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Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square

A home base in San Francisco.

“San Francisco has only one drawback. ‘Tis hard to leave,” English writer Joseph Rudyard Kipling once said. The City by the Bay has long enchanted locals and visitors alike, with its rolling fog, back-breaking hills, and fascinating history (the city is still home to World War II infrastructure and saw the rise of hippie counterculture and the Summer of Love).

One immigrant was Italian Domenico Ghirardelli (he later changed his name to its Spanish equivalent, Domingo), who moved to the United States during the California Gold Rush and opened a confectionery shop that eventually became the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. After his sons took over the business in 1892, they relocated their father’s factory to the Pioneer Woolen Building on San Francisco’s northern waterfront. In 1923, they installed the famous Ghirardelli sign. It remains a prominent feature on San Francisco’s shoreline, so much so that the city of San Francisco declared Ghirardelli Square an official city landmark.

Today, the square houses the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square, part of the Fairmont’s Private Residence Club. The stately brick building has been designed to reflect its historic setting, maintaining many original brick and wood elements from the chocolate factory days. It’s a beautiful home base from which to explore the city, with its lookout over the San Francisco waterfront and Alcatraz Island. The Golden Gate Bridge is just a 10 minute drive west, with Fort Mason Center in between, and Fisherman’s Wharf just 10 minutes east by foot, home to Pier 39 and its barking sea lions.

The former chocolate factory became part of the Fairmont portfolio in 2008. The property features both the amenities of a hotel—maid, valet, and butler service, a 24-hour concierge, complimentary breakfast daily—with the added perks of ownership. Through the Fairmont’s fractional home ownership program, the residence is available for owners for a minimum of 35 days per year. The Fairmont allows owners to call ahead and leave instructions for how they’d like their accommodations to be provisioned with food and wine—the residence offers personal shoppers to stock the kitchen with favourite fare prior to guests’ arrival, as well as in-residence dining—what items they’d like brought out of storage, including family photos placed as requested. Various floor plans are available, including one-, two-, and three-bedroom options.

In the spirit of the property’s legacy, guests should certainly take this opportunity to stock up on Ghirardelli chocolate squares at the chocolatier’s flagship next door. But it’s best to use the residence as a starting point for exploring other must-visit locations nearby. Take advantage of the Fairmont’s complimentary car service and shop in Union Square, and then stroll down Grant Avenue in Chinatown, the oldest street in San Francisco. For guests wanting to take a cable car, the Powell-Hyde line departs nearby, heading south up to the crest of Russian Hill, one of San Francisco’s highest inclines, the neighbourhood home to Lombard Street, dubbed “the crookedest street in the world”.

A car service and advice on local landmarks aren’t the only amenities served up at the Fairmont Ghirardelli. Ownership also grants access to a reciprocal use program that offers two weeks of stay at participating Fairmont and Raffles hotels, resorts, and residential properties around the world. But with its year-round mild weather, abundance of diverse neighbourhoods, booming tech industry, and scenic landmarks, it is difficult to bid San Francisco farewell; the Fairmont Heritage Place offers plenty of reasons to stay.