Located on the western side of Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco is a popular attraction for those who love to dine and shop.
As this square was the original home of the first Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, the main draw is the famous SF chocolate treats, which make the perfect pick-me-up on a day of sightseeing. You can stop into one of the three chocolate shops on the square to enjoy a specialty coffee drink, ice cream, or another delectable sweet.
Apart from reveling in chocolate consumption, there are many other fun things to do, eating at one of its amazing restaurants, boutique shopping, a free walking tour, and several large annual events.
Located near the bayfront on Beach Street, Ghirardelli Square is easy to find. The famous white letters comprising the sign sit high on top of the building and can be seen 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, 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, and later 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. It's an important piece of San Francisco history.
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.
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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. Here is where you will find them:
There are several small boutique shops in the square that offer great souvenirs. Here is the current list of Ghirardelli stores:
You will also find two other fun activities on Ghirardelli Square.
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.
Here is what is currently open on Ghirardelli Square:
As you explore Ghirardelli Square, make sure to spend a little time checking out the wonderful fountain in the center of the plaza.
The piece is by famed artist Ruth Asawa and is titled Andrea Fountain.
William Roth, the owner of Ghirardelli Square in the 1960s, commissioned the fountain from Asawa to serve as the centerpiece of the new square. The piece was unveiled in 1968 and was a bit controversial at the time.
The controversy wore off quickly once everyone learned more about its meaning.
After you photograph or video this amazing piece of work, make sure to stop by the plaque to read more about its history.
If you are a history buff, then you might enjoy a free guided tour of the area that meets in Ghirardelli Square, offered by San Francisco City Guides.
It's called Fisherman's Wharf: A Hidden History. It runs most Monday and Saturday mornings and starts at the Ruth Asawa Fountain in the main courtyard.
During the 1.5- to 2-hour tour, you'll learn more about the history of Ghirardelli Square. You'll also learn about the city's famous cable cars and visit the Hyde Street Pier (the largest in-water ship museum in the world).
You do need to register ahead of time on the SFCityGuides site.
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. It's usually the Saturday before Easter. 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.
4. 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.
5. November/December - Light the Menorah: For Hanukkah, 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.
6. November/December - Holiday Tree Lighting: Watch the annual Christmas 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, consider staying right at this San Francisco landmark 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 guest rooms and visitors love it! Find ratings and reviews for the Fairmont Heritage Place on Booking.com.
Even though the Fairmont is an amazing place to stay, it's one of the most expensive properties in San Francisco. However, you will find numerous other properties in the Fisherman's Wharf area that are more in line with most budgets. These are a few that are close to Ghirardelli Square.
You will find Ghirardelli Square San Francisco on the western end of Fisherman's Wharf at 900 North Point Street. Shops are open from 11 am to 9 pm every day. Some businesses stay open a little later (mostly the restaurants and bars).
All are open on New Year's Eve and only some will be open on New Year's Day.
You will find plenty of parking near Ghirardelli Square San Francisco. Here are some of the best options.
Ghirardelli Square Garage: The closest and easiest place to park is right in Ghirardelli Square. The lot is beneath the shops and is open from 6 am to Midnight daily. You can either enter on Larkin Street between Beach and North Point or on Beach Street between Larkin and Polk Streets. Parking here is $8 for the first hour, $4 for the second hour, and then $8 for all additional hours of parking. The daily maximum rate is $40.
Anchorage Square Garage: You will also find parking just three blocks away on the corner of Beach and Jones. This parking garage charges $3 per 15 minutes. The maximum daily charge is $50.
Fisherman's Wharf Parking: You will find another lot in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf at 550 North Point Street. This lot is inside the Holiday Inn Express and is open 24-hours a day. Prices start at $10 per hour with a fee of $30 for up to 12 hours. The overnight or 24-hour rate is $75.
Cable Car: One of the best ways to get here from Union Square is by taking a cable car. The best route is the Powell/Hyde line that ends about a block away at Hyde and Beach Streets. This ride takes about 20 to 25 minutes.
30-Stockton Bus: You can also take the bus. The 30-Stockton is your best best. You can pick it up on Stockton and Geary Streets. You will then take this to the stop at North Point and Larkin Streets, which is right across the street from Ghirardelli Square. The ride takes about 20 minutes.
Cab/Uber/Lyft: Another option is to take a cab or rideshare from Union Square. This will cost around $15 to $20 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. Pier 39 is on the other side of Fisherman's Wharf and it's about a 15-minute walk (0.8 miles).
The square is on the western side of the neighborhood and a pretty quick walk. Walk all the way down Jefferson Street to Hyde Street, head up the hill, and then walk a block west on Beach Street. You'll see its towering white letters on the top, so it will be easy to find.
Another way to get to Ghirardelli Square and other top attractions around SF is on the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. It's a great first-day activity in any city you are visiting. The San Francisco bus has more than 20 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 9 am. The last bus leaves Fisherman's Wharf at 4 pm. This is a great option for getting over to Ghirardelli Square San Francisco for a few hours or to other parts of the city.
You can buy passes for one or two days. Find pricing and learn more about the San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off Bus today!
Buena Vista Café: Just a short walk from Ghirardelli Square is one of our most famous restaurants, the Buena Vista Cafe. It's the first location in the US to serve up Irish coffee and people flock here for this tasty treat. This isn't the only reason to visit. They have an amazing selection of dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here's more about what you can expect when you stop by.
Maritime Museum: The Maritime Museum is another great place to visit near Ghirardelli Square. You will find two locations. One is right across the street from Ghirardelli and is the original museum with murals and a handful of exhibits. The newer, interactive museum is on the first floor of the Argonaut Hotel on the corner of Jefferson and Beach Streets. Learn more about this fun local attraction.
Bike to the Golden Gate Bridge: You can also rent a bike in Fisherman's Wharf and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a fun activity and a great way to spend a morning or afternoon in San Francisco. Most people ride over to the small waterfront town of Sausalito and then ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf. Learn more about this activity here.
Okay, I'll admit it—I love chocolate and can't resist the famous 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 chocolates and gift baskets on Amazon.
Would you love to make your own Ghirardelli sweet treats? Wow your friends and family with recipes from the official Ghirardelli chocolate cookbook.
This cookbook is a chocolate lovers 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 cookbooks available. All have uncovered the secrets of these amazing sweet treats that you can find in Ghirardelli Square.
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.
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.