Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Many hotels claim to be synonymous with one superlative or another. ("Our name is synonymous with service .... ") With the Ritz, it's precisely the opposite: The superlative "ritzy" comes straight from the hotel's name. This Ritz -- 276 guest rooms and 60 suites in a stately century-old building whose colonnaded facade resembles the U.S. Supreme Court -- maintains the conservative classiness that defines the chain: traditional oil-paintings on the walls, fresh orchids, marble everywhere, and more chandeliers than you can count. In the afternoon, a harpist performs in the lounge. In the rooms, Mozart welcomes you on the radio. The room-service spread included a single pink rose. Classy all the way.
It all adds up to a pleasant but unexciting experience. With the exception of a few fun, quirky touches -- the bellmen's top hats, the guestbook in the entryway -- the Ritz offers very little in the way of fun surprises, the unexpected treats that make a vacation memorable. The Mandarin Oriental, for instance, delivers tea to your room in the afternoon.
Even with the expected, the Ritz doesn't quite match up to its competitors. No separate soaking tub and shower, just a standard shower/tub combo in the rooms, unlike at the St. Regis (or even at its sister properties in New York). No panoramic views like at the Fairmont or Intercontinental Mark Hopkins. No 24-hour butler (St. Regis) or free rides in the house Maserati (Fairmont Heritage Square).
What you'd expect from a Ritz -- top-notch in every facet -- but it doesn't quite match up to its five-pearl rivals
The staff dresses formally, and when you dial from your room, you're addressed as "Mr. W______." But overall, it's more warmth and efficiency than old-San-Francisco aristocracy. There's always a doorman to open the door and hail a cab. Room-service breakfast includes a rose and French-pressed coffee, and service requests are quick and efficient.
The issue isn't whether you're getting excellent service -- for these prices, you'll get excellent service -- it's what you're getting compared to other luxury places. And the Ritz, alas, doesn't do anything to separate itself from the well-heeled crowd. It lacks the VIP-style bonuses that some of its competitors offer -- 24-hour butler at the St. Regis, free Maserati service at the Fairmont Ghirardelli.
In the heart of Nob Hill, one of the city's, well, ritziest neighborhoods
The Ritz sits two blocks from the peak of Nob Hill, a neighborhood jokingly -- okay, half-jokingly -- referred to by locals as "Snob Hill," which should tell you quite a bit of what you need to know. It's primarily residential with a few luxury hotels mixed in (the Mark Hopkins, the Fairmont, and the Huntington are among the Ritz's distinguished neighbors). San Franciscans don't really hang out here, though. You'll need to head north, to North Beach or the Marina, or west, to Russian Hill or Pacific Heights, to find the best local restaurants, bars, and shops.
Basically, if you walk up the hill, on any east-west street, you'll find yourself with more and more stunning views and a temporarily enhanced sense of self-worth, not to mention some serious lactic acid buildup (feel the burn!). Technically, the Ritz is closer to Chinatown, which is a block away down the hill, than it is to those gilded neighbors at the top of the hill.
Luxurious, naturally, but disappointingly devoid of amazing amenities or pleasant little surprises
Classy but dull. That's the rooms at the Ritz. They're spacious by San Francisco standards -- Deluxe Rooms, the most basic, start at 400 square feet -- and well-appointed, with good-size desks, two desk chairs, a dresser, and a comfy armchair. The conservative decor -- muted colors, tassled fringe, Chinoiserie cabinetry -- will appeal to some more than others, but there's no denying its class.
The problem with the rooms mirrors issues with the hotel as a whole: lack of imagination. Room look like rooms at any other Ritz, with no fun surprises or clever additions. (By contrast, the Mandarin Oriental's rooms have binoculars to better enjoy the spectacular views.) With the exception of the art on the walls, which depicts classic San Francisco scenes, nothing reflects the singularity of the city. By comparison, take the rooms at the two New York Ritzes, which are otherwise just as conservative. The Central Park Ritz has a selection of DVDs of movies that take place in Central Park. At the Ritz Battery Park, rooms overlooking the Statue of the Liberty come with a telescope. Small touches, sure, but it's the little things that make the difference in this lofty price range.
As you'd expect from a large luxury property, the Ritz boasts an impressive collection of features. Of course, it has the big-city, big-hotel standards -- gym, business center, meeting/party space aplenty.
A destination unto itself, with a full range of massage therapies and face and body treatments
The Ritz is one of just a few San Francisco hotels with a luxury spa on site. In addition to the usual range of treatments, the impressive Spa-de-Vie plays host to the hotel's fitness center, which you do not have to pay extra to use.
Not the most thrilling atmosphere for children, but the range of kid-friendly services and amenities is second-to-none
Because of its grand-old-dame vibe (turn-of-the-20th-century architecture, antiquish furniture, conservative decor) and button-down clientele), the Ritz isn't ideal for families with young children. Nevertheless, the Ritz does lots to welcome them.
It's a Ritz. Translation: not an issue.
Cleanliness, strictly speaking, isn't a problem -- the place was nearly immaculate, as you'd expect of a Ritz. (The only infraction: some stray garbage near the morning coffee spread in the lobby.) There were some nicks and dents in the room. But for a hotel last renovated in 2006-07, that's par for the course.
Once known for its upscale Dining Room, the hotel opened Parallel 37 in 2011 to offer a more laidback atmosphere. The restaurant is named after the latitude coordinate it runs along, and features locally-grown produce as often as possible. With mostly wooden accents and casual, modern decor, the restaurant offers interactive and globally-inspired menus, which are surprisingly well-priced. Dinner entrees include creative options like crispy chicken feet, smoked lamb belly, and geoduck, as well as more familiar offerings like dungeness crab and rib eye steak. Dishes are fun and always fresh, with the head chef regularly shopping for interesting produces at San Francisco's farmers markets daily.
For a more upscale vibe, the Lobby Lounge is decked out with a swanky interior and prices to match. The menu is still a on the more casual side, with pizza and burgers, but is has elegant touches like tea-infused cocktails and Rabbit Terrine Charcuterie.
Everything you'd expect from a Ritz -- formal, doting service; cultivated decor; tasteful, tasty dining; a luxury spa -- all in the ritziest of San Francisco neighborhoods. But while luxury competitors offer free limo rides, 24-hour butlers, or panoramic views, the Ritz lacks a wow factor. It's largely a matter of taste, of course, but we prefer the St. Regis and Mandarin Oriental.