If you’re visiting San Francisco, you can’t leave without visiting some of the city’s many gourmet chocolate shops. As a visitor, you may not know that this area boasts a long chocolate history, but it does and it’s an impressive one.

In the mid-1800s, San Francisco bore the two oldest chocolate companies of the U.S. These were the businesses of Domingo Ghirardelli and Etienne Guittard. Sound familiar? Yep, that’s Ghirardelli chocolates that you find in every supermarket, and Guittard Chocolate Company supplying businesses around the country. These companies found major success, and still have locations in the Bay Area today.

Nowadays, this history has inspired new and innovative chocolate makers all over San Francisco. Now you can find countless options for custom-made, high quality, unique chocolate. Check out our list of the best San Francisco chocolate shops below, and get to tasting!

Bigger is better

If you’re looking to step into a shop that will overwhelm your senses and dizzy you with options, the San Francisco Chocolate Store is a great place to start. This big and vibrant shop not only carries hand-crafted chocolates, but homemade ice cream, chocolate-dipped strawberries, taffy, caramel apples, and other candies as well. You could truly spend all day browsing through this store’s sweets, arranged charmingly in large wooden barrels. Take the kids here for a special treat and create some special memories!

Another place to wow the family is the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, located in the famous Ghirardelli Square. Yes, that’s Ghirardelli as in Domingo Ghirardelli, our famous first chocolate shop founder in the U.S. That’s why there’s a whole brick-lain square dedicated to his craft! You can take a picture under the Ghirardelli arch and enjoy outdoor seating under warm string lights.

Going inside the store you can find historic chocolate-making equipment on display, with real chocolate flowing through it. Create your own ice cream sundaes or enjoy some classic Ghirardelli chocolate bars, all while educating yourself on chocolate history.

Back to basics

There are plenty of San Francisco chocolate shops that may not be quite as grand and elaborate but excel in simple, classic flavors.

One of these is Brehmer’s Handmade Candies. This woman-owned business specializes in chocolate, pure and simple, and does it well. You will find classic truffles and caramels all-year-round with staple flavors like raspberry, lemon, mint, coffee, and amaretto.

During the holidays, however, be prepared for spunky decorations that are perfect for a gift or celebration. The chocolatier behind the magic is Cindy Brehmer, who has designed everything from Dia de la Muerte chocolate skulls to Mother’s Day chocolate flower pops. And if that’s not enough, you’re able to request special-made treats for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other occasion. If you can dream it, she will attempt it!

Another local favorite is Dandelion Chocolate, a place that offers more than just its food. They have a cafe complete with drinks (cocoa-y and otherwise) to pair with your chocolate or pastries, and they also keep part of the chocolate-making process visible to customers.

If that doesn’t satisfy you, you can sign up for a full factory tour and even take classes on the chocolate-making process. This store has multiple locations in Japan, where it first got started, and they are passionate about teaching and interacting with the people that buy from them.

Unexpected combinations

Don’t get it twisted, when it comes to chocolate you can’t go wrong with the classic flavors and combinations. If you’re feeling adventurous, however, there are a couple of shops that cater to those looking to experiment with their flavor experience.

Jade Chocolates is an artisan chocolate shop with every product hand-made. You will find many Asian and Pacific Island-inspired flavors, with different teas being a central ingredient. Try out chocolate bars like Dragon’s Breath, a mix of roasted sesame seeds, Lapsang Souchong tea, and ground red chili. You can also find truffle flavors like Thai basil, miso caramel, and lychee rose green tea. These spectacular combinations make Jade Chocolates a must-stop for curious palates.

Last on our list is Recchiuti Confections, with two separate locations in San Francisco. This shop has all the staple flavors for lovers of the traditional but doesn’t neglect a little innovation, either. Try the dreamy tarragon grapefruit, the spicy ginger heart, and the crunchy sesame nougat.

If you’re in the mood to mingle stop by on Fridays between 3 and 6 pm to experience Friday Flights: a unique pairing of spirits with desserts, different every time. But perhaps you’re feeling a little more hungry? Then try Paella Night, held on the last Thursday of the month, where a delicious plate of paella is followed by a changing dessert offering.

Suffice it to say that this place has a lot going on! And if you’re looking to purchase the perfect gift, look no further than their wide array of boxes and samplers.

The shops on this list are all dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind, decadent chocolates that are appealing to your taste buds and your eyes. Try a little bit of each; get to know the larger companies and the smaller boutiques and see what they have to offer. After a few days of exploring, you are sure to find the store that’s right for you.

Keep our list of the best San Francisco chocolate shops on hand, save room for dessert, and get out there and indulge!