Ghirardelli Square: History, Shops, and Hot Fudge

A classic landmark offers shopping, dining, and decadent ice cream sundaes.

Iconic Ghirardelli Square, on the edge of San Francisco Bay, is undeniably one of the classiest former factory sites in the world. The 1893 complex, built on the site of a former woolen mill, once served as the manufacturing center for all things chocolate. While you can still buy Ghirardelli’s signature chocolates and other products (more on that in a minute), the handsome brick buildings now house an appealing collection of shops and restaurants of all styles, with pretty outdoor spaces and fountains. For the classic San Francisco experience, arrive at Ghirardelli Square  by cable car (Hyde Street line to the turnaround at Hyde and Beach).

Top it all off with a dessert that makes chocoholics go wild: a hot fudge sundae (try the espresso flavour) from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory and Soda Fountain. The “Domingo,” named after Domenico Ghirardelli, the Italian brought his world-famous chocolate works to San Francisco in the mid-1800s, is big enough for you and three of your friends. A chocolate cable car might just be the perfect souvenir of your day.

Inside Tip: A free guided walking history tour of Ghirardelli Square starts each Wednesday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at the concierge booth in the centre of the square.