Smaller-than-average standard rooms, with bland decor
Some rooms share floor with meeting rooms
Daily fee for in-room Wi-Fi
Lobby is almost always busy and loud, with long lines at front desk
Not actually in Union Square; hotel borders seedier Tenderloin neighborhood
With 1,907 rooms and meeting space galore, this is the largest hotel in town. Business features are impressive, the restaurant is surprisingly nice, and the gym is well equipped. But rooms, which are undergoing renovations in waves through 2017, vary from impressive to so-so. Crowds of conventioneers and business travelers make it difficult to find peace and quiet (the lobby noise level is usually that of a dull roar), or to get help without waiting in a long line. Travelers in want of free Wi-Fi could check out the neighboring Grand Hyatt San Francisco, another business-friendly hotel in Union Square.
Large and impersonal, this Hilton is a busy business hotel
With 1,907 rooms and 134,500 square feet of meeting space, including nine ballrooms, this Hilton is the quintessential business mega-hotel. The business services are indeed impressive: the business center can print posters and deliver them to your meeting room and there's an office to help with PowerPoint presentations. But leisure travelers may feel crowded out. Even at 10 p.m., throngs of people fill the lobby. At any time of day or night, guests wait in line at the front desk and concierge station.
In recent years, the hotel has made impressive upgrades to many of its rooms, meeting spaces, and common areas, including a complete lobby renovation in 2015. Rooms in Tower 3 are a notch above the rather basic rooms elsewhere on-site, and rooms in Tower 2 rooms are undergoing renovations until early 2017.
Adjacent to the Tenderloin, but two blocks from shopping-centric Union Square
Hilton San Francisco, which takes up an entire block on O'Farrell Street between Taylor and Mason, is two short blocks southwest of Union Square, an area famous for its couture shops and not much else. Home to enormous outposts of Niketown, Saks, Tiffany, Macy's, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus, among others, Union Square is to San Francisco what Fifth 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 occasionally plays host to small festivals and demonstrations. Other business hotels abound in the Financial District, a 10-minute walk from Union Square. Despite the hotel's name, the Hilton San Francisco Union Square is actually on the edge of the Tenderloin, a somewhat sketchy part of town.
The Mason-Powell cable car station is two and a half blocks from the hotel. It can take you to Fisherman's Wharf, or, with a transfer, to Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square -- for a steal.
Far from top tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio and Haight-Ashbury but then, so are the other neighborhoods with mid- to high-priced hotels.
Discount day-of theater seats available at the Union Square ticket kiosk
Plenty of dining nearby, but if you want to avoid high-end hotel dining and chain restaurants (Cheesecake Factory being the most visible), explore the blocks leading up to Nob Hill, where there's an abundance of small, locally owned restaurants.
30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
While Union Square is a safe area, be careful of wandering into the neighboring Tenderloin district, which isn't as safe.
Everything about the rooms has a middle-of-the-road feel, from the non-cutting-edge electronics to the beds that are firm and comfortable but not pillow-topped and luxurious. And the drab color scheme -- yellow, brown, and plum -- does nothing to make the room more enticing. The 52-year-old hotel renovates rooms gradually (room renovations will continue through 2017), and it really comes down to luck of the draw when staying here.
Most rooms have city views, though those on higher floors have bay or Golden Gate Bridge views. Standard rooms, located on the fifth through 21st floors, feel cramped with one king-size bed or two double beds in a 300-square-foot space.
All rooms feature flat-screen TVs, alarm clock/radios with iPod connector cables (and weak speakers), and Cuisinart coffeemakers with free coffee packets and tea bags. Work desks come with ergonomic chairs (Wi-Fi is charged per day, though it is free in the lobby).
Not all rooms have safes, but free safe deposit boxes -- accessible 24 hours a day -- are available at the front desk. Rollaway beds are charged per night and can fit in a standard room with a king-size bed. Cribs are free.
With nine ballrooms and more than 134,000 square feet of meeting space, the Hilton has the largest hotel conference facilities in San Francisco. So not surprisingly, the hotel has a feature for just about every business need: an extensive business center to prepare for all-day meetings, and a heated outdoor pool and large fitness center to unwind afterward. All that's missing is a good bar for sealing business deals after hours.
The business center is a full-service FedEx Kinko's Office and Print Center, with computers, printers, copiers, and a fax machine. Guests can order signs, banners, posters, brochures, or presentations, and buy office supplies. An audiovisual services desk is available for equipment rental and technical support. Package Express service provides regular and overnight shipping.
While the breadth of business features is impressive, service breaks down when it comes to the basics. Service tends to be impersonal at any large hotel, especially one that deals with large groups on a daily basis. Here it's also slow. There's always a line at the front desk and the concierge (available daily to help with sightseeing requests like show tickets and dinner reservations. There's also a separate business concierge, available daily, to assist with business-related needs, like finding a notary public). Bell service is available, but you have to request it. They're not stationed at the entrance, ready to grab your bags. Express checkout by video, voice mail, or drop-off box is good for circumventing the long lines in the lobby.
The 24-hour, 2,800-square-foot fitness center has Precor strength-training equipment and cardio machines. Machines have individual TV screens; free headsets are available. A nondescript heated outdoor pool (which goes down to eight feet deep) and small whirlpool are located on the 16th floor. Note that there is no lifeguard.
The restaurant and bar Urban Tavern is rather cozy, an adjective that could not be used for any other aspect of this hotel. Olive-green velvet banquettes, a communal dining table, and centerpiece scrap-metal horse add a small dose of cool that is, frankly, surprising for this property. Like many San Francisco restaurants, the menu focuses on local and organic ingredients. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; bar menu available in the afternoon. A breakfast buffet served daily (a full American breakfast spread with eggs cooked to order) and a la carte is also available.
Room service is available for breakfast and dinner and the 24-hour market in the lobby features grab-and-go deli items and an Illy coffee counter.
Pets that weigh as much as 75 pounds can stay at the hotel for a nonrefundable fee. Free beds and bowls are available, but they're in limited supply.
There's self-parking at a garage on Ellis Street between Mason and Taylor, but it is pretty expensive (valet is only slightly more).
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