Clift San Fran

There’s a soft spot in my heart for the Morgans Hotel Group: I started my magazine career at Conde Nast Traveller back in the day, and its hotels were always at the top of our  review lists, as properties that always changed the way people thought about hotels. So I’ve reviewed them for work, and stayed and hung out in their splendid bars, (as much in my personal life, as in my work one.)

Clift San Fran
(That’s my Mulberry Bayswater bag. Unfortunately the hotel does not provide them as standard.)

The latest addition to my stayed-in list is San Francisco’s Clift, a hotel in which I’ve always wanted to stay. It’s perfectly situated right in the middle of Downtown, a two-minute walk from Union Square, and an easy walk from MoMA, the Westfield shopping center, and the Mason Powell cable cars.

Although I haven’t stayed there before on my many, many trips to San Francisco, I have had cocktails and delicious appetizers in the Bar before with my dearest friend MTFF (, and it’s a great, sexy place to meet for drinks.

The building itself is historic for America: in 1913, Frederick C. Clift commissioned the 300-room hotel on a lot his family had inherited. The hotel was to open in time for the Pan Pacific Exposition, and the architect, a former student of the Ecole de Beaux Arts, was George Applegarth of McDonald & Applegarth, who also designed the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. Advertised as the first hotel in San Francisco to be fire and earthquake proof, the Clift has held up to its expectations by remaining in one piece.

Clift San Fran

I was lucky enough to score a corner room with double views, and lots of cat-swinging space. It played exactly to my taste, being both traditional in its bones, and modern in its furnishings (note the orange perspex tables). Which is exactly how the hotel’s decor plays out in general: the public spaces have an appealing grandeur in their architecture, but are filled with Starck and Eames pieces.

This was an extremely comfortable room: in a world of cookie cutter corporate hotel rooms, with their square footage measured to the inch,  it was both refreshing & lovely to stay in a room that wasn’t a box. Everything had been neatly thought out, and there was plenty of lighting to read by, and I loved sitting at the capacious desk to write, with its view over the city.

The only drawback to the historical proportions of the building was the small bathroom, made to seem even tinier by the very large bedroom to which it was attached. There was also some issue with sound-proofing: next door’s conversations were crystal clear through the walls, although when I rang down to the front desk, they dealt extremely promptly, and the noise stopped almost immediately. And, to be honest, with a city like SF on your doorstep, there can’t be many travellers like me who actually spend an evening in their room. (I was exhausted & recuperating from a weekend of wedding revelry in Napa.)

If you can request a room with a view north towards Nob Hill,

Clift San Fran

or east, towards the Bay,

Clift San Fran

then do so, as the views are, clearly, glorious. I pulled a chair up to the north window, and spent quite some time just watching the traffic zoom about. (San Francisco hotels really do give good view if you get a room up on high. You may remember my stays at the Fairmont, and at the InterContinental, which pleased my view-loving soul greatly.)

I also want to give a shout out to the go-the-extra mile charm of  the front desk, doormen and bell guys, who could not have been more helpful and pro-active. It’s not a given in hotels these days, and their efficiency was notable.

Two tips if you are driving: valet parking here, as in nearly all SF Downtown hotels, is expensive. If you are not on expenses, there is a very reasonable overnight parking lot a few blocks away, which I used, and the doorman can direct you. Oh and the hotel is on Geary, a fast one way street: make sure you are driving on the left hand side, and be very careful not to over shoot it if you are driving or you will be circling around Downtown for a while, as you can’t turn left again for two blocks, and then it’s another six blocks past Union Square before you can make a left to get back again. I did this three times. Ahem.

LLG was a guest for one night for board only of Clift, San Francisco.




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If I was travelling, and regrettably those days are over, I would find your hotel reviews most helpful. You cover everything I would like to know in a seemingly effortless way making it look so easy and I know it is not. I would definitely stay here if the opportunity arose…



Ah the one way streets of the city …. that made me smile on a Monday morning! Thanks LLG – I needed it!


Very nice. Haven’t been to SF for ages. Curious as to how they managed to stop next door’s conversation, without further soundproofing. One of the noisest hotels I ever stayed in was the Hilton in Bath, noises next door, above, in the hallway, lift noises, everything, it was dire. Only consolation was I got to see Robbie Williams who was also staying there.


I was just there a week ago! We had dinner there and it was lovely. The vegetarian risotto was kind of bland but the dessert was absolutely worth it. The service was lovely and attentive. It doesn’t surprise me to hear that the hotel was similar.


I’m excited to check out their bar… For all that I live in the city I had no idea the hotel existed! And while I don’t generally go for hotel bars to water myself I will take your recommendation and check it out!



I think it is one of the best hotels of San Francisco.

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