Fodor's Expert Review Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St., San Francisco, California 94108, United States See on Map
Dominating the top of Nob Hill like a European palace, the Fairmont is steeped in a rich history and pampers guests with plenty of luxury. With architecture designed by Julia Morgan, and views of the city below, it's easy to see why the Fairmont was chosen to host the signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945.
Rooms are separated into two buildings--the main original structure and the newer Tower, which generally are larger and offer fantastic views. All have high ceilings, decadent beds, and a work desk. Their five specialty suites honor historic figures (like Napoleon) and pop culture icons (Tony Bennett).
Bathrooms feature marble tiling, the Fairmont's iconic plush robes, deep tubs, and rain showers.
Architect Julia Morgan's timeless 1907 lobby design includes alabaster walls and gilt-embellished ceilings supported by Corinthian columns. Wander through the property to spot remnants from the building's rich history, including a bar that dates back to Prohibition times.
Arrange spa services at Live Fit Gym and Wellness Spa, on the lower level of the property. Facials, massage chiropractic, and acupuncture treatments dot the menu.
The Live Fit Gym and Wellness Spa offers classes like yoga and spinning, as well as cardio equipment, free weights, and Pilates props. Most guests must pay a $10 day-use fee for access to the gym.
The hotel's signature restaurant, Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a light-filled space just off the entryway. A lofty breakfast buffet, afternoon tea, and their gruyere popovers are not to be overlooked. The grab-and-go Caffe Centro serves coffee, pastries and small bites throughout the day. For a celebratory dinner, head down to the pricey Tonga Room for South Pacific-inspired cuisine like mac-nut mahi-mahi, or crunchy calamari.
While the Tonga Room is fab for a drink, dinners are quite expensive for the execution.
Don't miss drinks at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, an over-the-top Tiki lounge that serves blue tropical cocktails with umbrellas while a live band serenades guests from a boat. Every so often, a "rain-storm" passes over the restaurant's central waterway. For a more low-key drinking environment, sit on wingback chairs and grab a glass of vino at Laurel Court Bar.
YOU SHOULD KNOW While the pool of the Tonga Room looks inviting, do not attempt to dive in--the water is not filtered.
Perched atop Nob Hill, walkers in solid shape will appreciate the hike to and from the property to access nearby neighborhoods like Chinatown, North Beach, Union Square, the Financial District, Embarcadero and more. Those less excited by the hills can hop on the cable car (purchase a City Pass or a weekly Muni pass to lessen the sticker shock of those iconic SF vehicles). Muni buses stop nearby, connecting travelers to BART/Muni train stations that access outer neighborhoods like the Mission and both San Francisco and Oakland Airports.
Hop the cable car and line up at Swan Oyster Depot (11-minute train) to sample some the city's freshest seafood slung by guys as salty as their cuisine. Nob Hill Cafe (3-minute walk) is a local favorite for consistently good pizza in a low-key setting--know that getting a table takes patience.
If you're that close to Top of the Mark (1-minute walk), don't miss the chance to sip a martini and gaze down at the city lights, while jazz musicians serenade you. Head downhill to Hopwater Distribution (3-minute walk) for excellent craft beers dished out from an attractive wood-paneled bar.
WHY WE LIKE IT
A historic pedigree oozing sophistication, this favorite escape for presidents and royalty offers views galore, a fab food program, and an effusive staff.
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