SAN FRANCISCO ●Hotels●South of Market
Referred to by old-timers as “South of the Slot,” signifying its location south of the streetcar tracks on Market Street, this colorful area was city center in the mid-1800s. Rapidly being refurbished, it is now home to several art museums and to the Moscone Convention Center.
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Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco 757 Market St./3rd St. 12 stories; 277 rooms. Fitness room; full-service spa. Restaurant; room service. Valet parking. Occupying the first 12 floors of a 40-story building, this sleek property features a muted decor and displays a collection of contemporary art by mostly California artists. South-facing rooms have views over the city and bay. Bathrooms are spacious, with a deep soaking tub and Italian marble vanities, and beds are made with down duvets and pillows. Kids get pint-sized bathrobes, and guests have complimentary access to the building’s ultra trendy The Sports Club/LA fitness center and day spa.
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Harbor Court Hotel 165 Steuart St./Mission St. 8 stories; 131 rooms. Evening wine; restaurant. Valet parking. This historic 1907 landmark building has an attractive vintage brick façade and offers some rooms with spectacular views of the bay and Treasure Island. Guests get discounted use of the YMCA full-service fitness center next door.
Hotel Griffon 155 Steuart St./Mission St. 5 stories; 62 rooms. Continental breakfast; restaurant; room service. No pets. Valet parking. Among the guest rooms in this stylish boutique hotel are eight with expansive bay views plus five penthouse suites. All guest rooms feature whitewashed brick walls, high ceilings, and window seats. Guests have discounted access to a nearby fitness center with an indoor pool and hot tub.
Hotel Palomar 12 Fourth St./Market St. 196 rooms. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Valet parking. Featuring a sophisticated interior design, this well-located hotel operates on the 5th through 9th floors of a completely refurbished 1907 landmark building. Original modern art is sprinkled throughout. In Spanish, its name means “where the dove comes to rest,” and a quiet retreat is what is offered the weary traveler.
Hotel Vitale 8 Mission St./The Embarcadero. 8 stories; 199 rooms. Fitness room; full-service spa. Restaurant; room service. Valet parking. According to owner Chip Conley, this luxury hotel is popular with “the post W, pre-Four Seasons crowd.” Designed to be modern, urbane, revitalizing, fresh, and nurturing, if it were a magazine it would be Dwell meets Real Simple. Building materials include luxurious natural stone and wood, and a particularly nice feature has the hallway lights shining down through a leaf-embossed Plexiglas cover that casts leafy shadows on the walls. Each room’s doorway holds a fragrant sprig of lavender, and the fog-colored room decor includes a puffy cloud-like bed. About half the rooms have a bay view, and seven suites feature 270-degree "infinity views." All have a flat screen TV. A free rooftop yoga class is scheduled each morning, and passes are provided to a nearby YMCA.
Americano Restaurant & Bar serves light Italian fare with a Northern California twist, offers a great bay view, and features a series of paintings depicting “American Dreamers” (all are friends of the chef).
Hotel Zetta 55 Fifth St., 4 blks. from Union Square, (800) 398-7555, (800) 447-7462, (415) 543-8555. 116 rooms; fitness room; restaurant. Situated within a completely renovated century–old, neoclassic-style building dating from 1913, this hotel features a dramatic curved staircase leading to the mezzanine level and a 2-story fitness center. Room decor is modern Italian, and each room has its own Nintendo.
The S&R Lounge lobby bar—which stands for salvage and rescue—is an elegant and inviting spot to relax. The Cavalier restaurant modeled after a British brasserie.
Palace Hotel 2 New Montgomery St./Market St. 8 stories; 556 rooms. Indoor pool; hot tub; sauna; fitness room. 3 restaurants; room service. Valet parking. When this grande dame hotel was established in 1875, it was the largest and most luxurious in the world. It also was the first hotel in the world with electrical lighting and the first to install an elevator, known then as a “rising room.” Though that original hotel burned to the ground after the 1906 earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1909 as the present structure. A dubious claim to fame from its past is the fact that President Warren G. Harding was staying here in the Presidential Suite when he died in 1923. Nowadays anyone with
$7,200 can stay in the Presidential Suite, and the list of those who have includes Sophia Loren and Whoopi Goldberg. This landmark hotel spreads over an entire city block, and its Beaux Arts exterior features wrought iron filigree work and gold leaf embellishment. Guest rooms have a contemporary style and beds with white duvets, but the interior maintains much of its vintage charm.
Tours are given of the public rooms by City Guides; make reservations through the concierge.
One of the most elegant public rooms is the Garden Court. Filled with tall marble columns, Austrian crystal chandeliers, and enormous potted palms, its most glorious feature is a 25,000-pane stained-glass dome said to be worth more than $7 million; and it is the only room on the National Register of Historic Places. A Signature Afternoon tea is served here (Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m.; $68). It is an elegant but updated affair (no chintz or tablecloths here), with fussy finger sandwiches (the Black Forest ham on focaccia includes artisan cheese and lavender mustard aïoli), rose petal jam, and a classical harpist providing background ambiance. Cream puffs and scones arrive perched on a contemporary-style, two-tiered elliptical tray and include the essential Devonshire cream and lemon curd. And after feasting, many choose to whip out their cell phones rather than linger over tea.
The Pied Piper Bar and adjoining Maxfield’s Restaurant hold three noteworthy murals: Maxfield Parrish’s “Pied Piper of Hamelin” (commissioned in 1909) and two Antonio Sotomayers--one depicting Mark Twain and the other madam Sally Stanford. And since Green Goddess dressing was first created here, do try it on the house salad.
San Francisco Marriott Marquis 55 Fourth St./Mission St. 39 stories; 1,500 rooms. Indoor pool & hot tub; sauna; steam room; fitness room. 2 restaurants; room service. No pets. Valet parking. Referred to by locals as the “Jukebox Marriott” in recognition of its distinctive architectural design, this well-positioned mega hotel is the second-largest in San Francisco. It opened at 9 a.m. on October 17, 1989 and closed at 5:04 p.m. the same day, just after the strongest earthquake since 1906 hit this city. Fortunately, it sustained only cosmetic damage. Most rooms have a sweeping view of the city, and a panoramic view is available from the 39th-floor View lounge.
W San Francisco 181 3rd St./Howard St. 31 stories; 410 rooms. Indoor lap pool & hot tub; fitness room; full-service spa. 1 restaurant; room service. Valet parking. Situated next door to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this sleek and stylish hotel greets guests with a 3-story-high octagonal lobby that buzzes with activity most evenings. Rooms feature stunning city views and fluffy down duvets.
Super sleek Trace restaurant www.trace-sf.com. features a wide open, yet cozy, dining room, with several ¾-circular booths providing very private seating.