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Oyster Hotel Review
Large and impersonal, this Hilton is a busy business hotel.
With 1,908 rooms and 134,500 square feet of meeting space, including nine ballrooms, this Hilton is the quintessential business mega-hotel. The business services are indeed impressive: a business center that prints posters and an office to help with a PowerPoint presentation. But leisure travelers may feel crowded out. Even at 10 p.m., throngs of people fill the sea of maroon armchairs in the lobby. At any time of day or night, guests wait in line at the front desk and concierge station.
The hotel underwent impressive changes to half of its rooms, the lobby, and pool areas in 2012. More modern and stylish, rooms in Tower 3 are a notch above the rather basic rooms elsewhere on-site. The lobby and pool have each been outfitted with new furniture. Many of the hotel's already impressive meeting spaces have also received upgrades and expansions.
Every business service you'd need, but be willing to wait for personal help
Lines at the front desk are typical.
While the breadth of business services is impressive -- the hotel can print posters to your specification and deliver them to your meeting room -- service breaks down when it comes to the basics. Service tends to be impersonal at any large hotel, especially one that deals with large groups on a daily basis. Here it's also slow. There's always a line at the front desk and the concierge.
- Concierge, available daily, helps with sightseeing requests like show tickets and dinner reservations.
- Separate business concierge assists with all business-related needs, like finding a notary public; available daily
- Bell service is available, but you have to request it. They're not stationed at the entrance, ready to grab your bags.
- The business center is a full-service FedEx Kinko's Office and Print Center. Guests can order signs, banners, posters, brochures, or presentations, and buy office supplies.
- Audiovisual services desk available for equipment rental and technical support.
- Package Express service for regular and overnight shipping
- Express checkout by video, voice mail, or drop-off box, good for circumventing long lines in the lobby.
- Self-parking at garage on Ellis Street between Mason and Taylor is expensive, valet is only slightly more.
- Room service available throughout the day (but it's pricey)
Two blocks from shopping-centric Union Square
Hilton San Francisco, which takes up an entire block on O'Farrell Street between Taylor and Mason, is two short blocks southwest of Union Square, an area famous for its couture 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 occasionally plays host to small festivals and demonstrations. Other business hotels abound in the Financial District, a 10-minute walk from Union Square.
- The Mason-Powell cable car station is two-and-a-half blocks from the hotel. It can take you to Fisherman's Wharf, or, with a transfer, to Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square -- for a steal.
- Far from top tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio and Haight-Ashbury but then, so are the other neighborhoods with mid- to high-priced hotels.
- Discount day-of theater seats available at the Union Square ticket kiosk
- Plenty of dining nearby, but if you want to avoid high-end hotel dining and chain restaurants (Cheesecake Factory being the most visible), explore the blocks leading up to Nob Hill, where there's an abundance of small, locally owned restaurants.
- Il Caffe at Union Square, on the eastern side of the square, charges exorbitant rates for its coffee and snacks, but you can't beat the outdoor setting on a sunny day.
- The nearest drugstore, Walgreens, is two blocks away, on Geary Street near Taylor.
- 30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- While Union Square is a safe area, be careful of wandering into the neighboring Tenderloin district, which isn't as safe.
Average amenities in smaller-than-average rooms
A newly renovated Standard Room
Everything about the room has a middle-of-the-road feel, from the beds that are comfortable but not luxurious to the out-of-date electronics (in some rooms). And the drab color scheme -- yellow, brown, and plum -- does nothing to make the room more inviting. This 40-year-old hotel renovates rooms gradually, and it really comes down to luck of the draw when staying here. The newly renovated rooms -- 550 of them completed in 2012 -- have updated furnishings, new flat-screen TVs, and some have stand-alone showers.
- Standard rooms have one king-size bed or two double beds. Mattresses are firm and comfortable, but they not pillow-tops
- Clean 250-thread-count linens and a down comforter
- Flat-screen TV with 32 channels, pay-per-view movies, and video games
- An alarm clock/radio with an iPod connector cable and weak speakers that produce a tinny sound
- Cuisinart coffeemaker with free coffee packets and tea bags
- Work desk with ergonomic chair and an Ethernet cable
- Wired Internet and Wi-Fi are charged per day (though it is free in the lobby)
- Not all rooms have safes; free safe deposit boxes at the front desk
- Small bathroom with the toilet, sink, and shower/tub combo
- Toiletries by Peter Thomas Roth
- Standard Rooms are on floors 5 to 21. City View rooms, on floors 22 to 30, overlook the San Francisco skyline and bay. Suites have balconies
- When the hotel is fully booked, walk-in and last-minute guests have the option of booking just the living room of a suite for a discounted rate. The bed is a drawback -- just a pullout couch; pluses include a balcony, a wet bar, and extra living space
The extensive FedEx Kinko's business center
With nine ballrooms and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space, the Hilton has the largest hotel conference facilities in San Francisco. So not surprisingly, the hotel has a feature for just about every business need: an extensive business center to prepare for all-day meetings, and a pool and large fitness center to unwind afterward. All that's missing is a good bar for sealing business deals after hours. For that, head next door to the Hotel Nikko's Rrazz Lounge, a popular cabaret that hosts famous acts.
- The business center is a full-service FedEx Kinko's Office and Print Center; computers, printers, copiers and a fax machine are accessible
- Safe deposit boxes are available at the front desk, free of charge; accessible 24 hours a day.
- Impressive 2,800-square-foot fitness center with top-of-the-line cardio and strength-training equipment by Precor. Machines have individual TV screens; free headsets available
- A nondescript heated outdoor pool and whirlpool on the 16th floor; towels available
Pet up to 75 pounds allowed
Pets that weigh as much as 75 pounds can stay at the hotel for a nonrefundable fee. Free beds and bowls are available, but they're in limited supply.
All the necessities are covered, but the hotel lacks a family vibe.
The heated pool on the 16th floor
Families are not the primary market at this business-oriented hotel, but the Hilton nonetheless has many family-friendly features, including a pool. For more family friendly hotels, consider a hotel at Fisherman's Wharf, such as the Radisson, which has a scenic pool and direct access to Pier 39.
- Standard rooms with double beds, at 300 square feet, are cramped.
- Rollaway beds are charged per night and can fit in a standard room with a king-size bed.
- Cribs and high chairs are free.
- For more space, book a Junior Suite with two queen beds, or a One-bedroom Suite, which has a pullout couch in the living room.
- The pool, which has no lifeguard, goes down to eight feet deep.
- Urban Tavern has a children's menu that includes full meals with dessert; restaurant provides a portable DVD player with cartoons.
- Free video games in every room. Parental controls are available for in-room movies.
- Mini-refrigerators available for a nightly fee.
Clean enough, but some parts are fresher than others
With close to 2,000 rooms, this 40-year-old hotel renovates only small segments of the property at a time. At any given point, some rooms are older than others, waiting their turn for a renovation. The old Standard Rooms are clean and tidy, but show signs of wear, like the scuff marks on the wallpaper and bed posts. In 2012, 550 guest rooms and meeting spaces were renovated. All rooms are continually updated in between renovations with small changes, such as flat-screen TVs instead of flat-panel or tube TVs, and shower stalls instead of a tub with a showerhead.
Affordable, delicious food at Urban Tavern; expensive room service
The communal table at Urban Tavern
The restaurant and bar Urban Tavern is at once cozy and slick, two adjectives that describe no other aspect of this hotel. Olive-green velvet chairs, a communal dining table, and centerpiece scrap-metal horse add a level of cool that is, frankly, surprising for this property. What's more surprising is its affordable prices, and its large portions won't leave you hungry.
- Like many San Francisco restaurants, the menu focuses on local and organic ingredients.
- The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; bar menu available in the afternoon.
- Breakfast buffet served daily; full American breakfast spread with eggs cooked to order. A la carte also available.
- Starbucks in the lobby.
- Room service prices are astronomical. And prices don't include the 22 percent service charge, tax, and delivery fee.
With 1,908 rooms and meeting space galore, this is the largest hotel in town. Business features are impressive, the restaurant is surprisingly nice, and the gym is well equipped. But rooms vary from impressive to so-so. Crowds of convention goers and business travelers make it difficult to find peace and quiet, or to get help without waiting in a long line.
Things You Should Know About Hilton San Francisco Union Square
- 333 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Hotel Is Also Known As...
- Hilton Hotel San Francisco
- San Francisco Hilton
- Accessible Room
- Junior Suite
- Junior Suite Sight and Sound
- One Bedroom Suite
- Room Selected at Check-in
- Standard Room
- Standard Room City View
- Standard Room Sight and Sound
- Tower Room
- Tower Suite