Ghirardelli Square
public square in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco, California



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Ghirardelli Square
public square in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco, California
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900 North Point St
San Francisco, California
United States

ldare's picture

Sr. Editor

If the name Ghirardelli sounds familiar, that’s because it’s San Francisco's own Willy Wonka chocolate factory.

The entire city block was purchased in 1893 by Domingo Ghirardelli to build his chocolate factory. YUM. In 1965 it was declared an official city landmark and placed on the National Historic Register in 1982.

The large lighted Ghirardelli sign, measuring 25 feet high and 165 feet long, was erected in 1915. During World War II it was turned off for blackouts and remained off until 1964 when the square was reopened.

Ghirardelli Square is located in the super touristy Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood of San Francisco.

As a local all I can say is stay away unless you’re showing tourists around and they insist. If you are dragged there, get a free piece of chocolate inside the Ghirardelli shop or buy a yummy hot chocolate to warm you up on what is probably a foggy day.

Things to avoid:

  • The kitschy stores that are all selling the exact same cheap sweatshirt to those of you who didn't check the weather.
  • Duck Tours and other tourist buses are pretty much unnecessary. San Francisco's publis transportation can get you to all of the same places (and better places) for way cheaper and you can get advice from people whose jobs don't rely on you being ignorant about how the city works.
  • Bad Elmo. There's a guy dressed up in an Elmo costume that walks around yelling racial slurs and other profanities, if you don't feel like subjecting yourself to this don't take a picture with or of him and walk away quickly. 

Things to do:

  • The Musee Mecanique is an awesome collection of old penny arcade games and machines. Grab a big bag of change and have a great date night here. 
  • Go to Boudin Bakery for a tour of the bread factory and lots of samples! The yeast used to make the sourdough bread was cultivated from the San Francisco fog and doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. 

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a landmark public square with shops and restaurants and a 5-star hotel in the Marina area of San Francisco, California. A portion of the area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 as Pioneer Woolen Mills and D. Ghirardelli Company.

The square once featured over 40 specialty shops and restaurants. Some of the original shops and restaurants still occupy the square.


In 1893, Domenico Ghirardelli purchased the entire city block in order to make it into the headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. In the early 1960s, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was bought by the Golden Grain Macaroni Company which moved the headquarters off-site to San Leandro and put the square up for sale.

San Franciscan William M. Roth and his mother, Lurline Matson Roth, bought the land in 1962 to prevent the square from being replaced with an apartment building. The Roths hired landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons to convert the square and its historic brick structures to an integrated restaurant and retail complex, the first major adaptive re-use project in the United States. It opened in 1964. In 1965, Benjamin Thompson and Associates renovated the lower floor of the Clock Tower, keeping the existing architectural elements, for a Design Research store. The lower floors of the Clock Tower are now home to Ghirardelli Square's main chocolate shop.

In order to preserve Ghirardelli Square for future generations, the Pioneer Woolen Mills and D. Ghirardelli Company was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

In 2008, part of the former clock tower building opened as Fairmont Heritage Place hotel. The hotel includes 53 residence-style rooms spanning four floors, and offers fractional ownership opportunities for all 53 of its hotel rooms. It is one of the few 5-star hotels in the Fisherman's Wharf area.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Ghirardelli Square.