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Should we stay at a hotel in Union Square or a Pier hotel?

There will be 5 of us in SF, me, my wife and kids(18 & 14). I currently have 2 hotel options: 1 at Union Square (Marriott where I always stay, convenient, close to the stores, cable car etc) and another at Embarcadero, near the Ferry Building (Vitale, trendy hotel, facing the bay...).

Any suggestions?


9 Answers

top answer by
John from Carlsbad (California)

I think the Hotel Vitale is a better hotel, but it is much more expensive than the San Francisco Marriott Marquis or the Marriott Union Square.  I've stayed at the Marriott Marquis, and you can frequently get a good price there, but it's very large and somewhat impersonal.  There are good views from the upper rooms and the upstairs bar, although I don't find the bar very appealing.  I have not stayed at the Vitale, but I did have lunch there once and I thought it was very good and the hotel has a hip feel and the views are very good. The JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square is more upscale than the other Marriotts, and not much more expensive.  

Hotel rates in San Francisco vary greatly from week to week, depending on the conventions in town and the activities going on in the individual hotel.  I would check rates for the time you will be there and see where the best deal is on hotels you find attractive.  It's only about a 20 minute walk from Union Square to the San Francisco Ferry Bldg and there are many good hotels and restaurants in that area.  Some of my Personal favorites are The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square in a tower room with a view or in once of the larger rooms in the old section overlooking Union Square, The Omni Hotel San Francisco- no real view but an excellent hotel, Le Méridien San Francisco- some view from high floors, The Palace Hotel- no view but a great old hotel.  The hotels on Nob Hill have some great views, especially the bay side of the tower of The Fairmont San Francisco and the upper floors of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, but it is inconvenient getting up and down the hill to get anywhere.

Have a great trip.

3 thanks

answered first by
Kristal from San Francisco

Hi Evandro,

I would personally suggest staying at Hotel Vitale, because you can still walk to Union Square but it is away from all the crowds of people. You will also get great views and see more of SF locals in action. It is also a central place to get to the Ferry Building Marketplace, Little Italy, San Francisco Chinatown, SOMA and Union Square. Plus, you'll get a change from what you normally do :)

You can check out my blog, Eat and Escape, for places to go in those areas. 

Have a great trip!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hotel Vitale (hotel)
  2. Union Square (attraction)
  3. Ferry Building Marketplace (attraction)
  4. Little Italy (attraction)
  5. San Francisco Chinatown (attraction)
  6. SOMA (neighborhood)
3 thankscomments (4)

answered by
Chris from San Francisco

If the goal for your time in SF is shopping, Union Square is a great option.

Being close to the Ferry Building Marketplace provides access to all transportation options, including ferries that can take you anywhere on the Bay (East, to Berkeley or Oakland and North, to Saulsalito, Belvedere or Tiburon).

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Union Square (attraction)
  2. Ferry Building Marketplace (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Brian from Portland

I lived near the Embarcadero for years, honestly, there's nothing going on at night. You will have to go to another neighborhood when it gets dark. Dinner options is also pretty limited. If you don't mind doing that then staying at Hotel Vitale is great. If you're just in town for a couple of days and really want to do all the touristy stuff with the family and be in the middle of everything then Union Square will be your best bet. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hotel Vitale (hotel)
  2. Union Square (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Kevin from London, United Kingdom

Hotel Vitale for sure!  The Ferry Building Marketplace area is much nicer than Union Square, as a base.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hotel Vitale (hotel)
  2. Ferry Building Marketplace (attraction)
  3. Union Square (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Kevin from Davidson, North Carolina

JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square is great. More central to the city and still close to the Embarcadero Center

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square (hotel)
  2. Embarcadero Center (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Peter from San Francisco

Union Square is a bustling, not very attractive part of SF.

Given your options, I'd definitely take the Embarcadero option.

You're close enough to the MUNI.  That'll take you to the more attractive parts of town, the Mission, the Haight, the Castro, etc.

1 thanks

answered by

Hotel Vitale is our favorite and the location is excellent. You can walk to AT&T Park, Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market , boats and Beach! Our Adults kids do like Union Square and a couple of pubs there.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hotel Vitale (hotel)
  2. AT&T Park (attraction)
  3. Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market (restaurant)
  4. Union Square (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Krista from San Francisco

Hi Evandro,

This is a great question, and finding a hotel in San Francisco can be tricky. The good news is that the city is relatively small, with many sights clustered together. Here are some things to know about each area:

Union Square is home to most of the large shopping centers. It's pretty chaotic, and not terribly far from some of the more seedy areas, like Market Street Railway and the Tenderloin neighborhood. I typically advise people against staying downtown as it's majorly flocked with tourists and many eateries are closed on weekends, etc. If you do elect to stay in this area, I recommend JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square or Grand Hyatt San Francisco. I've heard awful things about Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco - Union Square and Hotel Whitcomb.

Pier 39 While touristy, this section of the city is on the waterfront and is actually quite charming. In addition to the Pier itself, you'll be close to many main attractions, like Ghiradelli SquareMarina Green ParkCrissy Field and the North Beach neighborhood. Additionally, you'll find that Union Square and Ferry Building Marketplace are a short Uber (or Lyft/Cab) ride away. I highly recommend staying at Argonaut Hotel - A Kimpton Hotel if you choose this area. :)

Enjoy your time in the City by the Bay!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Union Square (attraction)
  2. Market Street Railway (attraction)
  3. Tenderloin (neighborhood)
  4. JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square (hotel)
  5. Grand Hyatt San Francisco (hotel)
  6. Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco - Union Square (hotel)
  7. Hotel Whitcomb (hotel)
  8. Pier 39 (attraction)
  9. Ghiradelli Square (attraction)
  10. Marina Green Park (attraction)
  11. Crissy Field (attraction)
  12. North Beach (neighborhood)
  13. Ferry Building Marketplace (attraction)
  14. Argonaut Hotel - A Kimpton Hotel (hotel)
1 thankscomments (1)

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