24 Hours In: Inn at Union Square, San Francisco

by Laura Parker | Forbes

It's hard to find respite from the crowds in downtown San Francisco. Tourists, buskers, office workers, school groups: it's a madhouse any day of the week. So, when it comes to finding a place to stay, your choices are pretty limited unless you're banking on a luxury big-name hotel. The city's smaller, more boutique offerings are usually found on the other side of Market Street. At least until recently.

Hidden among Union Square's bustling side streets, the Inn at Union Squarerecently completed an extensive renovation. It's a small hotel—just 30 rooms—but what it lacks in space it makes up for in spirit. Overall, it's a charming and much-needed addition to one of San Francisco's busiest neighborhoods.

The rooms

The hotel has styled itself as a modern interpretation of the city’s iconic historic Victorian townhouses. Think soft color palettes, gallery walls, velvet accents, and wood-burning fireplaces. The lobby is little more than a small parlor: but the moment you're inside, it's like stepping back in time to a more sophisticated era of high tea, board games, and cozy nights in the living room.

A Superior King room. INN AT UNION SQUARE

The guest rooms feature tufted headboards and plush velvet lounge chairs. The bathrooms boast Carrera marble, floating glass shelves, and oversized mirrors. If you really want to splash out, opt for the hotel's parlor suite. Dubbed the Alma Spreckels Suite, the suite was inspired by philanthropist and celebrated proponent of the arts, Alma Spreckels. Affectionately known to locals as the "great grandmother of San Francisco," Spreckels loved dance, theatre, and French Baroque design. The suite is a nod to her grand tastes, featuring a spacious living area, fireplace, a walk-in closet, and a spa-like bathroom with a sitting area perfect for those enjoy a bit of pampering before a night out.

The best thing about the layout of the hotel is the public parlors on each floor. Going back to that Victorian idea of the formal living room, the parlors all have wood-burning fireplaces, plush lounges, and, best of all, nightly cheese and wine happy hours for hotel guests.

Food and amenities

While there is no on-site restaurant, the hotel has something even better: room service from the legendary Morton’s The Steakhouse. Located next door, the historic steakhouse will deliver a rib-eye and glass of Pinot Noir to your door in no time. Alternatively, you can dine in at Morton's (just make sure to call ahead and book) or head across the street to one of the area's more casual eateries.

One of the hotel's public living rooms. INN AT UNION SQUARE


For a little peace and quiet, head across Market Street to the nearby Yerba Buena Gardens. Relax on the grass with a book, or head upstairs to the acclaimed Samovar Tea Lounge for a dazzling afternoon tea overlooking the gardens and the steeples of St. Patrick's. If you're feeling arty, walk down a block and you'll come across the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. After sunset, grab a cocktail at Local Edition, a bar inspired by the golden age of newspapers in the city which plays host to weekly live jazz and swing bands.