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"Downtown Hilton - great location, great discounts" Hilton San Francisco Tip by efsch

Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco: 1,890 reviews and 26 photos

I have a confession to make. I hate San Francisco. But just for the first day. By the end of a week I usually fall in love with the city all over again.

Arriving at SFO is a hassle. Finding the sky bridge to the air train to the BART train, and then figuring out the crazy BART ticket machines is always a challenge, no matter how often we visit.

Arriving to a downtown San Francisco jammed with summer visitors and then waiting in the long line at the tiny kiosk for MUNI passport tickets adds to the first day frustrations.

Which is all the more reason to treat oneself to a really nice hotel room, like ours was at the downtown Hilton.

A quiet, comfortable, and conveniently located hotel room is a great refuge from the craziness of the streets below. Especially when it is available at a heavily discounted price on the internet (more about that later).

Some people prefer venerable old hotels for their local color. Others prefer trendy boutique hotels for their urban chic. We prefer four star, big box, business class hotels for their worldwide comfort and reliability.

The San Francisco downtown Hilton is located on O'Farrell Street (between Mason and Taylor) a few blocks northwest of the Powell and Market Street BART and cable car stations, which is a convenient transportation hub for cable cars, buses, trams, and subway.

The hotel is within easy walking distance of the Union Square and Market Street shopping districts. It is a longer walk to the SOMA district and Moscone convention center. It is a short tram ride to the Civic Center museums and concert halls. It is in the middle of the theater district.

It is also near the Tenderloin district, which lies between Union Square and Civic Center, a typically American juxtaposition of urban wealth and poverty. As in other cities, the homeless and scruffy street people are generally harmless, but the hotel maintains a reassuringly visible security staff.

This Hilton is huge. It fills an entire city block and has several separate towers of varying ages.

Even though we had reserved and pre-paid a standard room, we were given a nice 14th floor room in the business class tower-2. An upgrade to a city view room in a higher tower would have cost $75 more, so we declined the upgrade.

Best of all, our kind receptionist (Nathan) let us check in early (11 am) after our pre-dawn flight. At the end of our stay we were also allowed to check out late (1 pm) for our afternoon return flight. That is more generous than at most hotels.

This review is based on our tower-2 king room. I do not know what rooms are like in the other towers, although they are probably similar. Some rooms surround the 16th floor outdoor swimming pool deck, which is filled with families during the summer.

Our room was a bit larger than average, about 300 square feet, and was decorated in pale gold with burgundy accents. Furnishings were in a modern Federalist style. The king bed had a wonderful mattress and ultra-fine linens. Bath towels were extra large and thick.

Room amenities included a coffee and tea maker, a mini-bar, an iron and ironing board, a wall safe, a flat screen (but not HD) TV, a large desk with an internet plug, and an armchair with reading light and ottoman.

The travertine and tile bathroom had a single sink and a tub-shower combo. There were no bathrobes or slippers, no shaving (adjustable) mirror, and no bedside reading spotlights. A small table near the armchair (for drinks) would have been nice.

A USA Today newspaper was delivered to our room on weekdays. The windows did not open, but the climate control worked well, and there was a small fresh air vent below the windows.

Our room was wonderfully cleaned and restocked by our housekeeper Arnel. We always leave several dollars with a note each day as a tip for housekeeping rather than waiting till the end of our stays, and this seems much appreciated.

We did not use room service or eat at any of the hotel restaurants. The room service menu was limited and rather expensive: soups $12, sandwiches $24, and main courses $36. The breakfast buffet was about $30. These prices sent us to other nearby dining options, which I will describe later.

The hotel staff was uniformly friendly and efficient. We had one question each day for the concierge staff, and they were eager to help. They (rightfully) give priority those waiting in line, so our phone calls were occasionally answered by voice mail or placed on hold at peak times. In a hotel with 2,000 rooms this is understandable.

The hotel public areas are attractive and quite busy. Although there are lines at the reception desk, they move quickly and one can easily check-out by phone.

Hotel parking rates are high (over $50 per night I believe), but the huge parking structure across the street on the north has lower rates. Even if you do not have a car, be sure to stop by the Hilton parking garage entrance (in the southeast corner of the building) to see the decorative and humorous murals -- they are great homages to the San Francisco scene.

As I mentioned, we enjoyed our stay at the downtown San Francisco Hilton. Our only disappointment is that most hotel chains (Hilton included) are surcharging and over-pricing more and more amenities, just like the airlines do.

For example, use of this Hilton's fitness center is an additional $15 per day for hotel guests. An ordinary candy bar from the room's mini-bar is $7.

(At Trader Joe's on Bay street near Fisherman's Wharf we bought two bottles of wine, a loaf of sourdough olive bread, a wedge of brie, a cantaloupe, and a quart of strawberries for the price of two Hilton candy bars).

Any personal item forgotten in the mini-bar results in a $12 "cleaning" fee. An internet terminal in the business center costs $24 per hour.

Savvy travelers can avoid such high prices and surcharges, but it would be nice not having to worry about being ambushed by them (I always check our folio well before check-out time to assure no mistakes are being made).

The price of the room itself was very reasonable since we bid (blindly by hotel location and class rather than identity) on the Priceline website. We paid a non-refundable $85 plus $15 in fees per night for our stay. The Biddingfortravel website documented even better bargains for other weeks during the summer.

We often travel for pleasure: so far this year we have vacationed in Paris, Hawaii, London, Shanghai, Chicago, and Vienna. Priceline provided great hotel deals in each location (except Paris which was a disappointment, and Shanghai which we booked directly to assure a convenient hotel location near the Bund).

Large business class hotels with excess capacity benefit by selling rooms on Priceline, and we are happy to purchase them whenever we can.

As a price comparison, for our travel dates in San Francisco, the usual large internet booking sites were offering the Miyako at $99, the downtown Hilton and the Mark Hopkins at $109, and the Stanford Court at $119 per night (all plus 15% tax and all discount rates non-refundable). Generally, the hotel websites have higher prices, and their "best available price" often is not.


Unique Qualities: Sightseeing: The best deal anywhere is the series of free guided walks offered by SFcityguides, a volunteer organization sponsored by the public library. Their website lists the walks, which cover almost every neighborhood and hidden gem in the city. There are usually several walks offered each day. A donation (most participants give several dollars) is requested at the end of each walk to offset their office expenses. We have taken more than a dozen of their walks and have never been disappointed.

Near the downtown Hilton: The Parc 55 Hotel diagonally southeast of the Hilton has a tasty and inexpensive Thai restaurant in its northwest corner (enter from the street level diagonally across from the Hilton parking garage entrance, or from the Parc 55 lobby). Most meals are around $7 and they are open from 11 am to 10 pm. An older restaurant across the street (Thai Siam) has the same name, but we have never eaten there. The west side of the Parc 55 building has an internet cafe which charges $7 per hour (as opposed to Hilton's $24 per hour). A donut and bagel shop is located across from the southwest corner of the Hilton. It looks clean and good, although we have never tried it. Mini-markets and liquor stores surround the Hilton, but we prefer the larger Safeways farther away for larger purchases. Boudin's Bakery has a sandwich shop on the street level at the back of the Union Square Macy's department store. They have famous sourdough bread. Early in the morning (8 am) one can usually board the Powell Street cable cars (without waiting) at the southwest corner of Union Square for the trip to the Chinatown dim sum parlors described above.

Address: 333 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Price Comparison: less expensive than average
Phone: +1 415-771-1400
Price: US$40-80
Theme: Hotel

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  • Written Jul 10, 2009
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