Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Despite the name, there is nothing French about the -- sorry, Le -- Meridien. Originally founded in 1972 by Air France, the Le Meridien brand was bought in 2005 by Starwood -- which also owns Westin, W, and Sheraton, among others -- and is now simply one of its luxury chains. We mention this up front not to provide historical context but because the Meridien's association with Starwood profoundly affects the hotel's atmosphere, amenities, and service. The fact that guests can use or accumulate Starwood Preferred Guest points by staying here -- along with its location in the heart of the Financial District -- means the Meridien is dominated by business travelers five nights a week. To call it boring wouldn't be entirely unfair. Although the lobby bar is surprisingly hopping for a hotel lounge, it takes last call before midnight. The neighborhood is sleepy during the day and dead at night and on weekends. And the amenities and services are tailored mostly to men and women in suits, not those getting some R&R.
To cater to business travelers -- they know who butters their sourdough -- the hotel provides 24-hour room service, a lobby bar area conducive to schmoozing, a second business lounge right off the lobby, overnight shoe-shine service, a nice business center, Wi-Fi in rooms and all public areas (though it would be nice if the in-room connection was better), and plenty of classy, well-equipped meeting space. With a small lobby and no ballrooms, it's not a place for conventions, but it's ideal for individual business travelers or small groups.
And yet it is a very solid choice, even for tourists, as long as you don't mind being surrounded by discussions of bond markets and exchange rates at breakfast. The Meridien may not have a spa, a cozy vibe, or a selection of family-fun packages, but it has excellent rooms. Renovated in 2008, they're modern, spacious, stylish, and well-appointed, with the types of extras you usually find at five-pearl properties, not four: bathrobes, Frette linens, granite bathroom floors, scales, and so on. If you get upgraded as a loyal Starwood Preferred Guest, you might even land a room on a high floor and end up with a view like this one. Only three or four other hotels in San Francisco have rooms that provide views that panoramic; coincidentally, two of them are also high-end, business-minded Starwoods: the Westin St. Francis and the Palace. The difference is the vibe: Whereas the other two are Grand Old Dames, the Meridien distinguishes itself with modernity, its relatively small size, and its location in the heart of the Financial District.
The heart of the city's sterile, skyscraper-dense Financial District
The Financial District is one of those neighborhoods in which the name says it all. If you're a leisure traveler, it's not a bad place to be, but it's important to know that it's sleepy on weekends and positively dead at night. It's also pretty removed from the city's most popular attractions (Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Haight-Ashbury), but then, so are the other neighborhoods with similarly high-priced accommodations. (You can stay in Nob Hill for a small taste of local life, for instance, but you'd still have to take a cab or bus to the aforementioned sites.) And being so close to the Embarcadero actually makes for an easier commute to Fisherman's Wharf than you'd have anywhere else except the wharf itself. You're also just four short blocks to the Ferry Building, where you can eat like a world-class foodie and catch a ferry to Sausalito.
This Starwood means business. With classy, spacious meeting rooms, a happening lobby bar, and a location in the heart of the Financial District, the Meridien caters primarily to individual and small-group corporate travelers. But its stylish, well-appointed rooms, some with panoramic views, make it a good luxury option for tourists as well.