A whole lot of history converges at the Fairmont San Francisco—as do all of the city’s cable car lines, which offer easy transportation to the Financial District, Union Square, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The hotel was built in 1906 and damaged in the fires that year before it even opened; celebrated architect Julia Morgan was brought in to repair the building. In 1945 the hotel was the site for the series of meetings that would result in the formation of the United Nations. The Venetian Room hosted musical legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Nat ‘King’ Cole and was the place where Tony Bennett first performed “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1961 (Bennett still frequents the hotel).
Today, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a draw for tourists and locals seeking a kitschy, iconic San Francisco experience. Guests enjoy live music, Polynesian food, and Mai Tais while weathering the occasional (staged) thunderstorm. The opulent design of the hotel extends from its lobby—with marble floors and sumptuous fabrics—to luxurious rooms outfitted with modern technological touches.
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Located on Nob Hill, the Fairmont is within
convenient walking distance to Union Square, the Financial District, North
Beach, and Chinatown. With the beautiful Grace Cathedral and Huntington Park
down the street, it’s easy to feel like a local while exploring nearby neighborhoods.
Head over to Hyde Street to jump on a cable car up to Fisherman's Wharf
(skip the touristy restaurants, but explore the wharf's heritage with a tour
guide like Kirk the Sea Forager).
Need to Know
Rooms: 591 rooms. $329 (Fairmont King) to $15,000
Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon Dining
options:MGM set director Mel Melvin transformed
the Fairmont San Francisco’s “Terrace Plunge Pool” into the lagoon and
centerpiece of the Tonga Room &
Hurricane Bar in 1945. Today, Polynesian fare sets the tone for the
entertainment. For a quieter meal, book a table at the Laurel Court & Restaurant Bar, for San Francisco classics like cioppino.
Visit Caffé Centro to fuel up on
illy coffee, Ghirardelli chocolate, and the Fairmont’s own Honey Saison Beer. Spa and
gym details: The hotel doesn’t have a spa or a pool
(that became the lagoon at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar), but it does
offer a basic massage service and a fitness center, Active Sports Clubs at Nob
Hill. Fitness Center Hours: Monday to
Friday: 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Who's it for/who's it best for: Well-heeled business and leisure travelers with an affinity for
history as well as the finer things. Our favorite rooms: The Main Building Balcony Suites. Though the rooms are smaller, the
suites offer private balconies with views of the San Francisco skyline. Up for
a splurge? The eighth floor Penthouse Suite boasts epic panoramas and a
star-studded guest list. President John F. Kennedy stayed here, as did Prince
Charles of Wales and Mick Jagger. Some Reservations: Make reservations well in advance for the Tonga Room &
Hurricane Bar and Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar, especially if you’re
aiming for a seat on a Friday or Saturday night. For the best deal, check out
the Tonga Room’s happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday (but
take note: the band doesn’t play until 8:15).