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Review: the Canopy San Francisco SoMa hotel, part of Hilton Honors (ex Virgin Hotels)

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This is our review of the Canopy by Hilton San Francisco SoMA hotel.

Canopy is Hilton’s modern lifestyle brand for design-conscious guests. Whilst it tends to offer enough to keep business travellers happy, they are generally aimed at holidaymakers with trendy restaurants, rooms and facilities.

Having stayed at the Canopy London City (review here) and the Canopy Austin (review), I knew what to expect: orange.

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Or at least I thought I did. As it turns out, the Canopy San Francisco SoMa is not a new build but a conversion of the former Virgin Hotels site.

After opening in 2019, the hotel’s owner terminated the 20-year management contract with the Virgin Group based on what he perceived as gross mismanagement.

Virgin Hotels sued and won $11.5 million in damages. By then, however, the relationship had already soured. When the hotel re-opened after a three-year pandemic closure, it chose to side with Hilton and was reflagged under its Canopy brand in May 2023.

The conversion process is ongoing. At the moment, you’ll still find the Virgin Hotels iconic red Smeg fridges in the rooms as well as their unique beds. Later this year, those will be replaced with Canopy’s own, replacing red for orange.

Isn’t it fun when there’s a little drama in the hotel industry! The hotel website is here.

Before we get into the review, a quick bit of background to my trip. I was in San Francisco as part of a major United Airlines flight review series we have been working on. These reviews will appear in September, but we felt it was fine to run this hotel review now. Hilton generously provided my room at the Canopy for review purposes.

Where is the Canopy SoMA?

If you’re not familiar with San Francisco, SoMa (short for South of Market) is the area in the North East part of the city and ecompasses neighbourhoods such as Yerba Buena and South Beach.

This part of the city is an interesting neighbourhood, with an eclectic mix of residential buildings, offices and cultural venues such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, AT&T Ball Park, Moscone Conference Centre and Yerba Buena Gardens.

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

The Canopy SoMa is virtually in the middle of it all, directly across from Yerba Buena Gardens and the Moscone Centre. The SFMOMA is just a couple of blocks away as is the lively Mission Street which takes you all the way down to the Castro.

The location is popular with a number of hotels, including the vast Marriott Marquis, in the same area. Traffic permitting, you can be at the hotel within about 15-20 minutes from the airport via taxi, although it’ll likely be closer to 30 minutes if you’re arriving during peak hours.

It’s slightly more challenging on public transport and you can expect it to take upwards of 45 minutes. Despite all the trams, San Francisco’s public transport system isn’t as good as I hoped; I thought it would be closer to New York’s MTA, but it isn’t.

(A quick note on the “homeless problem” in San Francisco which often makes the headlines. To be perfectly honest, despite walking extensively around downtown San Francisco, SoMa, the Embacadero and other areas I never found it particularly bad. I’d say it’s about the same as you’d find in London or New York – certainly not the apocalypse some people would have you thinking.)

Inside the Canopy San Francisco SoMa hotel

The Canopy occupies a 12-storey purpose-built structure that was built from the ground up for the former Virgin Hotels, so it’s virtually brand new.

From the outside it’s fairly nondescript, although it does have a bit of personality thanks to its large warehouse-style windows.

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

You enter into a fairly small lobby-come-corridor, with a couple of check-in desks on the left. On the right, you’ll find a cosy coffee shop:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Whilst to the left and at the rear is a bar:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

The lobby itself is relatively small and has virtually no room to loiter, which might be a problem during busier periods. Fortunately, I never saw more than a couple of people at the desks.

I was checked in very quickly and the staff member acknowledged my Hilton Honors Diamond status. Hilton has basically ditched free breakfast for status members in the US and instead I was offered $18 of food and beverage credit ($36 if there are two of you). This isn’t enough to pay for breakfast, but the upside is that it can be used for drinks or an evening meal instead if you choose.

Suites at Canopy San Francisco SoMa

The Canopy is still establishing itself in San Francisco and was probably about half full when I stayed. Very kindly, the hotel upgraded me to one of two top suites: the “King Suite Urban View with Living Room”.

Don’t worry – I also managed to take a look at a bog standard entry level room!

Bizarrely, the hotel was built with only two suites – on the corners – with the remaining rooms differentiated only by bed configuration and view.

The suite was impressive, and opened onto a large living room:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

The red Smeg fridge and Nespresso coffee machine are the biggest giveaways that this used to be a Virgin Hotel:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

There is no bottled water but the hotel does provide refillable glass bottles with an ice and filtered water tap on every floor. It would have been nice to have this pre-filled by house-keeping. There are also some cocktail glasses, an ice bucket and kettle.

On the other side you’ll find a red velvet corner sofa facing a TV, with a window facing East towards South Beach:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Behind the sofa, on the other side of the mirrored wall is the bedroom. There is a sliding door to the living room for privacy.

In contrast to the dark-ish living room, the bedroom was lovely and light, with floor-to-ceiling windows along two aspects:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

The bed, currently the Virgin Hotel bed, will soon be replaced by Canopy’s own signature bed:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Note that the wooden slats behind the bed are against a mirror, letting you see your own silhouette when laying in bed too.

Connectivity is good – there are US mains sockets as well as USB ports, and you also have global controls for all the lights in the room.

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

From the bed you can admire the lovely view of downtown San Francisco. You don’t even need to get up to open the curtains thanks to the electric blinds!

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

On the other side of the bed is the bathroom. It is large.

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

There are two wash basins in the marble vanity, as well as a dressing table. You can see it is Victorian-inspired, with subway tiles and black and white fittings:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

The suite comes kitted with a Dyson hairdryer:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Opposite you have a large wardrobe with your usual ironing board and some interesting microfibre robes – never had those before:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

And, behind the dressing table, a double shower with frosted windows as well as a large bath tub:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

It’s a bit of a shame that the view cannot be enjoyed, and I do wonder if the designers missed a trick by not putting the bath tub in the window and having the shower internally. Toiletries are by Thank You and are extremely lemony – it’s almost as if you’re showering with lemon curd!

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

The toilet, in a separate room, is also vast and suggests to me that the suites are also designed to be accessible.

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Rooms at the Canopy San Francisco SoMa hotel

That’s a suite – what about the standard rooms? These are surprisingly spacious, too. If you’ve ever stayed at a new-build Virgin Hotel you’ll know what to expect, with what they term the ‘two chamber’ design.

In practice, that means that the corridor features an open wardrobe, dressing table and sink, with shower and toilet behind frosted doors:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Then, behind a sliding door, you have the main bedroom:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

The design of the standard room was a bit less vibrant than that of the suites. It needs a bit more colour, I think, or at least something fun hanging over the bed.

Nevertheless, it’s a good size and you get the Smeg fridge, Nespresso machine and kettle as well on a little mini bar:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

Breakfast on the rooftop

There are a number of food and beverage outlets in the hotel, including the bar and cafe on the ground floor. By far the highlight, however, is Shelby’s the rooftop bar and restaurant.

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

This is open for breakfast right into the evening and is where I used my $18 dining credit. On chillier days there are glass doors that can be shut. The weather in San Francisco was substantially cooler than dreary London when I went in August so I imagine these are used a fair bit.

For breakfast, you have a choice of:

  • Fruit cup – $10
  • Chia parfait – $12
  • Overnight oats – $12
  • Avocado toast – $18
  • Shelby’s breakfast plate – $24
  • Harissa scrambled eggs – $23
  • Asparagus frittata – $25

The prices are fairly typical for San Francisco – it is expensive – and unfortunately the $18 credit doesn’t get you very far. I had the avocado toast one morning:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

…. and the gigantic breakfast plate the next:

Review: the Canopy SoMa San Francisco hotel

In the evenings, Shelby’s is also a nice spot to enjoy cocktails which I did one night.


And that’s it. There isn’t a pool or spa, which would have been nice, although there is a gym which I forgot to visit (oops).

I enjoyed my stay at the Canopy San Francisco SoMa hotel. I always prefer to stay at hotels with a bit of character, which the Canopy has, and the location was great for my needs, including as a starting spot for a run along the Embarcadero.

It will be interesting to see how much changes later this year when some of the Virgin Hotels signature flourishes are replaced with decidedly more orange, Canopy ones.

Rates at the Canopy SoMa generally start from around $300, although note that you’ll have to pay taxes and a $30 daily destination fee as well, which includes premium internet access, a daily $30 food and beverage credit and a daily $25 credit for Tower Tours. This is, unfortunately, pretty standard for hotels in the USA these days. At least the $30 F&B credit can be used easily to get your money back.

(It’s worth a reminder, of course, that Hilton Honors pays your ‘destination fee’ on reward stays. Free still means free. No other major hotel chain offers this, although Hyatt waives them for top-tier Globalist members on reward and cash stays.)

Redemptions start from around 76,000 points per night. You can find out more, and book, on the hotel website here.

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Comments (39)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dave says:

    Rhys – please don’t forget that because you are working in California, you are required to file both California and Federal income tax returns for 2023.

  • NA says:

    Did you not come across guys walking around with their trousers round there ankles?
    Or spot a human jobby in the street which prompted emergency action from the street cleaners?
    The homeless issue and the associated shouting is quite unpleasant. Even the elevators down to the BART needed attendant to stop any issues. We stayed just the other side of Market Street where it was quite bad. That said, it didn’t spoil our holiday.
    We found San Francisco very friendly and everyone helpful including the elevator attendants when we were getting the BART to the airport.
    Public transport I thought was good. We used the cable cars a lot (slow but fun), historic street cars down to Embarcadero, buses to the California Academy of Sciences and the BART to the airport. Biggest issue was the homeless guy moving to offer us a seat next to him. Had to politely decline!

    • John says:

      It is very bad in my opinion and something needs to be done. Worse than any other rmajor city I have been to

      • Panda Mick says:

        Have you been to Portland or Seattle recently? From the airport on the tram / light rail, the Tent Cities are everywhere

        Solving a crisis like this is not just about putting people in a house. San Jose tried this and it solved nothing. The major has realised this. It’s about education, Jobs, Healthcare.

      • LittleNick says:

        Can’t be worse than some of the parts around what’s called zombie city in Philadelphia

    • Mike says:

      The homelessness was terrible in SF 15 years ago and worse everytime I’ve been back. The aggressive begging is awful too. Certainly wouldn’t go on holiday there.

  • The real Swiss Tony says:

    Few stats from a Bloomberg article.
    SFO population down 7.5% since April 2020
    Downtown activity based on cellphone usage down 68%
    Commercial property valuations down as much as 80%
    Wasn’t particularly keen on my past visits. Certainly can’t imagine I’ll be heading back any time soon.

  • Edward Betts says:

    Californians avoid hanging things on the wall by the bed because they’re don’t want them to fall off and hit them during an earthquake.

  • Will in SJC says:

    Rhys’ perspective on the homelessness is interesting. I can see how you could believe it’s no worse than other cities. If Rhys spent the majority of his time walking down Harrison, through Rincon Hill and out onto Embarcadero he would have gone through areas with little homelessness. Fishermans Wharf, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio are all areas where homelessness is not that much of an issue. It was refreshing to see someone not view it as an issue.

    Spending time in SF frequently will change that view. I work in SF three days a week. I lived in SOMA for two years. I know the area well, I used to park my car in the parking garage round the corner from Canopy. Rhys’ experience doesn’t mirror mine.

    I will be honest, SF has deteroiated to the point that we no longer recommend colleagues stay in SOMA or Union Square. We are now suggesting they stay out at Mission Bay and issuing guidelines around safety.

    As others have pointed out within two or three blocks of the Canopy there are examples of the impact of the crisis:

    – bouncers to move staff between company buildings
    – the area under the 80 is frequently a tent city (that’s three blocks south of canopy)
    – the Target a block from Canopy now has a large number of products behind perspex glass.
    – The Westfield is empty
    – Numerous offices on Market now have bouncers on the door who unlock the building to let you in to see tenants of the building.
    – Walgreens and CVS have left their Market St locations because of constant shoplifting and danger to staff
    – Ross on Market operates bag searches on the way in (!!) and out
    – Whole Foods shuttered their 6th St location due to their staff not being safe

    In the last 3 months, I have stopped parking in parking garage a block from Canopy because I have felt unsafe. I have also witnessed three separate incidents of homeless people pulling knives on others in the middle of the day whilst walking to get my lunch time salad. This is in an area that would be equivalent to the city.

    I have spent the last month in London working in the city. I struggle to recall a time of seeing any homeless people. That is not to say that London or other cities don’t have their issues. They do.

    The reality is that SF’s issues are on another level. Portland and Seattle aren’t far behind. People should still visit, you just need to be alert and aware. And pick your hotel carefully.

  • Guy Incognito says:

    I am heading to SF in October. I was going to stay at the Proper but upon reading reviews of the location I am not going to. It sounds horrific.

    It’s likely I will stay outside of the city and just get an Uber in when required.

  • John says:

    I am glad people have put a bit more perspective on the issues. I just the mnits unfair that a website we trust for info has given the impression the city is a safe as any other which isn’t the case. Shame rhys for mis information

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