On San Antonio’s River Walk, a Sleek Hotel From a Fussier Era


The Hotel Emma in San Antonio was refashioned from a section of an 1894 building.

Nicole Franzen


Rooms from $350.


At the upriver end of the River Walk in San Antonio is the Hotel Emma, a 146-room boutique hotel that upends visitors’ perception of this low-key city. The hotel was refashioned from a section of the Pearl Brewery, an imposing 1894 building. Victorian style isn’t always easy to make unfussy, but the design firm of Roman & Williams created a sleek makeover of the property, which opened in late 2015. The luxurious lobby still holds industrial touches, like an apple-red ammonia compressor and the room’s original cooling fans. Old beer vats have been made into surprising round banquettes inside the lobby bar. The hotel is part of the commercial Pearl Brewing complex, which includes the Culinary Institute of America, more than a dozen boutiques and about 20 restaurants. Since early this month, private in-room spa treatments have been offered to hotel guests from the new Hiatus Spa & Retreat next door.


The seven-story hotel stands at the north end of the River Walk, once a pedestrian dead zone, which has emerged as the happening, 16-block Pearl District. The San Antonio Museum of Art is a waterside stroll, a half-mile away. The heart of downtown is about two miles south along the walkway. Rio taxis stop outside the waterfront hotel for guests who would rather cruise there by boat.

The Room

With its black four-poster bed, leather chairs and simple mesquite table, our room was more subdued in design than the splashy lobby. My husband and I found our room on the small side but barrel-vaulted concrete ceilings soaring 15 feet opened up the space.


The boutique hotel at the upriver end of the city’s River Walk has 146 rooms, an outdoor pool and a farm-to-table restaurant, among other features.

Nicole Franzen

The Bathroom

The ample bathroom features a Victorian nautical motif, with brass fixtures, lighting so flattering I seemed to look fresher at midnight than I had all day, and wavy tile. Malin & Goetz toiletries were provided.

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