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Hotel Zelos 3.5

Union Square, San Francisco, California

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Review Summary

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  • Central downtown location, close to Moscone Convention Center, museums
  • Clean, spacious standard room
  • Impressive art in lounge and restaurant
  • Free Wi-Fi (with free Kimpton membership)
  • Free morning coffee and afternoon wine tasting daily
  • Pet-friendly, from house dog Maverick to Pablo Picasso, the hotel's loaner goldfish for guests traveling without their own furry friend
  • 24-hour room service available


  • Half of the rooms overlook chain stores
  • Small fitness center
  • Fifth Floor restaurant pricey for a casual meal
  • Business center has expensive Internet rates
  • Locale isn't all that happening at night
  • Pricey valet parking (but discount for hybrids)

Bottom Line

A sexy 198-room property that doubles as a hip art gallery, the Hotel Palomar has spacious, comfortable rooms, a free wine tasting every evening, an upscale restaurant on the 5th floor, and an open-arms policy toward pets. Other downtown boutiques may cost less, but the Palomar is a cut above for a romantic getaway.

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A romantic boutique with an impressive art collection, a swanky restaurant, and a relaxing, wine happy hour every day.

A recent lobby art exhibit

Situated smack dab in the middle of Market Street's big box retailers, the 198-room Hotel Palomar has more in common with the Bay Area's art galleries than the Old Navy upon which it sits. The entrance and lobby are on the street, but the hotel begins five stories up. The Palomar is part of a mini-chain in the Kimpton family that has an "Art in Motion" theme, which is why paintings from local museums line the walls. During Oyster's 2009 stay, a collection of works by modernist master Marc Chagall -- some on loan from the Jewish Contemporary Museum -- were on display.

Save for an unfortunate view from some rooms, the large standard rooms live up to the Palomar's sexy-meets-classy ethos. For an urban hotel room, it's got ample space -- a comfortable bed, a large desk, and an easy chair fit without making the space feel cluttered or cramped. Add in attentive service and the fancy Fifth Floor restaurant, and the Palomar is a good spot for a quiet getaway above the city masses.

The hotel is centrally located -- the foodie heaven at the Ferry Building is a 10-minute streetcar ride down Market. Thanks to the art on the walls, free happy hour, and dogs in the lobby, it's a hipper alternative to the similarly priced Marriott down the block. On the flip side, the Palomar isn't quite as hip as the SOMA W (and doesn't have a pool), but it's got a cozier vibe than the chichi chain. Other Union Square area boutiques like the Serrano and Kensington Park generally cost less, but neither approaches the Palomar for sophistication. If it's just a place to crash between all-day or all-night sightseeing excursions, then the Palomar probably isn't worth the extra bucks. However, while sipping a glass of Australian Shiraz in the low-lit lounge during the free "Wines of the World" happy hour every evening, it becomes easy to grasp why hearts get left in San Francisco.


Limited services, but solid execution

The front desk

The Palomar is a boutique, so the service isn't your-wish-is-my-command level, but it is always efficient and friendly. Whether it's changing a light bulb or explaining the routes on a jogging map, the staff is prompt and helpful.

  • Pricey valet parking fee (discount for hybrids)
  • Nice perks: free shoeshine and three different daily newspapers in the lobby
  • Overnight laundry and dry-cleaning available
  • Room service available 24 hours


In the middle of a major shopping area, but a great jumping-off point for exploring the city

Map of Hotel Zelos

The Palomar isn't quite in any of San Francisco's well-defined neighborhoods, but it's centrally located and near plenty of transportation options. From the Palomar, it's a convenient walk to Union Square and the Financial District, or a quick streetcar ride down Market to the Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf. With the nearby stops for the Muni (San Francisco's transit system) and BART (for trains to surrounding communities), going further afield is also convenient.

  • One block from the Moscone Convention Center.
  • For better and worse, the Palomar is surrounded by big chain stores like Bloomingdale's and an Apple Store.
  • John's Grill, the renowned old-school steakhouse where Dashiell Hammett ate and drank -- it gets a mention in the "Maltese Falcon" -- is just up the block.
  • Within blocks of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Yerba Buena Center and Gardens
  • One block from cable-car turnaround
  • There isn't a whole going on after dark around these parts.
  • Market Street has quite a few panhandlers. And while Union Square is a safe area, be careful of wandering into the neighboring Tenderloin district, an area with a reputation for being unsafe and unsavory.
  • A ways from the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and Haight-Ashbury but then so are the other neighborhoods with nonbudget accommodations.
  • 30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) airport


Room are large for the area and borderline spotless. Now if something could be done about the view...

The Deluxe Room

All of the rooms were renovated in 2007, and the bedroom and the bathroom remain in solid shape. The large 350-square-foot standard "Deluxe" room is spacious enough to fit a desk, an easy chair, a small dresser, a bench, and a table ideal for housing a goldfish bowl without seeming cluttered (you can borrow said goldfish for your stay if suffering from pet withdrawal). By comparison, the basic rooms at the nearby Palace and the down-the-street Marriott are 300 square feet.

The biggest problem with the rooms are revealed when the curtains are pulled back. Some views are of the empty office building next door and, looking down, the glass atrium of the Container Store. The windows, ledges, and the atrium itself are caked with bird droppings. The hotel probably can't do much about urban birds, but it detracts from the overall romantic ambience. Many of the rooms overlook Market and 4th Streets, or the inner Zen garden, so ask for one of those. The Palomar's rooms don't begin until the 5th floor, so street noise shouldn't be a problem.

  • The standard room comes with either a king or two double beds, each featuring a comfortable Sealy mattress designed specifically for Kimpton hotels. The Egyptian sheets are 200 thread count.
  • Half-cool/half-cheesy animal print robes in rooms. Guests can even bring their animal instincts home if they so desire. The leopard iteration will set you back a pretty penny.
  • Good water pressure in the shower/tub combo
  • Etro toiletries
  • The minibar stocks the great San Francisco beer Anchor Steam
  • Electronics include a 42-inch LCD TV (although no HD channels), iPod docking station, DVD player (bring your own flicks), and on-demand movies and Nintendo games.
  • Free Wi-Fi (with free Kimpton membership sign-up)
  • "Tall Rooms" have 96-inch long beds for visiting NBA teams and the like.
  • The Rene Magritte Suite was inspired by the Belgian surrealist.


The Palomar's amenities are limited, but offers great freebies.

The modest fitness center
  • With three Precor cardio machines -- a bike, treadmill and elliptical -- a Paramount trainer, and a dumbbell rack, the fitness center is small, but adequate. Yoga mats and exercise balls are also available.
  • Free bike rentals available
  • The running club, free to join, leaves the hotel each morning for a jog around the neighborhood.
  • Free wine tasting every afternoon
  • Free coffee and tea each morning
  • Housed in a standard-size room, the business center has three computers, two printers and a meeting table that could fit four or five people. Internet is expensive
  • No spa, but in-room spa services available. See a menu of treatments here
  • The front desk has jogging maps with distances and routes along the Embarcadero.


Like all Kimpton Hotels, the Palomar prides itself on being pet-friendly.

Maverick, the hotel's chocolate lab

The hotel has no restrictions on pets and doesn't charge extra for them. Guests can fill out a "Pet Preferences" card to ensure their animal gets the most out of its stay. Doggie food and water dishes are left out in the lobby, and some guests are lucky enough to be greeted by Maverick, the hotel's chocolate lab.


This romantic boutique hotel isn't tops for kids.

Like many urban San Francisco hotels, the Palomar doesn't have a lot to offer families beyond a central location for sightseeing.

  • Cribs are free.
  • Rollaways are charged per night and fit all but a few rooms.
  • Rooms include DVD players (bring your own movies) and on-demand Nintendo games.
  • No kids' menu


The rooms are borderline spotless, but the windows have urban issues (damn pigeons).

The are a few dents and bruises on the wood furniture, and some black marks on the bathroom floor, but on the whole, the Palomar is in good shape.

  • The fitness center is clean, but messy (towels on the floor and the like).
  • Bird poop spackled the outside of the window, the ledges and the glass atrium of the Container Store, which is the view from some rooms.


The Fifth Floor restaurant is a great spot for an elegant evening.

The Fifth Floor restarant and lounge

In the face of the economic downturn, the hotel changed chefs at its sole restaurant, the Fifth Floor, shifting away from its French roots to a New American menu and lowering prices, but entrees are still cost a tad pricey. There's also a less expensive bar menu. While there's no dress code, the Fifth Floor also doesn't have a casual T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops kind of feel to it. (Although this is California, so they're allowed.)

  • Breakfast served in the Fifth Floor daily. The Country Table buffet was well-stocked with fresh fruit, granola fixings and a bagel bar.
  • No lunch service.
  • Imbibers should make note of the Fifth Floor's extensive wine collection, and the "Whisky Wednesdays" samplings of the good stuff.
  • Room service available 24 hours
  • Free tea and coffee on the 5th floor, just outside the elevators

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Things You Should Know About Hotel Zelos


12 Fourth Street, San Francisco, California 94103, United States


(415) 348-1111

Also Known As

  • Hotel Palomar
  • Hotel Palomar San Francisco
  • Hotel Palomar San Francisco - a Kimpton Hotel
  • Kimpton San Francisco

Room Types

  • Corner King Room
  • Deluxe Room
  • Deluxe Suite
  • Executive King Room
  • Luxury King Room
  • René Magritte Suite

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