We make a due premise: I do not recommend using the car during your stay in San Francisco. As we have explained several times (for example in our guide on how to get around San Francisco) visit the city by car it means having to juggle traffic and have little chance of parking (if not at high prices). Moreover, the city can be visited very well without a car which therefore, at least in the majority of cases, is a rather useless complication.
Having said that, if for particular reasons you have decided not only to rent a car in San Francisco but also to use it to visit the city, let's try to understand how to best manage it: where to park the car? there free parking in San Francisco? Where to leave the car to visit the main attractions? Let's try to suggest some possible solutions ...
- San Francisco hotel with parking
- Street parking rules
- Paid parking with or without a parking meter
- Parking for visiting the main attractions
- Park at the Golden Gate Bridge
- Parking in and around Union Square
- Park at Pier 39
- Park in the North Beach area
- The Golden Gate Park car parks
San Francisco hotel with parking
Typically, parking your car in a parking lot of major San Francisco hotels can cost you a lot: downtown facilities, such as those around Union Square, they may ask you even more than $ 50 a night. I recommend that you also check the privately run garages: even these are actually anything but cheap, however, if you look carefully, you can snatch better rates (even about $ 30 a night).
You can hope, moving to more peripheral and residential areas, to find more affordable prices. By clicking on the button below you can access a site that shows you all the parking spaces available in the city, filtering them by area, price and proximity to the area of interest, with the possibility of booking them directly online.
Parking available in San Francisco
The alternative is to fall back on motels that include free parking, are not many and are mostly concentrated in the area of Marina e Cow Hollow, 2 districts that rise to the east of the Presidium. We have already talked about it in our guide on how to find accommodation in San Francisco, so I refer you directly to the section of the article concerned.
Street parking rules
The edges of the San Francisco sidewalks show various colors that indicate whether or not you can park and under what conditions. The signs will then give you further valuable information, here are some tips to avoid getting a fine:
- the red color indicates that it is not possible to park. It is generally located near bus stops and fire stations.
- the white color indicates parking areas of up to 5 minutes. They are basically designed to pick up or drop off passengers and are usually found in hospitals, schools and restaurants.
- in proximity of the green color a stop of 10 minutes is allowed.
- the yellow color is reserved exclusively for commercial vehicles.
- the blue color allows disabled people to park without time limits.
- indefinite parking is allowed only at unpainted sidewalks (and there aren't many). If you find one, check the information on the sign anyway.
- if you park on a slope (which is far from unlikely in San Francisco) be sure to turn the front wheels in the opposite direction of the sidewalk.
Paid parking with or without a parking meter
You can pay directly to the parking meters with coins, credit cards and telephone (with the PayByPhone app). Many car parks are equipped with pay-by-plate technology, connecting directly to the vehicle's number plate; an alternative is the prepaid maps that you can buy in various shops in the city (usually they are sold with a credit of 20 or 50 $).
Parking for visiting the main attractions
To visit the city by car you will obviously have to look for parking near the main attractions. Below I point out some strategic places for the short stop but I advise you to also check the links indicated for each area as prices and conditions may change according to the season and the day of the week.
Also consider that the hourly rate can vary even within the same day (for example according to the morning or afternoon time slots), so it is rather difficult to report a unique price per hour. Also in this case, I refer you to the links indicated below.
Park at the Golden Gate Bridge
Not many people know this but it is possible to park for free just 2 steps from the Golden Gate. The parking is called Langdon Court Lot, it is not very well known and is not mentioned on the official website, so to reach it insert these indications on the GPS. This is a much better solution than the official car park (Welcome Center Visitors Parking Lot), often congested and available only for a limited time (maximum 2 hours at a cost of $ 2).
Parking in and around Union Square
If you are looking for parking in the central area of San Francisco the cheapest are the Union Square Garage (333 Post Street) and the Sutter-Stockton Garage (444 Stockton Street), which you can also use as a base for visiting Chinatown. For all other possibilities click on the button below:
All parking in the Union Square area
Park at Pier 39
In this area it is not really easy to find cheap parking, just think that (at the present time) the Pier 39 official garage rate is $ 10 per hour on working days and $ 12 on weekdays, even if the possibility of taking advantage of 1 hour for free is recognized if you are validated the receipt from one of the partner restaurants on the pier (complete list here). If you want to save money and have no problems walking, I recommend that you also evaluate the North Beach neighborhood, which I talk about below.
All car parks close to Pier 39
Park in the North Beach area
Not far from the famous bookshop City Lights Bookstore there are Vallejo Street Garage and North Beach Garage, two parking lots at non-prohibitive prices (from 4 to 5 dollars per hour) that can also be used as a base for visiting other areas of the city, such as the Embarcadero, Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf (about 15 minutes walk) whose parking spaces are usually more expensive. Another possibility may be to opt for the Portsmouth Square Plaza Garage (733 Kearny St., $ 4 per hour), more towards Chinatown but still good for exploring North Beach and the surrounding area as well.
All parking in the North Beach area
The Golden Gate Park car parks
This large green area of San Francisco bordering the exciting Haight-Ashbury neighborhood offers paid parking facilities within the park. To find out more, read our dedicated section in our Golden Gate Park guide.