This really is something else. As it was due to open, the Fairmont was damaged by the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Its refurbishment was handed to Julia Morgan, who went on to be known as America’s preeminent female architect and designed, among other things, Hearst Castle. Despite its over-the-top magnificence, the Fairmont wears its history lightly; rather than feeling serious and self-important, it’s a total blast. This hotel has a lot of boasts: the views from the top of Nob Hill are to die for; the United Nations Charter was drafted in the Garden Room; and since it opened every US president has stayed here, though not all of them in the awesome Presidential Suite (this tends to be used by rock stars and for filming The Bachelor). The Tonga Room has a musical boat in the middle of its Olympic pool and its dance floor was built from the deck of the tall ship S.S. Forrester. What charms us most are the hotel beehives and lavender garden. The hotel has great shops – the Indian shawls at Charisma are very fine. For rooms with the best views head to the tower. Those in the original building don’t have quite the same views but do have plenty of character. And of course, the Fairmont has everything you would expect of a five-star hotel – and then some.


Nob Hill got its name because it was one of the hills of San Francisco where the wealthy lived, leaving the poorer people down on the flats. Not much has changed except that rich people live on the flats as well. It’s a very pretty neighborhood with quite extraordinary views. If you’re a walker, be prepared to take on the hills.

950 Mason Street, San Francisco

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