Hotel Carlton, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel
What We Love
- Free lobby wine reception and live music offered nightly
- Friendly staff quick to please with recommendations to nearby hot spots
- Welcoming whimsical interiors adorned with historical relics
- The LEED-certified hotel is also pet-friendly
What To Know
- Free WiFi
- Residential neighborhood is shy on nightlife; prepare to walk or Uber
- Ask the staff for reliable directions after dark to avoid walking through the untamed Tenderloin
- Valet parking is $35 per day
- Eco friendly
- Free WiFi
- Parking On Site
Midcentury Modern furnishings combine with ornamental decor to transport guests from the residential streets of Lower Nob Hill to faraway lands. Indian candy-coated fennel seeds offer a peculiar palate cleanser at check-in, where the staff provides keycards emblazoned with photos of indigenous peoples from around the world. This rural motif carries throughout the hotel’s nine floors, including the original 1927 elevators, which are embellished with maps of the world.
Bed and Bath
Each of the 161 guestrooms features eccentric decor, framed photographs of 15th-century Nepalese temples and original hand-painted Moroccan bedside tables. They start at 195 square feet, but what they lack in size they make up for in spectacular city views and such mod cons as iHome docks, marble-topped work stations, 32- to 42-inch flat-screen HDTVs and pint-size bathrooms equipped with Lather body products.
Unwind in one of the lobby’s Midcentury Modern loungers, and take advantage of the nightly wine and live music reception, followed by an Eastern-inspired meal at the on-site Saha restaurant. With red banquettes and canopy-bedecked ceilings, the intimate candlelit dining room is a fitting place to enjoy such standout dishes as classic North African couscous and cinnamon-braised beef ribs served ragú-style with Yemeni noodles. Heading off-site? A car service offers free weekday rides to the Financial District and Civic Center from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In the Area
At the foot of residential Nob Hill, the Hotel Carlton is a 15-minute walk from San Francisco’s lively Union Square, which throughout the year plays host to free outdoor events, and such big name designers as Gucci, Burberry, Prada and Marc Jacobs. Prefer a more boutique experience? Uber over to Union Street, the main thoroughfare of the eponymous microhood between Octavia and Fillmore streets, where you can stock up on designer decor at Atys, decadent delights at CocoaBella Chocolates, popular books at Chronicle Books and coveted cotton collections at BeGood Clothing. For some of the best views of San Francisco, hike up Grant Avenue to North Beach’s latest artisanal cocktail spot, 15 Romolo, where we love the punchy Pimm’s Cup and the Rio Grande (bourbon, Reposado tequila, lemon, lime, syrup). Or join the well-heeled residents of Nob Hill at the speakeasy-style Bourbon & Branch for creative libations. Save room for the best herbivore bites at Union Square restaurant Millennium, where the masa dumplings with porcini molé and agave-centric elixirs are musts. For a modern spin on traditional Vietnamese, head over to Charles Phan’s Slanted Door, in the Embarcadero’s famed Ferry Building.
How to Get There
The place is basic - the location is pretty good, near Polk St, Union Sq, and not far from Tenderloin. The lobby is renovated and there is music nightly.
The rooms are very dated - the carpet was old and walls could use a painting. The bathroom was basic.
Overall the place is fine. There is no gym here. Perhaps I came during a busy time and so I do not believe the value was worth the cost...
I have been staying at the Hotel Carlton nearly weekly (a dozen stays over four months) since February. Initially, I was concerned about the reviews that mentioned “paper thin walls” and “sketchy neighborhood”, but I got a phenomenal rate so I thought I’d give it a shot.
I am relatively local, and have stayed in probably ten different San Francisco hotels over the years. Before I stayed at the Carlton, I stayed at two other properties (both solid choices) in January of this year. So I feel like I can fairly assess how it compares to the competition.
First of all, I’ll address the noise and neighborhood issues. I have been traveling with my son, so I am concerned about noise. I called before my first visit, and was pleased to find they had assigned me a room on a high floor (the higher the floor the closer to heaven, lol) when I arrived. The noises of City life (sirens, etc.) are audible but not overwhelming. Yes, you can hear doors slam and people talking in the hallways, like many hotels. A crying baby or a drunk jerk could ruin your night. This has only woken me up once (a drunk jerk, for the record), for about 20 minutes. As long as we all practice good hotel etiquette, there are no problems.
As for sketchy neighborhood, also true. Sadly, homelessness and drug addiction are a very real problem in San Francisco. This can be jarring and upsetting for folks. However, you could easily pay $100+ more per night for the same level of sketchy in Union Square or the Financial District. This is not an issue unique to the Carlton. It does get progressively sketchier about two blocks south of The Carlton, so exercise caution. I have noticed things getting somewhat better in recent weeks, as there is a mayoral race going on.
The rooms are a good size for San Francisco, and have always been clean. There is a kuerig machine in the rooms, with k-cups, as well as a filtered water station on each floor. I take advantage of both to make my son oatmeal in the mornings. There is also a bakery around the corner (Mr. Holmes Bakehouse) where people are always taking selfies with their cruffin. The pastries are as good as they look.
There is also a restaurant on site, Phlox Commons. The food is good and the prices reasonable (by San Francisco standards anyway). When traveling with kids, it is huge to have an easy place to eat.
But where the Hotel Carlton excels is customer service and good value. Emelie greets me by name each week, and has assigned my room (the one closer to heaven!) on all of my future reservations. She also helped me make a block of future reservations after my second or third visit. Roumel at the front desk is equally helpful and friendly. And Johnny takes my bags and delivers my wine (I’m a Joy of Life member, so I get a free bottle each week) with a smile.
In conclusion, I think the Hotel Carlton is a terrific choice when visiting San Francisco.
We stayed here for 3 nights from 7 to 10 May 2018. Very pleased! The hotel is quirky and has an interesting history. Lots of original features from when it was built in the 1920s. Staff very friendly and helpful. Hotel neat and tidy and in a very convenient location close to restaurants and cafes. Room was adequate for 2 people and the bed was especially comfy! If visiting San Francisco again we would definitely stay here.
I enjoyed my stay at the Hotel Carlton. Everyone was very accommodating with my questions. The hotel was located centrally to everywhere we were going during our stay. I enjoyed the afternoon wine social. I would definitely stay again.
Recently stayed on two occasions in this comfortable hotel. First three nights we were on the 8th floor, returned a week later and stayed on the 4th floor. Some reviewers have reported the hotel being noisy - the only noise we heard was that of disrespectful guests who slammed their room doors at all hours, and the occasional police/fire siren. The on-site restaurant serves good breakfasts (though there is the less expensive Cosy Cafe a few minutes away). The restaurant also serves dinner, (if you like your food served very fancy and not abundant), but there is also Miller Rest bar/bistro next door. The 5.30pm music and wine reception every evening is a good way of meeting other guests. Be aware the hotel is a good walk away from Union Square, 5 or 6 blocks and 15 minutes. You will probably have to walk past some unsavory looking people, but that applies to everywhere in this city! If you like your hotels a little different - you'll like this one.