“Immerse yourself in San Francisco history in this characterful and colourful small hotel in quintessential North Beach neighbourhood”
Hotel Bohème feels right in synch with the culture and history of arts, cafés, independent shops and jazz of vibrant North Beach. Take the hotel's excellent walking tour for an in-depth look at local history and landmarks involving known writers and musicians, movie sets and nightclubs. Browse in the iconic City Lights Bookstore. There's a huge choice of great cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops along Columbus Avenue, just a few steps away. Return to a glass of sherry in the lobby before turning in.
- Good location in the heart of fabulous low-slung North Beach community, which borders Chinatown and downtown including Union Square
- Friendly, helpful and relaxed managers Charles, Stan and Gigi, whose knowledge of the area and city is second to none
- Beautifully expressed homage to late 1950s/early 60s era
- Wonderful Jerry Stoll B&W photos of 1950s North Beach in all corridors
- Immaculately kept rooms and bathrooms
- No meals provided, but North Beach's great restaurant scene is outside the door
- No common rooms and bedrooms are on the smaller side
- Often noisy at night; request one of the 'inside rooms' if you're a light sleeper
- Decidedly eccentric character not for everyone
- Expect to carry your suitcase up 2 flights of stairs as no lift
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
The same colour scheme plays in all 15 boho-chic rooms, arranged over two storeys. Corridors are decorated in pumpkin and sage, room doors are a rich purple, woodwork is black. Inside the rooms, walls are coral, ceilings are sky blue; carpets throughout are striped gold and blue. Cast-iron beds are draped in muslin netting, and the checked fabric on the bedspreads is repeated in the curtains and cushions. Everything is immaculately kept.
Smallest are the two Cosy Rooms, which are great for solo travellers and, well, 'cosy', for couples. The 12 Comfortable Rooms vary slightly in size and layout according to their position along the corridors. There are 4 inside rooms which are the quietest as their windows face the back of the building. The room where Allen Ginsberg stayed is named for the great man and is at the end of the top floor corridor.
Families are advised to take the Inviting Room as it is the largest and has two queen beds.
All rooms have a small colour television, a retro-styled black telephone with modem jacks, alarm clock/radio, vintage armoire with extra blankets and a fan inside, and a portable luggage rack. You also get a round glass-topped bistro table with two wicker armchairs. Bedside lights have ceramic bases and shades of lacquered paper; ceiling lights are covered by parasols.
50s-style shower bathrooms are compact, in yellow tiles with black trim, with hairdryer and Lather toiletries. Each has a B&W photo of a group of Beats in the 1950s.
- Extra beds
- Internet access
- Satellite TV
No meals or snacks are on offer but on arrival you are given a Beverage Menu from which you can order Freixenet champagne by the half-bottle, mineral waters, coke and sprite.
Every day from 6-10pm a carafe of cream sherry is put out in the small lobby for guests to help themselves, either as an aperitif or nightcap.
Luckily, eating out in North Beach is one of its great attractions. Generations of immigrant families, particularly Italian and Chinese, have given the neighbourhood a community feel and lots of excellent restaurants, cafes and bars, similar to Little Italy in New York, but without the high-rise buildings.
All of the following recommendations are within 3 blocks of the hotel - naturally there are many others further afield. And Stan and Charles can give you the lowdown on every North Beach eatery, steering you away from tourist traps.
For breakfast, Mama's on Washington Square (Stockton near Filbert) does wholesome American breakfasts and brunch (get there early to avoid the queues). Or try Curly's, a Mom and Pop outfit on Powell between Green and Union. Counter-service Café Divine on Stockton near Union is open all day but also does breakfast, and has live jazz 4 evenings a week. Mo's Burger Joint has breakfast after 9am, they grind their own burgers on the (Grant at Green and Vallejo) premises and use artisan-crafted buns. Café Delucchi, 500 Columbus, does eggs benedict and florentine.
Noteworthy all-day venues include Caffe Trieste on Vallejo, a long-established haunt of writers and artists from dawn till late, and Cafe Zoetrope in the beautiful green Sentinel Building owned by Francis Ford Coppola, which serves traditional Italian fare and Coppola's wines; above are Zoetrope production premises. And there are any number of delis to choose from.
For dinner you're truly spoiled for choice. On the Italian tip you could try intimate cash-only L'Osteria del Forno, on Columbus between Green and Union, the quintessential no-reservations neighbourhood joint. Ristorante Ideale (Grant and Vallejo) offers inventive rustic Roman fare. A little off the beaten path, Mom and Pop operation Trattoria Contadina (Mason and Union), offers organic flavourful food, and has a devoted local following. Brasserie Rose Pistola (Columbus and Green) serves homemade pastas, fresh fish and chops.
In Chinatown head for Cantonese seafood specialists Yuet Lee (Stockton and Broadway) or bare-bones yet always popular Hunan style House of Nanking (Kearny and Columbus). Cantonese R&G Lounge (Kearny and Clay) also serves seafood; Brandy Ho's offers flavour-intensive Hunan chow in a more contemporary setting.
Stan and Charles both praise Asian-fusion The House, a block away on Grant, where I dined and loved my Chinese-style dumplings with shrimp and chives. Steakhouse El Raigon is dubbed 'as close to Buenos Aires as most gringos will ever get' and serves estancia-style beef (Union at Grant). A more American take on the steakhouse is found at Dimaggio's (Green and Grant) - yes, another famous resident of North Beach. Maykadeh (also Green and Grant) does classic Persian cooking; hip Brazilian-Italian fusion Mangarosa is described as 'where the beautiful people go' to sample its innovative menu (Stockton and Green).
- Restaurants nearby
- Immerse yourself in the Beat Generation. The Beat Museum (Broadway & Columbus) hosts regular poetry slam events as well as Beat memorabilia; twice-weekly poetry readings are held at The Forked Tongue and the Paradise Lounge
- No contemplation of Beat culture can miss City Lights Bookstore, one block down Columbus. Legendary Lawrence Ferlinghetti still owns and manages the cult bookshop
- Hotel Bohème have devised a unique North Beach walking tour with detailed handout to take on your jaunt, which informs of the fascinating history and culture of San Francisco's Little Italy and the personalities that shaped the area
- After dark, North Beach has heaps to offer. The days of the strip clubs may be over, but restaurants, bars and clubs abound. Long-running hugely popular musical revue, Beach Blanket Babylon, is on Green. Frequented by the Beats in the 50s, and everybody else since, Vesuvio is an historic Bohemian bar with stained glass windows across Jack Kerouac alley from City Lights Bookstore, open every day 6am-2am. Enrico's on Broadway is one of many outstanding jazz joints in the area. The Purple Onion on Columbus has a history dating back to the Beat era, hosting a stellar roll call of comedians and garage rock bands
- Wander and shop in busy and authentic Chinatown, the largest community outside Asia, and the oldest in North America, whose fascinating history is showcased at the Chinese Historical Society Museum & Learning Center housed in a landmark Julia Morgan-designed building on Clay Street; finish up in Union Square for designer and discount shopping
- Do the tourist thing at Fisherman's Wharf: slurp clam chowder, visit the Aquarium, marvel at the Bay views, see (and hear) the sea lions, avoid buying tat, stroll beside historic ships, ride the Powell-Mason cable car, catch the ferry to Alcatraz
- Explore the glorious San Francisco shoreline: from Baker Beach via the Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field, Marina to Embarcadero
- Spend the day in Golden Gate Park: the California Academy of Sciences, de Young Museum of Fine Arts, Japanese Tea Garden, Stow Lake, stroll beside the Pacific along Ocean Beach
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Shopping / markets
Children are welcome but there are no facilities for them and it isn't a very child-friendly place especially for younger ones. Other guests may not be too impressed by kids running up and down the corridor. Families are advised to book the Inviting Room as it has two beds in it, or to book adjacent rooms. There are no cribs although a futon mattress can be provided for an extra bed. Children are free if using existing bedding.
Family friendly accommodation:
Extra Beds Available
Hotel Bohème is in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco, close to Chinatown and near Russian Hill.
Fly to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Click on the links below for more information.
From the Airport
A taxi will cost around US$45 and the journey usually takes up to 30 minutes. Hotel Bohème can arrange a return shuttle for you, see Rates. Or you can take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to Montgomery station from where you can hop on a bus or get a taxi.
By Public Transport
Local buses are numbers 9, 30 and 45. The nearest cable car is 4 blocks away. The nearest trams go down Market Street.
If you can avoid having a car in San Francisco, it could be a wise move, as the parking is often problematic, public transport is good and taxis are reasonable. There are parking lots near the hotel on Vallejo but no specific parking for guests. If do you want a car for onward travel, see our car rental recommendations.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to California and getting around
- San Francisco 25.0 km SFO
- Beach 10.0 km
- Shops 0.1 km
- Restaurant 0.2 km