Today (March 10, 2020): Review of the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel
Located next to the city’s largest convention center, the InterContinental San Francisco is housed in a translucent glass 32-story high-rise, striking a fine balance between business and leisure. The modern hotel features more than 500 rooms, with state-of-the-art technology and floor to ceiling windows in all accommodations (rooms on floors 25 and above. The hotel’s signature restaurant Luce, a Tuscany meets California wine-restaurant, has earned a Michelin star ten years in a row. Hotel facilities include a full-service spa, a health club (complete with an indoor lap pool), and a spacious outdoor terrace.
The InterContinental San Francisco features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in San Francisco.
Have you ever stayed at the InterContinental San Francisco? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The InterContinental San Francisco is located in San Francisco’s South of Market Area (SOMA) at the corner of Howard and Fifth streets. The hotel is adjacent to the massive Moscone West Convention Center, so its business is geared toward convention and corporate travelers. However, it’s also a great choice for leisure travelers, as the property is within walking distance to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the Westfield shopping mall, Union Square and bustling Market Street. Buses stop within a block from the property, and Powell Street Station (5-minute walk) offers access to public transit options (Muni and BART trains).
- Designed by Patri Merker Architects, the hotel is housed in a 103 m (340 ft) tall, 32-story skyscraper. Featuring clean lines, the high-rise’s facade is composed of gleaming vertical stripes of baked white aluminum and tropical blue glass that holds an aqua hue whatever the weather or time of day. At night, the tower’s southern facade is illuminated and visible from miles away, being an integral part of San Francisco’s skyline. Architecture buffs love the modern tower’s appearance and sharp looking curtain wall, while others judge the remarkable bleu glass aesthetics to be wrong for a city like San Francisco.
- On the inside, the InterContinental San Francisco features a modern, light-filled decor with a color palette of aquamarine and beige that reflects the building’s facade. The spacious lobby, complete with a shiny black grand piano, is designed as a meeting and co-working space with lounge areas and an over-sized natural wood table replete with power and data. There’s a hand- crafted feel to the fixtures and furnishings that suits the DIY spirit of younger professionals, but all is elegantly proportioned and finely finished. In 2019, to mark its eleventh anniversary, the hotel underwent a top-to-bottom interior renovation led by two Bay Area-based design firms, BraytonHughes Design Studios and EDG Design.
- The grand lobby opens onto a trendy bar and the award-winning Luce Wine Restaurant, one of the best dining venues in the Bay Area. Consistently awarded a Michelin star since 2010, Luca – meaning “light” in Italian – offers modern American cuisine in an elegant yet inviting setting. The venue’s dynamic menus reflect the bounty of San Francisco’s surrounding farms with regular updates according to freshness and seasonality. Standouts include a delicately poached white halibut and for dessert, a dark berry and meringue Pavlova. In addition, the award-winning wine program offers a one-of-a-kind collection that encourages you to explore and enjoy new flavors. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- The InterContinental San Francisco offers 556 guestrooms and 14 suites, all featuring a contemporary design and floor-to-ceiling windows (although only the hotel’s top-storey rooms and corner suites offer dazzling city views). There are 11 room categories to choose from. During my visit, I stayed in a standard room (entry room category). While small, the room was thoughtfully laid-out and equipped with a queen sized bed, a desk, and a lounge chair. Room amenities includes two bathrobes, a set of disposable slippers, a flat-panel LG TVs with HD channels, and an iPod docking station. The tiny, ensuite bathroom featured a sink, shower & lavatory. Eco-Boutique toiletries were provided (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap & lotion).
- If you have money to burn, you could opt for a stay in the hotel’s recently redesigned presidential suite. This two-story penthouse is home to an eight-seat dining room, living room flooded with day light through the floor-to-ceiling windows, powder room, two luxury bathrooms, master suite endowed with gold leaf wallcoverings, as well as two outdoor terraces. Crafted in a sleek-grandeur style, the interiors feature a refined color palette teamed with tailored finishes punctuating the textiles, light fixtures, and artwork. Among the other thoughtful design touches inside is the black and white stone floor inspired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Nero Marquina marble countertops and a sumptuous fireplace.
- The property features a wide range of leisure and health facilities, as you would expect from a modern 5-star business hotel. The 6th floor holds a swimming pool, hot tub, and a modern fitness center. Open from 6 am to 10 pm, the indoor lap pool is 60 feet (18 m) in length and has 3 lanes. Next to the pool is a hot tub, which is accessible to travelers with mobility issues. A decently sized gym overlooks the pool and features state-of-the-art equipment. The hotel also houses an independently operated spa, featuring 10 treatment rooms and offering a full array of body therapies. One of the hotel’s best “leisure facilities” is its Bay Terrace, a tranquil outdoor patio offering generous seating options and nice skyline views.
- InterContinental San Francisco has been awarded LEED Gold certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildinngs and is a rating system for designing, constructing and maintaining the world’s greenest, most energy efficient and high performing buildings. With this distinctive honor, the hotel shows its dedication to being environmentally responsible while delivering the same level of service and luxury associated with the city’s top business and leisure destinations. To date, it is the largest hotel property to receive LEED certification in California.
- The property is managed by the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG). The IHG story started in 1946, when Pan American World Airways opened its first InterContinental hotel in 1949 in Belem, Brazil. Since then, IHG has grown worldwide to become one of the largest hotel brands on the globe. Today, the company manages over 5000 hotels globally, which are grouped under 13 brands, including the top brands InterContinental and Six Senses. IHG has a loyalty program which I reviewed here and which allows you to stay for free at itsproperties, such as InterContinental San Francisco.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- While the InterContinental San Francisco offers decent facilities and excellent service, it lacks the wow-factor and does not feel very luxurious. There’s nothing really exciting about the decor, the rooms, nor the location, except for the Michelin star restaurant (which I highly recommend).
- As mentioned above, the hotel targets business travelers, since it is attached to the Moscone West Convention Center (which may in part explain its rather dull decor). As a consequence, room rates are expensive during the week and during a convention. Fyi, I paid $315 USD per night for my stay, which was clearly overpriced. However, on a positive note, rates are often much lower during the weekends (depending on occupancy).
- The hotel is not located in the most lively part of San Francisco. During the day, the streets are populated (though still sparsely) with tourists, students from the nearby Academy of Arts University, and locals who work nearby. Unfortunately after dark and in the weekends, the neighborhood becomes a ghost town, and using ride share apps to get around feels more convenient and safe than walking.
- Parking rates at the InterContinental San Francisco are quite expensive (hovering around $65 USD a night). However, most (business) travelers don’t bother with a car and instead take advantage of San Francisco’s great public transit system.
- Although the heated indoor lap pool offers a serene environment, the pool area is quite small and there are no chairs to lounge pool side.
- Location: 7/10
- Design: 7/10
- Pool: 7/10
- Rooms: 7/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 7/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 5/10
- Overall experience: mediocre 7/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like InterContinental San Francisco (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: IHG has a loyalty program which I reviewed here and which allows you to collect points and exchange them stay for free stays at IHG properties, such as InterContinental San Francisco.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
San Francisco weather is best in the spring and fall, with warm and clear days, and comfortably cool nights. The city is often shrouded in fog during mid-summer (June to September). Winter can bring storms and rains. So the best months, that usually come with brilliant sunshine, are October, November, April and May.
HOW TO GET THERE
The San Francisco area is served by two international airports:
- San Francisco International Airport is located 13 miles (21 km) south of Downtown San Francisco and it served by many full-service carriers. Check the Wikipedia page of San Francisco International Airport for a list of airlines that fly to San Francisco.
- Oakland International Airport is located accross the Bay, 5 miles (8 km) south of Downtown Oakland, and is served by most American full-service and low-cost carriers. Check the Wikipedia page of Oakland Airport for a list of airlines that fly to Oakland.