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“Funky but clean, great location, cafe is a magnet”

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SenS Hotel & Vanne Bistro Berkeley
Ranked #20 of 20 Hotels in Berkeley
Reviewed 13 July 2013

This is my second stay here. I love the place. It is old and tired, definitely seventies decor, but I enjoyed both of my stays here. The rooms are clean, and the maids make up the rooms as well as you could want. Except for the fantastic cafe, I would not describe this hotel as European; it is old seventies. The neighborhood (gourmet ghetto) is wonderful, walk to everything in Berkeley, and free parking. Both stays were in the big rooms; last time on the second floor in the front, this time in 304, at the back. Comfortable; and a balcony with 3 small tables. Yes, it overlooks Andronicos parking lot, but look what you are paying. The cafe opens early and serves great coffee and (if I recall) good enough baked goods; I'm off gluten and lactose now, so I didn't eat anything. I met an old friend for afternoon coffee, and sat in front on Shatuck ave. at a table for an hour. The staff is friendly and extremely helpful. I'll probably stay here on every trip I make to Berkeley. If you want luxury, or new carpets, or something else, don't stay here. I wouldn't stay elsewhere in Berkeley.

  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled solo
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3  Thank Carl F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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18 - 24 of 60 reviews

Reviewed 18 May 2013

If I ever come back to Berkeley, CA, I will stay at The French Hotel. Right in the middle of the Gourmet Ghetto (Chez Panisse is across the street and, sadly, under reconstruction after a fire), This place is everything and more! Other reviews had me a bit worried, but either a) things have been made much better here or b) those folks know not what they are talking about. Noisy? It's a freakin' city, folks.. what did you expect? At least it's not in the campus area--but within walking distance--where noise is much rowdier. And the older folks in the area (me included) wind things down within a reasonable hour. The folks couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. The cafe attached is delightful... always full.... so that should give you a clue. If you are a little on the healthier side, let me recommend the whole wheat bagel w/cream cheese, tomato, and avocado. Yum! My room was spotless, linens clean, plants well taken care of on the patio, and perhaps the most charming hotel room I've ever been in... but I appreciate furniture styles, and this furniture may well be from the 1960s, sturdy and well-built. And the rates? Unbelievably affordable for this area. I hope The French Hotel folks read this and know what a delightful space they have created and maintained. One big plus... The Post Office is right across the street, so if you're making purchases for friends at home, it's easy to ship so you won't have to drag all that stuff pass security. I've always been amazed what they pull from your bags and question.

Room Tip: Stayed on the 1st floor. Would request that again since I'm not fond of elevators being from a...
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  • Stayed: May 2013, travelled solo
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1  Thank India of Birmin... H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 April 2013

I consider writing this review a public service because it's really, really bad.

The reason this place has an average of 3.5 stars is that the French Hotel Cafe is veritably fantastic, and a lot of these reviews are for the cafe or are skewed by loyalty to the cafe. In fact, besides location, the only good thing about the hotel is that guests get free coffee. Service, atmosphere, pastries, and drinks at the cafe are great, no argument.

If you're a Berkeley local, please don't put your folks up here when they visit just because the cafe is one of your favorites, so you assume the hotel must be quality, too. The people who raised you deserve better than this!

The husband and I really wanted to stay in North Berkeley on our recent visit to UC Berkeley because we're thinking of moving to the neighborhood. The price ($105/night) seemed decent, and we love all things funky, vintage, independent, and European. We were wondering why their website was all about the neighborhood and barely about the hotel. Now we know.

We opened the door to our room expecting cozy old European charm and instead found depressing, outdated smelliness on the level of a gas-station bathroom. The carpet was torn and stained, the bed was covered in one of those nasty old comforters that glows under blue light, and the bathroom linoleum was ripped and moldy-looking. Our balcony was filthy and overlooked the very noisy Andronico's supermarket parking lot, but we were grateful for the sliding door, which we kept open the entire time because of the stuffiness and stinkiness.

We had reserved for 2 nights, but after a minute in this room we went downstairs and cancelled the second night. At least they didn't give us any problems about it (though since it was well over 24 hours in advance, they shouldn't have anyway).

On closer inspection, the room was reasonably clean (no sticky surfaces or anything); but when things are very stained and torn, they need replacing. This hotel could be so much better with a little updating. I've stayed in Motel 6s that were less depressing. In fact, despite being exhausted from the day, we stayed out in town as late as possible to avoid returning to the room.

Because of loud noise coming early from delivery trucks at Andronicus, the (hopefully psychosomatic) constant itching, and the fact that we couldn't close the sliding door because of the odor of the room (it was a cold night), we didn't sleep well. I do really think we would have been better off sleeping in the car.

To be fair, there was one last positive thing: they gave us a free permit for parking in the B of A parking lot, and unlike another reviewer, we didn't get a citation.

Bottom line: a lot of good hotels have yucky coffee. This was a yucky hotel with good coffee. We've already been back for the coffee, but you'll never, ever find us staying here again.

Room Tip: If at all possible, ask to see a room before you book it (e.g., if you are booking a room for visiti...
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  • Stayed: March 2013, travelled as a couple
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9  Thank Margaret P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 March 2013

after the negative reviews for this hotel, i booked a stay at the french hotel for 4 nights this past february. the location was ideal, close to my daughter's condo and my grandson's pre-school. i was very pleasantly surprised by the comfort and convenience of this hotel. the french hotel is not a hilton or even a days inn. it is, however, a small european-style establishment with spacious, well-maintained rooms, a friendly staff, and an adjoining berkeley institution, the french cafe. i have already booked my next stay there

  • Stayed: February 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank obsessedtraveler299
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 November 2012

Carpet is worn out and ripped, walls are dirty, guy at desk kept talking to his girlfriend when I asked a question. One of the worst hotels I have ever had the misfortune to visit. Heat was a small radiator hidden under the desk -- I froze during the night. Stay away.

  • Stayed: November 2012, travelled on business
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3  Thank Ina K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 November 2012

This hotel has a great location in the area north of Berkeley. Great shopping and restaurants nearby. We found the room to be clean and bright. It is a bit on the worn side but was still comfortable and spacious and on par with many of the other Berkeley hotels. We found the staff to be quite pleasant and helpful. The coffee shop is a definite plus and the latte and regular coffee had a great taste. If you like corporate model of hilton and starbucks this is not for you but if you want the local flavor of Berkeley this is a great place to stay. We had a great time during our trip and feel we got a good value for the price.

Room Tip: Higher floors are likely to be quieter. There is a nice grocery next door but there is trash pickup...
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  • Stayed: November 2012, travelled with family
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Thank didskionce
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 November 2012

in case your friends have a full house, this is your choice to stay overnight, at a walking distance. shattuck ave has everything you need at hand: bars, yoga, supermarket, farmers market, and the best pizza in town. the coffee place at the entrance gives your room a very tropical aroma.

  • Stayed: October 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank Vita A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about SenS Hotel & Vanne Bistro Berkeley

Address: 1538 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709-1517 (Formerly French Hotel)
Region: United States > California > Berkeley
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #20 of 20 Hotels in Berkeley
Price Range: £138 - £245 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:2.5 star — SenS Hotel & Vanne Bistro Berkeley 2.5*
Number of rooms: 18
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
SenS Hotel & Bistro is centrally-located in one of the best food destinations in the Bay Area. The famous Gourmet Ghetto is renowned for its epicurean delights provided by restaurants like the world renowned Chez Panisse, the upscale Mexican restaurant Cesar, and the enormously popular Cheese Board Collective. The famous SenS Bistro is located on the ground-floor and serves the best espressos, lattes and pastries in town. Hotel guests enjoy complementary morning coffee as well as fresh pastries and bagels all while soaking up Berkeley's morning sun and catching up on-line with access to our complimentary Wi-Fi. Our three-level, historical hotel is centrally-located in one of the best walking neighborhoods in town. The hotel is undergoing a complete renovation featuring new amenities such as luxurious walk in showers, high end linens, and new flat screen TVs. Renovations will be completed in early 2017, but until then, you can enjoy our spacious, comfortable rooms equipped with cozy beds, cherrywood armoirs and writing tables. Several of our rooms have balconies. We are conveniently located close to University of California Berkeley and many Berkeley corporate offices. San Francisco is minutes away via freeway and BART. Both San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport are a comfortable drive from our hotel. Our friendly staff will happily assist in any special arrangements that you might need. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
French Hotel Berkeley

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