This Coastal-Inspired Urban Lodge Offers a Charming Escape in the Heart of the City
Travelers and SoCal staycationers seeking a boutique experience that combines design-centric digs with a lively neighborhood setting (and dedicated Pali Vibes Playlist) should look no further than Palihotel San Diego. Housed in a century-old building, this new offering from Los Angeles-based boutique hotel brand Paliscociety opened in the spring and it boasts a central Gaslamp Quarter location, chic but cozy rooms and classy amenities—we’re talking Diptyque bath products, Nespresso coffee machines and minibars loaded with gourmet snacks. Plus, American diner meets French bistro Saint James French Diner and a chic guest-only roof deck anchored by the building’s iconic Hotel St. James sign are major draws for anyone looking to explore or spend time in the city of San Diego. Here are four reasons we love this charming urban lodge in the heart of Downtown San Diego.
Location, Location, Location
San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter comprises 16 walkable blocks packed with an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops and entertainment venues, making it one of the buzziest spots to stay. Located just one street over from main thoroughfare Fifth Avenue in the heart of what many consider the most famous neighborhood in America’s Finest City, there’s no shortage of things to do around Palihotel San Diego. Catch a show at the nearby Mad House Comedy Club, an outdoor concert at the waterfront Rady Shell, a Padres baseball game at Petco Park or a play at Balboa Theater—all of which are within easy walking distance or a short ride-share away from the hotel. If you find yourself in town for San Diego Comic-Con or a conference at the San Diego Convention Center, Palihotel San Diego is also just a short walk away! Its Sixth Avenue location also means proximity to must-visit local landmarks, such as the Embarcadero, Balboa Park, Seaport Village and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. And if just taking a stroll appeals, the neighborhood is rich in history with well-preserved Victorian-era buildings that add character and a picturesque charm to the surrounding streets.
A French Bistro and Roof Deck for Cocktails With City Views
Most sky-high spots around the city where you can sip a cocktail and soak in killer views are open to everyone, but at Palihotel San Diego, the roof deck is reserved for guests only. Head to the 11th floor and settle into a striped lounge seat for social hour, which runs Thursday through Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. During this time, try cocktails like the Bergamot Spritz, made with Italicus liqueur, strawberry, lemon, and prosecco, or the Hemingway, which has rum, grapefruit and maraschino liqueur. There are also small bites like potato chips, olives and smoked eggplant dip. The best part? Skyline views from every angle!
Downstairs, the 40-seat, all-day restaurant bistro Saint James French Diner is helmed by four-time James Beard Foundation Rising Star semi-finalist Executive Chef Casey Lane and is open to the public. His menu combines roadside American diner fare with French bistro classics—think moules-frites and steak tartare. During the weekday happy hour (Wednesday through Sunday, 3 to 6 p.m.) burgers are half price, and there’s an $8 cocktail of the day. Weekend brunch is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; it’s a buzzy affair with bottomless mimosas, croque madames, and steak and eggs serving as menu highlights. The new weekday breakfast menu just launched, offering French toast, croque madames, and more to hotel guests and locals from 7 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.
This Sixth Avenue Icon Has Some Stories to Tell
Built in 1913 for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and originally opened as the St. James Hotel, the one-time tallest building in town billed as “San Diego’s first skyscraper” for several years, is a stately 11-story brick structure that has held onto many of its original features. Step inside the ornate lobby of the handsome Victorian, and its historic character immediately becomes evident: hexagon tile floors, intricate pressed tin ceilings and the restored elevator bank, which was one of the fastest in the world when it debuted. Work from the communal farm-style table here, and you might just notice the signature lobby scent—Baies by Diptyque, a subtle blend of fresh-picked blackcurrant berries with lively accents of rose from the legendary French perfumer. Up a grand marble staircase towards the rear, a private dining room hosts meetings and private events. The original two-story sign remains on the rooftop, while a bar in the lobby—which actress Joan Crawford once owned—still has marks left by her stiletto heels after she danced on it.
Preppy Meets Nautical-Inspired Rooms and Suites With Superb Amenities
Upstairs, the 122 delightful rooms and suites are spread across 10 floors and feature a layered preppy-meets-nautical aesthetic. The whale tail door knockers and plaid accents contrast nicely against a palette of muted pinks, blues and grays. The King Suite is Palihotel San Diego’s most lavish option, which spans 410-square-feet and features a separate seating area. The hotel is dog-friendly, and if that interests you, opt for the bespoke pet package, Pawlisociety, when booking. All rooms come with 43-inch HDTVs, complimentary Wi-Fi and a slew of delightful amenities. Guests can pop a bottle of wine in their SMEG mini fridges, luxuriate with Diptyque bath products, don a plush robe, make calls from a rotary-style telephone and enjoy a Nespresso in bed, which is outfitted in Bellino Fine Linens. The 24-hour concierge can assist with everything from in-room dining to making suggestions on what to see and do from a neighborhood guide. If you opt to dine at Saint James French Diner, you’ll get 10% off as a hotel guest—just another reason we love this charming retreat in the heart of the Gaslamp.
Palihotel San Diego
830 Sixth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.