Bustling city and cultural hub that it is, San Francisco is surprisingly affordable. Yes, it’s got its share of ritzy hotels and pricey restaurants. But this spunky city is also chock-full of great, affordable eats and some really incredible budget hotels. Plus, many of its most famous and attractive sights are free.
Expect to Spend: San Francisco
For a city with astronomical real estate prices, San Francisco somehow manages to maintain a pretty dreamy budget hotel scene. Most of the places we recommend charge between $65 and $110 for a double room, and many of these have major personality, to boot. Rates on the higher end of our spectrum go up to $250 during peak season, but there are also budget beds to be had for as low as $50, cheaper if you’re willing to share a bathroom.
Peak season in San Francisco is June through September, which, it just so happens, is when the fog rolls in and pretty much stays put. Come in spring or fall and you’ll not only find better rates but better weather in which to enjoy them.
San Francisco has a thriving gourmet foodie scene, with restaurant prices to match. But the same local resources (farm-fresh produce, a top-notch wine country just an hour away and fresh catches galore) that attract world-renowned chefs also make it possible to get fresh, delicious and inventive eats on even the most meager of budgets.
Entrees at midrange restaurants run between $12 and $20, with a glass of wine costing between $6 and $15. A sandwich at a restaurant or nice café will cost between $5 and $10.
Avoid the tourist trap restaurants along Fisherman’s Wharf—they may have the views, but the food is overpriced. Most of those restaurants have crab stands outside. Pick up your fresh fish eats there, or graze at the many stalls at the Ferry Building.
North Beach is also jam-packed with Italian eateries and cafés, most of them affordable and almost all of them tasty. And there is many a cheap meal to be had in the Mission, with its hole-in-the-wall joints serving up authentic Mexican grub.
Updated and edited: July 2011
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