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SAN FRANCISCO’s BEST ●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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image courtesy of venue
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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Hotel Zelos  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.

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Hotel Zetta  55 Fifth St., 4 blks. from Union Square.  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. 

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Palace Hotel  2 New Montgomery St./Market St.  8 stories; 556 rooms.  Indoor pool; hot tub; 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.  Hotel historic tours are available on Saturdays to guests only.

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          One of the most elegant public rooms is the Garden Court.  Filled with tall marble columns and Austrian crystal chandeliers, its most glorious feature is a 70,000-plus-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.  Meals are served here, and since Green Goddess dressing was first created at this hotel, do try it on the Palace crab salad. 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 nowadays after feasting, many choose to whip out their cell phones rather than linger over tea.  A special Prince and Princess Tea welcomes children 10 and under with a crown or scepter and includes kid-friendly hot chocolate and peanut butter & jelly finger sandwiches. 
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Pied Piper Bar and Lounge is famous for the Maxfield Parrish “Pied Piper of Hamelin” painting, which was commissioned in 1909 and hangs behind the bar--dominating the room.  Additionally, two Antonio Sotomayor murals--one depicting Mark Twain and the other madam Sally Stanford--hang in a new lounge entered at the back of the bar.  Seating includes at the bar as well as at tables and in booths--a few of which are partial booths with the banquette side featuring an aristocratic high back.  The music is just right, and this place is already in full-blast party mode at 5 p.m.  Carpeting keeps the din in the darkened den manageable.  The spacious newer lounge in back features informal seating in comfy chairs and couches.  Signature cocktails include the hands-down favorite--The Last Cocktail (made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, lemon juice, organic pear juice, rosemary syrup, and Prosecco)--and runners-up The Charlie Chaplin and The Spiced Knob.  The bar has also sold a lot of martinis.  A bowl of nuts is complimentary, and a small bar menu offers up such scrumptious goodies as burrata on nutty country bread and succulent chicken wings with sweet Asian dipping sauce as well as lobster mac ‘n cheese and a steak.  I saw several TVs and even a few kids in the bar.  More images.

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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 The 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.  features a wide open, yet cozy, dining room, with several ¾-circular booths providing very private seating. 

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