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Great design, top-notch service, a well-regarded spa, and a buzzing bar and restaurant -- another great boutique from the Joie de Vivre hotel group
The Hotel Vitale
The gleaming brick exterior of the 200-room Hotel Vitale looks almost too shiny. The building, completed in 2005, looks like a bit of an outlier among the historic structures that line the San Francisco Embarcadero waterfront -- the 19th-century Ferry Building; the Bay Bridge; the Harbor Court Hotel, which occupies an old YMCA building that dates back to 1926.
So why would Joie de Vivre, a California-based boutique hotel group, build a new, eight-floor property here? The waterfront has seen quite a change over the past two decades, sparked by a 1989 earthquake that destroyed the Embarcadero Freeway and opened up some stunning views. In 2000, AT&T Park started a waterfront revitalization south of the hotel, and in 2003 the Ferry Building, across the street, reopened as a foodie destination with gourmet shops and high-quality restaurants. Today, the Vitale finds itself in what's probably the busiest -- and most appealing -- slice of the Financial District.
Plus, there are clear advantages to staying in a newer building. The Vitale's guest rooms -- each with flat-panel TVs, iPod docks, well-stocked minibars, and high-end bath products from Lather -- are far more spacious than those at the Harbor Court. In addition, unlike at the Harbor Court, there's enough room outside the rooms for an excellent spa and a restaurant that draws as many locals as guests with its bar scene.
The service is, in general, at the high level guests deserve for the price, though some details might be overlooked.
Service is good, though it's not quite as doting as you might find at more expensive luxury properties in San Francisco, such as the Mandarin Oriental or the St. Regis. No doubt, the staff tries, but guests don't always see the follow-through.
- Well-staffed check-in desk
- Free overnight shoeshines
- A concierge is on duty daily
- Evening turndown service is by request and includes a forecast of the coming day's weather, a bottle of water, and a TCHO-brand chocolate.
- 24-hour room service
- Free car service available to Financial District addresses within one mile. Morning and evening hours vary Monday through Saturday; there's no free car service on Sundays.
- Valet parking fee; this is the only parking option.
On the waterfront Embarcadero, two blocks from the gourmet shops and dining at the Ferry Building and a short stroll from the skyscrapers of the Financial District
On the eastern edge of San Francisco's somewhat sterile, skyscraper-dense Financial District, the Hotel Vitale fronts the picturesque waterfront Embarcadero promenade -- an ideal location within the neighborhood. It is near a number of bayside attractions, fine dining, and the BART trains; other public transportation on Market Street is only a five-minute walk away.
- One block to the Ferry Building, a foodie paradise chockablock with high-end restaurants and the host to a renowned, thrice-weekly farmers' market
- Across the street from ferries to Oakland, Sausalito, and Alameda
- One block to San Francisco's main artery, Market Street, and numerous public transportation options including the California Street cable car, F-line streetcar, and Embarcadero BART station
- Five-minute cab ride (or a half-hour walk) to the kid-friendly attractions and seafood restaurants of Fisherman's Wharf
- About a 40-minute taxi to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), depending on traffic
Spacious, well designed, some superb views, swanky bathrooms, and all the business travel essentials: great beds; big desks; free Wi-Fi
A Deluxe City View Room
In a style that looks vaguely Japanese -- polished stones, lightly stained wood, and copious horizontal lines -- the guest rooms have a notably tranquil feel. While the square footage of the standard rooms (310 square feet) is about average for San Francisco, the design makes the most of the space and the rooms actually feel larger than the norm. Plus, all of the fabrics and furnishings are of the highest quality, in contrast to the cheaper-looking fixtures at other, more affordable, boutique hotels.
- Superior and Deluxe City View Rooms -- the two most basic room categories -- start at a comfortable 310 to 320 square feet -- about average for San Francisco, but more than twice the size of the standard rooms at the nearby Harbor Court hotel.
- Deluxe Waterfront Rooms (380 square feet) have terrific views of the bay and the Bay Bridge.
- Great beds: comfortable mattress; four down pillows (and three accent pillows); down comforter with a duvet
- Small, 26-inch Philips flat-panel TV with 23 channels, including HBO and ESPN
- DVD player; guests can request movies delivered to rooms for free
- The Memorex hi-fi system (in all rooms) includes an iPod dock and a CD player; down-tempo Elemental Chill CDs available to borrow.
- Stocked minibar that includes, in addition to the standard liquor and snacks, a personal oxygen canister ($70)
- Work desk in all room types with a comfortable chair and three easily accessible power plugs
- Free "basic" Internet, both wired or wireless; a faster "premium" connection is available for $10 a day, but I found the basic service to be adequate for general Web surfing.
- Electronic safe, large enough for a laptop
- Large, limestone bathroom with a deep tub-shower combo in most rooms (Deluxe Waterfront Rooms only have rainfall showers); Urban Studios and Panoramic Suites have separate, deep soaking tubs in addition to standing showers.
- High-quality Lather-brand shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, and bar soap; other toiletries like toothpaste are free by request.
Small fitness center and business center, as well as a standout spa, free yoga, and free access to a great gym with a pool at the YMCA (half-a-block away)
- Spa Vitale offers various massages and facials, but it is best known for its signature "Bathing Ritual," a 25-minute outdoor soak in a private, rooftop bamboo garden ($60 per person).
- Small business center with three computers and a laser printer; the concierge can assist with copies and faxes.
- Two outdoor terraces (one on the 5th and another on the 7th floor) open to all guests; excellent views of the Ferry Building, Bay Bridge, and Treasure Island
- Modest, 24-hour fitness center (free to access) with one treadmill, an elliptical, a recumbent bike -- all with personal video screens -- and a Paramount weight machine and free weights
- Free day passes to the massive Embarcadero YMCA (just half a block away) and its great gym, fitness classes, and 25-meter pool
- Free daily yoga classes
With rooms in the 300- to 400-square-foot range, the Vitale is a better boutique option for those traveling with kids than the nearby Harbor Court. But the big caveat about bringing the kids here also applies to all Financial District hotels: While they're close to the foodie-focused Ferry Building and lots of public transportation, it's a half-hour walk (or five-minute cab ride) to the kid-friendly activities and attractions of Fisherman's Wharf.
- Standard rooms with two queen beds can sleep up to four; the hotel doesn't have rollaway beds.
- Family Studios offer two queen beds or a king bed and sleeper sofa; they also have dining tables for four, something the base-level rooms don't have.
- Pack-and-play cribs available at no extra fee
- No kids' menus for room service or at the on-site restaurant
While San Francisco's best pet-friendly hotels go above and beyond, the Vitale is a good Financial District choice for those traveling with a pup. While the Harbor Court hotel, half a block away, is also a pet-friendly option -- and accepts animals other than dogs -- rooms there are about half the size of those at the Vitale.
- Dogs only
- No additional fee
Opened in 2005 and still looking new
Americano, the on-site restaurant, is as popular with guests as it is with locals; more great dining within walking distance.
- Americano's Italian and New American menu includes items like risotto, cioppino, and pizzas, but most locals know it for its buzzing bar scene. It's open Monday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch (brunch on weekends), and dinner.
- A limited menu of soups, pizzas, panini, and antipasti is available in the bar and lounge of Americano throughout the day.
- 24-hour room service from Americano
- Numerous other restaurants of varying quality and cuisine are within walking distance of the hotel.
The stylish, 200-room Hotel Vitale has an ideal location on the Financial District's revitalized waterfront, surrounded by fine dining. Its beautiful guest rooms, top-tier services, reputable spa, and numerous freebies -- Wi-Fi, daily yoga, passes to use the nearby YMCA's lap pool -- make it a great luxury choice.
Things You Should Know About Hotel Vitale
- Eight Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Hotel is Also (or Was Formerly) Known As
- Vitale Hotel San Francisco
- Vitale San Francisco
- Deluxe City View Room
- Family Studio
- Landmark Terrace Suite
- Panoramic Suite
- Superior Room
- Superior Water View Room
- Terrace Studio
- Urban Studio Room
- Waterfront Room