There is no doubt that Belgium is the Mecca for chocolate lovers and the birthplace of chocolate as we know it. It all started when Aztec Emperor Montezuma served hot cocoa to a Spanish conquistador named Hernàn Cortés in 1519. Since then, this drink has become famous in Europe and a lot of establishments started making a business off of this rich drink. But not until the 1800s did chocolate turn into how people know it today.
In the 19th century, cocoa was turned into a bar and this has become the start of the sweet journey of producing rich and handmade chocolates in Belgium.
Partly due to its sweet reputation, Belgium attracts a lot of tourists and holidaymakers each year. Couples, families and even travellers with dogs venture to this European country to sample fine chocolate and see the sights of its great cities such as Brussels.
When you’re in Belgium, it’s difficult not to miss the rich confectionery. In fact, just breathing will give you a waft of that rich mixture coming from stores that line the streets. There are many stores in Belgium that sell great chocolate, but as a tourist, it’s hard to guess which serves the best. To help you out, here is a list of the four best chocolate houses to visit when you’re in the land of chocolate.
Known around the world, Godiva is the synonym of fine Belgian chocolate in this country. As you visit the Grand Place (which is the main square of Brussels), you will see chocolate shops lining the streets. However, to be able to find Godiva, you have to walk up the north end of the Grand Place where the high-end chocolates are. This store in Brussels is actually Godiva’s first store that was built in 1937.
Less famous than Godiva but equally perfect is Galler which is found at 44 rue au Beurre in the Grand Place. It has been in the chocolate industry for over 35 years now and has built 30 shops worldwide.
What makes Galler stand out is not just the 85% pure chocolate bestseller they have called “Black 85”. It is probably one of the coziest chocolate shops you’ll ever see anywhere in Belgium. The owner, Jean Galler, is a very creative man with a warm hospitality and working with him is his wife who designs the packaging of the chocolates.
Located at 1 rue des Minimes in Brussels, Pierre Marcolini is known as one of the most popular chocolate makers in the country. He is one of the few who picks the beans himself and does the whole process of processing the cocoa beans and turning it into rich and dark chocolates. Because of the care and the art put into their products, you can expect that Marcolini’s chocolates are not cheap.
Last but not the least among the must-see chocolatiers in Belgium is Neuhaus. Neuhaus is famous because it is the place where praline was born. Praline was invented at least a hundred years ago by Jean Neuhaus who covered medicines with a hard shell of chocolate. Since then, praline has become a famous kind of chocolate that people around the world find very comforting. Neuhaus has also been innovative with the tastes of their chocolates – from ganache to toffee and vanilla creme.
Chocolate in Belgium can be very cheap or very expensive depending on the label, ingredients, and the quality. While great-tasting chocolates are not cheap, be wary of the less expensive ones as they usually compromise the art of chocolate-making.