Best Hotels in San Francisco
No. 1 Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square
A short walk from the hustle and bustle of Fisherman's Wharf proper, the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square offers sweeping views of San Francisco and Alcatraz. The waterfront hotel opened in 2008, and is set within a cluster of circa-1890’s buildings from the old Ghirardelli chocolate factory—one of the country’s first adaptive re-use projects in the 1960's. Today the site is an enclave of high-end eateries, food markets, boutiques and spas. All 53 light-filled one-, two- and three-bedroom suites are kitted out with fully appointed kitchens, limestone-clad baths, en suite laundry and stone fireplaces. The residential-style hotel provides complimentary chauffeured car service for local jaunts.
No. 2 Huntington Hotel & Nob Hill Spa
Originally a Georgian-style luxury apartment building constructed in 1924, the 12-story Huntington Hotel is located atop Nob Hill, which offers views of the bay, the downtown skyline, Grace Cathedral, and Huntington Park. Each of the 136 guestrooms is individually decorated, but all include antique dark wood furniture and plush fabrics such as damask and velvet. Also, because they were initially apartments, the rooms are spacious and thick-walled. Additional hotel features include the Big 4 Restaurant, which serves contemporary American cuisine, and the Nob Hill Spa. Free to guests, the spa has an infinity pool, fireplaces, saunas, and 10 treatment rooms.
No. 3 Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
San Franciscans are obsessed with views, and the Mandarin Oriental indulges them: its 158 guest rooms occupy the 38th to 48th floors of a downtown tower that’s the third tallest, at present, in the city (the lobby and restaurant are down at ground level). This means top-of-the-world views, and the rooms are ranked in price accordingly. With all the eye candy outside, the management could skimp on the décor, but everything in the hotel has been done up in warm reds and golds, making the rooms feel like cozy aeries. And the windows open—only about six inches, but if you need fresh air, that’s enough.
No. 4 Taj Campton Place
When the honchos from LVMH and Neiman Marcus come to town, the 110-room Campton Place is where they stay. The hotel is on the preferred (i.e., east) side of Union Square, convenient to their SF stores yet insulated from tourists and the dodgy Tenderloin. “Insulated” personifies the guest rooms in this pair of joined prewar buildings too; fitted with warm pearwood paneling, built-in dressers, and flat-screen TV’s, they feel plush and snug, like the staterooms on a ship. The restaurant has for years been one of the city’s best; after a months-long interregnum, Campton Place’s new owner, Taj Hotels, has appointed Srijith Gopinathan, of Taj Exotics Resort and Spa in the Maldives (and the former sous chef at Campton Place), to helm the kitchen—so far, the jury’s still out.
No. 5 Hotel Vitale
Location, location, location…the 199-room Vitale has it in spades. Not only is the hotel right on the Embarcadero—three minutes’ walk from the Ferry Building and facing the bay—but it sits all alone on its own block. From the outside, the nine-story brick structure looks nondescriptly “contemporary,” but inside, it’s Tahoe ski lodge meets Finnish sauna: rough limestone alternating with warm pine. Sprigs of lavender are tucked behind the number plates next to each room’s door, beyond which are designy, circa-1996 sleek wood desks, rectilinear chairs, and chaises in varying shades of sand. Caveat: In the deluxe city-view and the superior category, the bathrooms are disappointingly motel-like.
No. 6 Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
Like metropolitan Ritz-Carltons across the land, the San Francisco incarnation is distinguished by its location; this one occupies an imposing palace halfway up Nob Hill. (Translation: good views, but not as far from dining and shopping as, say, the Huntington or the Fairmont.) Outside and in, it resembles the West Wing, only without the drama. The décor in the public spaces and the 336 rooms is ultratraditional, all Oriental rugs, reproduction Second Empire furnishings, and valences over endless layers of curtains. Think of it as a Greenwich-away-from-Greenwich for road-weary CEOs.
No. 7 Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
A head-to-toe renovation in 2009 perked up this plush high-rise; rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, black granite credenzas, and Eames chairs. Situated in the Yerba Buena Arts District this hotel offers the city's largest guest rooms, as well as notable furnishings such as Herman Miller Eames chairs. Deluxe View rooms on the 15th and 17th floors have floor-to-ceiling windows and the best vistas of the cityscape. As a complimentary service for guests, the hotel's own car service will drive you anywhere within a three-mile radius.
No. 8 InterContinental Mark Hopkins
This 19-story hotel was constructed in 1926 on the same site as the preexisting mansion of Mark Hopkins, a tycoon who created the Central Pacific Railroad. Original architectural firm Weeks and Days designed the hotel as a French château, and InterContinental was eventually contracted to manage operations in 1973. Atop Nob Hill, it became notorious during World War II, especially rooftop lounge Top of the Mark, as the location in which service men swooned with their female companions before facing deployment. Of the 380 guest rooms, and 32 suites, many have expansive views of Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf.
No. 9 Omni San Francisco
First built as a bank in 1926, this 17-story Nob Hill hotel retains much of its original Renaissance-style architecture. Behind a red-brick and stone façade, the cavernous lobby is designed with an Italian marble floor, Austrian crystal chandeliers, and rich mahogany paneling. In addition to a convenient location on the California Street cable car line, the hotel also offers a number of little extras, from complimentary walking tours to kid-friendly surprises like welcome gifts and nighttime milk and cookies. All of the 362 guestrooms have high ceilings, detailed crown molding, carved mahogany furniture, and Chinese marble vanities.
No. 10 St. Regis, San Francisco
Unlike its predecessor in NYC, this St. Regis is modern—Jean-Michel Frank modern, that is—in both style and amenities: master panels that control all the lights and shades; a fax/copier/printer in each room; “rainforest” and regular showerheads; plus the usual flat-screen TV’s, DVD/CD players, and Wi-Fi and Ethernet Internet access. The hotel and its 260 rooms are furnished in a symphony in beige and wood grain. (In the vestibule, the walls are covered in beige leather; behind the headboards, a beige faux shagreen.) Even in the standard rooms, the bathrooms feel monumental, like the Met’s Temple of Dendur; each has a separate tub and shower stall with bench.