Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco is on the western side of Fisherman's Wharf. It is a popular attraction for those who love to dine and shop.
The main draw to this attraction is the famous SF chocolate treats. In fact, within this one-block square, you will find three of their chocolate shops.
Apart from reveling in chocolate consumption, there are many other fun things to do, such as wine tasting, boutique shopping, a free walking tour, and several large annual events.
This square was originally home to the first Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. (How do you pronounce Ghirardelli? It's a little different from how it looks -- "Gear-r-deli".)
Located near the water on Beach Street, Ghirardelli Square is easy to find. The famous white sign sits high on top of the building, and you can see it from many blocks away, as well as from the water, if you happen to take a boat out on the bay.
Read on to learn more about this famous attraction's past and the top things to see and do here today!
Ghirardelli Chocolate is the oldest continuously operating chocolate maker in the U.S. It was started by a man named Domingo Ghirardelli.
Domingo Ghirardelli was an Italian immigrant. Growing up in Italy, his family introduced him to sugar-based treats early on in his life. He always had a fascination with them and later set out to start his own chocolate and candy company.
He first tried his skills in Peru in South America. However, he relocated to California during the height of the gold rush. He originally sold sweet treats and drinks to the gold miners.
A few years later he decided he wanted to open up a shop. In 1852, his dreams came true and he opened the first chocolate business in San Francisco. This business would later become known as the Ghirardelli Chocolate company we know today.
In 1893, his business continued to expand. To keep up with demand he moved his chocolate factory to the buildings in what is now known as Ghirardelli Square.
Over the years, the company added buildings. They added and sold portions of the business. At one time, they also produced mustard (this is evident by signs on one of the buildings in the courtyard today).
The company added the famous 15-foot high "Ghirardelli Square San Francisco" sign in 1923. Finally, in 1967, they moved the factory to San Leandro in the East Bay.
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Ghirardelli Square San Francisco is just one square city block in size. Investors purchased and updated the original buildings of the factory shortly after Ghirardelli moved out, and turned it into a small retail area, making it what is considered the first successful adaptive reuse project in the country.
Here are several things to do and see at Ghirardelli Square:
Most people come here to buy chocolates and see what is under the famous white Ghirardelli sign that lights up the San Francisco skyline.
There are three places to buy Ghirardelli chocolates within this small complex.
The first one, the Original Chocolate Manufactory, is the main shop located on the eastern side of the square. Here, you can indulge in some hot fudge sundaes and see some of the original chocolate factory equipment.
Don't fall into the trap of standing in line waiting for hours just to buy some chocolates at the main store. Unless the line is short, I recommend heading over to one of the other two shops, so you don't end up spending an hour or more in line.
The first alternative is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace, tucked into the West Plaza of Ghirardelli Square. You can access it from the main courtyard. It is a little smaller than the main shop, but has many of the same treats available.
The second additional shop is the smallest and newest addition on Beach Street, called Ghirardelli-on-the-Go, where you can quickly duck in for some of their famous hot chocolate or chocolate goodies. This location is petite, but perfect if the lines at the other two are too long.
There are several small boutique shops in the square that offer great souvenirs.
Jackson & Polk and Lola of North Beach are two cute shops that sell wonderful little gifts, stationery, and greeting cards with unique designs. If you're looking for handcrafted jewelry, check out Mashka Jewelry.
Ghirardelli Square is home to the flagship store of elizabethW's locally made candles and fragrances. You'll also find Helpers Bazaar, a 100% charity-driven boutique by international fashion icon and philanthropist Joy Bianchi.
There is also Peekadoodle Kidsclub, a play space and discovery zone designed to foster your child's creative thinking and independence.
And don't forget about your beloved furry friends while on vacation! Stop by Yap to pick up fun pet toys and accessories.
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When you're ready to take a break from walking and shopping, there are a handful of delightful restaurants and cafes on the square, apart from the Ghirardelli ice cream shops and cafes.
You will find casual places such as Lori's Diner, a '50s-themed restaurant with classic burgers, fries, and shakes. If you want a quick snack or refreshment, there's also the Juice Shop and Le Marais Bakery.
Then there are higher-end restaurants such as McCormick and Kuleto's Seafood & Steaks, which sits right on Beach Street and has amazing views of the bay. Another favorite is The Pub, featuring southern style BBQ and a full bar.
In addition, every Thursday through Sunday from noon to 7pm, you can drink Lagunitas beer for charity at the community beer garden in the West Plaza. There you'll find live music from 3pm to 6pm.
You will find two places for wine tasting at Ghirardelli Square.
In the center of the square is Wattle Creek, a local winery from Alexander Valley. Their wine bar features a large selection (the most popular varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Sauvignon Blanc), and their tasting menu allows you to stop by for a small sample or a full glass of wine. The tasting room is open from 11am - 7:30pm Sundays through Thursdays, and 11am - 9pm Fridays and Saturdays.
In the Lower Plaza, you'll find Bluxome St. Winery, which makes its wines right in the SOMA district of San Francisco. Some of their favorite varieties include Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay--served by the flight, bottle, or barrel. They are open daily from 1pm - 8pm.
If you are a history buff, then you might enjoy the free guided tours of Ghirardelli Square San Francisco. These tours are available only on Monday and Friday mornings at 11am.
During the tour, you will learn more about the history of the square. You do not need to register ahead of time for the tour. Simply show up at the concierge booth in the center of the square a few minutes before 11am and let them know you are interested.
Ghirardelli Square San Francisco now offers free internet access on the square. You can check your e-mail or tell your friends you are enjoying the day in San Francisco. Find the connection "Ghirardelli Square" to use their free internet service.
You could spend as little as one hour or up to half a day walking around Ghirardelli Square San Francisco. It is a great historical marker in the city. It is worth a stop at least for a few minutes if you love sweets or want to buy some gifts.
Or simply head over to grab a coffee or hot cocoa at one of the Ghirardelli cafes and then take a stroll along the water. Ghirardelli Square San Francisco is right across the street from the Aquatic Park, where you can walk down the pier to get a better view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Every year, Ghirardelli Square hosts seven large annual events.
1. March/April - Easter Celebrations: Every Easter, Ghirardelli Square invites kids and their families to enjoy an Easter egg hunt, photos with the Easter bunny, and other fun activities. Click here for details and other fun things to do this Easter.
2. April - Ghirardelli Goes Green: Celebrate Earth Day at Ghirardelli Square. This annual event includes live music, green-focused activities, and a visit from the "Bag Monster." This one-day event is perfect for the entire family.
3. May - Uncorked Wine Festival: This wine tasting event invites many of the top wineries in Northern California to showcase their wonderful wines. For two days, you can sample wines, savor Ghirardelli chocolates, listen to live music, and more. Find out more here.
4. September - Chocolate Festival: The popular Chocolate Festival gives you the chance to sample a variety of their amazing chocolates. In addition, it features a wine tasting pavilion, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, and more. Click here for more details.
5. October - Fleet Week: Celebrate Fleet Week at Ghirardelli Square. This large SF event features an airshow (with the Blue Angels!), ship tours, and more. Every year, Ghirardelli Square provides live music and other fun activities all around the square. Read more about Fleet Week.
6. November/December - Light the Menorah: For Hannukah, head over to the square to light the first candle on the menorah with Rabbi Peretz Mochkin. After the ceremony, stick around for some kid-friendly events.
7. November/December - Holiday Tree Lighting: Watch the annual tree lighting ceremony with a visit from Santa, live music, and other children's activities. Click here to find a full list of tree lighting ceremonies and other holiday events.
If you decide to stay in the area, you have the option of staying right in Ghirardelli Square itself. This old chocolate factory is now home to the top five-star hotel in San Francisco, the Fairmont Heritage Place.
This hotel offers over 51 two- and three-bedroom apartments and guests love it! Find ratings and reviews for the Fairmont Heritage Place on Booking.com.
If you are like me and your budget doesn't allow you to stay at the priciest hotel in SF, then check out the great deals on Booking.com. They also offer free cancellations on most rooms. Browse the deals on Booking.com today!
Okay, I'll admit it--I love chocolate and can't resist the Ghirardelli chocolate squares. My favorite is their milk chocolate squares filled with caramel. These yummy chocolate square treats were first introduced in 1999.
You can find some fun San Francisco-themed treats at all three of the Ghirardelli Square shops. If you want to replenish your stash of sweet treats you buy on your SF vacation, you can easily find a wide selection of Ghirardelli chocolate & gift baskets online.
Would you love to make your own Ghirardelli sweet treats? Wow your friends and family with recipes from this official Ghirardelli chocolate cookbook.
This cookbook is a baker's dream with over 80 recipes. Find everything from cookies, bars, and cakes to some of their world famous chocolate drinks.
Inside, you will find both simple recipes to extravagant desserts only found in the Ghirardelli shops. 25 full color, mouth-watering pictures showcase the final results of some of the best recipes in the book.
Though this cookbook is my favorite, there are also a few other Ghirardelli Cookbooksavailable. All have uncovered the secrets of these amazing sweet treats that you can find in Ghirardelli Square.
The easiest and cheapest way to get from Union Square or downtown San Francisco to Ghirardelli Square is by taking public transit. You can either take the 30 bus outbound from Union Square to the Marina, or you can pick up the bus at Sutter and Kearney Streets in Union Square.
Get off at North Point and Larkin Streets. You will see the Ghirardelli Square San Francisco sign when you exit the bus. This ride takes about 20 minutes. It is a crowded route so many other people will probably be looking for Ghirardelli also.
Another option is to take a cab from Union Square. This will cost around $10 to $15 and take only about 10 minutes. This is a faster, and probably more pleasant, way to get to Ghirardelli Square.
From the rest of Fisherman's Wharf, you can walk. The square is on the western side of the neighborhood and a pretty quick walk. Walk all the way down Jefferson Street to the end and you will see it on your right, just past the park. You can also walk down Beach Street until you reach the square.
Already mapping out your trip to San Francisco? This Streetwise Compact San Francisco map is the perfect companion.
This small map is about 20% smaller than the standard Streetwise map. It is easier to slip into your bag or purse for quick reference during your trip.
Plan out your day or document the places you already visited. This laminated, accordion style map is easy to fold and unfold.
When folded, the map is only about the size of a check book cover. You can hide it away when not in use and pull it out when needed for a look at where you are or where you are heading.
Want to learn more about San Francisco? Here are some additional pages you might enjoy:
North Beach: Located to the north of Fisherman's Wharf is the Italian neighborhood of North Beach. This friendly San Francisco neighborhood is full of shops, bars, and of course, Italian restaurants.
Chinatown: Another popular, must-see neighborhood is Chinatown San Francisco. From the amazing food to the bustling inexpensive shops, you could spend an entire day just soaking in the liveliness of the culture here.
SF Things to Do: Find information on other great neighborhoods in the city. From the Marina to the Mission, this section has all the details on what to expect from each district.
One of the best ways to find your way around the city is the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus. You can buy one- or two-day passes.
This is a great first-day activity in any city you are visiting. The San Francisco bus has 19 stops, taking you from one end of the city to the other.
With stops in Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, and other popular neighborhoods, you will quickly make your way around San Francisco. You will also listen to recorded audio so you can learn more about the City by the Bay during the ride.
The first bus starts in Union Square at 9am. The last bus leaves Fisherman's Wharf at 4pm. This is a great option for getting over to Ghirardelli Square San Francisco for a few hours or to other parts of the city.
Find pricing and learn more about the San Francisco Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus today!
Are you looking for additional tips to plan your trip? Check out these great sections to help with the planning process.
Lodging: Union Square, downtown San Francisco, and Fisherman's Wharf are three of the most popular neighborhoods for hotels. Find recommendations for different types of hotels in each location. In this section, you can also look at hotel recommendations by budget. Whether you are looking for a top-of-the-line five-star hotel or something a little more modest, you can find it all here.
Best SF Restaurants: San Francisco is home to a wide variety of restaurants, including some of the best in the world. Discover a list and descriptions of top restaurants by neighborhood or by cuisine.
San Francisco Nightlife: Where do the locals go to play at night? Find out some of the best places to go for dancing, drinks, or even theater. Are you looking for live music? You can find recommendations for that here too! Uncover some of the best places to spend your evenings during your trip to San Francisco.