Haute and Historic: A Review of The Palace San Francisco
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To The Point
The Palace Hotel is one of San Francisco’s top hotels — and you can use points. Pros: Historic and luxurious property with an excellent staff and high-quality food. Cons: The rooms are a bit tight, as are the bathrooms.
Accommodations in San Francisco are notoriously expensive, so using points in the city can be an attractive option. I had two nights planned in San Francisco before heading up to Sonoma for a weekend and was having trouble choosing between an Airbnb in the Mission District or a hotel downtown. Keen to keep cash costs down, I ended up using some of my stash of Marriott Bonvoy points. Having stayed at both The W and the Westin St. Francis on recent visits, I was excited to try out The Palace Hotel which is part of my favorite Marriott brand: The Luxury Collection.
The hotel was built in 1875, then burned down in the 1906 earthquake, was rebuilt and has had multiple renovation projects in the years in between. It is steeped in history and has hosted a wide range of recognizable names from Nikita Khrushchev to Mark Twain. The property is part of the “Historic Hotels of America,” which focuses on conservation of unique properties like this one, and won an award of excellence in 2016.
If you are willing to part with around 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you have lots of options in San Francisco.
Because this was a leisure stay, I wanted to avoid some of the more cookie-cutter brands like the Marriott Marquis and Westins of the world. I was fascinated by The Palace after I took one look at the “Grand Court” (more on that later) and pulled the trigger on a two-night stay that cost 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Cash rates for the hotel on the same nights were $355 with taxes and fees. This meant I was getting 0.8 cents of value per point, on par with TPG’s current valuation.
The hotel is on New Montgomery Street, which is located in prime San Francisco real estate between Mission and Market.
It’s an easy walk to many of the tech offices in the SoMa (South of Market) district, like the Salesforce Tower and the LinkedIn building. It’s a beautiful 15-minute stroll up Market Street to the Ferry Building, and an approximately 20-minute walk to the field where the Giant’s play baseball at AT&T Park. The Montgomery BART station is practically at your doorstep. A Lyft from San Francisco Airport (SFO) ran me about $35 and took about a half hour with some traffic. The BART will take you closer to an hour and cost $9.65.
I arrived at the hotel at around 7pm on a Thursday night and made my way to the check-in desks, which are to the right of the main entrance.
Beautiful fresh flower arrangements were near the front doors.
I had been upgraded to a “Deluxe” room from the one I originally booked (a “Superior” room), thanks to my Ambassador status. I was also offered a choice of continental breakfast, which included the cold items at the breakfast buffet in the lobby, or 500 points. I opted for the breakfast. After an easy five-minute check-in, I was on my way to Room 747 — a room fit for an Aviation Geek!
Guest rooms at The Palace are arranged in a Figure 8, with elevators in the middle. Room 747 was located on the edge of the “8.” The hallways had a classy, old-world feel and were dotted with relics from the past like a now-defunct mail chute.
The room opened up to a massive king-size bed on the left. Plug ports were available on the lamps and there were plenty of lighting options by the bed, which I appreciated. The linens and throw on the bed were silky smooth and extremely comfortable.
The front of the room featured a small TV and desk with a minibar on the right-hand side.
A comfy chair and small table was against the wall near the window, a good idea but it made the small-ish room seem cramped.
Against the front wall was a sizable closet.
Next to the closet was a small but well-equipped bathroom. There was a fancy electronic TOTO toilet and a nice makeup mirror.
The bathroom was also stocked with elegant Byredo toiletries which smelled great. I had never seen Byredo stocked at a Marriott property so it was a pleasant surprise.
The view from the room wasn’t anything special but the window kept out street noise pretty well.
Housekeepers were awesome and went out of their way to neatly fold and place my clothes on the ottoman.
Food and Beverage
Breakfast was served in the beautiful Grand Court, which is the hotel’s atrium and was once the area where carriages entered the property.
Over the decades, this area of the hotel has been host to opulent banquets involving foreign dignitaries and celebrities. You could almost smell the cigar smoke and taste the fine wines consumed there. But to return to my slightly more pedestrian breakfast, there was a large spread of hot items along with a table of baked goods — grains on one side and items like cold cuts, fresh fruit and hard boiled eggs on the other side.
The hot items in the buffet usually consisted of the basics like scrambled eggs, bacon and french toast, along with a rotating selection of different types of Eggs Benedict, sauteed veggies and a few Asian options like steamed greens.
Platinum guests are entitled to enjoy the two side tables (cold items and baked goods) along with orange juice and tea/coffee for free, or pay an upcharge of $7 per person to enjoy the hot items which I thought was fair and well worth it. If you were to pay outright, the full breakfast buffet will run you $39 while the continental breakfast buffet was a pricey $28. You could also order à la carte — items ranged from $20 to $30. I found everything from the crunchy veggies and delicate pastries to the scrambled eggs to be delicious — not $39 good but pretty darn good.
I generally do not have high expectations for service at American hotels, but the servers at breakfast were truly top-notch. Every time I stepped away from the table to the buffet, or even once to take a call, my napkin was folded and placed on the table and beverages were refilled. Literally. Every. Time. The other awesome part about breakfast was just sitting in the airy, light-filled Grand Court. It is such a beautiful room. A Californian à la carte lunch and dinner is served in the space along with high tea at a cost of $68 per person.
Down the hall is the legendary Pied Piper bar.
It is home to Maxfield Parrish’s famous “Pied Piper of Hamelin” painting which was commissioned for the hotel’s re-opening in 1909 after the 1906 earthquake.
Back in 2013 the painting was taken down to sell in a auction and rumored to fetch over $5 million, but after much protest it was re-installed and the Pied Piper bar lives on.
I didn’t end up grabbing a drink, but it was abuzz with a corporate crowd on Thursday, and a bit quieter on Friday.
The Palace’s gym and pool are on the same floor and are both sizable and well-equipped. The space had TRX bands, a pull-up bar, treadmills and plenty of natural light.
The space looked out onto the impressive indoor pool.
The Palace is emblematic of everything a Luxury Collection property should be — a beautiful building steeped in history with prime location, classy service and luxury touches. The Grand Court itself is spectacular and worth a visit even if you simply peek in on your next visit to San Francisco — it’s definitely a good shot for the ‘Gram. The rooms were comfortable, renovated tastefully and functional. From a size perspective, they were on the small side though that is to be expected for such an old building. It is one of the most unique hotels I’ve stayed at in the United States and I’d be excited to re-visit this property on my return to San Francisco. Cash rates can be high, but it’s certainly a decent redemption of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
All photos by the author.
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