One way to stand out as a hotel is to adopt a fun, quirky or crazy theme. San Francisco boasts several hotels that have modeled their lobbies, rooms and restaurants all around a central inspiration, whether it is nautical in an old cannery on Fisherman's Wharf or Japanese in Japantown. There's even a hotel here inspired by San Francisco-based movies that has its own mini-theater showing a double feature just for guests every night. Free popcorn is included.
Argonaut Hotel: Nautical Theme
495 Jefferson Street, Fisherman's Wharf
The Argonaut takes its location on Fisherman's Wharf seriously, with decor fully inspired by the waterfront's nautical past and the building's history as an old canning factory. There is a working astronomer's clock in the lobby and a front desk modeled after a vintage steamer trunk. Rooms are decorated in nautical print fabrics and the wooden plank floors are reminiscent of those on a ship. Even the food keeps within the theme: the Blue Mermaid Chowder House & Bar specializes in seafood and is decorated with boats and ropes.
Hotel Bijou: San Francisco Movie Theme
111 Mason Street, Union Sqaure/Tenderloin
Hotel Bijou's guestrooms are all based on great moments in San Francisco movie history. There is a room inspired by Alfred Hitchock's The Birds on the second floor and a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner room on the sixth. Other rooms are based on movies like Sister Act, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Graduate and American Graffiti. The hotel even has its own theater, which shows a nightly double feature of San Francisco-filmed movies that includes popcorn and is free to guests.
Hotel Kabuki: Japanese Theme
1625 Post Street, Japantown
Kabuki has collected artwork from San Francisco's Japanese sister city, Osaka, and used it to create a Japanese oasis in Japantown. Shoji screens in each room allow visitors to customize natural light, and 3-foot Japanese-style tubs have been placed in the bathrooms. Some rooms also include wooden saunas. A Japanese garden and koi pond near the lobby complete the atmosphere.
Hotel Rex: Literary Salon Theme
562 Sutter Street, Union Square
The Rex is all about replicating the feel of San Francisco's literary salons of the 1920s and 30s. Shelves full of books adorn the hotel's Library Bar, where guests can rode classic cocktails and be entertained by live jazz performances on Friday evenings. The hotel hosts the occasional cabaret showcase, too. Work from local artisans decorates the guest rooms.
Villa Florence: Italian Theme
225 Powell Street, Union Square
For a bit of Italy in San Francisco outside of North Beach, there is Villa Florence. The hotel restaurant, Kuleto's, serves Northern Italian cuisine, while Bar Norcini offers Italian-themed cocktails. A sidewalk tile mosaic is the first thing that guests see as they arrive, and an Italian-style fountain pours of of columned walls. Every bathroom sports a photo of Sophia Loren in negligee.