Going west: the 10 best hotels in San Francisco

Best known for the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Chinatown, chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills and its eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture, San Francisco might be one of the most visited cities in the US but, for reasons unknown, its hotel scene has remained curiously ho-hum. In recent years though, a slate of local hoteliers have picked up the pace, adding to the city’s icons, and peppering the landscape with a much-needed dose of contemporary cool. Check into the ten best hotels the city has to offer.

Tilden Hotel reception area with brown wooden corner desk and white and brown walls
(Image credit: TBC)


The former 1928-built Mark Twain Hotel has undergone a top-to-bottom transformation to be reborn as the Tilden. Brooklyn-based design firm Studio Tack has imbued the 118-room property with minimalist lines, natural textures, warm wood surfaces, and plenty of Californian sunlight. On site, the Douglas Room serves up concoctions like La Di Da Di (vodka, ginger beer, grapefruit cordial, and black lava salt served in a metal cup) along with bar bites such as charred eggplants paired with shishito peppers, or roasted carrots and fennel topped with labneh. No worries if you stay out too late – the hotel’s curbside café serves strong brews by Equator Coffee.

345 Taylor Street; Tel: 1.415 673 2332; www.tildenhotel.com

Hotel Vitale guest room with double bed, chair and view of the sea from the window

(Image credit: TBC)

Hotel Vitale

With 1,700 sq ft of indoor meeting space, an expansive rooftop event area, a 24-hour business centre and boardroom, and within close proximity to downtown offices, Union Square and the Moscone Centre, it’s easy to get carried away with business when staying at Hotel Vitale. But in prime location on the revitalised Embarcadero, there’s no excuse not to take in a bit of pleasure too. Off the clock, nip over the road to the rehabilitated Ferry Building, now foodie mecca, to grab a bite to eat, before braving the crowds at Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf. If you have time, stop off at Pier 33 to catch a ferry over to the island of Alcatraz and finish off back at the hotel in the rooftop spa, with sweeping views over the Bay and beyond. 

8 Mission Street; Tel: 1.415 278 3700; www.jdvhotels.com

Laurel Inn guestroom showing brown work desk, brown mirror and blue chair

(Image credit: TBC)

Laurel Inn 

On the corner of a thoroughfare and a tranquil street lined with Victorian homes, this angular mid-century landmark offers guests a chance to experience being a San Francisco local. Taking inspiration from the building’s 1950s zig-zag façade, designer Oren Bronstein turned the rooms into a funhouse of diverse tactile sensations, with textures like velvet, chenille, silk, and wool. Against a calming palette of browns, blues, and whites – with strategic pops of colour – the rooms feature custom American walnut furniture, herringbone Carrera flooring, and original art by Bay Area artists, including pieces from nearby Lost Art Salon Gallery. 

444 Presidio Avenue; Tel: 1.415 567 8467; www.jdvhotels.com

Hotel G showing two chairs, a table and lots of plants

(Image credit: TBC)

Hotel G 

A two-year renovation has seen the former Fielding hotel and more recently Hotel Frank, restored to its former glory with new additions including wood finishes and earthy textiles, Victorian settees, bankers’ lamps and mid-century writing desks. Steps from Union Square, there’s plenty to keep you busy, but make sure you make time to stay in and sample the American menu at 398 brasserie, followed by a late night tipple at Benjamin Cooper, the curbside bar with an array of adventurous hand-crafted cocktails fresh oysters on offer. 

386 Geary Street; Tel: 1.877 828 4478; www.hotels-g.com

The Buchanan guestroom with white double bed and photos on the wall

(Image credit: TBC)

The Buchanan

The Buchanan, draws décor inspirations from its Japantown location at the crossroads of the gritty Fillmore District and chic Pacific Heights. Nicole Hollis Interior Design translated the eclectic urban tapestry of the surrounding neighbourhoods into the diverse textures of crisp cotton, billowy linen, and worn leather. Harking to the Fillmore’s storied jazz clubs and Japantown’s Asian heritage, the dark lobby combines such distinct materials as hand-dyed indigo textiles, earth-tone pottery, and empty liquor bottles, which make up the ceiling. The feature wall of Japanese whiskey barrel staves was created using shousugi-ban, the traditional method that chars wood for exterior siding, while a mural by local artist Kelly Ording recreates Northern Californian landscapes as Japanese-style illustrations. 

1800 Sutter Street; Tel: 1.415 921 4000; www.thebuchananhotel.com

The St Regis guestroom showing white double bed, brown desk and brown chair

(Image credit: TBC)

The St Regis 

You can’t ask for a closer location to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art than the St Regis in in the city’s SoMa district. Located literally next door to the gallery, the property also houses the Museum of African Diasspora and is a short stride away from the new Jewish Contemporary Museum. Sizeable rooms offer views of Yerba Buena Gardens, while nearby shops on Market Street – including Westfield shopping centre – are a mere hop away. You’ll find it difficult though, not to stay in and indulge at the Remède Spa followed by a meal at The Grill, where seasonal Californian dishes are complemented by wines from the substantial collection of Napa and Sonoma labels. 

125 3rd Street; Tel: 1.415 284 4000; www.stregissanfrancisco.com

Hotel G lobby with white, yellow and gold interior

(Image credit: TBC)

The Alise 

The Alise takes its cues from its eclectic neighbourhood, where the City by the Bay meets show business. In a century-old building on Geary street, a short stride from Union Square, a grand black lacquered front door with opulent gilded scrollwork reveals a dazzling lobby dominated by a nine-screen video panel that rotates a curated selection of artistic scenes, while a shiny red baby grand player piano on the mezzanine level encourages guests to perform. Designed by Glenn Texeira and local firm Stanton Architecture, cheerful yellows and golden hues are balanced with chic grey tones, while marble flooring and smoky mirrors are glamorous additions in the lobby. Explore nearby sites from The Wharf to Golden Gate Bridge on one of the hotel’s custom cruiser bikes, before heading back to the hotel, where beds come complete with individually folded duvets to ensure a wrestle-free sleep. 

580 Geary Street; Tel: 1.415 441 2700; www.thealise.com

The Ritz-Carlton guestroom showing white and blue double bed, grey sofa and chair and blue long curtains

(Image credit: TBC)

The Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton is proof of how a 20th-century landmark can be transformed into a modern-day hub with up-to-date services and conveniences that include a state-of-the-art fitness centre, 24-hour computer kiosks within a recently renovated meeting space and a new wine tasting lounge with a rare and exclusive wine list that has become a hit with the corporate crowd. Located in the city’s fancy Nob Hill neighbourhood, the hotel is located a one-block stroll away from the heaving delights of Chinatown and with the historic cable car stopping just outside the property, there’s no excuse not to hop on and explore the rest of what San Francisco has to offer. 

600 Stockton Street; Tel: 1.415 296 7465; www.ritzcarlton.com

Hotel Zeppelin restaurant with multiple tables and chairs and a large ladies portrait on the wall

(Image credit: TBC)

Hotel Zeppelin 

Taking over two storied buildings, Hotel Zeppelin brings together the city’s varied characteristics under one roof. In the intimate ground-level hangout, the restored brick walls, cornice trims, and hand-troweled mouldings project a sense of history, as well as an urban flair brought in graffiti by Color Cartel, visible in black light. Upstairs, the 196 rooms and suites feature soaring ceilings, industrial light fixtures and crushed velvet pillows. By day, the Mantel Bar offers up freshly baked goods, while at night the café transforms into a speakeasy with craft cocktails served beside the fireplace. Don’t miss the crowd pleasers such as the Chile de Arbol chicken wings at the American restaurant, Rambler. 

545 Post St; Tel: 1.415 563 0303; www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com

The Axiom guestroom showing white double bed

(Image credit: TBC)

The Axiom 

It was only a matter of time before San Francisco’s flourishing tech scene was cited as a source of inspiration for a hotel or restaurant. The Axiom, near the city’s busy Union Square, is both technologically advanced and contemporary, despite its historic setting in a 1908 building Original iron railings, columns and moulding sit alongside newer innovations like ‘glitchings’ — digital portraits that morph into pixels and back again — while the clean, neutral palette of guestrooms is punctuated with shots of magenta and powder blue, brought together with luxe finishes, like leather headboards and mid-century styled furnishings. The Turn Café, a double-height venue serves dishes made with local and organic ingredients, beneath a deconstructed chandelier, perhaps waiting to indicate that next big lightbulb moment. 

28 Cyril Magnin Street; 1.415 392 9466; www.axiomhotel.com

Lauren Ho is the former travel editor at Wallpaper*. Now a contributing editor, she roams the globe, writing extensively about luxury travel, architecture and design for both the magazine and the website, alongside various other titles. She is also the European Academy Chair for the World's 50 Best Hotels.