Sometimes you just need to get away (see: “The Thrill That Only Buying a Walk-Up Airline Ticket Can Bring”), but jet setting to a new locale isn’t always in the cards. The beauty of hotel bars is that they allow you to enjoy the best parts of going on vacation without leaving the comfort of your city. Elisabeth and I have found respite many evenings at some of the cities most posh hotel bars – places we would ordinarily never be able to afford to stay at (as we learned one evening at the Fairmont when we tried to get a room at the last minute).
Elisabeth and I have explored the hotel bar scene with purpose, and along the way have discovered some of our favorite spots. So, after much thought and many evenings out, here are the top 5 hotel bars in San Francisco that are sure to offer an evening of fun for both locals and visitors.
5. The View a Marriott Marquis – “The Destination”
Why it is Fabulous: The Marriott Marquis is a popular destination for business travelers and tourists alike due to its proximity to the Moscone Convention Center and the Union Square shopping area. It is the second tallest hotel in San Francisco, and the hotel bar, The View, is located at the 39th floor making it a great stop for those looking to enjoy all the San Francisco skyline has to offer.
This bar is markedly less ostentatious than others in the city – making it the perfect place to just kick back and enjoy a glass of wine and good conversation. Nobody is trying too hard here, which can be a refreshing change from the dog and pony show that happens at a lot of places in the city. Although The View offers a laidback vibe, its modern décor, rhythmic background music and low lightning, give it a hip and sultry ambiance that makes you feel like you are drinking in class.
Address: 55 Fourth Street
Hours: Mon.-Thur., Sun. 4 p.m. – 12 a.m.; Fri.-Sat. 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.
4. Harry Denton’s Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel – “The Original”
Why it is Fabulous: The Starlight Room first opened its doors in 1992, but looks like it was plucked from another decade. Designed to be reminiscent of 1930s glamour, the lounge strikes just the perfect amount of kitsch, which makes going there a novelty. The velvet covered booths; crimson colored silk drapery; lavish chandeliers; and beveled mirrors, set the tone for this quasi-classy joint.
Located on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake, it also offers a stunning view of the city with landmarks like Telegraph Hill and the Bay Bridge in plain view. The bar also features a live band, so there is plenty of dancing to be had. The Starlight Lounge offers a wildly diverse crowd – from newly minted 21 year olds to something closer to your grandparent’s age. Everyone leaves his or her inhibitions at home –making it hopelessly charming.
Address: 450 Powell Street
Hours: Tuesday- Saturday, 6 p.m.—2 a.m.
3. Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel – “The Scene”
Why it is Fabulous: The Redwood Room is delightfully cliché, and is a place where people go to see and be seen. City dwellers and hotel guests flock to this bar in their finest designer duds (unless you are me, then you just wear your clothes from work). The people watching is at a prime, and don’t be surprised to see people get their groove on although a dance floor is noticeably absent.
The room itself is quite a site with a backlit bar; redwood paneling; and a striking bar that according to the hotel was made from a single redwood tree. The swanky, modern ambiance make it a hot spot for San Francisco’s young professionals or travelers looking to meet some of the city’s elite. The drinks are nothing special, because going to the Redwood Room is all about the scene. If you go on the weekends be prepared to stand as tables are scarce and may require a reservation.
Address: 495 Geary Street
Hours: Sun.-Thur. 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.
2. Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins – “The View”
Why it is Fabulous: The Top of the Mark has been at the top of people’s list since 1939 when the George D. Smith converted the 19th floor penthouse into a cocktail lounge. Since those days people have been lining up to experience all the grandeur the bar has to offer – including celebrities and dignitaries such as: Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Prince Edward, Prince Charles, Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Jeff Goldblum and Robin Williams, to name a few.
The picturesque view and elegance of the lounge is reminiscent of the glamour of yesteryear. The nostalgia of a different time tends to attract a more mature crowd, but is fun for young and old alike. It regularly features a jazz band, and you will likely see people dancing the swing or doing the foxtrot. It is also famous for its 100 martinis menu, so when in Rome…well you know the rest. In short get a martini as other drinks (notably the margarita) really isn’t their thing.
Address: 999 California Street
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 6:30-11 a.m., 12-2:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-12 a.m.; Fri.-Sat. 6:30-11 a.m., 12-2:30 p.m., 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 5 p.m.- 12 a.m.
1. Pied Piper Bar and Grill at The Palace Hotel – “The Classic”
Why it is Fabulous: For more than a century, people have been making their way to the Pied Piper for drinks and local California fare. The dark wood paneling that adorns the bar throughout gives it an opulent feel that makes you think that this is the type of place Don Draper would have hung out in (fittingly, there is a Mad Men martini). If you are looking to experience quality cocktails – then you won’t be disappointed by the menu, which features an assortment of carefully crafted libations.
Named after the famous Maxfield Parrish painting that hangs behind the bar (source: The Palace Hotel), the Pied Piper Bar & Grill offers a splendidly eclectic crowd. People tend to be very social, which lends itself to easily making new friends. If you are lucky you might even meet a pseudo famous person too. This is a bar that allows you to be a sophisticate (even if it is only for the night), and you are sure to enjoy a few adventures along the way.
Address: 2 New Montgomery, San Francisco
Hours: Mon. – Fri., 11:30 -12 a.m.; Sat., 11 – 12 a.m.; Sun., 10 -12 a.m.
Here are a few others that didn’t make the list, but are also worthy of a visit.
What are your favorite hotel bars in San Francisco or in other cities? Leave them in the comments below.