What began as the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in the 1890s is now a multilevel retail square across the street from San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. The red brick structure is recognizable by its clock tower and large “Ghirardelli” sign, which make excellent photo backdrops for visitors who come to shop, dine, and eat ice cream.
Listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, Ghirardelli Square is home to a selection of upscale stores, restaurants, and even a brewery and a wine-tasting room. The staple of the square, however, is the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop.
On sunny days, the plaza bustles with people sprawled around the fountain and on benches, taking in the scene. Most hop-on hop-off San Francisco tours include a stop at or near Ghirardelli Square; a Segway tour is another popular way to see it.
Things to Know Before You Go
The line at the ice cream and chocolate shop can be out the door, so be prepared to wait if you go on a busy day.
If you’re driving, metered street parking is available in the neighborhood, or you can enter the parking garage from Larkin Street.
Wear comfortable shoes, as there’s a good chance you’ll be walking several blocks or more to your car, public transportation, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason, or the many other attractions in this part of the city.
How to Get There
Ghirardelli Square is located between Polk, North Point, Beach, and Larkin streets, just a few blocks west of Fisherman’s Wharf. City buses 19, 30, and 47 stop next to the square, while the Powell–Hyde cable car turnaround at Hyde and Beach streets is one block away.
When to Get There
The square itself is open every day from late morning to late evening, though the hours of restaurants and shops vary. Festivals and outdoor movie screenings are held throughout the year; particularly popular is the annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, which typically takes place the second weekend of September. If you’re visiting during the holidays, go at night to enjoy the lights of the Christmas tree.
Once you have your chocolate fix, don’t leave the area without popping across the street to explore Aquatic Park on the waterfront of San Francisco Bay. You can admire views of Alcatraz Island, watch bold locals swimming in the water, or visit the art-deco Maritime Museum.