Standing 19 storeys tall at the very summit of posh Nob Hill, the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins is one of San Francisco’s most breathtaking hotels. Built in 1926 and a California Historical Landmark since 1961, this brick-clad tower displays a mix of Art Deco and French Chateau architecture on the lower floors, rising to a jaw-dropping Neo-Gothic crown and, above even that, an oversize American flag fluttering in the breeze. The interior, with a large, vaulted lobby featuring a grand piano, and a banquet hall adorned by a colourful Maynard Dixon mural, is no less impressive.
The hushed and hallowed corridors of this grand hotel have played host to a panoply of storied celebrities down the years, including Xavier Cugat, Charles de Gaulle, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones. In 1961, and at the height of the Cold War, the 17th floor was even taken over by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and his entourage, who were in town as part of an American tour. Guests here truly feel like they are stepping into an historic set-piece, and today the hotel has a mammoth 380 rooms as well as a legendary roof-top cocktail bar, once a favourite of World War 2 Servicemen about to ship off to the Pacific theatre.
Visitors arriving by car will also be impressed by the formal valet service that takes care of your bags and drives your vehicle down to the secure underground carpark. As our party checked into the hotel, however, we were slightly disappointed to discover that one of our bedrooms was a double, rather than the family suite we had specifically requested. Only after a night of haggling with occasionally unresponsive hotel staff we were able to switch to the correct rooms. Despite the initial mishap, the four-star hotel continued to impress; rooms were large and boasted stunning views across the entire city and to San Francisco Bay. The finest suites are even said to offer vistas all the way to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Tiled bathrooms boast stunning, large scale vanity mirrors and finely wrought fixtures while the comforting shower features complimentary tea themed soaps and shampoos.
Arriving late, we were pleased to note that room service continued throughout the night, and despite the hefty prices on the menu, indulged in a well toasted, tasty Croque Monseir, a salad and a couple of chilled drinks. While many Californian hotels will offer free internet, the high speed wifi on offer at the Mark Hopkins came at a price, though if you are prepared to put up with slower bandwidth speeds the cost can be fairly affordable. The television on offer, meanwhile, was slightly dated, though a leaflet in our room told how the hotel was in the process of replacing these older sets with new, HD models. As an old building, the hotel can also suffer from limited elevator space, with guests occasionally having to wait a few minutes in order to use one that is not overcrowded. Thankfully, free copies of the New York Times are left by the lift entrances so that you will not get bored while you wait. While the location is one of the most upscale in the city it also has one or two drawbacks. The exposed corner at the crest of Nob Hill where the hotel sits is frequently windy, even when weather in the rest of the city is calm, while journeys back to the hotel after sightseeing invariably end in a steep climb uphill. On the plus side, the historic San Francisco Cable Cars run right past the hotel, while the sights and sounds of vibrant Market Street and Union Square are just a short walk away. The hotel is also well placed for catching taxis, and staff will even go out into the street and blow loud whistles in order to bag you a cab, though remember to leave these members of staff a tip. Overall, the hotel has a sophisticated and refined air, so guests not dressed to the nines may feel out of place at certain times, for example in the early evening when the well-heeled and wealthy guests residing here step out to pursue their nocturnal diversions. Despite the feeling of exclusivity, the hotel’s room rates remain surprisingly inexpensive, making this large, landmark hotel a great option even for travellers on a moderate budget. featured flickr image by niallkennedyWrite a Review
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