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Inside San Francisco's Most Expensive Hotel Suite

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The Fairmont Hotel's penthouse clocks in at 6,000 square feet and rents for $18,000 a night

All photos by Patricia Chang

President John F. Kennedy, Prince Charles of Wales, Mick Jagger, Tony Bennett, Dita Von Teese, Nat King Cole, and Marlene Dietrich are just a few of the luminaries who have bunked at the Penthouse at the Fairmont Hotel. It's the location where world leaders gathered in 1945 to craft the United Nations Charter, and it'll run you $18,000 a night.

Created in the 1920s by American archeologist and art historian Arthur Upham Pope, the penthouse maintains the majority of its original charm—like the vaulted billiards room that's entirely covered in floor-to-ceiling Persian tiles—even though it underwent an extensive remodel by Alexandra Champalimaud, principal of Champalimaud Design, in 2010. "We have inherited a rich history and the eclectic and sophisticated tastes of the suite's original owners and those who lived here," says Champalimaud, describing her approach to putting forth a "luxurious marriage of East meets West." The penthouse was a private residence up until 1981.

The penthouse spans the entire eighth floor of the historic main building and clocks in at an impressive 6,000 square feet.

There are three large bedrooms, a living room with grand piano, a formal dining room, a professional-grade kitchen, a two-story circular library crowned by a rotunda where a celestial map is rendered in gold leaf against a sapphire sky, and an expansive terrace with sweeping views of San Francisco.

There's a secret passageway concealed behind one of the bookshelves on the library's second floor that leads to the roof (which used to have a helipad), and rumor has it that it was installed so politicians could easily get into the suite without the security threat of entering through the hotel's main lobby.

In addition to all the aesthetic pleasure one receives from staying in the penthouse, guests also receive a coterie of dedicated personnel, including a 24-hour butler and personal trainer.

The kitchen's always stocked with fresh organic items from the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, along with a selection of California wines, designer stemware and china.

While this is the place to stay if you're an international celebrity or politician, the penthouse also plays host to some of San Francisco's most lavish weddings and private events.


· The Penthouse at the Fairmont (PDF alert) [official website]