The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Nob Hill, San Francisco, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • Neighborhood sleepy at night and on weekends
  • Stodgy decor, mature vibe may bore kids
  • Muted atmosphere and unspectacular rooms may bore adults.
  • Parking is absurdly pricey.

Bottom Line

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.

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 Scene

Ritzy. (Duh.) The Ritz is all class -- including a luxury spa and a five-star restaurant -- but it lacks the pizzazz of some of its competitors.

The facade's impressive colonnades
The facade's impressive colonnades

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).

 Service

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 room service spread
The room service spread

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.

  • Nightly turndown service with free chocolates and bottled water and a photocopy of the New York Times Evening Digest ("Tomorrow's news... tonight")
  • 24-hour room service
  • Free overnight shoe shine

 Location

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.

  • Fisherman's Wharf is down the hill, less than a mile away (take the cable car back up!).
  • The famous curvy block of Lombard Street is less than half a mile away.
  • Far from the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and Haight-Ashbury but then, so are the other neighborhoods with high-end accommodations
  • Cable car runs alongside hotel, on California Street.
  • 30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Safe neighborhood (though vagrancy and panhandling are common, as throughout the

 Rooms

Luxurious, naturally, but disappointingly devoid of amazing amenities or pleasant little surprises

The Standard Room
The Standard Room

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.

 Features

An impressive array -- gym, business center, meeting rooms

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.

 Luxury Spa

A destination unto itself, with a full range of massage therapies and face and body treatments

The waiting room at Spa-de-Vie
The waiting room at Spa-de-Vie

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.

  • Appointments available seven days a week
  • Treatments range from a basic deep tissue massage to the "Ultimate Day of Luxury"
  • The kids' spa menu includes the "Strawberry Ice Cream Pedicure"
  • A 20 percent gratuity is automatically added to all services
  • For the full spa menu, click here

 Family

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.

  • POLO ("Protect Our Little Ones") program includes free toys, coloring books and crayons, and other treats for kids, all placed in your room before you arrive.
  • "Spa Kids" menu for teens and younger children at Spa-de-Vie
  • Free cribs and rollaway beds
  • Some connecting rooms
  • Safe neighborhood (though vagrancy and panhandling are common, as throughout San Francisco)
  • Be forewarned: Nob Hill is hilly -- steeply hilly. If you're a walking family, and your kids are too young to trudge back up, and you're not keen to push them up in a stroller, you might prefer a hotel closer to sea level.

 Cleanliness

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.

 Food

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.

 Bottom Line

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.

Things You Should Know About The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco

Address

  • 600 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA, 94108-2305, US

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Ritz Carlton San Francisco
  • Ritz San Francisco
  • Ritz-Carlton San Francisco
  • San Francisco Ritz
  • San Francisco Ritz Carlton
  • San Francisco Ritz-Carlton
  • The Ritz-Carlton

Room Types

  • Club Deluxe Room
  • Club Junior Suite
  • Club One Bedroom Suite
  • Deluxe Room
  • Junior Suite
  • One Bedroom Suite
  • Presidential Suite 910
  • Ritz-Carlton Suite 919
  • Superior Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 336
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Jacuzzi: Yes
View All

Hotel Information

Location: Nob Hill, San Francisco
Address: 600 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA, 94108-2305, US
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