From the vast beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge to the vertiginous hills the city is built on, San Francisco isn't a city that holds back. Neither does the Clift, where nothing is done on a small scale.

Pull open the huge glass doors and be greeted by an imposing lobby with soaring ceilings and an 11m fireplace. The 363 rooms are done on an equally impressive scale with huge windows and sleigh beds made from English sycamore.

The hotel has its own slick restaurant, the Velvet Room, but you'd be missing out if you didn't go exploring to sample what the famed Bay Area scene has to offer. Hire bikes or hop on and off the trams and be prepared to leave your heart here.

WOW FACTOR: Sip mandarin lemongrass martinis in the double-storey Redwood Room.

FLIGHT TIME: 12 hours

WHEN TO GO: Spring, Autumn

GO: Rooms from £147 per night ( Virgin Atlantic ( flies from £734 return.