InterContinental San Francisco: Mastering the Personal Touch in a High Tech City

San Francisco 0797 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

I love the City by the Bay, rain or shine – and we had plenty of rain on my second visit there, until the clouds cleared and the sun made a much welcomed appearance for the final day.  Whatever the weather, the InterContinental San Francisco made for a wonderful home base for conference meetings and for exploring the city and spots such as the view from the Coit Tower, above.

IC San Francisco 2489 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly


Moscone Center San Fran Copyright Shelagh DonnellyThe hotel boasts a great SoMa (South of Market) location that you’ll appreciate whether you’re visiting for business or play. If you’re in town for a conference or exhibition, it’s almost impossible not to hear of the Moscone Center, which is actually three buildings. The InterContinental San Francisco is immediately adjacent to Moscone West Convention Center, which means you’re in the thick of the business district.

San Fran Streets of Gold Shelagh DonnellyUnion Square San Fran Copyright Shelagh DonnellySituated at the intersection of Howard and Fifth, you’re barely a five minute walk from Market and Powell Streets, where you’re then just a couple of blocks away from Union Square.

Or, since Market and Powell marks the turnaround point for two of the city’s three cable car lines, you can use that as your home base for exploring the city. Alternately, you can catch transit downhill along Market Street to the Embarcadero. Whether it’s the Painted Ladies, Chinatown, Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Gardens or any of the city’s museums that you want to see, you’re well positioned to explore the city.


Tall and cool, the sleek blue and white exterior rises 32 stories and lets you know you’re in for contemporary styling throughout its 550 guest rooms.

This is one of two InterContinental properties in San Francisco. While I look forward to also trying out the brand’s more traditional Nob Hill property, the Mark Hopkins, on a future visit, the Howard Street property made perfect sense for this stay.

Since my flight was among more than a few that were delayed on arrival day, it was roughly midnight when I arrived at the hotel. The silver lining was that there was no line up for check in, and Rob took care of a weary traveller quickly and graciously. Making my way (way, way) up to the 23rd floor and my corner room, I was struck by two things. First, even though this was one of the largest hotels built in the city in a couple of decades, and even though I was in a corner room, there was no meandering down mile-long hallways to reach your suite. Designers established a maximum of 22 rooms a floor. Secondly, the expanse of glass within my room was impressive; both exterior walls were floor-to-ceiling glass.

IC San Francisco View from Room Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Naturally, despite it being the middle of the night, I whipped open some of the curtains to enjoy the views of the business district and the Bay. I had a peek-a-boo view of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, and woke up to this impressive site.

IC San Fran Room Copyright Shelagh DonnellyMy room was elegant and, naturally since this was San Francisco, high tech. The massive flat screen television was great, but had serious competition from the views behind it. While the bathroom was one of the smaller ones in my InterContinental experience, it was nicely done in marble. Besides, we know how expensive San Francisco real estate is, and so every square inch counts! Everywhere else throughout my room and the hotel, though, there was a sense of airy spaciousness.

Turndown Cards IC San Fran Copyright Shelagh DonnellyIC San Fran Turndown ServiceRoom service and my meals were lovely, as was nightly turndown service. Who wouldn’t appreciate picture-perfect cards giving you tips on areas you might want to visit?

Accompanied by cards with the weather forecast and little treats of both milk and dark chocolate, this made for a great end to the day. This high tech hotel doesn’t lose sight of personal touches.

Feeling Presidential?

IC San Francisco Pres SuiteCopyright Shelagh Donnelly… or want to host a critical meeting or event? If so, you may want to book the two-storey Presidential Suite that’s situated on the hotel’s 31st and 32nd floors. I toured this luxury suite, and was struck by the 270 views to the north, south and west that add to this airy, 2,000 square foot environment.

Entering on the 32nd floor, you have a dining room to seat eight for dinner or a business meeting. The suite wraps around to a generous living room with its own baby grand piano, a couple of terraces and elegant seating from which to enjoy the gorgeous views.

San Francisco City Hall 0043 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

You may not be meeting with civic leaders in your meetings here in the Presidential Suite, but you can certainly have a bird’s eye view of San Francisco’s City Hall, above. Constructed on the site of the original City Hall, which was only seven years old when it fell in the 1906 earthquake, the current City Hall was designed by Arthur Brown, the architect responsible for Coit Tower and the War Memorial Opera House. It’s rare that a visitor will see all there is to see in a city such as this on just one or two visits, and so I’m looking forward to exploring inside this magnificent landmark the next time I visit San Francisco.

IC San Francisco Pres Suite 2728 Copyright Shelagh DonnellyUpstairs, you have this master bedroom with two ensuites, a tech centre that’s height-adjustable, and more panoramic views. Little wonder that this is an award winning suite. There’s also an 872 square foot Terrace Suite, aptly named since it has a 512 square foot outdoor area, and the hotel has another 12 suites for people wanting a little more room.


Luce IC San Francisco Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Luis, IC San Fran Copyright Shelagh DonnellyAbove you’ll see an early morning look inside Luce, which opened with the hotel in 2008 and is Michelin-starred. It also has a wine cellar boasting more than 200 labels.

In town for a conference, I dined elsewhere for lunches and dinners but did enjoy breakfasts in the Club InterContinental. This is a private lounge on the sixth floor, and busy travellers can appreciate just how convenient it is to enjoy breakfast, an afternoon break or evening drink and canapes there. Luis, shown here, takes stellar care of guests.

Grappa, Anyone?

IC San Francisco Bar 888 Grappa Copyright Shelagh DonnellyIf Italian brandy is your beverage of choice, you may want to make your way to Bar 888, which is adjacent to Luce.

With more than 120 hotel-selected grappas, Bar 888 has one of the largest grappa collections in the country.

Fitness and Pampering

The hotel has an indoor lap pool outfitted with skylights, a fitness centre and 10-room spa, all of which have ready access to an outdoor terrace.


Kevin IC San Fran Concierge Copyright Shelagh DonnellyWith a bit of time to explore the city, and having heard of secret terraces housed within public buildings, I did my online homework and then popped down to see the Concierge for a bit of help with planning my route.

That’s where I met Nelson Louie, seen here. Louie is a member of Les Clefs d’Or (Keys of Gold) USA, and couldn’t have been more gracious or helpful. Map and directions in hand, I was on my way with a smile.

 Getting Around Town

San Fran Bike Share Copyright Shelagh DonnellyHow to get around? Well, you can of course get car service directly from the hotel, or catch a cab. Depending on the distance, it’s sometimes quicker to walk than catch a cab. There were Bay Share Bike Share options just a couple of blocks from the hotel, but I walked and also turned to BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

Want to ride the cable cars? Take that short walk to Market and Powell Streets, where you’ll find the turnaround for two of the city’s three cable car lines. Want to make your way up Nob Hill and then down to Fisherman’s Wharf? Hop on the Powell-Mason line. You could also take the Powell-Hyde line; there are some similar stops, such as Nob Hill, but the Powell-Hyde line also travels over Russian Hill before dropping you off at a different spot at Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Fran Transit Copyright Shelagh DonnellyYou also have easy access from the hotel to the Embarcadero; just catch transit heading downhill on Market Street.

San Fran Transit 8031 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

The Embarcadero is a long stretch of waterfront on the city’s east side, and is home to the Ferry Building at one end, Fisherman’s Wharf at the other and Pier 39 (which I prefer over Fisherman’s Wharf) in the middle. If you’re in town on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, catch a ride to the Ferry Building for its terrific farmers’ market.

Corporate Travel and Events

IC San Francisco Conference Facilities Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

The hotel has 43,000 square feet of high tech meeting space that can host a myriad of functions. Lower level floors contain 21 meeting rooms with capacity ranging from 400 to 1,600 square feet. Tired of holding your meetings in rooms without exposure to the outside world? All the hotel’s banquet facilities have natural light.


InterContinental San Fran 2963 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

This blue and white hotel is one green property. It’s LEED® EBOM Gold certified, and has a Zipcar plug-in hybrid car available for (pre-existing) Zipcar members staying at the hotel.

InterContinental San Fran 2814 copyright Shelagh Donnelly


The InterContinental San Francisco has nabbed more than a few awards and titles since opening in 2008. It made Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List 2008, Fortune’s The 33 Best New Hotels for Business, Elite Traveler’s 101 Top Hotel Suites of the Year, and of course it has that Michelin star.


It all depends on what you want in a room, and how early you book. Standard rooms start at $189, or you might want a Club room starting at $289. That will see you on an upper level floor and enjoying great views and access to the Club Lounge. Junior suites range from $259 upward; you have a range of options, all the way up to the luxury Presidential suite, which starts at $3,500 nightly.

Would I Stay There Again?

In a heartbeat.

If You’re Planning To Go: The Lowdown

Shelagh March 2016Getting There: You have your pick of 34 international airlines in addition to domestic carriers. San Francisco (SFO) International Airport has artwork you’ll pause to admire, and an impressive variety of seating options in its departure lounges.

InterContinental San Francisco: Thank you for making this stay possible, and kudos to your wonderful team – particularly Concierge Nelson Louie as well as Luis in Club InterContinental – for making it a great one. As always, perspectives are entirely my own.

Sights to see: Make time for the Ferry Building,  Coit Tower, the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building, the Painted Ladies, Pier 39, and San Francisco’s POPOS (privately owned public spaces). Walk a couple of blocks to Yerba Buena Gardens. Ride the cable cars, walk up (or down) Lombard Street. Taste some Ghirardelli chocolate and, if the boys of summer are playing, don’t you dare miss a Giants’ game and their incredible waterfront locale! It’s entirely a matter of personal taste, but I don’t recommend spending a great deal of time at Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re in that vicinity, I’d much rather make my way over to Pier 39, where you can see how the sea lions navigate that thing called social interaction.

Remember: When it rains, it pours! Though the city and much of California have been suffering from drought conditions, it never hurts to bring an umbrella. Fortunately, this hotel had one ready and waiting in my closet.

Want to see more of my stay? Check back right here in a day or two for links to some of the spots I mention above, and more. You just can’t cover this city in a single story.


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