San Francisco Proper gives the city something to shout from the rooftops about – literally, thanks to the hipster-favoured, skyline-showcasing, open-air bar. No surface is left bereft of design darling Kelly Wearstler’s colour schemes, patterns and prints; even the staff uniforms get their turn in the form of some dapper checks. The city’s cool creatives are already flocking to the Mid-Market neighbourhood and this stay’s coffee lounge, Villon restaurant and, of course, the drinkery, Charmaine’s, up on the roof.
Double rooms from £295.77 ($330), including tax at 16.45 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 6.25% per room per night on check-out and an additional resort fee of $44.17 per room per night on check-out.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast.
This is no ordinary concierge: the stylish staff behind the desk can meet every request, whether it’s for health-boosting IV shots (welcome to California), a call-in chiropractor or a passing acupuncturist. And, while there’s no spa, a whole coterie of visiting experts can call in on your room, whether it’s for personal training, massages, facials, mindfulness meditations or physiotherapy.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, valet parking, gym, concierge. In rooms: Aesop bath products, Aireloom mattress, flatscreen TV with Google Chromecast, Bluetooth speaker and tablet with the hotel’s Proper App.
Our favourite rooms
All of the rooms are examples of when clashing prints can really be a good idea, but nowhere more so than in the Premier Suites, which take a bold use of colour and pattern to the next level. They have party-ready living areas and views of the Ferry Building, too. We also love the corner-occupying Junior Suites, which can be made into two-bedroom interconnecting rooms for families. They may be small, but for those on a budget, the Bunk Rooms are perfectly formed (though better for those who travel light and don’t shop in Long Tall Sally…).
Don’t forget cycling shorts for pedalling across the Golden Gate Bridge; Silicon Valley-worthy specs; and as many patterned garments as your suitcase will hold.
There are wheelchair-accessible rooms available in the Premier King and Junior Suite categories.
Go for a booth if you want to keep things cosy, otherwise pull up a stool at the bar and ask the mixologist to talk you through all 49 cocktails, created in homage to the seven-by-seven-mile Bay Area.
If the wallpaper’s anything to go by, neutrals will be frowned upon.
The chef at Villon aims to source as much as possible from within the San Francisco Bay Area, with local ingredients transformed into contemporary American cuisine plus some international nods. Expect the unusual (breakfast pho) and the expected (avocado on toast) at daybreak; and squid-ink tagliatelle, tuna tartare, Japanese okonomiyaki and gnudi dumplings at dinner. There’s also a hipster-attracting coffee shop within the hotel.
Charmaine’s is on the rooftop, with striped sofas arranged around fire pits to keep you warm, and impressive views of the city. The cocktails are excellent, especially the Big & Beautiful bumper-size sharers (though no one will judge you if you order one to yourself).
Breakfast is between 7am and 10.30am; lunch is from 11.30am until 3pm; and dinner is 5.30pm until 10.30pm Sunday to Thursday (11pm on Friday and Saturday). Brunch is from 10.30am to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. The bar is open till 2am.
A limited menu is available during restaurant hours. Overnight, choose between sharing plates and salads.
1100 Market Street
**Hotel Entrance at 45 McAllister St
The hotel is in San Francisco’s Mid-Market district, on the corner of Market and McAllister.
San Francisco’s international airport is 13 miles away; the drive should take half an hour. Hotel-arranged transfers start from $85 each way. Oakland International Airport is another option; the 20-mile drive will take around 45 minutes. Transfers from this airport will also set you back $85 each way. Call Smith24 at any time to arrange all your transportation.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains are an easy (and cheap) way to get around the city, including to and from both airports. The nearest stop to the hotel is Civic Center.
The hotel is within a short distance of route 101 and interstate 80 (which leads all the way to New York if you fancy a – fairly lengthy – road trip). Overnight valet parking at the hotel costs $70 (plus tax) and $8 every 20 minutes for short term parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
The city’s MoMA has been expanded to three times its original size to house an even more impressive collection of artworks. See San Francisco the healthy way by completing the Lands End Trail, a three-mile hike that will take you along China Beach and to the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll want to plunder the neighbourhood's indie boutiques, notably Amoeba Records for vintage vinyl, Taylor Stitch for perfect-fit shirts, March for covetable kitchenware and Reliquary for curiosities sourced from around the globe.
If you fall into the camp of 'antique penny-arcade machines are not creepy', you'll find Musée Mécanique's automata charming. Castro Theatre cinema is another glimpse into 'Frisco's past, where screenings are still preceded by organ music. Take a guided mural walk down graffitti-coated Balmy Alley, then see the city laid out below from de Young Museum's observation tower, smack bang in the middle of Golden Gate Park.
Join the party at the Liholiho Yacht Club on Sutter Street, a celebration of all things Hawaiian – including poke. Zuni on Market Street has been a major player on the San Francisco scene since 1979, and people are still flocking here for the French- and Italian-inspired food today. For no-frills (but tasty) tacos, make for La Taqueria on 24th Street, where guacamole cravings have been sated since 1990. Chef Michael Tusk celebrates local produce in stylish fine-dining restaurant Quince; it's a special-occasion splurge, and the tasting menu may come as a surprise, but it's well worth taking a punt on. Meanwhile, Good Luck Dim Sum (736 Clement Street) serves remarkably good – and cheap – steamed buns, dumplings and such in a low-fi space.
Housed in an old factory with an industrial decor to match, Trick Dog on 20th Street is where to head for expertly mixed cocktails washed down to an all-American playlist. For anyone who has found themselves in San Francisco when they’d rather be in Victorian London, there’s the Whitechapel gin palace on Polk Street, which houses the largest selection of the juniper spirit in North America. Mikkeller pulls pints of potent Danish beer and other top picks from worlwide breweries. If you prefer grape to grain, work your way through the Barrel Room wine bar's lengthy by-the-glass menu.
Perhaps it has to do with that hangover from hell after a day trip to Sonoma. Or maybe another vacation ruined by the inevitable June Gloom. Whatever it was, I arrived to the City by the Bay slightly skeptical. I was here for a birthday party and came a few days early to see if I could figure out what everyone gushed about. Because, don’t get me wrong, I want to like San Francisco…
To give the city the best chance possible, I changed up my usual hotel stay. You know how they say that a change of scenery is a good thing? Well, I cancelled my Mission District Airbnb and opted for the brand spankin’ new Proper hotel in the Tenderloin. Like a beacon in a changing neighborhood, the bright and bold Proper sits triumphantly at the intersection of two diagonal streets. It’s a definite change from the usual manicured city hotel and I loved the unexpected and authentic energy it framed.
What caught my attention immediately was how the vibe of the lobby smacks you in the face immediately. It’s cavernous but cozy. It’s daring but soft. Your eyes dart around madly to all the textures and patterns and color. But it doesn’t feel like design for design’s sake, it feels purposeful. It’s inspiring.
Outside, the energy of the district is fast-paced and visceral. Inside, the vibe stays the same. When I checked in, the lobby was bustling. There were a cast of characters tucked into every possible seating arrangement. The height of the main floor gives it a grand feel and the smoked glass windows let in the most romantic haze from outside. And considering the unpredictable San Francisco weather, that soft screen washed the lobby with the most beautiful quality in a beautiful dance of light. The whole set-up feels like it’s prime for a Poirot plot.
I went upstairs immediately – upon literally everyone’s suggestion – to see Charmaine’s. It’s a very proud rooftop bar with captivating views and yet another beautifully appointed interior (Kelly Wearstler take a bow).
In fact, each public space was designed with such care. The gold and purple hues of Gilda’s private dining room beg you to think of an excuse to gather there. And playful patterns of wallpaper in the bedroom make you want to dress to the nines to paint the town red. (My favorite part of the room? The most stylish bathrobe I’ve ever seen while traveling.)
I took an early morning walk after a late night out. I love watching a city wake up. The buckets of water tossed from the colorful storefronts in Chinatown. A man on the wharf throws bits of his croissant to the birds by the pier. The Golden Gate bridge glitters afar.
Back at the hotel, I found a corner booth at Villon on the first floor and sat back to take in a leisurely breakfast. The baby blue color on the walls? The ruffled chandeliers? Perfectly indulgent buttered toast? I was in heaven. The sun poured in on my table. The soundtrack was all Neil Young and Steely Dan. I sat like a cat, held prisoner by the sun’s rays, excited to nestle in and burst outside again to explore.
Note to self: I think I’m Properly in love with San Francisco.