History and Elegance at the Fairmont San Francisco

In a city with seemingly unlimited hotel options, the Fairmont San Francisco stands out among the crowd. Set high atop Nob Hill, it’s the original Fairmont – the first of what would grow to become one of the most respected brands in the hospitality world.

Fairmont San Francisco hotel review

Constructed in the early 1900s, the majestic property was the dream of James Graham Fair, an Irish immigrant drawn to California during the Gold Rush. More than a century later, the historic property continues to help San Francisco visitors strike travel gold.

Expect to be wowed from your first glimpse of the hotel. Its grand entrance is topped with a rainbow of international flags — in 1945 it was where the founding document, or Charter of the United Nations was drafted. The stunning facade sets the stage for the ornate lobby waiting behind the revolving door. With marble floors, towering columns, and ornate ceilings dripping in golden accents, hotels simply aren’t built like this anymore.

Fairmont SF room

The Fairmont San Francisco boasts more than 600 rooms and suites, but for its size, it’s relatively simple to navigate and quickly learn your way around. I stayed in a Deluxe King room located on the 20th floor of the Tower Building. Spacious by city standards, sleek black furnishings popped against the room’s neutral color palate.

San Francisco view from the Fairmont

Elegant but not at all stuffy, thanks to exterior walls comprised primarily of large picture windows, a beautiful amount of natural light filled the room and gave way to excellent downtown San Francisco views.

Expected modern conveniences including electric outlets and USB ports are easy to access but tucked in spots that don’t impact the room’s aesthetics.

The marble-covered bathroom featured a shower and bathtub, along with sought-after Le Labo toiletries.

The Fairmont San Francisco lends itself to wandering. The photo-worthy Cirque Room, with its vivid circus-themed murals, was the first bar to welcome San Francisco revelers after Prohibition.

The Fairmont was also the first hotel in San Francisco to keep honey bees; you can see firsthand what all the buzz is about in the Epicurean Garden. (Thanks to a wall of windows, you can peek at the hives without worry.) Just steps away, the Roof Garden boasts blooms, a fountain, and impressive city views. 

historic San Francisco hotel gardens

Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s also the ideal setting for afternoon tea, complete with scones, tea sandwiches, and elaborate sweets. A Children’s Tea menu is also available.

Tucked away a couple of floors below the lobby, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a must-do during any stay at the Fairmont San Francisco. In the 1940s, a Hollywood set designer transformed the hotel’s indoor pool into what’s arguably one of the country’s favorite Tiki bars.

Tonga Room tiki bar

Decked out in all things Polynesian, gather around the “lagoon” and enjoy a flirty cocktail alongside tasty dishes the likes of tuna poke salad, garlic chicken wings, and mushroom fried rice while The Island Groove Band performs hits from aboard a barge floating on the lagoon. Thunder and lightning storms roar across the lagoon every 30 minutes or so, adding to the only in San Francisco spectacular.

It’s easy to get your steps in climbing the hills of San Francisco, but if you prefer a more traditional workout approach, there is a Live Fit Gym Wellness Club in the hotel. The fitness facility is free for guests enrolled in the property’s loyalty program, ALL – Accor Live Limitless, so be sure to sign up for your free membership before your visit. Along with exercise equipment and personal training, spa services the likes of massage, facials and acupuncture care are available.

The Fairmont’s Nob Hill address is the only place in San Francisco where each of San Francisco’s cable car lines meet, making it fun and easy to explore the city. If you need some help making plans, don’t hesitate to visit the helpful concierge desk. (Yet another first — the Fairmont SF was the first hotel in the United States to offer concierge services.) The San Francisco Airport is less than a 15-mile drive; Oakland International Airport is a bit more than 18 miles to reach.

Rates for a Deluxe Room start at $349. Wi-fi is complimentary for guests enrolled in the property’s loyalty program. Well-behaved dogs are welcome for an additional fee; valet parking is available for an additional fee. Book online directly at the hotel website or you can compare rates and book through an online booking site such as booking.com, Hotels.com or your favorite OTA.

Review and photos by San Francisco Bay Area travel writer and television correspondent Dana Rebmann. Her stay was organized by the Fairmont San Francisco, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.


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