Union Square and Nob Hill hotels
Union Square hotels
This is a choice area to stay in, especially if traveling without a car. All of these hotels are within a few blocks of downtown, the theater district, and the cable car line. Many are atmospheric establishments that provide an European-style small-hotel experience.
28 Cyril Magnin St./Market St., 3 blks. from Union Square. 152 rooms; 6 stories. Fitness room; communal game area. Restaurant; room service. Valet parking. Pets ok.
This newly remodeled boutique hotel is a mix of artsy and contemporary minimalist. More description and images.
450 Powell St./Sutter St., 1 blk. from Union Square. 21 stories; 418 rooms. Fitness room. 1 restaurant; room service. Valet parking. Dogs ok. Urban Destination Fee.
Previously operating as the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, the Beacon Grand ‘s two-level lobby retains its magnificent original marble walls and recessed mirrors. And cable cars still stop at the front door. More description and images.
The Cartwright Hotel–Union Square, BW Premier Collection
524 Sutter St./Powell St., 1 blk. from Union Square. 8 stories; 114 rooms. Evening wine; room service. Self- & valet parking.
Built in 1914 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, this small classic hotel has a cozy ambiance. Guest room decor features contemporary furnishings.
433 Powell St./Post St., ½ blk. from Union Square. 15 stories; 137 rooms. Afternoon cookies, restaurant; room service. Complimentary gym nearby. No pets. Self-parking & valet.
Built in 1914, this European-style small hotel opens right onto the cable car line and greets guests at check-in with freshly baked cookies. Rooms are small but have charm and are fitted with double-paned windows that deaden street sound. A pillow menu offers everything from soothing to tantalizing, and bathrooms have extra-deep tubs and a complimentary rubber ducky souvenir.
Luques Restaurant serves breakfast until 2:30 p.m. and offers an intriguing list of specials: Order a “Do Your Own Thing” and you get to choose any scramble or omelette. The bar stays open late serving drinks.
The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel
495 Geary St./Taylor St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 17 stories; 372 rooms. Fitness room. 2 restaurants; room service. Valet parking. Pets ok. Daily facility fee.
The ultra-cool updated redo of this historic luxury hotel dating from 1915 has been described as “like Helen Hayes has turned into Madonna.” Even if not staying here, it warrants at least a stop in the chic lobby for a drink and to sit in the oversized Alice-in-Wonderland chair. Hefty rates put it on the lodging list of the world’s rich and famous, including Mick Jagger. Service is high priority for the staff, and everyone gets the royal treatment–celebrity or not. Even kids. A family plan includes two connecting rooms, and the desk loans toys for toddlers, magazines for teens, and children’s books, board games, Nintendo games, and movies. The concierge has loaner strollers and can help plan family sightseeing trips. At bedtime, snacks such as cookies and milk or popcorn and soda are available from room service. Pets receive a basket of treats, sleeping pillow, and food bowl upon arrival.
Just off the lobby, the classic art deco Redwood Room cocktail lounge was lined in 1933 with redwood panels from a single 2,000-year-old giant redwood tree. It is a great spot to sip an exotic cocktail.
Cornell Hotel de France
715 Bush St./Mason St., 2 blks. from Union Square; 6 floors; 58 rooms. Full breakfast; restaurant. Self-parking.
This 1910 building has been restyled into a French country-style hotel, with each room individually decorated. More description and images.
501 Post St./Mason St., 1 blk. from Union Square. 15 stories; 94 rooms. Hot tub; 2 saunas; fitness room. Restaurant; room service. No pets. Valet parking.
Named after the Italian Renaissance sculptor, this European-style luxury hotel has the largest standard guest rooms in town. More than 300 pieces of original art decorate the hotel, and the lobby features 18th- and 19th-century antiques, imported Venetian chandeliers, and Italian marble quarried from the same site where Michelangelo selected the marble for his statue of David. The 15th-floor Penthouse Club Lounge has a wood-burning fireplace and a wraparound terrace with sweeping city views and is free to guests.
Grand Hyatt San Francisco
345 Stockton St./Post St., on Union Square. 36 stories; 685 rooms. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. No pets. Valet parking.
Room amenities include a TV in the bathroom, and the hotel restaurant is on the 36th floor. This hotel is well known locally for its Ruth Asawa-designed bronze fountain depicting scenes of San Francisco. The fountain’s 41 panels were originally made from bread dough.
Handlery Union Square Hotel
351 Geary St./Powell St., ½ blk. from Union Square. 8 stories; 377 rooms. Heated pool; sauna. Restaurant; room service. No pets. Valet parking.
This family-owned and -operated hotel dates from 1908. Comfortable rooms equipped with modern amenities are available in both a historical section and in a more contemporary club section. The courtyard pool is a rare find downtown–only five hotels in the entire city have an outdoor pool—and permits sunbathing to the sounds of nearby cable cars. A plethora of packages add to the already good value.
Hilton San Francisco Union Square
333 O’Farrell St./Mason St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 46 stories; 1,919 rooms+151 suites. Outdoor heated pool; hot tub; fitness room. 2 restaurants; room service. Self-parking & valet. Pets ok.
Occupying a full block and incorporating three buildings, this is the largest hotel on the West Coast. More description and images.
127 Ellis St./Cyril Magnin, 2 blks. from Union Square. 5 stories; 91 rooms. Children under 18 free. 1 wood-burning fireplace. Discount pass to nearby fitness center. Restaurant, limited room service. Self-parking &, valet.
Built in 1906, this hotel casts itself as an “urban oasis.” And indeed it is that, noticeably so as guests enter the lobby from the hectic street and the doors shut behind them. Guest rooms are large, have a contemporary decor, and many feature beds with canopied headboards.
Hotel Adagio, Autograph Collection
550 Geary St./Taylor St., 3 blks. from Union Square. 15 stories; 171 rooms. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. No pets. Valet parking.
Built in 1929, this tall and deep Spanish Colonial Revival building now holds a clean-lined contemporary hotel. Its aim is to be relaxed, debonair, urbane, handsome, and sophisticated. If it were a magazine, it would be Metropolitan Home. In guest rooms a drape serves as the closet door, and even on the top floors windows open to fresh air. Guests are well advised to take advantage of a free tour led by the hotel’s special Golden Gate Greeter corps.
635 Sutter St./Mason St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 7 stories; 114 rooms. Continental breakfast. Valet parking.
This European-style small hotel has a cozy Victorian decor and pleasant rooms.
With cross-timbered walls, the hotel’s White Horse Restaurant and Pub is an authentic replica of a vintage pub in Edinburgh.
Hotel des Arts
447 Bush St./Grant Ave., across from Chinatown gate, (866) 285-4104, (415) 956-3232. 51 rooms. Some shared baths. Continental breakfast.
Located in the French Quarter, this renovated Victorian hotel has narrow stairs and a heavy-duty, NYC loft-style elevator. The interior is updated and modernized with clean lines, and guest room walls are painted with murals by local artists (they were given carte blanche and free lodging). More artwork by locals decorates the lobby and halls, and all is for sale. The Madonna Room features an entire wall painted with Dolce & Gabbana logos and another with the image of the namesake star.
Hotel Nikko San Francisco
222 Mason St./O’Farrell St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 25 stories; 532 rooms. Indoor heated pool; hot tub; sauna; fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Valet parking.
Featuring clean architectural lines and a slick, marble-rich decor, this luxury hotel has San Francisco’s only atrium-style, glass-enclosed rooftop lap pool. The spacious fitness center is equipped with a traditional kamaburo dry sauna and deep Japanese soaking tub. Rooms are elegantly contemporary.
Since this hotel caters to a large Japanese business clientele, breakfast in elegant ANZU–the name means “apricot” in Japanese–features both American and Japanese fare. The “Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch” here features KBLX radio 102.9 broadcasting live from the dining room. Currently, music is recordings only. The champagne brunch menu changes monthly. Current selections include bacon and eggs, smoked salmon and bagels, and salads, sushi, assorted main dishes, delectable desserts, and more.
Feinstein’s at the Nikko presents cabaret entertainment in an intimate setting on the hotel’s lobby level.
405 Taylor St./O’Farrel St., 3 blks from Union Square. 236 rooms; 17 stories. Fitness room. Restaurant. Valet parking. Pets ok.
Located near the theater district, this 1920s Spanish Colonial-style building is on the National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco. More description and images.
342 Grant Ave./Bush St., 3 blks. from Union Square. 7 stories; 140 rooms. Fitness room. Evening wine; restaurant; room service. Valet parking.
Situated across the street from the ornate dragon-gate entrance to Chinatown and in the heart of the “French Quarter,” this playfully decorated hotel is sophisticated, casual, amusing, and chic all at the same time. Original art adorns public areas and guest room walls, much of it painted by local artist Chris Kidd, and bathrooms are positively slick. The Carlos Santana Suite sports hand-painted angels on the ceiling, plus concert posters and photos of the musician on the walls, and it is stocked with meditation candles, incense, and a prayer pillow. Suites honoring Jerry Garcia and whale-artist Wyland are also available, and another very special suite has an in-room hot tub. Guests who miss their pets can borrow a goldfish, and sessions with a tarot card reader can be arranged. A must-have souvenir rubber ducky inscribed with the hotel logo is for sale in the room honor bar.
Cafe de la Presse operates independently next door and is the place to be for breakfast. More description and images..
Hotel Union Square
114 Powell St./Ellis St., 1 blk. from Union Square. 6 stories; 131 rooms. Valet parking.
Built in 1913 for the Pan American Exposition, this hotel is decorated in a tailored contemporary style and situated just steps from the cable car turnaround. It is where Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon, and a large corner suite is named for him. The Dashiell Hammett Suite holds Hammett books, an old fashioned typewriter, and a mural of “The Shadow of the Thin Man.” Special hotel features include a massive Egyptian mosaic mural in the lobby and, on the 6th-floor landing, a hand-carved wood mermaid that once graced the bow of a ship.
Hotel Zeppelin San Francisco
545 Post St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 196 rooms; 8 stories. Restaurant; room service (24 hrs.). Fitness room. Valet parking. Pets ok.
Features a vibe that gives a nod to the 1960s. More description and images.
The Inn at Union Square
440 Post St./Powell St., ½ blk. from Union Square. 6 stories; 30 rooms. Evening wine; continental breakfast. No pets. Valet parking.
This small, narrow European-style hotel pampers guests with evening turndown, a complimentary overnight shoeshine, and a morning newspaper at the door. Room service is provided by adjacent Morton’s The Steakhouse.
JW Marriott San Francisco
500 Post St./Mason St., 1 blk. from Union Square. 21 stories; 338 rooms. Restaurant; room service. Fitness room. Valet parking.
The luxurious rooms in this tranquil hotel feature a gorgeous marble bathroom and a bed topped with a cozy feather comforter. Swanky window-walled interior elevators traverse the 17-story central atrium.
Kensington Park Hotel
450 Post St./Powell St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 12 stories; 89 rooms. Restaurant. Pets ok. Valet parking; fee.
This Gothic-style, circa 1924 hotel is decorated tastefully with Queen Anne antique mahogany furnishings and period art. Afternoon tea and sherry is served in the lobby. The intimate San Francisco Playhouse presents live performances in a beautifully restored space on the hotel’s second floor.
King George Hotel
334 Mason St./Geary St., 1 blk. from Union Square. 9 stories; 153 rooms. Room service. No pets. Self- & valet parking.
Thomas Edison was an original investor in this stylishly colorful hotel, built in 1914, and it was he who convinced management to switch from gaslight to electricity.
Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel
609 Sutter St./Mason St., 3 blks. from Union Square. 12 floors; 138 rooms. Evening cocktails; full breakfast; restaurant. Indoor pool; fitness room. Parking.
Established as a memorial to Marines who served in the Pacific during World War II, this private club and hotel offers rooms to non-members on a space-available basis. The club also has a small military museum on the first floor and a library.
On the 12th floor, the atmospherically decorated Chesty’s Bar & Grill offers an expansive city view and live piano during dinner hours.
Marines’ Memorial Theatre is located on the second floor.
501 Geary St./Taylor St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 7 stories; 201 rooms. Hot tub; sauna; steam room; full-service spa; fitness room. Evening snack; restaurant; room service. Valet parking. Pets ok. Destination fee.
Built in 1910, this landmark American beaux arts building is completely renovated. The inviting lobby has high, high ceilings with hand-painted domes, as well as an impressive 2-story French inglenook fireplace and a grand staircase with the original bronze filigree railing and marble steps–both are remains from the hotel’s prior incarnation as the Bellevue Hotel. Each sumptuously decorated room features a canopy bed, and guests can borrow a companion goldfish during their stay.
Orchard Garden Hotel
466 Bush St./Stockton St., 4 blks. from Union Square. 10 stories; 86 rooms. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Self-parking & valet. No pets.
Well-situated in the “French Quarter,” this hotel gives vigilant attention to green practices. Anyone with environmental illnesses should be quite happy, and everyone can breathe deeply, and easily, while inside. However, once you hit the street, all bets are off. Unfortunately, the hotel can’t control what goes on outside. In-room green features include a key card energy control system, trash recycling system, chemical-free cleaning products, compact fluorescent light bulbs, FSC-certified maple wood furniture, organic bath products and sustainable amenities, water-efficient bathroom fixtures, and individual climate control.
Casual Roots Restaurant features innovative American-Mediterranean cuisine that is prepared with locally sourced organic and sustainable ingredients. Vegetarian items are options, and still or sparkling water—filtered and bottled in house–is available. Cocktails are served late into the night at the bar.
Just up the street, the Orchard Hotel (665 Bush St./E. of Powell St., 2 blks. from Union Square. 10 stories; 104 rooms. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Self-parking & valet.) sister property is a slightly older, well-maintained boutique hotel. And, like most sisters, they are very similar but also different. This hotel features a classic Pan-Asian-style decor and platform beds.
Daffodil Restaurant overlooks the street and pairs small plates of seasonal cuisine with wines from around the world.
863 Bush St./Mason St., 4 blks. from Union Square. 5 stories; 26 rooms. Some fireplaces. Afternoon snack, full breakfast. No pets. Valet parking.
Located on the lower slopes of Nob Hill, this charming B&B operates within a small, ornate, baroque-style building and rooms are furnished with French country antiques. Breakfast is served in a cheery room decorated with a wrap-around painted mural depicting a French market scene; it also has a view of a tiny garden. Special features include a beveled-glass door leading to the entry, curved bay windows, and an unusual vintage elevator. A sister property, the White Swan Inn, is just a few doors away.
The Westin St. Francis San Francisco Union Square
335 Powell St./Geary St., on Union Square. 32 stories; 1,195 rooms. Fitness room; full-service spa. 3 restaurants; room service. Valet parking.
Built in 1904, this legendary landmark hotel is the only one in San Francisco opening right onto Union Square. Every president since William Howard Taft has walked through its lobby, as have Ernest Hemingway and Queen Elizabeth II, and Jennifer Lopez lived here during the filming of The Wedding Planner. The hotel consists of both a 12-story historical section–where elegant rooms feature tall ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and antique crystal-ball doorknobs–and a newer, newly refreshed 32-story tower with five outside glass elevators that go non-stop from the lobby to the 32nd floor in less than 30 seconds. All rooms are equipped with the chain’s famous fluffy Heavenly Beds®–they feel like sleeping in a cloud and can be ordered for home delivery–and the Heavenly Bath® featuring a shower head that emits a soft rain. Upon check-in, children 12 and under get a free Westin Kids Club packet filled with an assortment of age-appropriate amenities and the extension numbers for bedtime stories galore. Kids also get their own section of the room service menu featuring inexpensive favorites such as a hot dog and a jumbo chocolate chip cookie. Westin Heavenly Cribs, strollers, highchairs, bottle warmers, potty seats, and step stools can be placed in the room at no additional charge. And dogs get their own Heavenly Dog Bed, too. Silver and gold charms, including a cable car, are sold in a lobby boutique and make great souvenirs.
Named after the Westin St. Francis’ lobby clock, which has served as a downtown meeting point since 1907, Clock Bar is a swanky cocktail lounge also off the lobby. It serves indulgent nibbles—think lobster corn dogs and black-truffle popcorn.
White Swan Inn
845 Bush St./Mason St., 4 blks. from Union Square. 4 stories; 26 rooms. All fireplaces. Fitness room. Evening snack, full breakfast. No pets. Valet parking.
Built after the 1906 earthquake, in 1915, this charming hotel resembles an English manor house–with curved bay windows, warm dark woods, and handsome antique furnishings. The cheery reception area, cozy living room, and book-lined library all have fireplaces and are inviting places to relax. Guest rooms are large, and each has a separate sitting area. They are individually decorated with English floral wallpapers and furnished with a mahogany bed fitted with a warming European-style wool mattress cover. Amenities include evening turndown and a morning newspaper. Breakfast is served in a dining room just off a tiny English garden. A sister inn, Petite Auberge, is just a few doors away.
Nob Hill hotels
After its steep slopes were conquered by Andrew Hallidie’s development of the cable car in 1873, Nob Hill became one of the city’s most exclusive residential areas. It was known as the “Hill of Palaces” because it held so many opulent mansions. Unfortunately, all of them burned down in the fire that followed the 1906 earthquake, save the brownstone shell of what is now the private Pacific Union Club. Because of its spectacular views and steep streets, Nob Hill has been the setting for many films. Most memorable, perhaps, is Bullitt with Steve McQueen.
Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St./California St. 24 stories; 591 rooms. Fitness room; full-service spa. 3 restaurants; room service. No pets. Valet parking. Urban Experience fee.
Situated at the top of one of San Francisco’s highest hills at the only spot in town where two cable car lines meet , this elegant landmark Beaux Arts-style hotel welcomes guests with a gargantuan gilded lobby appointed with marble Corinthian columns, alabaster marble floors, and a valuable art collection. The hotel has hosted many international heads of state, including former President Bill Clinton, and numerous celebrities, and in 1973 it was the first in the U.S. to have a concierge—Tom Wolfe, who is still here. It has starred in movies–Vertigo, Shoot the Moon, Sudden Impact–and its lobby and grand staircase were the setting for the Hotel TV series. And it is where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” A statue of Bennett now stands in front of the hotel. The spacious guest rooms feature goose-down pillows and twice-daily maid service, and the cable cars–which stop in front of the hotel–can be heard from some. The hotel’s crown is the historic eight-room Penthouse Suite. The most opulent and expensive in the U.S., it rents for $12,500 per night and features a 2-story circular library, 24-karat-gold-plated bathroom fixtures, and a game room with a stained-glass skylight.
The Laurel Court Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On Saturday, afternoon tea is served from 2 to 4 p.m. An elegant bar also operates in this room and sometimes features live piano background music.
In the Tiki-hut atmosphere of The Tonga Room Restaurant & Hurricane Bar, a 3-minute simulated tropical rainstorm occurs every 30 minutes. More description and images.
1075 California St./Taylor St. 136 rooms. Indoor pool & hot tub; fitness room; full-service spa. Restaurant; room service. No pets. Valet parking.
Perched atop Nob Hill, this hotel’s posh rooms feature an English-style decor composed of leather, silk, damask, and velvet. It is a popular spot with visiting authors, and many rooms have a spectacular view.
The Nob Hill Spa is in the space formerly occupied by the legendary restaurant L’Etoile. One of the city’s most luxurious spas, it sports saunas, steam rooms, a Jacuzzi, and an indoor infinity pool with a view of downtown through 18-foot high windows. Three treatment rooms have a fireplace, and one is designed especially for couples. Rumor has it that Courtney Love experienced the “Nirvana” treatment here.
Named after the nation’s four most famous 19th-century railroad tycoons–C.P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, and Mark Hopkins–Big 4 Restaurant is known for its wild game focus, with occasional menu selections including buffalo, ostrich, venison, antelope, and alligator.
InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco
One Nob Hill, 999 California St./Mason St. 19 stories; 383rooms. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Valet parking.
Built on the spot where once stood the mansion of Mark Hopkins, who founded the Central Pacific Railroad, this hotel opened in 1926. Combining an architectural style that is part French château, part Spanish Renaissance, it has a central tower and two wings affording spectacular city views. A small informal museum off the lobby displays artifacts from the past.
The hotel tower was crowned on the 19th floor in 1939 by the legendary Top of the Mark lounge and restaurant. It has an extraordinary 360-degree view of the city and features live entertainment several nights each week. More description and images. three
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
600 Stockton St./California St. 9 stories; 336 rooms. Indoor heated pool; hot tub; 2 steam rooms; fitness room; full-service spa. 2 restaurants; room service. Valet parking.
Occupying a full square block about halfway up Nob Hill, just off the California Street cable car line, this branch of the classy chain is set within a restored 1909 neoclassical landmark building. The interior features Italian marble, silk wall coverings, Bohemian crystal chandeliers, Persian carpets, and antique furnishings. A museum-quality collection of 18th- and 19th-century European and American art and antiques is displayed throughout.
A classic American breakfast is available daily at Parallel 37. Everything is carefully prepared and elegantly presented by a well-trained kitchen staff.
The Lounge serves a sophisticated lunch and dinner.
Stanford Court San Francisco
905 California St./Powell St. 8 stories; 393 rooms. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Valet parking.
Built on the site where once stood Leland Stanford’s house–described as “a mansion that dominated the city like the castle of a medieval hill town”–this grand hotel is blessed with striking turn-of-the-19th-century detail, a beaux arts fountain in the carport, and a lobby dome of Tiffany-style stained glass. Guest room pampering includes marble bathrooms with heated towel racks, and complimentary amenities include coffee and newspaper delivered to the room in the morning, an overnight shoeshine, and downtown limousine service.
(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)