Central downtown location, close to Moscone Convention Center, museums
Stylish, spacious guest rooms
Impressive art in lounge and restaurant
Free morning coffee and tea
In-room spa services
Half of the rooms overlook chain stores
Small fitness center
Expensive restaurant for a casual meal
Pricey valet parking
Room service only available for breakfast
A sexy 202-room property that doubles as a hip art gallery, the Hotel Zelos (formerly Hotel Palomar) has spacious, comfortable rooms, free coffee and tea in the mornings, free Wi-Fi, and an upscale restaurant on the 5th floor. Other downtown boutiques may cost less, but the Zelos is a cut above for a hip, romantic getaway.
A romantic, hip boutique with an impressive art collection and swanky restaurant
Situated smack dab in the middle of Market Street's big box retailers, Hotel Zelos has more in common with the Bay Area's art galleries than the Old Navy upon which it sits. The entrance and lobby are on the street, but the hotel begins five stories up. Impressive artwork can be found throughout the hotel, giving it a cool, hip atmosphere.
Save for an unfortunate view from some rooms, the large standard rooms live up to the sexy-meets-classy ethos. For an urban hotel room, it's got ample space -- a comfortable bed, a large desk, and an easy chair fit without making the space feel cluttered or cramped. Add in attentive service and the fancy Dirty Habit restaurant, and the hotel is a good spot for a quiet getaway above the city masses.
The hotel is centrally located -- the foodie heaven at the Ferry Building is a 10-minute streetcar ride down Market. Thanks to the art on the walls and dogs in the lobby (it was previously a Kimpton property), it's a hipper alternative to the similarly priced Marriott down the block. On the flip side, Zelos isn't quite as hip as the SOMA W (and doesn't have a pool), but it's got a cozier vibe than the chichi chain. Other Union Square area boutiques like the Serrano and Kensington Park generally cost less, but neither approaches the Zelos for sophistication. If it's just a place to crash between all-day or all-night sightseeing excursions, then it probably isn't worth the extra bucks.
Hotel Zelos is a boutique, so the service isn't your-wish-is-my-command level, but it is always efficient and friendly. Whether it's changing a light bulb or explaining the routes on a jogging map, the staff is prompt and helpful.
In the middle of a major shopping area, but a great jumping-off point for exploring the city
The Palomar isn't quite in any of San Francisco's well-defined neighborhoods, but it's centrally located and near plenty of transportation options. From the Palomar, it's a convenient walk to Union Square and the Financial District, or a quick streetcar ride down Market to the Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf. With the nearby stops for the Muni (San Francisco's transit system) and BART (for trains to surrounding communities), going further afield is also convenient.
For better and worse, the Palomar is surrounded by big chain stores like Bloomingdale's and an Apple Store.
John's Grill, the renowned old-school steakhouse where Dashiell Hammett ate and drank -- it gets a mention in the "Maltese Falcon" -- is just up the block.
Within blocks of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Yerba Buena Center and Gardens
One block from cable-car turnaround
There isn't a whole going on after dark around these parts.
Market Street has quite a few panhandlers. And while Union Square is a safe area, be careful of wandering into the neighboring Tenderloin district, an area with a reputation for being unsafe and unsavory.
A ways from the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and Haight-Ashbury but then so are the other neighborhoods with nonbudget accommodations.
30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) airport
Rooms are large for the area and borderline spotless. Now if something could be done about the view...
Rooms are modern and stylish, with artsy pillows on the wooden beds, framed prints, and crocodile-inspired carpeting. The large 350-square-foot standard "Deluxe" room is spacious enough to fit a desk, an easy chair, a small dresser, a bench, and a table. By comparison, the basic rooms at the nearby Palace and the down-the-street Marriott are 300 square feet.
The biggest problem with the rooms are revealed when the curtains are pulled back. Some views are of the empty office building next door and, looking down, the glass atrium of the Container Store. The windows, ledges, and the atrium itself are caked with bird droppings. The hotel can't do much about urban birds, but it detracts from the overall romantic ambience. Many of the rooms overlook Market and 4th Streets, or the inner Zen garden, so ask for one of those. The rooms don't begin until the 5th floor and windows are soundproofed, so street noise shouldn't be a problem.
The standard room comes with either a king or two double beds with down comforters and pillows
Half-cool/half-cheesy animal print robes in rooms. Guests can even bring their animal instincts home if they so desire. The leopard iteration will set you back a pretty penny.
Good water pressure in the shower/tub combo
Luxurious Pharmacopia toiletries
The minibar stocks the great San Francisco beer Anchor Steam
Electronics include a 42-inch LCD TV, iPod docking station, DVD player (bring your own flicks), and on-demand movies and Nintendo games.
"Tall Rooms" have 96-inch long beds for visiting NBA teams and the like.
The hotel's amenities are limited, but offers a few freebies
With three Precor cardio machines -- a bike, treadmill and elliptical -- a Paramount trainer, and a dumbbell rack, the fitness center is small, but adequate. Yoga mats and exercise balls are also available.
Dirty Habit is a great spot for an elegant evening.
Dirty Habit is the hotel's trendy bar and restaurant. It serves breakfast, dinner, and pricey cocktails. The indoor space is gorgeous and hip, with printed rugs, black leather booths, and a wall with rusted, metallic gears; there's also a heated outdoor terrace. It's bar-centric, with an extensive list of cocktails, liquor, beer, and wine, and a menu of shared plates.
Breakfast is served daily, with dishes like garden omelets, pancakes, and chilaquiles.