A bustling hotel catering to both tourists and business travelers, with smaller-than-average but modern rooms and many features
The 1,010-room, 32-floor, Parc 55 hotel is the fourth-largest hotel in San Francisco, and it feels like it. Its giant, airy lobby hosts an endless parade of guests from all over the world -- among them, flight crews from Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, and British Airways, as well as a meaningful contingent of Japanese travelers (the hotel even offers some singage and a TV channel in Japanese). Due to the Parc 55's close proximity to public transportation on Market Street and the high-end shops and theaters in Union Square, it is a good option for just about anyone visiting San Francisco.
The Parc 55 first opened in 2006, in what was once the Renaissance by Marriott. When the Parc's current owners took over, they brought in an extensive contemporary art collection and hired the esteemed architectural firm Gensler to execute a $30 million renovation that was finished in June 2009. The same outfit that refit the Hilton Financial District and managed the massive CityCenter project in Las Vegas, Gensler stripped out the Parc's '80s-era decor and refinished the hotel in cool greys and browns, added a restaurant, and spruced up the small guest rooms with flat-panel HD TVs, multimedia docks, and Wi-Fi. Outside the rooms, the modern 24-hour fitness center is one of the largest in San Francisco. And while the on-site restaurants aren't pinnacles of the city's dining scene, they are popular among hotel guests, and the bar can be swarmed during happy hour.
It's hard to overstate the buzz and bustle of the crowds at the Parc 55, but you'll find a similar experience at any 1,000-plus-room hotel, including the Westin St. Francis, the Marriott San Francisco, or the Hilton San Franscisco. While the Westin is generally more expensive, it also has larger rooms, a highly regarded cocktail bar, and a more desirable location directly on Union Square. The Marriott and Hilton are, in general, pretty interchangable with the Parc; if you're trying to choose between the three hotels, opt for the one that is least expensive. For a cozier experience in the same neighborhood, consider the Hotel Monaco for its quirkier style and a more inviting lobby or the Hotel Adagio, which has bigger standard rooms than the Parc 55.
Service is up to par for a midpriced, big-city hotel, though lunch is not available from room service.
Valets and bellmen swarm arriving guests at the ground level, offering assistance, and the front desk staff does its best to keep up with the sheer quantity of arrivals and departures. A concierge can help with the usual requests, and room service can provide breakfast and dinner -- but not lunch.
Short lines at the front desk, often during peak check-in and checkout times
Conceirge available throughout the day; the concierge can help with common tourist information and some restaurant reservations
Room service breakfast and dinner is available; no service in-between the two meals
The turndown service, free on request, comes with a couple chocolates and the coming day's weather forecast.
Fee for valet parking with in-out privileges
Four blocks from the shopping and theater hub of Union Square, the Parc 55 is just off the central artery of Market Street and two minutes from a Powell Street cable car stop.
The Parc 55 sits four blocks south of Union Square, which is famous for its shopping. 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 (as well as a popular ice-skating rink around the holidays). If conspicuous consumption isn't a priority, however, you might prefer a neighborhood closer to the city's biggest attractions, like Nob Hill or Fisherman's Wharf.
While Union Square is a safe area, be careful of wandering into the neighboring Tenderloin district (southwest of the square, and just a couple blocks west of the hotel). The Tenderloin has a not-entirely-undeserved reputation for drugs, prostitution, and other crime.
One block from the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable car lines, which run to Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square or to the kid-friendly waterfront attractions at Fisherman's Wharf
Far from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio, Golden Gate Park and Haight-Ashbury, but then so are most hotels
Tip: For discount theater tickets, you can buy day-of seats for select shows at the Union Square ticket kiosk
Tip: If you want to avoid high-end hotel food and chain restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory that surround Union Square, walk about 15 minutes toward Nob Hill where there is an abundance of excellent, locally owned restaurants
30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport
The smaller-than-average rooms feel a bit cramped, but they all have modern electronics, including HD TVs, and comfortable beds.
A Club Room
Standard rooms (about 228 square feet) are a bit small compared with the standard rooms at other hotels in San Francisco but still have enough room for either one king-size bed or two double-size beds. (Double-Double Rooms can feel especially cramped.)
Bay windows; great views of the city, including views of the Transamerica Pyramid from the higher floors. (Rooms above the 20th floor are more expensive.)
Comfortable beds: four down pillows; down comforters and duvets
The 31st-floor Executive Club lounge (available to guests who upgrade to the more expensive club-floor rooms) features free continental breakfast on weekdays and evening snacks, cocktails, and desserts Sunday through Thursday.
Large, well-maintained, 24-hour fitness center (free for guests to access) with tons of equipment, including six treadmills, eight elipticals, two bikes, a good selection of weight machines, free weights, and a sauna
Wi-Fi (extra fee) is available both in the rooms and in the lobby (though, in the lobby, connection was spotty).
24-hour business center with six computers and one copier-printer; three more computers and a small printer for guests is also available in the hallway near Smooth.
A small shop sells snacks, drinks, souvenirs, postcards, stamps, and other necessities.
Not the best choice for families -- smaller rooms; no pool; business focused
Other hotels -- like the Handlery Hotel, which has bigger rooms and a pool -- might be a better choice for families who wish to stay in Union Square. For additional options, take a look at our editors' picks for the best kid-friendly hotels in San Francisco.
Double-Double Rooms can sleep up to four people (though the quarters might be a bit tight); connecting rooms are also available.
Rollaway beds, which can fit only in king rooms, are charged per stay.
Kids' menus available at Cityhouse during lunch and dinner
Scuff marks here and there, but overall well maintained
The hallways show some scuffs, but the hotel is otherwise very clean, especially considering the high volume of guests. The rooms and bathrooms were both well cleaned.
The Parc 55's restaurants serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the hotel isn't known for its cuisine.
Lunch at Smooth
There are two restaurants inside the hotel, the independently operated hole-in-the-wall-style Smooth and the more formal Cityhouse restaurant. Though its steakhouse and New-American entrees are priced for it, Cityhouse isn't quite relevant in the hyper-competitive San Francisco dining scene -- it's more popular with guests than locals. The noodle platters at Smooth, however, get decent reviews from locals.
The Cityhouse restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner; dinner entrees range from San Francisco's signature fish stew, cioppino, to steaks and chops.
The bar at Cityhouse, which operates continuously from day to late night, can be very popular during happy hour and also offers a short menu of burgers, wings, and other bar food (served until midnight).
Smooth is a casual Asian restuarant in, but not operated by, the hotel.
Barbary Coast is a small coffee-and-pastry shop on the ground floor.
Room service breakfast is available for breakfast and dinner with no service in-between the two.