The Top 5 Boutique Hotels in San Francisco

The Top 5 Boutique Hotels in San Francisco
By Elizabeth Penney

With its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, historic Alcatraz Island and bustling Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco is one of the top destinations in California, second only to Los Angeles and San Diego. Lodging choices abound, from luxury penthouse suites to basic dormitory-style hostels. But for me, there's no better way to enjoy San Francisco than by staying at one its many charming boutique hotels. Historic architecture, intimate hospitality and unique design are the hallmark of many of these affordable spots. Following are my top five recommendations for boutique hotels in San Francisco.

Harbor Court Hotel

Situated on the waterfront near the Embarcadero and Ferry Building, the Harbor Court Hotel welcomes guests with spectacular views of the bay, a nightly hosted happy hour and contemporary design. Built as an Army-Navy YMCA residence in the 1920s, the building is now a 131-room boutique hotel that meets the needs of today’s visitors. Amenities include Wi-Fi, valet parking, laundry service, on-site bike rentals and a 24-hour business center. Guests can also indulge at the hotel’s restaurant, Ozumo, which features a modern take on traditional Japanese cuisine.

Hotel Rex

Near the heart of Union Square and the Theater District, this 1930s-era hotel is awash with historic charm and original artwork by local artists. Visitors can expect free Wi-Fi, complimentary morning coffee and tea, valet parking and concierge services. Kids and pets are welcome, and though rooms are small, they are bright and airy. Best of all, Hotel Rex is located within steps of area restaurants, nightclubs, shopping and art galleries. The on-site Library Bar is a book-themed restaurant and cocktail bar with live jazz on weekends.

Hotel Union Square

One of the first boutique hotels in the city, Hotel Union Square provides the quintessential San Francisco experience. Built for the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition, the art deco hotel is in the heart of the city’s main shopping district. It is a great choice for families, and the kid’s suite features amenities such as a computer, books and games, while the Dashiell Hammett Suite pays homage to the esteemed mystery writer. While there is no on-site restaurant, Tad’s Steakhouse is a few doors down, and breakfast packages are available.

Hotel Triton


Bright and cheery, with bold colors and inventive design, Hotel Triton attracts creative types seeking a refuge from ordinary, run-of-the-mill hotels. Art takes center stage, and rotating exhibits feature both emerging and established local artists. Themed rooms include the Haagen-Dazs “Sweet Suite,” featuring a stocked custom ice cream cabinet and shades of vanilla and dulce de leche, while the Jerry Garcia suite, designed by the late Grateful Dead frontman himself, features original watercolors and an autograph wall. All rooms offer designer linens, organic snack bars and eco-friendly bath amenities.

Clift Hotel

The Clift harkens back to a time when travel and style were one in the same. Designed by renowned French designer Philippe Starck, the old-world lobby features chairs from Ray and Charles Eames and a coffee table by Salvador Dali. Rooms feature custom sleigh beds, whimsical chairs and luxury bath products. The dark and moody Redwood Room, with paneling said to be carved from a single tree, showcases digital artwork and live music, while the hotel lounge, with its wing chairs and library lamps, is the perfect spot to take a load off after a long day of sightseeing.