Stay-Cation: Insider’s Guide to San FranciscoAuthor:Abigail Stone
Outside, the downtown streets of San Francisco are teeming with a mix of 9-to-5ers and out-of-towners, their chatter and the honking of car horns providing a soundtrack for this Friday afternoon. Inside the Palace Hotel, however, in the GC Lounge adjacent to the lobby, the atmosphere—serene and even restorative—offers a stark contrast.
Situated beneath a stunning stained-glass dome, the expansive space is outfitted with tufted sofas, tables surrounded by plush chairs, leather wingbacks with nailhead trim, and barstools flanking a communal counter that beckon folks to hang out, set up their laptops, or partake in tea time.
Afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel is a long-cherished activity for locals and visitors alike. While the hotel’s service dates back to the early 1900s, the experience has been infused with a modern sensibility. On Saturdays, the Signature Tea’s tiered presentation, served in the Garden Court, brims with scones, pastries, and finger sandwiches; the rest of the week, an à la carte menu is available in the neighboring GC Lounge. The latter is composed of the traditional—think scones accompanied by clotted cream—as well as novel treats such as a strawberry and almond milk gelée. The egg remoulade sandwich is an open-face version of the afternoon tea classic, topped with caviar for a decadent touch.
This concept of updated elegance runs throughout the hotel, which completed a multi-million dollar renovation in August. Its 556 rooms, including 36 suites, are appointed with sumptuous textiles, sophisticated patterns, and luxe finishes. Furnishings that resemble trunks, right down to their leather handles, evoke a bygone travel era.
Not far from the Palace is another quintessential experience in this food-centric city: the Ferry Building Marketplace, located east of the hotel, on the waterfront. Its vast list of tenants include Blue Bottle Coffee, Humphry Slocombe (which scoops unconventional ice-cream flavors), Cowgirl Creamery, and Miette (a highly Instagrammable patisserie). On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the Ferry Building sprouts into a Farmers Market, with vendors setting up booths on the plaza offering everything from fresh seafood and produce to delicious baked goods and made-to-order dishes. Along with an abundance of culinary options, the Ferry Building is home to a number of shops. Local companies The Gardener and Heath Ceramics have outposts there. Need a book for your travels or downtime? Head to Book Passage.
West of the Palace Hotel, your credit card can get a deeper workout at the Westfield San Francisco Centre. Anchored by Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, the mall is populated with practically any name in apparel you can think of—from Abercrombie to Zara—plus, there’s a nine-screen movie theater. For even more shopping, including world-renowned luxury brands, Union Square is just a few blocks away.
In spring 2016, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which is currently undergoing a massive expansion, will reopen in the downtown area. In the meantime, you can get your culture fix at the nearby Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Museum of African Diaspora. John Berggruen Gallery and Fraenkel Gallery are also in the vicinity for those seeking a more intimate art experience.
Design aficionados looking to satisfy hunger pangs should consider adding Cavalier to their itinerary. Interior designer Ken Fulk conjured a London-style brasserie for restaurateurs Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas and chef Jennifer Puccio—the same people behind city hot spots Marlowe and Park Tavern.
All of that delicious fare that San Francisco is known for can take a toll on the waistline, which makes the Palace Hotel’s newly expanded fitness center and indoor pool welcome amenities. Of course, no one would blame you if you decided to forgo the treadmill in favor of a few hours lounging by the glass-ceilinged pool with one of the hotel’s signature cocktails in hand instead.