The Fairmont San Francisco stands tall at the top of Nob Hill. In addition to its 606 guest rooms and suites, the luxury property boasts the best panoramic views of the City and the Bay. The hotel seamlessly blends classic luxury with contemporary technology and amenities. One touch that was particularly modern and made our lives easier upon check-in was opting in to text with the front desk. Using this tool, we were able to order daily papers, ask questions about our stay and get information on the hotel’s vast food and drink offerings—including the iconic Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.
We spoke with Paul Tormey, the hotel’s general manager, about the property and what makes it so special.
What’s the most requested room at the property?
The famed Penthouse Suite.
What makes it so special?
The Penthouse Suite is a 6,000-square-foot luxurious, residential-style space that exudes history and whimsy. It even has a two-story library, complete with a secret passage. The space has played host to stars of screen, stage, sports as well as royalty and heads of state, including President John F. Kennedy. There is so much known about who has stayed here and what’s occurred here, but the idea that there are so many stories are known to only those who experienced it personally, keeps it a mysterious and marvelous place. This type of ambiance and storied history cannot be recreated.
What is the nightly rate/rate range for this room?
$18,000 per night
What’s an interesting tidbit about the hotel that speaks to its status as an icon?
The hotel was the location where the United Nations Charter was drafted in 1945. Most meetings were held in its Garden Room (with several also held in the Penthouse Suite). The flags displayed in front of the hotel marks this special place in history. The hotel was also where Tony Bennett first performed “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in its Venetian Room. We maintain a close relationship with this iconic artist and even have a suite dedicated to him as well as a beautiful bronze statue of his likeness and honorary “Tony Bennett Way” street sign in front of the hotel.
What’s your personal favorite room? Why?
The Penthouse Suite. It can be admired and enjoyed purely based on its aesthetics, but the history and stories people share are what bring it to life. I also love our Fairmont Presidential Suite, which is located in the Tower Building. The Main Building was designed by famed architect Julia Morgan and the Tower was built in the 1960s and is more contemporary and features the most stunning views of the San Francisco available.
What’s your favorite design element on property?
San Francisco is at the forefront of innovation and technology, so we strive to offer our discerning guests the technology and convenience touches they expect in travel today, but also pay homage to our hotel and San Francisco’s history through maintaining some beautiful architectural touches and original murals. Our hallways are lined with photos from 1950s San Francisco photography by Fred Lyons.
What special perk or amenity do you offer that no one knows about?
Many people are in fact aware of our onsite honey beehives, but not everyone realizes that you can purchase jars of the honey in our Caffe Cento or enjoy it in our Rooftop Honey Beer Series by Local Brewing Co., which is available in our Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar. We have nine rooftop beehives located on two of our rooftop areas. We installed them in 2010 to help combat the decline in the bee population and guests love this sweet, local offering that supports an important global cause.
One more fun fact about the property?
We are home to the longest continually operating tiki bar, Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar. Open since 1945, this world-famous venue is one of San Francisco’s hottest spots to this day. Anthony Bourdain called it “The greatest place in the history of the world” on his Travel Channel series The Layover.