Just a few years ago, visitors coming to San Francisco would be hard-pressed to find a stylish destination that isn’t cookie-cutter, antiquated or part of a massive chain. Similarly, staying anywhere but downtown would be nearly impossible. But recently, San Francisco has been experiencing a boutique hotel boom, with worthy openings that go way beyond downtown and spill into additional neighborhoods, previously undiscovered by tourists. From a tech-forward minimalist hideout to a lavish members club you can be a part of for a night, here are six excellent options for a unique city stay.
From the minute you enter the lobby, the new 1 Hotel makes you feel like a saner, more stylish human. First, the lobby smells amazing. Then, it’s the design — using repurposed materials like salvaged wood, the team created a tasteful mix of neutral colors, earthy textures and grounding materials. Plus, the location couldn’t be more perfect, as it’s right across the street from the water and the iconic Ferry Building, which is visible from multiple rooms. On the ground floor, Terrene, the house restaurant, serves vibrant dishes that lean on vegetables. It also has one of the best outdoor dining spaces in San Francisco; while it’s totally sealed from the elements, it still has ample city views.
Some hotels instantly make you feel at home — that is, if “home” was an impeccably designed abode with Ruth Osawa-inspired details. The Jay is a newly refurbished and reimagined hotel, located on the edge of the historic Jackson Square neighborhood. While it’s walking distance to the Embarcadero and downtown, it’s doubtful you’d want to leave the premises. Between the plush bathrobes, truly cozy rooms (some have views of the Bay Bridge and the Transamerica pyramid), the lively lobby and Third Floor, the excellent new restaurant that serves tiny flavorful skewers and creative steak tartare, The Jay offers sophisticated luxury that’s very easy to get used to.
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Some of the best boutique hotels deliver a jolt of sultry, big-city excitement. The Line, which recently opened off Market Street, rivals its more established neighbor, The Proper, in this exact category. The look and feel of the hotel are decidedly modern and Instagram-friendly — the airy rooms and suites feature considerate touches like original art, Cowshed bath products and, because of the hotel’s positioning, sweeping city views and tons of natural light. Two particularly vibey spots are Rise Over Run, the rooftop bar with a stunning glass atrium, and Tenderheart, a clever restaurant with a menu combining new American and Asian flavors. Additionally, the hotel’s event calendar is always packed with DJ sets, drag brunches and more. Everyone’s dressed to impress, so pack your capsule wardrobe with versatile hits.
Not all boutique hotels must be in the heart of the action. This is the case with Luma, a tech-forward, minimal property in Mission Bay, a quieter part of the city. With relaxing water views and pared-down rooms, the chic hotel pampers its guests with unexpected amenities like Etro skincare products and AI-powered, self-driving robots that swiftly get into elevators and deliver slippers and toothbrushes to guests’ rooms. The rooms feature clean lines and comfortable beds that firm mattress devotees will love. Those who seek an energetic shift should head to the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant, Cavaña, where Peruvian cocktails, fire pits, tapas and salsa music turn the evening into an adventure.
Technically, The Battery is San Francisco’s most exclusive private club, offering its members Ken Fulk-designed lounges, varied events and a restaurant. But it’s also a boutique hotel in the truest sense of the word, with only 14 spacious rooms designed with quiet luxury in mind (think leather couches, high-quality linens, a deep soaking tub and huge windows that open up to lush trees, a rare feature for a San Francisco hotel). The well-known secret is that for the duration of the stay, guests can enjoy all the perks of annual members, such as the gorgeous communal spaces, the occasional dancy party or lecture, and the impressive restaurant, where cleverly structured sound systems make sure no one ever has to scream over dinner.
With most San Francisco hotels staying closer to downtown, the Kimpton Hotel Enso, which opened last year, is a nice change of pace. Located in historic Japantown, the hotel is private and relaxing while being within walking distance from many San Francisco neighborhoods. Design-wise, it emulates its environment with a trendy, modern look inspired by the Japanese aesthetic (the shibori-dyed kimono robes in the rooms make for a fun photo-op). Recently, true to its location, the hotel launched a cultural Japanese package which includes tours of Japanese sites in the city, an experience at the nearby Kabuki spa and an omakase dinner.
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