JC Stays: Presidio Lodging, San Francisco

How one of the city's historic sites has been turned into its most tempting place to stay


San Francisco can be a wild ride, even for those used to California’s thrillingly vertiginous, excitingly cosmopolitan but sometimes plain exhausting foodie mecca. So the recent conversion of the Presidio, a former military post, into comfortable and atmospheric accommodation within its own park is great news for visitors.

Where bachelor officers once hung out, we began our own stay by enjoying wine and cheese to the strain of 40s jazz in a living room.

Their quarters are now the expansive rooms and apartments of the Inn at the Presidio, a beautiful 1903 brick building listed as a historical landmark.

Our suite was made up of a spacious bedroom, living room with pullout sofa bed and vintage-style bathroom, tastefully understated and set apart from the convivial living space where complimentary breakfast is served.

There’s a Nespresso machine for guest use as well as that cheese and California wine selection set out in the comfy lounge at 5pm.

After refreshment we strolled to the bus stop where a free express bus whisked us downtown for dinner in less than half an hour. We could have eaten at several places within the Presidio National park, but foodies will appreciate fast access to the legendary restaurants of the Financial District, Chinatown and the waterfront.

Next day we moved to the Lodge, sister barracks converted to a more affordable hotel which opened in 2018. Its Victorian shell now gutted and thoroughly modernised, what the Lodge lacks in that period charm which makes the Inn so special is more than compensated for by views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Waking up to see San Francisco’s most iconic sight from my bed was a highlight.

To make the most of a stay, you can’t miss exploring the grounds. The lovely park contains not just forest and hiking trails but wonderful embellishments by British land artist Andy Goldsworthy using the natural materials of the landscape; here dramatic diagonal edging for a path under the trees caught my eye. 

Families will enjoy the Walt Disney Family Museum beside the Lodge in another converted Presidio barracks, while a renovated theatre will open for live performances in September.

And just outside the Presidio lies Golden Gate Park containing the magnificent de Young art museum, the California Academy of Sciences plus a Japanese tea garden. 

If you have your own wheels, more far-flung highlights of the city are in reach, including Twin Peaks with its thrilling hilltop views, the iconic Cliff House coastal restaurant and Sigmund Stern Grove, a bucolic outdoor entertainment space gifted to the city by the Levi Strauss family.

The Presidio bus also stops within a 10-minute stroll of Fisherman’s Wharf. A little seedier than in its heyday, it’s the terminus for cable cars to ride the rollercoaster hills and fabulously renovated art deco streetcars which skirt the restaurant-lined Embarcadero. 

And after experiencing those hilly pavements on foot, it was all the sweeter knowing a quiet bed in San Francisco’s green western lung awaited us for a great night’s sleep. 

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