Sir Francis Drake hotel
Gothic Revival landmark complete with local favorite restaurant and buzzy cocktail lounge in Union Square
Named after the 16th-century swashbuckler who sailed the California coast for Queen Elizabeth I, the landmark Sir Francis Drake Hotel blends classic Gothic Revival style with Art Deco glamour. A beefeater doorman welcomes guests in the ornate lobby, which is adorned in Italian marble, crystal chandeliers, spiraling staircases and gold leaf ceilings. The guestrooms are elegantly appointed quarters, with sleek glass-topped furnishings and retro chairs in playful colors of royal purple and silver. Equally stylish is the wood-lined Scala’s Bistro and the Starlight Room, on the 21st floor, where the ruby-red decor tries to compete with the expansive city views.
Bed and Bath
Handsome button-back chairs, Victorian headboards and damask drapes in the 416 rooms and suites channel the kind of opulence you might find in the master bedroom of the namesake naval commander himself. Complementing the hotel’s 1920s flavor are retro modern accents such as bedside lamps in the shape of hitching posts. Located on the upper floors, the stylish suites feature separate living and dining areas. Although small, the bathrooms are well equipped, with granite sinks, coconut-infused Gilchrist & Soames products and animal print robes.
After having a glass during the nightly lobby wine hour, snag a table at Scala’s Bistro, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and local hot spot. Standout dishes include the pesto and ricotta ravioli with lemon cream or marinara sauce, washed down with the Roseblum old-vine Zinfandel. Twenty-one floors up, the Starlight Room is a vibrant nightlife spot that hosts a “Sunday’s a Drag” brunch that features Donna’s Savoy Bounce cocktail (Prosecco, St. Germain, cointreau, absinthe, lemon) and a 45-minute variety show. Although the third-floor fitness center is small and modestly equipped, you won’t need it after spending an afternoon tromping up and down San Francisco’s hills.
In the AreaThe hotel is on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, Powell Street, where retail therapy choices include big name brands such as Neiman Marcus, Gucci, Burberry, Prada and Marc Jacobs. Throughout the year lively Union Square is a host to free outdoor entertainment, from Film Night in the Park to monthly concerts showcasing up-and-coming Bay Area musicians. For some of the best views of San Francisco, hike up Grant Avenue to North Beach’s latest artisanal cocktail spot, 15 Romolo; we love the punchy Pimm’s Cup and the Rio Grande (bourbon, Reposado tequila, lemon, lime, syrup). Or hop on the cable car on Powell Street and head for Nob Hill and join well-heeled residents at the speakeasy-style Bourbon & Branch for creative libations. Save room for the best Bay Area bites at the gourmet vegetarian Union Square restaurant Millennium, where herbivores will love the masa dumplings with porcini molé and agave-centric elixirs. For a modern spin on traditional Vietnamese, head over to Charles Phan’s Slanted Door in the Embarcadero’s Ferry Building.