the best view in San Francisco?

Tower Suite view (c) 2018 by David Ourisman

It was a rainy April day in San Francisco, quite unusual weather for this time of the year. Claire and I were staying at the Ritz Carlton two blocks down California Street from the Fairmont San Francisco. What's a weekend hotel stay to celebrate our wedding anniversary without a hotel site inspection at another property? So we arranged a visit to the Fairmont to begin our anniversary celebration.

High atop Nob Hill, the Fairmont would seem to promise some of the best views of San Francisco Bay, and that's indeed the case if you choose the right room. The hotel has two wings. The historic Main Building opened its doors as a hotel in 1907 and is protected as a National Historic Landmark. This wing preserves its original belle epoque glamor — a lobby graced by marble floors, high marble columns, and a pair of priceless 15th century gilded mirrors, among other architectural features. Its wide hallways are designed to accommodate ladies in hoop skirts, and its rooms are comfortably sized, some with exceptionally large closets, but bathrooms are small with a single vanity and shower-in-tub. (Historical status prevented the hotel from altering walls to create larger, more up-to-date bathrooms).

The rooms with a view are found in the newer Tower Wing. While its exterior lacks the belle epoque features of the main building, its rooms offer marble bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and step-in showers ... and views. Pictured above is the view from a Tower Suite. Ask for a high floor on a wall facing Telegraph Hill, and you'll be able to enjoy a view of Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, and San Francisco Bay ... on a clear day.

For something super special, book the Penthouse. Your private six thousand square foot apartment, the Penthouse has everything you could possibly imagine and more: three bedrooms, an immense living room with grand piano, a room just for a pool table, a circular two-story library with the historic desk on which the United Nations Charter was drafted, a large tiled patio directly facing the Transamerica pyramid ... and history. US Presidents have stayed in the Penthouse — including JFK and RFK who reportedly brought romantic interests into the suite through a secret doorway in the library ... and Bill Clinton who went through that door onto the roof to play his saxophone. He was missing for several hours, greatly alarming his Secret Service detail.

Originally owned by James Fair, who made his fortune in California's silver rush, his daughters built this Belle Epoque palace, naming it after their father. The Fairmont San Francisco is the first hotel in the Fairmont chain.

copyright  (c)  2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit our website.

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