The Clift hotel, San Francisco review: In the heart of the city

Our rating

4 out of 5

The place

The Clift, San Francisco

The location

In the heart of the city on Geary Street, just two blocks from the Union Square and a short walk from the city's famous Chinatown neighbourhood. The historic Curran Theatre is right next door, while the area offers plenty of options for those looking to shop or dine at some of the city's finest places. Most of the major chains and department stores are also in the surrounding blocks.

The space

The Clift dates back to 1915, when Frederick C. Clift, an attorney, had the 350-room, 12-storey property built on land his family had inherited. Back then, rooms started from $2 a night, with the best rooms going for a whopping $6. In 1924 three more storeys were added at a cost of close to $1 million a floor.

Today the property has been reimagined as an art hotel by French designer Philippe Starck. The moody lobby features an eclectic selection of furniture, including chairs from Ray and Charles Eames and a coffee table by Salvador Dali. The centrepiece is an oversized chair that's a favourite on Instagram.

Off the lobby is the hotel bar the Redwood Room, named for the wood panels that cover the bar and walls, reportedly all from the same giant tree. There's a 24-hour gym on the second floor and the hotel also provides complimentary bikes for getting around town.

The room

Down the purple corridors of the hotel is my corner Deluxe Suite and it certainly is delux. Like the lobby, the furniture in the room has also been designed by Starck, but it has a distinctly art deco style that makes me feel like I'm living in the era of The Great Gatsby, despite being on the wrong side of the country.

The suite itself is huge, with a large living room featuring two couches, a glass-topped dining table, a separate bedroom, bathroom with bath and shower, and even a dressing room with a huge wardrobe and dresser.

The decor and large windows make the room bright and light, with great views across the city.

The food

There's no restaurant at the hotel but the Velvet Room, draped with velvet curtains, is open for breakfast. It's used for private functions at other times.


The Redwood Room is a popular spot for a cocktail, with DJs Thursday to Saturday from 11pm through to 2am. Along with its striking wood panelling, the other standout feature of the room is its changing digital art.

At the time of my visit the portraits on the walls appear to be simple paintings, but occasionally moved subtly, making many drinkers do a double take. Along with drinks, the Redwood Room also does a variety of bar snacks and share plates.

Stepping out

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), 151 3rd St, is about 10 minutes' walk from the hotel. It's the largest modern art museum in the USA and one of the oldest, though it has only been at its current location since 1995. The exhibits include paintings, sculpture, sound and multimedia from a wide array of artists.

SFMOMA also houses, on 100-year loan, the vast collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of retail chain The Gap, with works from the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The museum's Michelin-starred restaurant, In Situ, features a menu curated from dishes contributed by more than 80 chefs around the world. See

See: What it's like dining at Situ

The verdict

Accommodation doesn't get much more central in San Francisco than this. Even if you're not staying there, the lobby and bar alone make the Clift worth a visit.

The essentials

Rooms at the Clift start from $US313. The Deluxe Suite is from $US686 a night. See


The suite feels like it is built for parties, so we invite a local friend around for champagne to truly get our Gatsby on before heading to the gorgeous Redwood Room.


Perhaps the suite has not been used much lately, but the air seems a little stale when we check in. We open the windows to freshen it up.

Craig Platt stayed as a guest of the Clift.