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Occupying the former Fort Baker army barracks in Marin County, at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, Cavallo Point, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Property, is a rare Bay Area hotel with uninterrupted views of San Francisco’s skyline. Opened in 2008, the sprawling resort offers two types of accommodations: historic and quaint—think 1901 officers’ quarters with porches and rocking chairs—or modern and sleek. The latter are incongruous but harmonious: floor-to-ceiling windows, heated floors, flat-screen TVs, khaki-painted walls. Go for a second-floor king suite, with a double-sided fireplace and a deck overlooking the bay. A historic option for families is the Frank House, a 1,200-square-foot residence with two bedrooms, a gas fireplace, and a glass-enclosed sunporch. Rooms from $470.
High up on one of the steep hills in tony Pacific Heights, Hotel Drisco occupies an intimate Edwardian building that could easily be mistaken for luxury apartments (it once was) or one of the consulates that dot the neighborhood. The property, built in 1903 and completely renovated in 2017, offers 32 rooms and 16 suites (book one on the fourth floor, the north side), complimentary bikes for a roll down the hill to the Marina or the Presidio, and an apiary on the roof for honey with afternoon tea. There are also evening wine tastings, featuring bottles from Napa and Sonoma and cheeses from the Cypress Grove creamery in Humboldt County. Rooms from $399.
A modern alternative to the city’s grand, historic hotels, the Four Seasons—another American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property—is a whisper-quiet chunk of swank right on Market Street. The property, in washes of beige, gray, cream, and cornflower, occupies 12 floors of a 42-story high-rise. The lobby functions as a living room, bar, and bustling remote workspace. The gym is, with little doubt, the nicest Equinox in town—and all three floors of it are open to hotel guests. Though the hotel sits on one of Market Street’s busiest stretches, there is a private back entrance for guests, and the rooms are nearly soundproof. At 460 square feet, the standard rooms are some of the biggest you’ll find in the city, while many of the suites are upwards of 1,000 square feet, and the Premier suites come with a dedicated personal assistant. Rooms from $395.
Of all the neoclassical, columned hotels in San Francisco, the Ritz-Carlton in Nob Hill stands out. The particularly elegant white marble façade helps. Renovated in 2015, the 336-room property offers Ritz-standard opulence (Frette linens, Veuve Clicquot in the minibar) while also being a reliable, large, city hotel. (Room 919 has the best view of Alcatraz, the bay, and Coit Tower.) It’s also on the edge of Chinatown, which has some of the best dining in the city—book way ahead for George Chen’s 8 Tables (chinalivesf.com). You can also schedule a wine tasting at JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset. The famed winemaker offers curated flights inside a new lounge stocked with coffee-table books on wine. Rooms from $750.
With its long, strikingly modern fireplace, zebrawood bar, and massive murals by Andrew Morrow, the lobby of the St. Regis, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Property, sets a refined, distinctly artful tone. Situated inside a downtown skyscraper that’s also home to the Museum of the African Diaspora and is next door to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (sfmoma), the hotel embodies both St. Regis’s signature luxury and San Francisco’s creativity and openness to experimentation. Among the 260 rooms is a 3,200-square-foot suite with spectacular views of the Bay Bridge. When boldface names are in town, this is where they tend to come, attracted by the butler service and the property’s 9,000-square-foot spa with a saltwater pool overlooking the SoMa neighborhood. Rooms from $950.
Dorothy Draper’s vision of a majestic Venetian palace, the beloved Fairmont survived the 1906 earthquake and the 1980s TV series Hotel, starring James Brolin. Perched at the top of Nob Hill, the Fairmont, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Property, earns its grande dame status. From the Tonga Room tiki bar, complete with thunder and lightning effects (order a Scorpion Bowl), to the palm trees on the rooftop (order up lunch), the bustling hotel marries opulence and whimsy, with a dash of Art Deco swagger. It’s also the only place where all three of the city’s cable-car lines meet. Book a room in the Tower, which has the best views and five premier suites, including one named for Tony Bennett, who first performed “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in this hotel. Rooms from $260.
Both a private club and boutique hotel, the Battery opened six years ago in the hip Jackson Square neighborhood, occupying a brick-and-timber warehouse that was once a candy factory. Designed in spirited style by Ken Fulk, the 14 hotel suites come with temporary club memberships, allowing guests to enjoy the garden, library, spa, gym, 24-seat wine cellar, bars, Living Room restaurant, and meeting spaces where Bay Area CEOs and creatives gather for lectures and laptopping. Rooms are highly sought-after, with the 620-square-foot Balcony suite (room 14) being the one to aim for. There’s also a 6,000-square-foot penthouse with a wraparound terrace outfitted with an infinity hot tub and a Viking grill. Rooms from $1,195.
There have been two Palace Hotels—both in the same spot. The first, opened in 1875, was then the largest hotel in the world. After the 1906 earthquake, the Palace, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Property, rose again, entirely rebuilt. In 2015, the property underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation, including an update of all 552 rooms. (The suites are laid out like apartments, including—in the case of the Presidential and Vice Presidential categories—dining rooms.) Located in the Financial District, the hotel is close to Union Square shopping, Mission Street eating, Embarcadero sightseeing, and SF MOMA museum-going. Not to miss: Maxfield Parrish’s Pied Piper mural, which decorates the hotel bar of the same name and is considered a San Francisco landmark. Rooms from $590.