I feel guilty that it has taken me this long (slightly over a year) to write a review of my stay at the Washington Square Inn during the last week of August 2010, but better late than never, I guess!
As I have noted in one or two of my other hotel reviews, I like to choose accommodation that is unique to a city and I try to avoid the big chain hotels whenever I can. There were a handful of places in San Francisco that I considered for my first-ever visit to the city, but in the end I chose the Washington Square Inn primarily because of its many glowing, laudatory reviews, but also because of its North Beach location. Although San Francisco has many fascinating and historic neighborhoods, North Beach was of particular interest to me as one of the places that witnessed the birth of the “Beat” movement of the 1950s and it was/is home to the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Within a short walking distance from the Inn are many of the venues/institutions that nurtured and sustained the Beat movement, including City Lights Bookstore, Caffe [sic] Trieste, and Vesuvio Café/Bar. The house where Allen Ginsberg lived for a number of years and where he wrote “Howl” can be found on Montgomery Street nearby. North Beach was also for many years San Francisco’s “Little Italy” and if you like Italian cooking, you won’t have any trouble finding an Italian restaurant to suit your tastes and budget. But if you’re not fond of Italian, rest assured that there are plenty of other cuisines represented in North Beach’s many restaurants. In this regard, just ask to see the huge album/directory that Washington Square Inn has available in its main floor dining room and which gives details on just about every restaurant in the neighborhood.
I also liked Washington Square Inn’s North Beach location because it is ideally situated for exploring many of the city’s other sights. Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower are a short, but uphill, walk on Filbert Street. Meanwhile, Ghiradelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building, Pier 33 (where one catches the ferry to Alcatraz), and the Transamerica Pyramid are all within easy walking distance. (I should perhaps qualify this statement by noting that they were all within easy walking distance for me, but that may be because I love to walk and do a great deal of hiking wherever I go. Those reading this review may want to calculate distances and assess their own fitness levels before venturing out!) On my first full day in San Francisco I even walked from the Inn to the Golden Gate Bridge. I think it took me slightly over an hour, but I did make numerous stops along the way to take photos. It is also a relatively short walk from the Inn to the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason cable car lines and one can easily catch a cable car to Union Square or Market Street and from either of those locations catch a bus or, in the case of Market Street, a bus or a BART train, to explore other areas of the city. I found that San Francisco has an excellent public transportation system and it didn’t take me very long to figure it out and use it to visit venues such as Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, Golden Gate Park, the Legion of Honor, Alamo Square, and Lafayette Park.
Regarding the Inn itself, it does live up to all its glowing reviews. The outside of the Inn may look rather ordinary and plain, but inside it is a charming place, beautiful, very well-maintained and well-run. The staff at the Inn are exceptionally good and work very hard (my room was immaculate!) and the owners, Maria and Daniel Levin, were always there to provide advice and assistance and to ensure that each guest’s visit was pleasant and memorable.
Some reviewers have remarked on, and have occasionally complained about, how small many of the rooms are, and I suppose that could be an issue for some travelers; it is certainly a factor that should be considered by anyone contemplating staying here. Of course, what is small for some people will be seen as “cozy” by others! I was a solo traveler, so the size of the rooms was not really an issue for me. I booked Room #11 on the Inn’s web site and, if I remember correctly, selected the room because I generally liked how it looked in the photos on the web site. I also liked the fact that it had an ensuite washroom, and that it faced Filbert Street, which I figured would be a bit quieter than facing Stockton Street.
I was not disappointed in my room choice; it lived up to all my expectations. The room was spacious enough and was absolutely spotless. The washroom, to be sure, was definitely on the small side, but I already knew that it would be from reading at least one previous review of Room #11. In any event, the washroom’s size did not pose any inconvenience for me. Meanwhile, the views from the room’s windows provided me with some memorable, iconic images of San Francisco. And the room was quiet, too. I think I may have heard some street noise early one morning but that was it. All in all, I slept extremely well during my stay at the Inn.
The Inn provides a wonderful breakfast on the ground floor each morning (cereal, toast, fruit, yogurt) and in the late afternoon/early evening provides an end-of-day repast which include local wine (Napa Valley, of course, or maybe it was Sonoma – I forget, but it was good wine!), cheese, dolmades, and freshly-baked cookies (very yummy!). Both the breakfast and the late afternoon hors d’oeuvres provide great opportunities to meet the other guests. In this regard, I decided not to be my usual anti-social self and showed up for both breakfast and the late afternoon wine and cheese and, as it turned out, met and had some good conversations with some very interesting and friendly couples from places as diverse as New Zealand and Michigan and, much to my surprise, my hometown Ottawa as well (it really is a small world!). Regarding breakfast, one does have the option of having it in one’s room.
In summary, I can’t say enough good things about the Washington Square Inn. It provides superlative service and accommodation in one of San Francisco’s most interesting and lovely neighborhoods, and it should be on everyone’s short list of places to stay in the “City by the Bay”.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Washington Square Inn, a San Francisco bed and breakfast Inn in the city’s legendary North Beach neighborhood, welcomes its guests with all the charm and comfort of a small European hotel. Whether traveling to California for business or recreation, amenities offered with your stay at Washington Square Inn include free wireless Internet access, complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, evening hors d’oeuvres and wine, and full office services in the lobby. Rooms feature European antiques, cable TV, soft robes and private baths. Some rooms have sitting areas in bay windows, while others offer a cozy atmosphere with private fireplaces. Ideally situated in the very heart of the vibrant North Beach neighborhood, our historic hotel boasts beautiful views of Coit Tower, Russian Hill, Washington Square Park and the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul. Washington Square Inn is one of the best San Francisco hotel deals available, offering exemplary bed and breakfast lodging and service at rates ranging from $179 – $329 per night. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Washington Square Hotel San Francisco
- The Washington Square Inn San Francisco