The 8 Best Areas to Stay in San Francisco Without a Car

We researched the best areas to stay in San Francisco without a car so that you can walk to all the major sights and easily access public transportation.

You really don’t need to rent a car when you visit San Francisco if you choose the right neighborhoods to stay in. The city’s extensive public transit system can get you to and from the airport as well as around the city with ease.

San Francisco is also not as big as other major cities, so you can actually walk or bike to most places if you choose the right starting base.

In fact, the city is only about 7 miles across at its widest point and is one of the most walkable cities in the US.

But, not every part of town is ideal to stay in without a car as they may be far from popular tourist attractions or not connected to the public transit system.

So, we evaluated all of the neighborhoods in San Francisco and found the ones that were the closest to many points of interest and offer the most transit options.

Be sure to check out San Francisco’s official Municipal Transportation Agency website to help plan your trip and see the latest routes and timetables for cable cars, metros, and buses.

Here is our list of the best areas to stay in San Francisco without a car so that you can travel freely and not think about where to park.

8. Russian Hill

Best-Areas-to-Stay-in-San-Francisco-Without-a-Car-Russian-Hill

Location: Check on Google Maps

Russian Hill starts off our list of the best areas to stay in San Francisco without a car. This neighborhood is located in the northern part of the city close to the waterfront and is home to the world famous Lombard Street.

Russian Hill is also known for its cluster of charming boutique shops as well as Ghirardelli Square.

From here, downtown can be reached in about 15 minutes by tram or 30 minutes on foot.

Meanwhile, Fisherman’s Wharf and the whole coastline is just a 15 minute walk from Russian Hill.

7. North Beach

Location: Check on Google Maps

Just like its name implies, North Beach is located in the northernmost part of San Francisco. It includes Fisherman’s Wharf and parts of the Embarcadero, making it a very convenient location for travelers who want to spend a lot of time by the piers.

Union Square is also just a 15 minute cable car or bus ride away from North Beach. 

6. Embarcadero

Location: Check on Google Maps

The Embarcadero refers to the whole eastern shoreline of San Francisco and is the best area to stay in San Francisco without a car for those looking for a scenic, yet lively part of the city to visit.

The Embarcadero is also home to the famed Ferry Building and offers views of the Bay Bridge along its extensive promenade.

Public transit is also a breeze from The Embarcadero district as many cable cars and buses start and terminate around the Ferry Building area.

5. SOMA

Location: Check on Google Maps

SOMA stands for South of Market and features several trendy neighborhoods like South Park and Mission Bay.

It is probably the best area to stay in San Francisco without a car for sports fans looking to be close to Oracle Park (or AT&T Park or whatever they call it these days) or the Chase Center.

The baseball stadium can be reached in about 15-20 minutes by foot from most parts of SOMA while the basketball arena can be reached in about 20-40 minutes.

4. Financial District

Location: Check on Google Maps

San Francisco’s Financial District is a great place to stay without a car as it offers some of the city’s best hotels, like the Omni San Francisco Hotel and Le Méridien San Francisco as well as close proximity to all the major sights and districts in the city.

The Financial District is adjacent to popular neighborhoods like Union Square, Chinatown, and The Embarcadero, making it a super convenient place to stay.

3. Chinatown

Best-Areas-to-Stay-in-San-Francisco-Without-a-Car-Chinatown

Location: Check on Google Maps

San Francisco’s famed Chinatown district is an ideal place to stay without a car. You can walk to Union Square in 10 minutes by foot and a walk to the piers just takes 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood itself is one of the top attractions to see in San Francisco, where you can indulge in some of the best food in the city and visit one of  the many produce markets.

2. Nob Hill

Location: Check on Google Maps

Nob Hill is located in the heart of the city and is nestled between Russian Hill, Chinatown, and Union Square.

It is renowned for its excellent restaurants and bars as well as its luxury hotels, such as the Fairmont.

Nob Hill is the perfect location for someone who wants to be close to many attractions during the day while enjoying top dining options at night.

1. Union Square

Best-Areas-to-Stay-in-San-Francisco-Without-a-Car-Union-Square

Location: Check on Google Maps

We think that Union Square is the best area to stay in San Francisco without a car. It is the epicenter of the city, especially from a public transportation point-of-view.

Cable cars, buses, and metros all pass through Union Square, making it extremely convenient to stay without using a car or Uber.

You can walk to any of the neighborhoods above in just 10-20 minutes. Meanwhile, the Ferry Building by the pier is just a 20 minute walk away while Fisherman’s Wharf is only 30 minutes by foot or 20 minutes by cable car.

This vibrant neighborhood is also filled with some of the best restaurants, bars, cafes, and shopping options in all of San Francisco.

Best Areas to Stay in San Francisco Without a Car – Summary

Overall, the best areas to stay in San Francisco without a car are:

  1. Union Square
  2. Nob Hill
  3. Chinatown
  4. Financial District
  5. SOMA
  6. Embarcadero
  7. North Beach
  8. Russian Hill

We are confident that all of these neighborhoods will get you close to the action and allow you to easily enjoy San Francisco without thinking about using a car.

These districts are all walkable and connected to public transportation so that you can spend the most time out enjoying this wonderful city.

Be sure to check out our latest review of the top places in all of California to live in 2022.