Usually when one thinks of San Francisco– there are certain must-visit attractions that come to mind- The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Palace of Fine Arts Theater- just to name a few. A few weeks ago on my most recent trip to the city, I discovered, while spotting tour groups walking through my hotel lobby, that the Fairmont San Francisco also makes the list, and deservingly so! Situated atop the beautiful Nob Hill, the Fairmont is one of the city’s landmark hotels and a true local icon. It’s deeply steeped in history- both as the original Fairmont Hotel– and as a historic building in the city of San Francisco.
The majestic property was designed by famed architect Julia Morgan and the city was abuzz with anticipation of its opening in 1906. By April, ” the massive structure was already completed, and the interior furnishings had been delivered and were awaiting their various places in this palace.” And then the great San Francisco earthquake flattened the city just weeks later and destroyed most of the hotel. So it was a true reflection of the tenacity and the spirit of the city when the Fairmont threw open its doors in April 1907, omerely one year after the earthquake, celebrating the grand opening with a magnificent firework display.
The Fairmont soon became the social hub of the city- hosting debutante balls and becoming the residence of choice for many of the city’s wealthy families who had been displaced by the earthquake. In 1908, the hotel welcomed then President Teddy Roosevelt and has hosted every US president since. The hotel was also where delegates met in 1945 to draft the United Nations charter- making it truly one of the most interesting and significant buildings in San Francisco history.
I was also lucky enough to call the Fairmont my own residence for a day. As I pulled up into the hotel portico, I was struck by the grand architecture. You can spot the stately building from blocks away and approaching the hotel, are greeted by the beautiful facade and lineup of international flags, welcoming travelers from around the world. It’s really something- and a sight that I don’t think I could ever tire of. The lobby interior is also majestic- its high ceilings, Beaux-Arts details, ornate decor and grand staircases reminded me of what it must feel like to step into an European palace. Some hotels claim to be your home away from home- but that’s not an apt description for the Fairmont. This property is better-than-your-home away from home and just walking in is like stepping into a fantasy world.
However, that is not to insinuate that the hotel is in any way cold or uninviting. The classic guest rooms are decorated in a color warm palette , filled with at-home touches, and exude a cozy ambiance. Each room has a marble bath, flat screen TVs, MP3 docking stations, Frette linens and pillow top beds that could easily be in the running for “most comfortable bed in California.” I was treated to a Tower Suite (picture below) which, in addition to, the all the guest room perks also provided the most stunning panoramic view of San Francisco.
Speaking of cozy, the Fairmont San Francisco is also the home of one of the city’s most beloved tiki bars, Tonga Room. The kitschy and festive atmosphere is centered around swimming pool, where a band plays on a boat, complete with rain, lightening and thunder. The happy hour menu boasts an all-you-can-eat buffet for $9.50 – perhaps one of the best deals and most unique experiences ever. It’s uncertain whether the Tonga Room will remain for much longer, making the venue a definate must-visit in the near future for locals and travelers alike!
The Fairmont San Francisco is located at 950 Mason Street with room rates starting at $169. Visit fairmont.com/sanfrancisco to learn more!