Thanks to its prosperous economy, a thriving cultural scene and a prime location within easy driving distance of mountains, wine country and the ocean, San Francisco draws about 20 million leisure visitors per year. And yet I have long been frustrated by my inability to recommend a worthwhile boutique property to Hideaway Report readers.
I currently suggest the Four Seasons and St. Regis — 277 and 260 rooms, respectively — which are within a three-minute walk of each other. Though they are predictably elegant and comfortable hotels, they do not truly embody the qualities that make San Francisco unique. On my most recent trip, however, I stayed at three contrasting properties that did at least provide an authentic sense of place.
Wanting to be close to the recently renovated and expanded Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), I booked a room at the iconic 556-room Palace Hotel, conveniently located in a district south of Market Street and a 10-minute walk from Union Square and 15 minutes by foot from the Ferry Building. When it opened in 1875, this grande dame offered unprecedented luxury and was the place to see and be seen for the political figures and celebrities of the time. It is now the oldest surviving hotel in San Francisco. Following a recent multimillion-dollar makeover, it reopened in late 2015 with completely refurbished rooms featuring new flooring and a fresh color scheme of midnight blue, plum, cream and charcoal. Though the revamp added contemporary amenities to the accommodations, many original design elements have been preserved, including intricate wrought-iron windows and solid oak entry doors ornamented with brass monogrammed knobs.