The Pearl in the Crown of San Antonio, Tx: The Hotel Emma

 If you think that San Antonio is the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and a meal at El Mercado, you haven’t been to San Antonio recently.  San Antonio has become the cultural and gastronomic capital of the state of Texas, with Hotel Emma, located in the hip Pearl District, the gem in the crown of this exciting international destination.  

Formerly a 19th-century brewery with an elaborate facade designed in the Second Empire Style by August Maritzen, Hotel Emma is regarded worldwide as one of the best examples of a repurposed industrial space. Exposed pipes and valves are works of art. I think Emma would be proud of the reinvention of her brewery as a 5 Diamond luxury hotel.

Hotel Emma is named for the former owner, Emma Koehler, who took over the business after the death of her husband, Otto. There’s a lot more to that story such as adultery, lawsuits, and murder. Some of the details are a bit murky. 

The brewery originally opened in 1883 as the San Antonio Brewing Company. It became the Pearl Brewing Company in 1952 and operated until 2001. 

lobby hotel emma san antonio texas

The hotel lobby was once the brewery’s engine room. Comfortable and sophisticated furnishings accented with fresh flowers and colorful textiles invite relaxing with one of the hotel’s signature cocktails, The Three Emmas. Tip: Be sure to ask for the story behind this spirited libation.

Located on the San Antonio River’s Museum Reach extension, Hotel Emma is ideally located for the business traveler, leisure traveler, or anyone who seeks a luxury hotel experience and the convenience of walkable access to top restaurants, coffee shops, and retail. 

If you’d like to soak up some of the local history, explore the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2017, the city added the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy designation.

Sternewirth bar at Hotel Emma

Dining at Hotel Emma

The Emma is a culinary destination in itself with three notable options: Super, the hotel’s bistro-style restaurant located on the riverfront. Larder is a market with a worthy selection of wines, beer, local food products, and prepared foods. And Sternewirth, a bar and club room that once housed the brewing tanks. Be sure to reserve one of the repurposed tanks for intimate seating with a sort of Moroccan vibe. Sternewirth also serves small plates and appetizers. 

Classic room Hotel Emma San Antonio Texas

Rooms at Hotel Emma

Hotel Emma has 146 gracious guest rooms outfitted with luxurious Frette linens, south Texas details, and a bit of the hotel’s industrial history. I stayed in a Classic Room in the relatively new River Cellar addition. The first thing I did was prepare a snack from the well-stocked icebox to pair with my La Babbia margarita. Classic rooms include a hand-crafted, round mesquite wood table that can double as a workspace. 

I don’t know about you, but when I stay at a luxury hotel the first thing I want to do is check out the room amenities. Hotel Emma offers some delightful surprises. 

Every room has custom-made seersucker Guayabera robes, complimentary jute scuffs, and lavender bath products. In the bedside table find a sleep kit with earplugs, an eye mask, and a relaxing, lavender room spray.  The lavender spray smells heavenly and can be purchased in Curio, the hotel’s carefully curated shop.

While I was tempted to spend the evening soaking in the claw foot bathtub, there was too much to explore outside my room. 


The Pearl San Antonio Texas

Exploring the Pearl

The Pearl District is a huge property, spread across 22 acres. It includes a range of restaurants from French to Asian, independent shops, and the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America. The Pearl has become a hot spot for visitors as well as locals to enjoy events on the plaza, dinner at one of the restaurants, or a weekend getaway at the Hotel Emma. 

Highlights of Hotel Emma

Hotel highlights include a welcome cocktail. Gorgeous rooftop swimming pool and poolside provisions. Complimentary single-origin slow-pour coffee served in the lobby each day from local roaster, Merit.  

The library is open to hotel guests only and hosts a daily happy hour.  You’ll need a token to attend and order drinks. Or you can choose a book from the 3700 plus volumes donated by Sherry Kafka Wagner, San Antonio historian and author.

The hotel offers valet parking. Room rates start at $595 per night. You can compare rates over at Priceline or and see if you can find a better deal.

The moment you arrive, exemplary service and attention to even the most minute details welcome you with a luxurious embrace. Hotel Emma is truly the pearl in the crown of San Antonio.





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