There are countless hotels in the half-mile radius around downtown San Francisco’s Union Square, but there are few accommodations that are as fit for royalty as Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel. The opulent, 556-room property has held court at the corner of Market and New Montgomery streets since 1875. The eight-story Palace takes up an entire city block and is decorated in deep purples, shiny golds and other regal hues. From the bold colors to the smell of sugar ice cream cones being baked at the hotel’s Ghirardelli Chocolate shop and the sound of a pianist playing show tunes in the lobby, everything about the hotel entices the senses. Here are five more reasons why you should book your next San Francisco stay at the posh address.
It has a remarkable history
Hotel restaurant the Garden Court was designated number 18 by San Francisco’s Landmark Preservation Advisory Board, making it one of the revered buildings in the state. But that’s not its only superlative. How many hotels can say they have survived two massive earthquakes and one devastating city-wide fire? We’re guessing The Palace stands alone there, too. Although little damage was caused to the hotel during the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, the fire that followed the 1906 tremor severely burned the property’s interiors. After a two-year renovation, the Palace reopened in 1909 more extravagant than ever. Many notable figures, from Thomas Edison to Sophia Loren, have rested their heads at the hotel. A U.S. president even took his last breaths at the Palace; in 1923, President Warren G. Harding’s term came to an abrupt end when he died from congestive heart failure in an eighth-floor room.
It was recently renovated
Although the hotel debuted a lavish remodel in July, the Palace has not lost any of its timeless glamour. In fact, many aspects of the makeover focused on restoring beautiful pieces of the hotel that had started to loose their luster. For instance, a fresh coat of gilded gold paint was applied to the front entryway to maximize curb appeal. All of the doors, windows and balconies were hand painted, too. The guest rooms, indoor swimming pool, fitness center, lobby and promenade were completely redesigned. The fresh rooms feature all sorts of juxtapositions —incredibly old units that have been filled with every modern indulgence imaginable. The sumptuous drapery and linens contrast the clean lines, clear working desks and other sleek furnishings. The chic denim-inspired fabric couches and leather pillows oppose original crown molding and other fine details. The resulting hotel evokes the golden age of its past, but keeps its feet firmly planted in the present.
The Garden Court
When you walk into the lobby of Palace Hotel, your breath will immediately be taken away by the Garden Court. A massive sitting area with two different dining concepts, the Garden Court is filled with bright white light and gold details. Gorgeous original crystal chandeliers hang from a $7-million, stained-glass dome. Marble columns dot the space that’s anchored by purple paisley flooring. During the renovation, the Garden Court was given an exciting new culinary program. While the back side of the establishment still churns out memorable breakfasts, lunches and Sunday brunches, the front portion, the GC Lounge, now offers an à la carte menu of international teas every afternoon before transforming to Evening in the GC Lounge when night falls. This menu features inventive cocktails made with seasonal ingredients like the Fig Garden, a pisco and Cointreau concoction flavored with muddled fresh figs, thyme simple syrup and lime juice. There’s also an excellently curated wine list with varietals from beloved local producers such as J Vineyards & Winery and Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The drinks are complemented by a perfectly edited roster of small plates. Splurge on foie gras torchon with peppery brioche or savor a tiger prawn and serrano ham tart with crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth dough.
The Pied Piper
If you’re in need of a potent cocktail in a moody but welcoming setting, head to the hotel’s iconic bar and grill, the Pied Piper. Hidden discreetly behind heavy doors off of the lobby, the Pied Piper takes its name from the 16-foot long, 6-foot tall Maxfield Parrish painting, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, that hangs above the bar. Parrish was commissioned to paint the Pied Piper for the 1909 grand reveal of the hotel’s remodel after the aforementioned disasters. The piece hung undisturbed for 104 years until early 2013 when the hotel’s ownership decided that a bar was no place for a multi-million-dollar work of art. However, San Franciscans were outraged by the thought of the painting leaving the hotel, so instead of selling it at Christie’s, the hotel’s owners simply had it restored to its previous splendor and reinstated the painting back above the bar. The Pied Piper was one of the only spots in the hotel that did not get an upgrade. According to the management team, though, the Pied Piper will re-conceptualize and be remodeled in 2016 — leaving the painting where it is, of course.
You can’t beat the location
Palace Hotel is located in a prime downtown destination. Union Square, the Ferry Building, Embarcadero and Chinatown are all short walks from the Palace. AT&T Park, home of the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, is a short car ride away as are bustling neighborhoods filled with bars and restaurants like SOMA, Mid-Market, the Mission and Hayes Valley. Many other world-class dining restaurants and high-end shops are also a quick jaunt from the hotel. Stay at Palace Hotel and you’ll feel like you’re in the heart of the city. But be careful. You just might have such a spectacular stay that you end up leaving your heart in the city.