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San Francisco’s Hotel des Arts: A Solo Traveler’s Dream

I’ll admit it—I was very afraid to spend my seven nights in San Francisco at the Hotel des Arts.  Despite the pretty amazing reviews I found online, I continued to hold onto my belief that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  I was waiting for the catch.  Hotel des Arts sounded so great, given the price and location, that I imagined the catch to be fairly huge.

Looking down Bush Street towards the hotel--the sign is in the distance. Fantastic location.

There was no catch.  Not even a little one.

As a solo traveler, I look for two important things—price and location.  Because I’m not sharing the cost with anyone, price is extremely important to me; because I’m walking back at night alone, location is also extremely important.  My third requirement is a personal preference, but it is part of who I am—I need a private room with a private, attached bath.  I found all of these things and more at Hotel des Arts.

Let’s first address the ‘and more’ part.  Hotel des Arts is named for a reason—it is at once a hotel and an art installation.  Each room is painted by a different local artist, and art lines the narrow hallways and stairwells.  My room was done in an awesome street art style, featuring graffiti-looking designs all over the walls and ceiling, with one wall painted a solid orange to keep it from being overwhelming.  I wanted to call it ‘punk-art’, and just found out that the name of the room is, in fact, Punkadelik.  Or, more accurately, Punkadelik is the name of the artist who painted it.  How great is it to get to learn about a new artist just by staying in a hotel room?  That’s got Suitcase Scholar written all over it.

The room was small but the space was well used.  A granite-topped desk sat along one wall, with a very large flat screen tv above and a mini fridge below; a small rack on the wall functioned as a closet and the tiny but spotless bathroom was more than adequate, meaning I had enough shelf space for my toiletries and I was able to shave my legs in the tub-sized shower.

The small but completely spotless private bathroom

Additionally, the staff could not have been more helpful or welcoming.  Upon returning to the hotel the first night with a car, I called and inquired as to why the one garage I knew about was closed; the man at the desk immediately called the people at the garage and directed me to the correct entrance which was, in fact, open.  On one occasion I forgot to take the ‘do not disturb’ sign off the door and received a note apologizing for not cleaning the room because ‘they didn’t want to disturb me’.

I honestly loved this hotel, and was sad to leave.  Perhaps because it lacked the traditional hotel lobby—or really any trappings of a regular hotel—I really felt like I was living in the heart of the city for that one week.  I entered through a nondescript door, walked up two steep flights of stairs, and I was ‘home’.  It was a great experience, and I will most definitely return on all future visits to San Francisco.
Hotel des Arts was, for me, like the perfect spouse.  Sure, it had its flaws, but they were flaws that I could deal with.  The hotel does not have air conditioning, but you simply don’t need it in San Francisco.  Even on the third floor—even after an unusually warm day in the city–it was too cool at night to keep the windows open.

Additionally, there’s only one little ancient elevator that I never used.  I was perfectly able to get my bag up and down the stairs by myself and, honestly, if you have a hard time climbing two or three flights of stairs, you may want to seriously reconsider visiting San Francisco in the first place—on certain hills they just give up on sidewalks and installed near-vertical stairs. Parking is not included or provided, but there are three public lots within a block radius if you choose to rent a car (as I did for the second half of my stay); even with paying $30 per day to park, this hotel is still a steal in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

An extremely efficient use of space--the desk, fridge, and TV area was more than enough for me.

Oh—and did I mention that a very basic breakfast is included?  Sure, it’s only bagels, muffins, coffee, and juice, but I’d say that saved me at least $8 per day as compared to visiting Starbucks; double that if I’d chosen to have a real breakfast anywhere.

Simply put—I’ve paid far more for a less interesting, less clean, less well-located room in less exciting cities.  Hotel des Arts was the literal definition of value, especially for a solo traveler.  I highly, highly recommend it.

Disclaimer:  While all opinions and reviews expressed on The Suitcase Scholar are always my own, I feel it is important to note that I was not offered any incentive for writing this post; I booked this stay on my own and paid for it with my own money (er…my own credit…)  I got an extended stay, AAA rate of $66 per night, which worked out to be around $80 per night after taxes and fees.  The standard rate is $100 per night for a room with an attached bath (they do offer rooms with a shared hall bath for slightly less, but I will always pay slightly more to have my own bathroom).

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