What You May Not Know That Some Hotels Take Advantage OfUpscale Union Square borders on The Tenderloin, an area that some call "seedy," with a reputation for crime. The borders are blurred, but most streets leading west from Union Square begin a gradual decline after they cross Mason.
Hotels on the edges of the Tenderloin sometimes try to hype their connection with Union Square, ignoring their surroundings. They may be nice inside and some are well-rated, but the walk from their door to the main tourist areas could take you through some uncomfortable spots.
A map is a better ally than the hotel website when you're trying to figure out whether it's a good place for you and you should take special care when considering a place west of Mason. Reading lots of reader reviews at Tripadvisor may also help.
Pluses and Minuses++++ Union Square is as centrally located as you can get, with lots of great public transportation nearly at your doorstep. From the nearby BART station, you can connect directly to the San Francisco Airport and you can use our guide to BART from SFO to find out how. Cable cars run from Powell and Market to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square and the historic trolley line can take you to the Ferry Building and Pier 39.
+ Union Square has lots of hotels. When we last counted, almost 40 within the area shown above, and about one-fifth of them are well-rated and offer affordable rates. This is also the area of town with the most boutique hotels.
++ Union Square is one of the best places in town to use our strategies for getting a nice hotel for a lower rate. Using them, we've gotten rooms in some of the nicest hotels in the area for little more than you'd pay for a cheap motel, especially on weekends.
- - - - Parking is limited in the Union Square area and hotels charge up to $40 or more per night for it. You can lower that cost somewhat by choosing a nearby city-operated lot, but parking will still add a lot to the cost of your stay.
- - Union Square is one of the city's oldest areas and most hotels were built in the early twentieth century. By modern standards, their rooms are small and their bathrooms can seem miniscule. In some, rooms may have windows - but they face into a ventilation shaft. Many have undergone beautiful, stylish renovations, but their footprints remain unchanged. If you're looking for a spacious, modern room, you'll be better off in the South of Market area.
Mapping Union SquareWe think of Union Square as the area a few blocks around the square, roughly bounded by the gray lines in the map above. Others use different definitions, something to be keenly aware of when researching hotels online:
- Tripadvisor classifies Union Square as "Downtown," but that covers a much wider area which could include hotels in the Tenderloin or up a long, steep climb on Nob Hill.
- Priceline divides Union Square into two parts, East and West, but both are essentially within the area above.
- Expedia puts Union Square and South of Market in the same category. It's easy to tell which is which if you look at a map (Hint: Look for Market Street).
- Kayak doesn't sort by location, but you can use their map-based search to zero in on the right area.
Finding the Perfect Union Square Hotel for YouWe use Tripdadvisor as an important tool in planning most of our trips and we're happy to share our secrets: How to use the same process we do to choose your hotel. Or just go straight to Tripadvisor and click on Downtown to start your own research.
Some hotel chains guarantee that you'll find the lowest published online rates at their websites. With them, you can save time in your search by going directly to their websites. In Union Square, they include: