to keep things interesting, the designers definitely haven’t held back here!
With a fabulous fusion of the old and new, centrally located Hotel Zetta San Francisco is housed in a refined neoclassical building but the inside has been completely renovated to feature a clever mix of modern design with plenty of classic and arty details – think reclaimed wood and antiques sitting alongside swanky modernist sofas and chairs.
With more than a little hint of fun, there’s even a two-story Plinko game in the lobby and a second-floor lounge that features billiards and shuffle-puck tables.
Located only a 9 minutes walk from buzzy Union Square and a 3-minute walk from the Powell Street cable car and BART rail station, this is a great choice for a hip hotel that combines high-tech lodging with artsy touches.
Also expect a free weekly yoga class, in-room spa services, smart TVs and games consoles, and a 24-hour fitness center – we’ll guarantee you’ll fall in love with this funky and chic San Francisco abode!
Great onsite dining
Fun Games Room
State-of-the-art fitness center
Illy coffee machine and wireless Bluetooth speakers
Some bathrooms are small
Valet parking only
Extra charge for early check
San Francisco Proper Hotel offers the quintessential urban experience in the Market Street district and has been designated San Francisco’s hippest hotel by Forbes and Travel & Leisure. The landmark Beaux-Arts flatiron-style building is a short walk from Union Square, SoMa, Hayes Valley and the Central Market-Civic Center.
The vivid decor features walls and wall coverings designed by Kelly Wearstler. The luxurious rooms have handmade Aireloom beds, Italian linens, Aesop bath and body products, Vifa wireless speakers, a curated mini-bar and the Proper App, which connects to all hotel concierge services.
You can choose from three sophisticated dining options – Charmaine’s on the Rooftop, Villon and La Banda – with menus by Michelin-star-rated Chef Jason Fox.
Exceptional and unique design
Rooms with wet bars and cocktails
Great rooftop views
Seasonally-driven meals from Michelin-star chef
No microwaves in the rooms
Mini-bar prices a little high
Otherwise known as the Rock’n’Roll hotel, this 1950’s style retro motor lodge is said to be where the likes of Little Richard, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Radiohead stay when they are in town.
This funky oasis enjoys a very hip location on the edge of San Francisco’s trendy Tenderloin district (only a 10-minute walk from to BART rail station which will take you to the rest of the city), the Phoenix Hotel, San Francisco combines colorful kitsch with a super caring ethos – they donate a percentage of their profits to local charities for example.
This ultra-hip San Francisco hotel is set around a retro motel-style courtyard, the trendy rooms and suites offer mod cons like free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and minifridges and other hotel highlights include free passes to a nearby Japanese-style bathing facility, a seriously hip restaurant and a poolside lounge serving seasonal fare and creative cocktails.
Fun and partying is always high on the agenda at the Phoenix hotel and expect to see colorful murals at the bottom of the swimming pool, retro signs and original sculptures and art dotted around the courtyard. – a very cool place indeed!
Bands like Radiohead stay here
Fun poolside lounge
Serving seasonal fare and creative cocktails
Colorful murals in the swimming pool
No fridges in the rooms
Not suitable for kids
When staying in San Francisco, could you pick a better location than Union Square? The gorgeous Palihotel San Francisco is perfectly located in the Union Square area, next to the Powell Street and Market Street cable car line. This historic building has 82 renovated king, queen, and suited rooms, designed to suit a wide range of travelers.
There are many unique and romantic hotels in San Francisco but this is one of the best. This trendy hotel is also perfect for tourists as each room is a blend of classic and contemporary California-centric art and design.
You are walking distance from several theatres, bars, and restaurants, a cable-car ride away from the farmer’s market and pier, and a BART ride away from everything else in this vibrant city!
Boutique vibe with California-centric art
A chic bar with vintage-style furnishings
and restaurants nearby
Not many spaces for parking
Some noise on street-facing rooms
Hmm…it’s tough trying to describe this cool San Francisco hotel but I think that’s the intention of its designers!
It’s at once kitschy, hip, futuristic and historical… in parts, it reminded me of a sci-fi film made in the 1960s, in others a very clean and swish Frat house and finally a luxurious spa hotel!
The 4-star and exceptionally rated Hotel Zeppelin is a beautiful mash-up of lots of styles and ideas that celebrate the cultural melting pot that is San Francisco, my room, for example, was a gorgeous melange of 1960s colors with lots of contemporary twists.
It features vintage turntables, vinyl records, and funky artwork as well as Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and minibars. Suites and upgraded rooms feature unique touches such as fireplaces, and kitchenettes and some have gorgeous outdoor decks.
Overall it was comfy as well as being trendy and a huge bonus was that it was set in the upscale Nob Hill neighborhood right in the center of the city, just minutes from Union Square (and a 2-minute walk from the nearest cable car stop which will take you all over the city).
The service was outstanding and nothing was too much of an ask – all in all, just a fabulous, unique and unusual place to stay in San Francisco!
Complimentary drink upon arrival
and funky artwork
In-room Nespresso machine with pods
High-concept gaming room in the basement
Some rooms a little dark
Some rooms have street noise
No microwaves in guest rooms
The fun and funky 4-star Yotel San Francisco is the fourth hotel in the chain and has just opened in 2018 following the refurbishment of a historic building on Market Street.
The highly-rated hotel is great for tourists but also for people who are on a working holiday with onsite co-working areas and space for meetings and gatherings. Yotel San Francisco prides itself on providing innovation, efficiency, technology, and a sense of community and stand-out amenities include airline-style self-check-in desks and a one-stop concierge service known as ‘Mission Control.’
Guest rooms have a neat ‘cabin’ style and feature a mezzanine sleeping space and the very cool Technowalls – YOTEL’s signature smart TV where you can connect and personalize your space through mood lighting adjustment and mobile app streaming.
Still want more? There’s also a swish rooftop terrace and bar which offers fabulous 360-degree views of the city, a great choice for a unique stay in San Francisco!
Breakfast Burrito and full-day coffee
Rooftop bar with a terrace
Providing 360-degree city views
Mezzanine sleeping space with Techno-Walls
No parking available
No microwaves in guest rooms
No fridges in guest rooms
Centrally located Hotel Emblem San Francisco is a much-loved Beat Generation-inspired boutique hotel. The historic building – which is located only a 3-minute walk from all the shops, restaurants, and theatres of Union Square – was painstakingly restored to offer a very unique accommodation experience in San Francisco.
Hailed as the ideal retreat for ‘literary minds, creative souls, and non-conformists’ with sleek dark and artistic interiors and literary-themed furnishings.
The rooms at this unusual San Francisco hotel are chic and spacious with custom wall coverings, hand-painted lampshades, and an excellent range of modern amenities including smart TVs, Nespresso coffee machines, and free WiFi.
Other very cool touches include a free nightly wine hour, a trendy bar serving up retro cocktails, weekly art events, and live jazz and random poetry readings at their popular on-site Café Andrée, a pretty special and very popular place to stay!
Poetry slam nights in a Speakeasy style lounge bar
Ideal for literary minds and creative souls
Some rooms are a bit small
Paid valet parking
Fridge on request only
One of the most popular hotels in San Franciso, a stay at the cool and highly rated boutique 4-star Hotel Triton San Francisco is anything but dull.
Located in the heart of the city (opposite the Chinatown Gate and only a five-minute walk from all the hustle and bustle of Union Square), from the moment you step into the lobby you’ll enter a beautiful, chic, and artistic world with eco-friendly guest rooms that pay tribute to Jack Kerouac.
With its tireless dedication to creativity, this hip San Francisco hotel even hosts art exhibits by local artists. As well as free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, use of yoga mats, in-room spa treatments, eco-friendly boutique bath amenities, an honesty bar filled with organic treats, and a daily wine hour, Hotel Triton is also known for its hosting of a number of vibrant events.
Popular location near Union Square
Eco-friendly rooms paying tribute to Jack Kerouac
Organic treats bar and a daily wine hour
No tea and coffee facility in room
Some outside noise
The highly-rated Hotel Kabuki San Francisco is a stylish blend of Eastern convenience and Western aesthetics and the owners have succeeded in creating something really unique! I was immediately hit by the tranquil atmosphere of the hotel despite it being just a mile away from central San Francisco (the hotel is set in Japantown, three blocks from the shops and restaurants of Fillmore Street and 1.2 miles from Union Square).
The beautifully decorated, Japanese-influenced rooms feature luxurious linens, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks and in-room spa treatments. Opt for an upgraded room and you’ll find gorgeous Japanese soaking tubs, balconies and/or whirlpool tubs.
Other fabulous features at this unique and chic San Francisco hotel include free bathing passes to the nearby Kabuki Springs and Spa and a sleek lounge serving Japanese and American fare. Definitely a cool and unusual gem of a boutique hotel.
Rooms with Japanese-influenced decor
Free bathing passes for Kabuki Springs
Garden with a koi pond and whirlpool tubs
Some rooms can be small
Paid parking only
citizenM Union Square
The citizenM hotels, where the M stands for mobile, are geared to a millennial, nomadic sensibility that makes itself at home in big cities around the world.
Like other citizenM locations, this trendy hotel is in the middle of all the excitement, with Westfield shopping, Union Square, Chinatown and the Civic Center less than 15 minutes on foot. You can take the iconic Powell Street cable car for destinations further afield.
Like the city, citizenM San Francisco Union Square is sophisticated, colorful, friendly, quirky, and welcoming.
The entrance leads into a living room rather than a formal lobby, furnished with comfortable, colorful furniture from Vitra, books, and irreverent artwork by local artists.
The rooms are necessarily small but well-designed, with the most comfortable beds. Food and drinks are available at the canteenM 24/7, and there are plenty of dining options in the area.
Colorful setting with a playful vibe
In-app mood lighting and sliding curtains
Accessible location with popular attractions
Some small rooms
Fun vibe might not suit everyone
The newest boutique hotel in San Francisco, but it’s also one of the largest! Their tagline is “Beyond Boutique”, and it’s understandable why!
Their décor is modern and sophisticated with custom-made furniture and each room is equipped with 43 inch smart TVs, Illy coffee machines, KEYPR guest experience, and plush terry cloth robes.
The four-star Hotel Via San Francisco Located in the South Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, this trendy hotel boasts a 360-degree view over Oracle Park, the Bay, and the San Francisco skyline from its rooftop bar – perfect for Instagram lovers!
Even some of their corner rooms have these stunning views. Naturally, this is the perfect location if you’re coming for a ball game – you may even be able to watch it from the comfort of your own room!
Rooftop bar with bay and city views
Small plates based on seasonal ingredients
Chic bar and grill with fire pits and cabanas
Private parking is pricey
Restaurant Menu is a bit limited
Some areas restricted during events
This famous San Francisco institution of a hotel is a delicious fusion of luxury, history, and high art with pieces by Dali and Roberto Matta rubbing shoulders with crafted furniture and a tasteful design by Phillipe Starck throughout.
Located a 6-minute walk from all the upscale shopping at Union Square and 4-minute walk from a Muni Metro station, the much loved and highly rated Hotel Clift, San Francisco offers a beautiful and elegant San Francisco stay!
The room at this trendsetting San Francisco accommodation was gorgeous, calm, and comfortable with a custom sleigh bed adorned with the finest quality linens and a state-of-the-art entertainment system that included a flat-screen cable TV. MALIN + GOETZ toiletries featured in the en suite bathrooms and a beautiful view of the city out my window.
A top hotel to stay in San Francisco to experience the beautiful bohemian soul of the city with all the sumptuous modern comforts and that you need in life!
A redwood bar offering dinner with live music
Free tea and coffee with chess in the lounge
High-design lobby and trendy nightlife
Great central location very near Union Square
Parking is extra and pricey
Restaurant gets busy
San Francisco has many moods and captures its style of cool sophistication, blending a retro ‘70s sensibility with contemporary elegance. Light, open public spaces are matched with modernist designs and furnishings that mix pastels with bright jewel tones for a harmonious, energizing feeling.
The downtown hotel puts guests close to major attractions like the museums, Union Square, shopping, San Francisco Bay excursions at the Embarcadero, and the cable car line.
Rooms have comfortable beds, work desks with ergonomic chairs and breathtaking city views from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Most hotels in the Bay Area are pet-friendly, but The Clancy goes above and beyond, with special beds, bathrobes, and local pet treats. At the Seven Square Taproom there’s a special pet menu, as well as locally-sourced, artisanal dishes for the humans.
Velvet-furnished subtle neon lobby
Continental dishes with pet-menu
Ideal for baseball fans with a stadium nearby
Parking is extra and pricey
No microwaves in rooms
W San Francisco
Located in the dynamic SoMa district (the South of Market neighborhood which is dotted with upscale dining options and high-energy nightclubs, only a four-minute walk to a Muni light-rail stop and a mile from San Francisco Bay), the fabulous 4-star exceptionally rated San Francisco version of the famed W chain is located deep in the heart of the city’s energy.
The bright contemporary rooms at W Hotel San Francisco offer flat-screen TVs, minibars and Wi-Fi and upgraded rooms feature sitting areas and/or skyline or city views and they also offer everything from the unrivaled proximity to the trendiest locations to making bold statements of luxury and an eco-minded ethos – they serve up only sustainable cuisine in their sophisticated restaurant TRACE for example.
At this wonderfully hip San Francisco hotel, also expect to make full use of their gorgeous luxe spa, a hip lounge, a fantastic nightclub-style cocktail bar that overlooks the restaurant, a have-to-be-seen-to-be-believed sleek fitness center which features a glass ceiling and their exclusive whatever/whenever service which offers the ultimate in indulgence and is tasked with taking care of guests every possible whim! Get ready to lose your heart to the W!
service and hip SOMA district location
Chic nightclub-style cocktail bar
FIT sky-lit gym and locally sourced sustainable cuisine
Not for the budget-friendly crowd
Pricey valet parking
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco is right bang smack in the middle of the popular tourist haunt of Fishermans Wharf (5 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge) but this no ordinary tourist trap! It is, in fact, an upscale and highly regarded boutique hotel that celebrates the industrial maritime heritage of the city and throws in plenty of fun too.
As a former hosteller, I loved this place because it’s laid out to encourage interactions, from the cool outdoor courtyard complete with a fire pit, seating, and sculptures, a fun food truck and giant board games to the quirky yet luxurious lobby complete with portholes and furniture made from old dock signs – wonderful!
The trendy San Francisco accommodation is bright and comfortable too and there are loads of nice little touches that make it unique…for example, alongside the usual smart TV I spotted backgammon and chess in my room as well as a balcony offering fabulous views over the Wharf.
Opt for a suite and you’ll also find floor-to-ceiling windows and other amenities include a colorful gym and free parking.
This place is cheeky, quirky, and fun but also uncompromising in comfort – for seafarers and landlubbers alike, I would recommend it wholeheartedly!
Rooms with balconies
Bay and Wharf views
Game room with a pool table
Sculptured terrace with fire pits
Parking is extra and pricey
Some rooms can be small
Hotel Nikko San Francisco embodies classic luxury in the heart of San Francisco, with spacious rooms, gracious and comfortable seating, picture windows and elegant lighting. The Union Square location is within walking distance of Chinatown, Embarcadero and Market Street.
The chic rooms and suites have Japanese-inspired decor, pillow-top beds, and in-room dining with a varied menu. Dogs are welcome and along with other facilities, they have a Pup Terrace to run around and play.
With so many dining choices nearby, guests and locals frequently prefer the on-site Restaurant ANZU, which offers a fusion menu of contemporary California and Japanese cuisine, with local and seasonal ingredients.
Another on-site attraction is Feinstein’s, the hotel’s cabaret nightclub with live music, comedy acts, and shows.
Complimentary breakfast and evening socials
Contemporary American & Japanese cuisines
Very stylish indoor swimming pool
Funky food truck serving Californian fare
Can get booked up
Expensive valet parking
A fun and spirited design hotel in Oakland’s Arts & Entertainment District, Moxy Oakland is located close to all attractions and restaurants.
For a contrast to the urban setting, you can drive five minutes to the wildlife refuge at Lake Merritt, which is really a large tidal lagoon.
An intricate art installation titled Shapeshift Oakland by local artist Thom Faulders extends over six storeys of the building’s facade. Within, colorful art, exposed ceiling pipes, and distressed furniture play up the theme of industrial chic.
The Bar Moxy in the center of the hotel just below the lobby can double as an office space or social hub. The patio lounge is likewise a good place to meet and relax.
The bedrooms are well-designed and patterned woven throws in subtle colors add a unique touch.
Massive tidal lagoon for sea-lovers
board games in the game room
and DJ nights
Sociable vibe might not suit introverts
Not for all ages
Hotel Zoe Fisherman’s Wharf
Tucked away in one of San Francisco’s most exciting neighborhoods, Hotel Zoe Fisherman’s Wharf is a quiet oasis of luxury where you can rest and recharge. A short walk brings you to Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, and the trolley stop.
The decor is inspired by the understated comfort of a luxury yacht, with warm wood accents, neutral tones and sophisticated materials. Genuine artworks such as the wire mesh sculptures in the lobby by Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa are scattered throughout the hotel.
Comfortable beds and luxury toiletries ensure a good night’s sleep and an energizing start in the morning.The courtyard is a good place to relax near the firepits for chilly San Francisco evenings, and many of the rooms overlook this tranquil space.
The Pescatore Trattoria serves classic Italian foods with a West Coast touch and delicious breakfasts as well.
and cozy vibes
Stylish bar and trattoria-style restaurant
Complimentary morning coffee in the lobby
Expensive valet parking
Some rooms are small
Located in the legendary Haslett Warehouse in Fisherman’s Wharf (only ais a 12-minute walk from Pier 39 and 0.5 miles from Alcatraz Island), this exceptionally rated chic 4-star boutique hotel in San Francisco has indeed cast itself in iconic terms.
Argonaut Hotel has topped many a best hotel list for years now and pays homage to the city’s Barbary Coast days with a tasteful nautical theme and ship paraphernalia galore.
The exposed brick image nods to its pioneering past while the slick design celebrates the city’s eclectic vibe and even the porthole-shaped mirrors manage to remain tasteful.
There’s also careful attention to detail at this contemporary San Francisco stay with luxury linens, in-room spa treatments, yoga mats, and – in upgraded rooms – whirlpool tubs and sublime views of Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.
Throw in a superb spa, a complimentary wine reception, a seafood restaurant with terrace seating, eco-friendly credentials, and pet-friendly attitudes and you have a hotel hero even Greek legend would consider worthy of the name!
Stunning Views of Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay
Family rooms available
A terrace seafood restaurant
Can get booked up
Some outside noise at night
This hip hotel on the San Francisco waterfront captures the cool, laid-back California style with views of the Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Pacific Ocean. The cheerful, modernist decor, artwork and furniture along with greenery and natural light create bright, energizing public spaces.
Within walking distance you’ll find Ghirardelli Square, North Beach, the Maritime Museum, the Boudin Bakery famous for its sourdough bread, Pier 39, and the trolley stop.
The comfortable rooms at Kimpton Alton Hotel, an IHG Hotel are calm spaces with sleek, retro-chic inspired furniture and muted, relaxing colors. Freestanding bathtubs add to the quirky charm, as do the sculptural light fixtures and Victrola Record Players in every room. Guests can borrow records from the Vinyl library in the lobby.
The ABACÁ restaurant serves contemporary Filipino-Californian cuisine, and there is a daily free alcohol happy hour with fruit juice for the kiddies.
Rooms offering stunning bay views
Regular evening socials with wine
Upscale Filipino restaurant with a bar
Bathrooms with free-standing tubs
Breakfast is not included
No microwave in rooms
Noe's Nest Bed and Breakfast
If you’ve always wanted to live in a genuine San Francisco Victorian house, this charming bed & breakfast will help you live your dream!
The gorgeous rooms and suites at all have their individual names and unique furnishings in character, with fascinating antiques and artwork. Some rooms look out over the backyard garden while others have views of the city and Twin Peaks.
The location in the heart of the city, between the Noe Valley and Mission District, is close to all the shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and novelty stores on Valencia Street Corridor and Mission Street. Transportation to downtown is nearby.
A breakfast buffet is served every morning, with special frittatas and French toast on weekends, and guests have a full self-serve kitchen as well.
Colorful rooms with vintage accents
Breakfast buffet is served in the kitchen
Cabana room with separate entrance
Garden with fountains and seating
Early morning breakfast
Children are not allowed
Comparing Extraordinary Hotels in San Francisco
The following table compares the Top 21 Cool and fun Hotels in San Francisco on the basis of various attributes.
|Hotel Name||Location||Price Range (per night)||Fitness Facilities||Distance to Attractions (km)||Nearby Restaurants|
|Virgin Hotel||250 Fourth St||$280-$405||Yes||1.3||3|
|Hotel Zetta||55 5th Street, Union Square||$289-$385||Yes||0.95||2|
|Proper Hotel||1100 Market Stree||$401-$793||Yes||1.1||2|
|Phoenix||601 Eddy Street||$232-$256||No||1.3||2|
|Palihotel||417 Stockton Street||$221-$571||No||0.75||3|
|Hotel Zeppelin||545 Post Street, Union Square||$278-$543||Yes||0.9||3|
|Yotel||1095 Market Street||$211-$537||Yes||1.1||3|
|Hotel Emblem||562 Sutter Street, Union Square||$365-$324||No||0.9||3|
|Hotel Triton||342 Grant Avenue, Union Square||$284-$511||No||1.1||2|
|Hotel Kabuki||1625 Post Street||$348-$647||Yes||1.2||3|
|citizenM Union Square||72 Ellis Street, Union Square||$208-$259||Yes||1.1||3|
|Hotel Via||138 King Street, South Beach||$406-$756||No||1.3||2|
|The Clift||495 Geary Street, Union Square||$213-$763||Yes||0.9||3|
|The Clancy||299 Second Street||$339-$470||Yes||0.95||3|
|W San Francisco||181 Third Street||$475-$1067||Yes||1.1||3|
|Hotel Zephyr||250 Beach Street||$292-$360||No||1.6||3|
|Hotel Nikko||222 Mason Street||$370-$587||Yes||0.75||2|
|Moxy Oakland||2225 Telegraph Avenue||$229-$310||Yes||1.6||3|
|Hotel Zoe Fisherman's Wharf||425 North Point Street||$272-$482||No||1.6||3|
|Argonaut||495 Jefferson Street||$329-$1465||Yes||1.4||3|
|Kimpton Alton||2700 Jones Street||$184-$573||Yes||1.1||3|
|Noe's Nest Bed and Breakfast||1257 Guerrero street||$295-$397||No||3||2|
Becky Moore – Owner, writer and photographer
My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my ex Athens street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Borneo, Finland, Greece, Berlin, Laos, California and the surreal and beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.
I’ve been quoted in Forbes, National Geographic, The Times, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Thrillist, British Airways Magazine, Entrepreneur, express.co.uk, Wanderlust, Telegraph Travel, Daily Mail and metro.co.uk. Find me on Linkedin or Facebook.