I love it when I have the opportunity to visit a city I’ve never visited before. In this case, it was the lovely city of San Antonio, Texas. As part of a press trip introducing the new Kia Niro, I was flown to Alamo City (aptly named since it’s the home of The Alamo) and whisked from the airport to the nearby Hotel Emma, situated in the former brewery district known as Pearl.
If you’re active on social media, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that this place is an Instagram-lover’s dream. And if you’re not on Instagram, just know that everything about it is photogenic, from the historic industrial feel with exposed brick and heavy machinery to the luxurious rooms that still fit the look and feel of the overall hotel.
In addition to the architecture and design (expertly done by San Antonio firm Roman and Williams), it’s full of the kind of history only a woman can appreciate. Here’s the 30 second version:
The hotel is named in honor of Emma Koehler, a towering figure in Pearl history. Emma ran the brewery after her husband and Pearl president Otto Koehler died in 1914. She was an ingenious CEO who kept the brewery going during Prohibition by converting operations to dry cleaning and auto repair, and making near beer, ice cream and soda. While other breweries were shutting down, Emma kept her entire workforce employed. She turned over control of the company to a nephew in 1933, but was a formidable presence at the brewery until her death in 1947.
You’ll still find plenty of perfectly preserved artifacts that embrace Emma’s history.
Although it may feel more like an interactive museum at first, there’s a lot more to Hotel Emma that’s makes it worth staying in, as opposed to just visiting.
Now that you’re convinced that this hotel is gorgeous, steeped in history, and honors a remarkable women, let’s talk about those six key areas you might want to know about when staying at Hotel Emma.
Location – Hotel Emma
When I’m staying someplace new, sleep be damned! I want to get out and explore! Luckily, the Hotel Emma is steps away from San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk, a network of walkways that follow the bank of the San Antonio River.
Upon hearing that The Alamo was a short drive away, I caught a ride to downtown San Antonio and toured around this free historic monument (definitely worth it – I learned so much about the founding of Texas!). Then a few quick steps through another hotel and I was on the Riverwalk for the two mile walk back to the hotel.
When I had a little more downtown, I asked the front desk if there was any nearby shopping. A few steps from the front door and I found coffeeshops, restaurants, and some fabulous boutique shopping.
Safety – Hotel Emma
In the hotel and in the shopping district right next door, I didn’t give safety a second thought. I felt safe and secure but…
My room had its own private balcony, which I’m sure affords a relaxing view when there isn’t construction going on.
I stepped outside and noticed the beautifully tiled floor and the relaxing room for one spot on the sunny balcony. When I went back into the room, I could not find a way to lock the balcony door. Perhaps the lock was broken or they just don’t have locks on them. If I had felt more worried, I would have raised the issue but since I was high on the sixth floor and the balcony felt enclosed, it wasn’t an issue for me.
I will say, however, that there are parts of the Riverwalk that you might not want to traverse alone, especially at night. There were a fair number of homeless men situated in alcoves along my walk so you’ll definitely want to keep safety in numbers.
Character – Hotel Emma
I’m not sure you could find a hotel with more character. From the Prohibition-era history to the sordid tales of the 3 Emmas (spoiler alert: it involves three women named Emma, one man named Otto, some adultery, and MURDER!), this feels like a modern-day hotel with none of the ghosts of the past – simply a nod to them.
Vanity – Hotel Emma
It was pretty clear by the time I got to my room that the design firm spared no thought or expense when it came to keeping the character of this hotel. But would that translate into a modern bathroom with all the luxuries a lady (or man) might want from a hotel of this caliber?
Yes. Yes, it did.
Toiletries – Hotel Emma
Ladies, leave your mini-bottles of shampoo and conditioner at home. Prepare to be spoiled with the Malin + Goetz line throughout the bathroom.
The true test of how good a hotel’s product are is whether or not I feel compelled to quietly slip the leftovers into my suitcase when I leave. The answer here is unequivocally yes. In fact, I loved these product, I went home and order the full-size versions for myself!
Here’s where I found them online if you want to try them:
(these are affiliate links and they aren’t cheap, but then, beauty never is)
Comfort – Hotel Emma
Ever have a night where you wake up and feel like you’ve had the best night’s sleep ever? That’s what happened my first night at Hotel Emma. You could blame it on a long day of travel and utter exhaustion but usually the first night is when I feel edgy in an unfamiliar space.
The pillows were perfect. The sheets divine. The mattress, not memorable – simply because I was sound asleep and can’t remember! But I awoke feeling totally refreshed.
Extras – Hotel Emma
Anything I forgot? Let me know and I’ll try to answer your questions. In the meantime, here are a few extra things to know about the hotel.
- Free margaritas every day at 3pm (if you miss it, be sure to stop by the amazing bar and huge lounge just off the lobby)
- Visit in the in-house library. Yes, it’s a library. Even if you’re not a fan of books (and if so, WHY NOT?), it’s worth checking out this two-story wonder, also off the main lobby.
- Pick up a complimentary Wildsam Field Guide either in your room at the front desk. This little booklet will tell you everything you need to know about the hotel, the history, the area, and even offers a place for notes (as true field guides do).
Now I know why some people call this their favorite hotel. It’s a destination in and of itself!