Hotel Vitale

Embarcadero, San Francisco, United States

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Perfectly positioned and immaculate full service hotel with buzzy bar and restaurant
San Francisco is consistently rated one of the top cities in America, nay the world, to visit. Understandable when you consider its wonderful natural setting on the Bay, its cultural contribution, its position in the vanguard of technological innovation, its devoted promotion of high quality food and fine wines, and its friendly inhabitants.

The city's charms are showcased in the simply contemporary Hotel Vitale. Colours are softly seductive, inspired by water and earth. Natural materials such as limestone and wood are deployed throughout to create a soothing urban oasis. Its prime location on the Embarcadero overlooks the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. 200 rooms and suites come in several configurations, designed to suit business, family and leisure travellers alike; all are supremely comfortable with 440-count linens, all mod cons and stylish bathrooms. The Americano restaurant wins plaudits for its style and ambiance; the bar with circular cocktail lounge plus Bayview patio attracts a vibrant crowd. And the professional staff personify the Bay Area's friendly reputation.


  • Superb location on the Embarcadero, close to downtown, Ferry building, AT&T park and great transport links
  • Excellent restaurant with locally sourced and seasonal menu, and scene bar; we waddled out of there after a wonderful meal
  • Smooth, efficient service without attitude. Expert concierge team
  • Rooms and suites conceived for relaxed luxury; hotel has won many design awards
  • Spa with outdoor private soaking tubs


    Prices displayed are a guide only and will depend on the date of your stay; you will get an exact quote when you enquire but note that some rooms may be significantly more expensive
  • Larger than the usual hotels i-escape works with but we felt its location, restaurant and comfortable rooms merited inclusion
  • Some may feel the subtle décor to be tasteful to the point of bland
  • Streetside rooms experience some noise; to be expected in the heart of a bustling city
  • No pool but guests have complimentary use of the pool at the YMCA next door

Best time to go

San Francisco is a year-round destination, but May, September and October are the most popular months.

Our top tips

SF is a very casual city but you may want to bring groovier threads for dining out and clubbing, comfy shoes if you're sightseeing, binoculars if you want to make the most out of the Bay.

Great for...

  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 200
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service


Uncluttered contemporary rooms and suites come in several configurations, providing complete flexibility and truly something for everyone.

Light sleeper? Then request a Tranquil Interior Room (either a king or 2 queens, state your preference when booking) which has a view of the (slightly unprepossessing) courtyard so is as a consequence dead quiet.

Wanting to people watch? Urban Studios overlook Mission and Stuart Streets through huge picture windows.

Intent on romance? Book either a Partial Water-View Room for its picture windows with partial harbour views, or the Embarcadero Water-View Room for that big Bay view of the Bridge, Treasure Island and Ferry Building, and additional bay window loveseats and chaise longues from which to soak it all in.

Travelling en famille? The Family Studio, which has 2 queens or king and a sofabed, plus dining table for four, will suit just fine. Here to paint the town? Chances are you'll not be in your room much so the SF City-View Room may be the one for you, which also comes in king or 2 queen varieties. And for honeymooners, celebrations, special occasions or for the sheer extravagance of it, the Terrace Studios, Deluxe Panoramic Circular Suites and Landmark Terrace Suite are the cat's pyjamas.

We were fortunate enough to be in the Panoramic Suite, staying at Hotel Vitale for our wedding anniversary. We were impressed to find petals on the kingsize bed, champagne on ice and a card from housekeeping - a very charming touch. We delighted in the view of the Bay Bridge, especially fine at dawn (we had not managed to locate the remote control that operated the black out blinds), as well as from the deep soaking tub, positioned to take advantage of the view.

All rooms have the same soothing palette of soft blue and taupe, large comfortable beds with 440-thread count linens and customised duvets, and limestone spa bathrooms with rainhead showers. You also get a desk and ergonomic chair along with an indulgent well stocked mini-fridge plus ample snack bar (with healthy and decadent options), best sampled while relaxing with one of the excellent coffee table books provided. Other amenities in the rooms include an ambient noise machine (set it to ocean, rain, white noise or nature sounds), iron and ironing board, shoeshine bag and separate recycling bin. Bathrobes and slippers, hairdryer, organic 'Lather' toiletries and oxygen canisters are in all bathrooms.

In keeping with the 'vitality' theme, the artwork throughout is close-up photographs of leaves, flowers, branches and buds. Sprays of lavender are outside each door; orchids, bamboo and wood keep the feel natural and the spirit soothed.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • Tv


Hotel Vitale's Americano Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge occupies the Embarcadero-side ground floor with views onto the water and Bay Bridge, and is as popular with local groovers and shakers as it is with business types. Service is excellent.

Although large, the space feels intimate with warm wooden floors, soft lighting and natural colours and textures. The Cocktail Lounge has a circular frontage to maximise views of the water and Bay Bridge. Adjacent to the bar is the Bay view patio with heaters for drinks with a view. At the other end of the ground-floor restaurant are spaces which can be velvet-curtained off for private dining and events.

The seasonally changing Italian-influenced menu has been conceived by Executive Chef Paul Arenstam with the concept of farm-to-table in mind, capitalising on the excellence of the produce sourced from the Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building - been dubbed an 'Italifornian' style of cooking.

The menu deftly juggles the capricious demands of its varied clientele. So if you're propping up the bar after work or want a lighter lunch (these are all available 11.30am-11pm), classy bar snacks to choose may include Bruschette such as duck confit with cannellini bean puree and pickled shallots or Pacific prawns with romesco al forno; antipasti like artichoke and brussels sprouts fritti or heritage pork meatballs or grilled asparagus. Italian flair is also seen in the pizza and panini dishes - the diners next to us were loving their pizza funghi with fontina and black truffle oil and Toscana with salame, mozzarella and tomatoes.

More formal fare is served 11.30am-2.30apm and 5.30-10pm. We visited in late spring and started with the mushroom and spring fennel soup, scallops with lemon zest on a sweep of green pea puree. Our chosen entrees were Petrale sole piccata on brown rice and hearts of palm, and chicken with asparagus, mushrooms and spring garlic. Sides included polenta with mascarpone and chives, spicy parmesan shoestring fries with aioli. We simply didn't have room for the pasta/polenta/risotto course, (next time we'd try the tagliatelle with Manila clams, broccoli, lemon and garlic or risotto with fava beans and asparagus), as we had our eye on the exquisite chocolate torte nestled in a salty caramel sauce with mint-flavoured ice cream on top, instead.

The wine list is a veritable manual of Italian wine, with a pleasing emphasis on esoteric out of the way wineries - we went for the wine flight where you get three glasses of red or white, a great accompaniment to our meal. The list also pays homage to local Californian bounty with several 100 to choose from. Of course every other beverage is available, including some very interesting looking cocktails including the Americano made with campari, and their own versions of classics: bellini (pricky pear puree), martini (Lillet Blanc & lemon twist) and hot toddy made with quince.

Breakfast is served either in-room (room service is 24 hour) or in the Americano restaurant until 10.30am Monday to Friday, and until 11.30am weekends. Choose from the light selection - such as housemade granola or smoked salmon plate or Italian continental (artisanal meats and cheese, sliced fruit) - or bakery items like banana pancakes and French toast. The eggs menu includes eggs any style including Benedict, 2 kinds of omelette, poached with short ribs and my choice, the signature dish of wild mushroom scramble with truffle oil, which was sublime. Beverages run the full gamut from organic coffee (served every which way from Americano, natch, to mocha) via forest mint and equator chai to all colour of juices including pomegranate.

San Francisco is deservedly renowned for the high standard of its cuisine with its emphasis on fresh local ingredients, and is a standard bearer for the Slow Food movement. So dining out is a pleasure. Within a few minutes walk of Vitale you could try Boulevard opposite (French influenced), Aqua (elegantly sculpted fish dishes), Slanted Door in the Ferry Building (modern Vietnamese), Waterbar (seafood), LaMar (nuevo Peruvian), One Market (contemporary classic Californian) and Epic Roasthouse ('beyond the traditional steak house').

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Take the trip to Alcatraz (you may need to book in advance); the ferry goes from Pier 33
  • San Francisco punches above its weight culturally: you are a short walk from the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the African Diaspora, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and a cab/tram ride from the Davies Symphony Hall, Opera House and the Asian Art Museum around Civic Center
  • Do the tourist thing: ride on a cable car; drive down famously crooked Lombard Street; stroll (or take a tram) along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf and its Aquarium; take in a Giants game at the AT&T stadium
  • Cycle, jog or walk (jogging maps are in your room) along the foreshore past the Marina to Crissy Field; the track runs between the beach and lagoon, and under the Golden Gate Bridge - look out for Brown Pelican and Snowy Plover
  • Most of the city's bars and nightclubs are within a short stagger of Hotel Vitale in the downtown and SoMa areas
  • Long rectangular Golden Gate Park is confusingly not near the Bridge, but houses Stow Lake, walking trails, a state-of-the-art kids' playground and the twin world-class museums: the de Young Palace of Fine Arts and California Academy of Sciences
  • Take a cab to the Legion of Honor Palace of Fine Arts the other side of the Presidio for striking views across to Marin and the Golden Gate bridge
  • Complimentary yoga and stretching classes are held at Vitale every morning, in the penthouse-level studio (7am weekdays, 9am weekends); there's a small fitness centre too
  • The Ferry Building across the way hosts the bustling Farmer's Market, which showcases the best Bay Area gourmet offerings every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday plus the Ferry Building Gourmet Marketplace
  • Take the ferry over to Sausalito for lunch and cocktails and stunning Bay views
  • Shop at the designer and department stores around Union Sq
  • Hire a car to go over the bridge into Marin County and walk through magical Muir Woods, the last remaining stand of old growth redwoods in the San Francisco region, also home to over 50 bird species
  • Or hike to the top of Mt Tamalpais for spectacular views over the Bay area
  • You can sail, windsurf, canoe, kayak in the Bay - ask the concierge for details. They can also arrange trips further afield such as whale-watching and birding boat trips to the Farallon Islands
  • December - March sees San Franciscans head to the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe - it is possible as a day trip
  • As it is to Napa and Sonoma for wineries and fine dining

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Whalewatching
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga


Children are welcome here, but in truth the hotel is better suited for adults as there are few facilities specifically for kids. If you don't need them this is a great choice: San Francisco is a great family destination and Vitale is in a fab location for a whole array of activities and attractions.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The spacious Family Suites have a sofabed and dining table for 4. Some of the Tranquil Interior Rooms and SF City-View Rooms also have a single sofabed, and most rooms can fit a baby cot.


Not available through the hotel as yet, but the concierge may be able to help source an external sitter/nanny if necessary.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

There's 24-hour room service with kid-friendly options; the restaurant Americano serves sophisticated yet child-friendly pizzas. It's an easy walk to some sensational eateries, including the Farmer's Market (Tues, Thurs and Sat am). No bottle warming/baby food options.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Use of pool next door at the YMCA
  • Movies, music and games on demand

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Fisherman's Wharf (sea lions, restaurants, bakeries)
  • Yerba Buena playground
  • AT&T Stadium - the Giants' ball park
  • California Academy of Sciences (make sure to book in advance)
  • Sailing, kayaking and windsurfing in the Bay


  • Airport: 20 minutes
  • Doctor: 15 minutes
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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