Handlery Union Square Hotel Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Union Square, San Francisco, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • A great heated, outdoor pool and open-air atrium
  • Small, private sauna that individuals and groups can reserve
  • Knowledgeable concierge
  • Unusually large business center (five computers)
  • Close to major shopping options and public transportation
  • On-site fitness center
  • Completed a full renovation at the beginning of 2010

Cons

  • Street-facing rooms can be noisy
  • Tiny shower in some rooms
  • No late-night room service
  • Daily fee for Wi-Fi if you stay in the Historic Section
  • Fee for valet parking

Bottom Line

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.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

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 lobby
The lobby

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 "Parisian" lighting and an antique refectory table 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.

 Service

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.

  • Knowledgeable concierge
  • Room service, not 24-hours
  • A convenient breakfast menu card placed on the bed for morning room service

 Location

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.

  • Safe neighborhood (though vagrancy and panhandling are common, as throughout San Francisco)
  • 30-minute taxi to San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • About 40 mintues to the Golden Gate Bridge, 15 minutes to Golden Gate Park, 10 minutes to Fisherman's Wharf and ferries to Alcatraz
  • The hotel is right on two cable car routes: the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines, both of which run north through the Russian Hill and Nob Hill neighborhoods and terminate near Fisherman's Wharf.

 Rooms

The Handlery offers two different experiences: the rather conventional "Historic" section and the more spacious and amenity-laden "Club" section

A Club Room
A Club Room

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.

Premier Rooms

  • At 450 square feet, rooms are quite large for San Francisco, and many overlook the courtyard pool and have a balcony or patio.
  • Cable TV and pay-per-view movies
  • Lather bath products
  • Up-to-date technology, like the Samsung flat-screen TV and MP3-enabled clock radio, in addition to extras like a lighted makeup mirror, bathroom scale, bathrobes, two phones, free local weekday newspaper, Wi-Fi, and an electric shoe polisher.
  • Comfortable beds with Serta Perfect Sleeper Master Suite mattresses

Historic Section

  • The 2010 renovations brought flat-screen TVs to all rooms
  • Comfortable beds with Serta Perfect Sleeper Master Suite mattresses
  • Cable TV and pay-per-view movies
  • Room includes a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, mini-fridge, and Nintendo 64, for a fee. For guests without a personal computer to get wireless Internet, rooms include a computer keyboard, for Internet use on the TV screen, for a fee.
  • Clean bathrooms with Holcombe & Moore aromatherapy bath products, but some have tiny showers

 Features

An outdoor pool is the Handlery's gem.

The barbershop
The barbershop

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.

  • Private sauna can be booked, for an hour at a time, through the concierge. Dark and low-ceilinged, it's open daily.
  • Business center, right off the lobby, has five computers and a printer. Guests pay to use the Internet in either 45 minute or daily increments.
  • Roof access via a stairway, for views -- though not particularly scenic -- of the surrounding cityscape.
  • Men's only barbershop in lobby. Once a ubiquitous hotel service, the barbershop has faded, eclipsed by fitness centers and spas as standard amenities. The Handlery preserves the tradition, running a two-chair, men's only operation.
  • Pricey valet parking, unlimited in-and-out privileges
  • Provides coupons to Macy's for 10 percent off any purchase

 Pet Friendly

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.

 Family

The hotel is accomodating to families.

Kids will love the pool
Kids will love the pool

While the Handlery doesn't have any kid-specific amenities, the hotel is a pretty good choice for families.

  • Kids will love the pool.
  • Due to fire codes, Historic Rooms accommodate up to four people and Club Rooms accommodate up to five.
  • Room service kids' menu
  • Free cribs
  • Rollaway beds for charged

 Cleanliness

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.

 Food

The Daily Grill is right off the hotel lobby, but then again, the neighborhood has a wealth of dining options.

The Daily Grill, adjacent to the hotel lobby, serves American fare. Its black-and-white framed photos lend it the air of a smoky men's club.

 Bottom Line

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.

Things You Should Know About Handlery Union Square Hotel

Address

  • 351 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Handlery
  • Handlery Hotel
  • Handlery Hotel San Francisco
  • Handlery Union Square
  • Handlery Union Square San Francisco
  • Hotel Handlery Union Square

Room Types

  • Club Room
  • Petite Room
  • Roof Top Garden Suite
  • San Francisco Suite
  • Standard Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 377
Pool: N/A
Fitness Center: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Jacuzzi (in room): N/A
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Hotel Information

Location: Union Square, San Francisco
Address: 351 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
(See Map)
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