If you’re looking for a hotel exuding classic San Francisco elegance, the Westin St. Francis with its massive lobby, crown molding, marble columns, and iconic Grandfather Clock delivers, at least downstairs. Built in 1904 by “Bonanza King” Charles Crocker and his wealthy friends (and rebuilt after the fire), the St. Francis has hosted a who’s who of world famous celebrities including Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Queen Elizabeth, as well as a number of U.S. presidents. The Westin comprises two buildings: The historic Landmark Building fronts the square (so it can be noisy), and rooms feature turn-of-the-century charm including high ceilings and ornate crystal chandeliers. The 32-story Tower Building was built in 1972 and features larger rooms and bathrooms with a typically corporate aesthetic—rooms booked on apps such as Hotel Tonight tend to be for the older building, but $10 will upgrade you to a Tower room with a view. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer majestic views of the city on higher floors. The St. Francis is especially lovely around the holidays when its executive pastry chef unveils an elaborate gingerbread mansion, sugar castle, or an entire village and Union Square’s Christmas tree can be seen from most rooms. Chef Michael Mina’s restaurant Bourbon Steak, as well as the swanky tourist-friendly Clock Bar, also draw visitors. The location is ideal; the Powell Street cable car runs out front and the MUNI/BART stationat Market Street is two blocks away.
- Erika Lennert