Always a centre of wealth, San Francisco is the principle metropolis of NoCal where lavish countryside jostles for position with the sprawling campuses of giant technology corporations. What’s more, San Francisco is the US’s gateway to Asia, and also an old school financial centre where businessmen still wear suits and ties all year round, as if Silicon Valley’s billionaires in sneakers were not literally a cab ride away.
The best hotel suites in the city reflect this mix of influences. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel San Francisco, for example, sits in the Financial district a block from one of America’s most extraordinary gyms, occupying the renovated Pacific Stock Exchange Building. Yet the hotel itself is classic Mandarin Oriental in style, starting with the lobby bar MO, which buzzes in the evenings with the kind of after-work and holiday crowd that gravitates to a piano bar.
Occupying the top suites here, one feels transported to the sister hotels in Hong King and Bangkok by the traditional Asiatic décor, though the views – which from the Oriental Suite’s massive terrace includes the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower and Alcatraz Island – serve as breathtaking reminders you are in the city by the Bay.
The Oriental offers two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms at $4,200 per night, while its neighbour on the 38th Floor, the Taipan, has a single bedroom and one-and-a–half bathrooms plus terrace at $3,100 per night. Higher up the building, the one-bedroom Dynasty Suites go for $1,650 per night, and the one-bedroom Lotus Suite on the 46th floor offers the renowned “bathtub with a view” of San Francisco Bay, the Transamerica Pyramid and Golden Gate Bridge at $1,875 per night.
The Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco is situated on Market Street and Stevenson Street, a block from an abundance of luxury stores, as well as one of America’s great art museums, SFMOMA, and the vibrant Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The hotel’s interiors fit right in with the neighborhood – its restrained grandeur has been enhanced by a $20 million renovation in 2008, which introduced a palette of soft teal, taupe and gold, as well as an art collection that has its own art tour podcast, featuring the artists themselves talking about their works.
The Four Seasons offers the largest guest rooms in San Francisco, including 46 suites, ranging from the Superior at only $895 per night, to the Premier Suites, with separate work areas and dining rooms with built-in pantries, available with one bedroom for $3,000 a night and two bedrooms for $3,500. The 16th and 17th Floors house the Specialty suites, offering the same features on a grander scale, evoking the ambiance of a Gentleman’s club with their silk wall coverings and custom made rugs. They can be configured with a single bedroom for $8,000 per night, two bedrooms for $8,500 and three for $9,000.
On top of such thoughtful services as Bulgari amenities, complimentary pressing and wines in your suite sourced from small batch vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, the Four Seasons features the largest gym I’ve ever seen in a hotel, which is widely used by the hardbodies from the local business district. Seasons Restaurant offers California cuisine, but it doubles as an American Steakhouse, making it one of San Francisco’s leading Power Lunch venues.
At the opposite end of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts lies the decidedly trendier W San Francisco, emerging from renovations which will see the unveiling of a new Living Room lounge in the foyer, with décor themed around San Francisco in the fog, and a new restaurant, Trace - a farm-to-table production with its own consulting forager. Other cool features include an indoor lap pool under a glass ceiling, and the gym, Sweat, equipped with punching bags.
The hotel’s three Extreme Wow (“E-Wow”) suites (at $1,200-$1,600 per night) are located on the hotel’s top floor, measuring 84 square metres each, with the potential to add a second bedroom. They reflect a vision of San Francisco as America’s gateway to the Orient, right down the the Mah Jong table. This is combined with such moderne elements as circular stools and sofas, as well as distinctively local touches – like boutique Napa Valley wines in each suite’s refreshment centre and a personal butler/concierge service known as “The Insider.”
Still in the same desirable precinct, the St Regis has thirty suites all with both lounge and dining areas with fumed oak wooden floors. There are two Metropolitan suites on opposing corners of the hotel from floors 5 to 20, at $1,600 to $1,800 per night; two St Regis suites with expansive views on floors 19 and 20 at $3,500 per night; plus the city’s largest Presidential suite in San Francisco at $10,000 a night.
Also worth consideration is The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco on Nob Hill, where suites range from as low as $599 per night up to the Presidential, with its 1200 square foot terrace, 1,000-thread-count jacquard cotton sheets with cashmere throw in the bedroom, personal wine cellar, and the Steinway grand piano and ten-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system in its living room.
Yet of all the many-splendored offerings of the finest hotels in San Francisco, my favourite was relatively modest: at the Mandarin Oriental guests receive notepaper personalized with their name and listing their address as “in residence” at the hotel.