Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The Handlery, with 377 rooms and no discernible European character, misrepresents itself as a European boutique hotel. Taken for what it is, though, the hotel offers an admirable range of services and amenities.
The Handlery is now in its third generation of family stewardship. In 1948, Harry Handlery purchased the building (now housing the Historic Rooms) and in 1964 opened an adjacent hotel, the Handlery Motor Inn (now containing the Premier Rooms). Jon Handlery, the current general manager, merged the two in 1987 to form the Handlery Union Square.
Situated on a bustling Union Square block amid art galleries, hotels, restaurants and Irish pubs, the Handlery's somewhat drab outward appearance is a partial indicator of the quality of its contents. The hotel's claim to provide the "ambience of a European boutique hotel" is puzzling, since its strivings in that direction are half-hearted at best, and would seem to be at odds with its other stated goal of evoking classic old San Francisco. Sure, the lobby has and an from England, but these details are hardly noticeable amid the generically contemporary feel of the bright lobby. (For a more determined exercise in faux-European immersion, head around the corner to Villa Florence.)
Still, in spite of its generally unremarkable furnishings, the 377-room hotel is elevated by its always adequate and occasionally impressive service, its dashes of throwback charm, and its open-air atrium and heated pool. The hotel has two room types: the smaller, traditionally furnished Historic ones and the larger Club Rooms, which have better views, sleeker furniture, and up-to-date electronics.
Attentive bell service and a rotation of knowledgeable concierges
Check-in, checkout and all things in between are smooth, and the employees polite and attentive. The lobby is well staffed with bellmen waiting to assist.
Centrally located in Union Square, near major shopping destinations and public transportation
The Handlery sits on the western border of Union Square, which is famous for its high-end retail shops and not much else. Home to enormous outposts of Niketown, Saks, Tiffany, Macy's, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus, among others. Union Square is to San Francisco what 5th Avenue is to New York and Rodeo Drive is to L.A. Locals don't hang out here, but the square is great for people-watching nonetheless, and it occasionally plays host to small festivals and demonstrations. Still, if conspicuous consumption isn't a priority, you might prefer a neighborhood closer to the city's biggest attractions, like Nob Hill or Fisherman's Wharf.
The Handlery offers two different experiences: the rather conventional "Historic" section and the more spacious and amenity-laden "Club" section
The Handlery's two distinct sections -- which were once separate hotels -- have a few key differences, from room size to quality of furnishings to brand of bathroom products. Guests can upgrade from a small Historic room to a much larger Premier room with better furnishings, better views, and more luxurious amenities. It's worth it.
An outdoor pool is the Handlery's gem.
The Handlery's features are comparable to other Union Square hotels with comparable rates. But it also boasts one of the few -- and one of the best -- outdoor pools in the neighborhood, open year round. Situated in an open-air atrium that includes lounge chairs, tables and well-kept trees and flowers, it has no lifeguard or hot tub.
Pet-friendly, with a large refundable deposit
The hotel has a non-refundable fee-per-day dog policy (a portion of which goes to the SPCA), and requires a large refundable deposit. There is a limit of one dog per room and a 40 lb. weight limit. Dogs can be left alone in the room if in a crate. They are permitted in public areas, but not dining establishments, while on a leash.
The hotel is accomodating to families.
While the Handlery doesn't have any kid-specific amenities, the hotel is a pretty good choice for families.
The Handlery passes the cleanliness test.
Aside from the expected nicks and scratches on some of the furniture, rooms are totally clean and in fine condition.
The Daily Grill is right off the hotel lobby, but then again, the neighborhood has a wealth of dining options.
If you can get past the Handlery's misrepresentation of itself as a European boutique hotel, you'll find it a solid choice among Union Square's cheaper offerings. The hotel is divided into two distinct sections, and it's worth shelling out extra for the larger, amenity-laden Premier Section rooms.