AOL PICK from our Editors
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better hotel town than San Francisco: More than 200 hotels inhabit the city proper, appealing to travelers of all tastes and pocketbooksultra sophisticated to edgy eclectic to no-frills basics. Luxury accommodations, including many hotels with storied pasts and iconic status, tend to cluster in Union Square and Nob Hill (a la Fairmont San Francisco). Room rates in this high-end group fall in the $350+ per night range. Stylish boutique hotels and properties with a focus on eco-friendly features are also found in abundance throughout the city, and average $175+. Although it may be surprising to some, affordable hotels do exist here, with a selection of hotels with $100+ per night rates. One of our favorites in this category is the Andrews Hotel.
Neighborhood: Financial District Price Range: Expensive
No hotel can be all things to all people, but the Four Seasons comes pretty close with its prime downtown location, the perfect balance of modern luxury and hip factor and superior service. With Union Square shopping, museums, attractions, restaurants and the heart of the Financial District all within blocks, fans of the 42-story tower range from business people to families and couples. Understated elegance is the key phrase that characterizes all the spaces in the hotel, from the serene lobby to the 277 expansive guestrooms (including 46 suites) to the gigantic spa and fitness center (the onsite Sports Club LA and a favorite gym of locals who can afford the hefty monthly fee). The 10-year-old hotel spruced up all rooms with a multi-million dollar renovation last year. A chic color palette of mochas, soft teals and pewter adorn the large rooms that feature custom-made mattresses and gorgeous marble bathrooms with deep tubs and yummy toiletries. In-room Wi-Fi, 24-hour concierge and business services, and more make the Four Seasons one of the best hotels in the city.
Neighborhood: Nob Hill Price Range: Expensive
Perched atop the city's famed Nob Hill lives the iconic Fairmont San Francisco. The 591-room centenarian is immediately recognizable for its ornate terra-cotta façade and opulent grand lobby, with vaulted ceilings, Corinthian columns and jaw-dropping spiral staircase befitting a fairytale princess. Along with its impeccable environs, which underwent a major renovation a couple of years ago, socialites to suit-and-tie execs return frequently for the flawless service and superb location that feels secluded but is just minutes to Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf and downtown. (All the city's cable-car lines meet directly in front of the hotel's entrance.) Rooms and suites are large and filled with an array of luxe amenities, from goose-down pillows to twice-daily turndown service, high-speed Internet and in-room refreshments. Ooh-inspiring views of the city from the hotel's 24th floor and rooftop garden are magical. Yes, the Fairmont may be pricey. But in our opinion, this iconic hotel is worth every pretty penny—especially for special occasions. Not to be missed: an ornate cocktail (Mai Tai, anyone?) at local favorite Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, a kitschy Asian-inspired lounge with tropical rainfall.
Neighborhood: Union Square Price Range: Expensive
The fashion-y crowd, music industry types and celebs are drawn to the ultra-chic Clift Hotel, part of the Morgans Hotel Group. The 350+-room property, located downtown, is known for its Phillipe Starck interiors. The designer left his mark on the dimly-lit lobby, with an eclectic mix of Ray and Charles Ames chairs, surreal furnishings, and lush velvet sofas and hefty leather chairs that pay homage to the hotel's rich Victorian roots. But the piece de resistance is the sumptuous main-floor Redwood Redroom, a hot-spot lounge where locals and visitors swill overpriced drinks and ogle each other and the gorgeous bar, made of a slab of 2,000-year-old redwood. Restaurant Asia de Cuba, next to the bar, is a crowd-pleaser. Guest rooms are sleek and tailored, swathed in sophisticated colors (gray, lavender, ivory) and featuring hi-speed Internet, 400-thread-count sheets, and kid-friendly robes, baby toiletries and a library of video and board games, books and movies.
Neighborhood: Pacific Heights/Japantown Price Range: Moderate
This place is fun and ideal for families. Fans of Japanese pop culture (J-pop) will go gaga for the recently renovated 125-room hotel located in Japantown and mere blocks from Pacific Heights. Each of the good-sized rooms features a seriously cool and dramatic Japanese anime mural by artist Heisuke Kitazawa. Complementing the bold colorful artwork are contemporary furniture, J-pop plush toys, comic books and other fun artifacts that liven the space. Beanbag chairs, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi and iPod docking stations also inhabit every room. Traveling with teenagers or videogame fanatics? Reserve one of the two gaming suites that are furnished with PlayStation 3, Wii and a giant LCD projection screen. When you're hungry, head to Mums Restaurant and Bar, where a sophisticated take on Japanese culture along with a menu to match is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Neighborhood: Nob Hill Price Range: Moderate
This cool 161-room boutique hotel in the TenderNob (the up-and-coming area between the seedy Tenderloin and affluent Nob Hill neighborhoods) attracts a unique clientele—stylish couples to eco types, to business travelers who appreciate a good value. Makes perfect sense considering the Hotel Carlton's eclectic décor that's best described as global with a vintage twist. Upon entering the welcoming lobby (replete with fireplace), you're greeted by maps, masks, exotic photos, oriental rugs and globes. Although originally built in 1927, it's totally modern with a significant green slant: The hotel is home to solar panels and employs many eco-friendly practices. Both pet-friendly and smoke-free guest rooms are dressed in soothing blue hues accented with spicy saffrons and golds. Saha Restaurant, open for breakfast and dinner, fittingly serves up Arabic fusion dishes and American classics with spice. Complimentary town-car service is offered to the Financial District every morning. A complimentary wine reception, free Wi-Fi and concierge service are other key features.
Neighborhood: Union Square Price Range: Moderate
Adored by locals and visitors of all varieties, the Hotel Triton is quintessential San Francisco: hip, singular and, yes, a little out there (in the best way). The 140-room Kimpton Hotel, situated in a prime spot outside the gates of Chinatown and nearby top-notch Grant Street and Union Square shopping, makes a bold first impression with the its funky lobby starring cutting-edge works and whimsical furnishings by local artists. Love the curved gold chairs, purple ottoman and boat-shaped reception desk. Each of the smallish rooms feature unique touches, from tomato-red colored walls to bamboo flooring to a range of whimsical bedding and furnishings. There are also several celebrity-designed suites including spaces by Jerry Garcia, Kathy Griffin and Carlos Santana. Eco-friendly features abound, and standout amenities include complimentary freshly baked cookies in the afternoon, complimentary New York Times, fitness center, and nightly wine hour with tarot card readings. Café de la Presse serves up a French bistro vibe and is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
Neighborhood: Tenderloin Price Range: Moderate
The perfect mix of kitsch, tropical paradise (yep, palm trees in San Francisco) and rocker cool lives at the retro landmark Phoenix Hotel that regularly hosts musicians, edgy A-listers (i.e. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Vincent Gallo, Pearl Jam, Keanu Reeves, David Bowie) and the perpetually hip. All the rooms overlook the courtyard and its mod sculpture garden and always-lively outdoor heated pool, a rarity in San Francisco. Rooms are bungalow-like and utilize vibrant colors, accessories and textures, and plants that reflect the islands. Ceiling fans, free Wi-Fi, complimentary Continental breakfast served poolside, free parking and complimentary passes to the famed Kabuki Springs & Spa add to the fun. If peace and quiet is tops on your agenda, skip this party hotel. Also note the Tenderloin location is sketchy and not the most convenient to other attractions.
Neighborhood: Union Square Price Range: Budget
With a European-feel and a fantastic location near Union Square, the Financial District and cable cars, the 48-room Andrews Hotel is a gem. The building has an interesting history, having begun life in 1905 as a Turkish bathhouse and surviving the great earthquake the next year. It has been the Andrews Hotel for more than 30 years and has earned a well-deserved reputation for personalized and friendly service. Rooms and bathrooms are decidedly small, but simply and tastefully dressed with Victorian touches. Flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi and complimentary continental breakfasts and evening wine receptions at the hotel restaurant Fino Ristorante & Bar, which serves delicious Italian fare at moderate prices, add to the value.
Neighborhood: Pacific Heights/Japantown Price Range: Budget
Enjoy the beauty and elegance of a historic Pacific Heights mansion at this discreet boutique hotel that has the feel of an upscale bed and breakfast/European auberge. Built in 1903, the Hotel Drisco, a Joie de Vivre property, is ideal for visitors who don't want to be near the hustle and bustle of downtown. Indeed this hotel is like a residential retreat where friendly service and attention to detail is tantamount. No surprise, A-listers seeking anonymity are known to gravitate here. Rooms are small but charming and comfortable (many offer stunning city views) and feature flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Complimentary European gourmet breakfast, and evening wine and cheese are served in the parlor. Other standout amenities include complimentary town-car service downtown every morning (7AM to 9:30AM), a fitness room and nightly turndown service. One drawback: There is no full-service restaurant and limited room service. However, there are plenty of excellent restaurants within walking distance.
Niladri Nath, Flickr/Getty Images
Neighborhood: Marina/Presidio Price Range: Budget
See All San Francisco Hotels »
You don't check into the Cow Hollow Motor Inn and Cow Hollow Suites for chic décor or fancy-pants amenities. But what the 100-plus rooms and 17 suites offer are clean, simple environs in a prime location near the Palace of Fine Arts, and Chestnut and Union streets, rife with shopping and restaurants. Suites are like bona fide apartments, housed in a separate building, and feature a sitting/dining area, living room with a fireplace, full kitchen and hardwood floors. (They are also available for short-term residence stays.) A great value and ideal for families, the inn is where locals without large wallets often put up friends and families. Another major coup: free covered parking, virtually unheard of in San Francisco. Cons: There is no restaurant and the commercial-laden Lombard Street means it can be noisy.
Best in San Francisco Travel
San Francisco Travel Guide