Experience Berkeley (the Other Side of the Bay) at These 10 Hotels

By Tom Molanphy, San Francisco Local Expert

What comes to your mind when you hear the words Berkeley, CA?

Maybe it's 60's hippies fighting for freedom of expression on the vast and beautiful UC Berkeley campus. Or maybe it's a vision of iconic Telegraph Street. Heck, maybe you see Dustin Hoffman at the end of "The Graduate," when he breaks up Elaine Robinson's wedding because he loves her.

What might not come to mind are some of the best lodging options in the Bay Area. But that's why we're here. We've put together an outstanding list of the finest hotels and motels in Berkeley, including the historic Berkeley City Club and the UC student-friendly Hotel Durant.

San Francisco may have the techsters and the hipsters, and Oakland has become the Brooklyn of the West Coast. But Berkeley has had brilliant geeks running all over its campus way before the tech boom, and this city has oozed cool since the 60's. (And don't forget that Oakland and San Francisco are quick BART train rides away from Berkeley, too.)

If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco - not to mention some respite from the cold fog - then book a hotel in Berkeley from our list below. 

10. Essex House Berkeley
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Some would argue that the Essex House is the most quintessentially Berkeley experience you can find. Basically a two-room boarding house, the Essex House is most famous for the hot tub in back. The owner allowed people to use the hot tub at no charge, so it quickly became a badly kept Berkeley secret. The advantage of such a small hotel is the level of attention the your afforded, as well as the feeling you're staying in someone's home instead of a hotel. Easy access to many of Berkeley's top attractions, including the Julia Morgan Theatre, People's Park, and Habitot Children's Museum.

9. Days Inn Pinole / North Berkeley
Photo courtesy of Days Inn

Days Inn Pinole/North Berkeley is the perfect option for those families who want to see a little bit of Berkeley - and probably a whole lot of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Taking a broader view, the location right along I-80 is also right bet between downtown San Francisco and Napa Valley, which allows for both downtown San Francisco fine dining and Napa Valley wine tours. But don't forget about Berkeley, just ten miles away. Days Inn amenities include refrigerator, well-lit work desk, free USA Today newspaper, free parking and a barbecue deck out back. San Pablo Lytton Casino is also just three miles away.

8. Berkeley Travelodge
Photo courtesy of Travelodge

Situated on bustling University Avenue, Travelodge Berkeley has the same accommodations as the rest of the Travelodges you may have encountered. With one important and excellent distinction; it's located in Berkeley. That means you can stay at this simple, budget hotel but have world-class food and entertainment - not to mention a world-class university - right outside your door. Standard rooms come with free Wifi and coffee maker, but this is not the place for people looking for frills. Travelodge Berkeley is the best option for those who simply need a place to sleep and plan on spending most of their time exploring lively Berkeley.

7. Courtyard by Marriott Richmond/Berkeley
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

As they say in real estate, everything is about location, location, location. And Courtyard by Marriott Oakland Richmond/Berkeley has one of the best locations for tourists coming to the Bay Area. It's perfectly situated between the downtown activities of San Francisco and the wine-tasting tours of Napa and Sonoma, not to mention all that Berkeley and Oakland has to offer. This hotel features featuring complimentary Wi-Fi and HD television programming, as well as an outdoor pool and whirlpool. The efficient hotel with fast wi-fi is also a great option for business travelers, too, offering a large event and meeting space.

6. DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina
Photo courtesy of Doubletree Berkeley

For those who prefer of the water to a view of the hills, DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina is a great fit. The Berkeley side of the bay doesn't get as much press as the San Francisco side, but it's just as lovely. And with Berkeley's slightly warmer weather, you can plan a nice stroll on the bay almost any time of year. The hotel comes complete with all the expected amenities, including a complimentary fitness center that also has a pool. The onsite restaurant, the Bay Grill and Bay Lounge, features some excellent California cuisine. Within walking distance of Fourth Street, which is some of the best high-end shopping Berkeley has to offer.

5. Claremont Club & Spa - A Fairmont Hotel
Photo courtesy of Claremont Hotel

For those who want their hotel stay to be one of the main attractions of their entire trip, there's no better choice than the beautiful and historic Claremont Hotel Club and Spa. Like some of the elegant (and pricey!) hotels in downtown San Francisco such as The Palace, the Claremont Hotel Club and Spa is not just a place to stay but a historical treasure. Started as a castle for a young prospector and his wife, the grand hotel still has some of those personal touches of home.Tow-hundred and seventy nine rooms offer breathtaking views and a lifetime of emerges to take home.

4. Rose Garden Inn
Photo courtesy of Rose Garden Inn

Although Berkeley is most famous for its world-class university, it's moderate temperatures make it a perfect place for roses, too. Sleeping in the middle of Berkeley's lovely rose gardens is not allowed, but the next best option is a stay at the Rose Garden Inn Berkeley. This boutique hotel is housed in five unique and historic buildings that are surrounded by tasteful gardens and soothing fountains. A hot, complimentary breakfast on the lovely garden patio is a fantastic way to start your day. Easy walking distance to many of Berkeley's attractions, including UC Berkeley, the Greek Theatre, and Zellerbach Hall.

3. Berkeley City Club
Photo courtesy of Berkeley City Club

Designed by California legend Julia Morgan, Berkeley City Club has the same awe-inspiring designs as on of Morgan's other famous projects, Hearst Castle. Run as a social club for women in 1930, it opened its doors to men an women in 1965. Although its primarily a social club reserved for members, staying at one of its thirty-five guest rooms is an experience in Berkeley luxury and history that's hard to find anywhere else. Very close to the Berkeley Campus, two blocks from Telegraph Avenue, five blocks from downtown Berkeley and the BART station, as well as convenient San Francisco and airport access.

2. Hotel Shattuck Plaza
Photo courtesy of Hotel Shattuck

If you want the kind of hotel that San Francisco across the Bay seems to have perfected, namely old-world charm wrapped up in modern, tech-comforts, then Hotel Shattuck is our top choice for you. Conveniently located by the downtown BART, Hotel Shattuck's original 1910 structured has been modernized without losing some of that vintage appeal. Bustling Shattuck offers all kinds of entertainment and dining options, but the hotel's restaurant, FIVE, shakes up outstanding cocktails and also serves premium "farm-to-table" dishes. All modern comforts are here, including free Wi-Fi and laundry services, and everything is offered with a "green"/planet-friendly approach in mind.

1. Hotel Durant, a Joie de Vivre hotel
Photo courtesy of Hotel Durant

As the saying goes, when in Rome: if you're going to fully experience authentic Berkeley, you should get a taste of what UC Berkeley has to offer. And there's no better hotel to feel campus life than the Hotel Durant, which, since 1928, has been "a hotel designed for the community, serving as a meeting place for locals and UC Berkeley academics alike." the hotel sets the tone as soon as you enter the door with its active and festive lobby. Recently renovated, the hotel rooms feature luxury bedding including Sealy pillow-top mattresses, down duvets, 300-thread count sheets, and a selection of different pillow types.