Belgium is famous for its chocolate tradition, which dates back to the 17th Century. Of course, they import their cocoa beans, but chocolates are a big, big part of their culture and economy, and the quality standards for chocolate production are higher than in the rest of Europe.
In Belgium there’s a chocolate shop in every corner, and although I’d have loved to try them all, I had to settle for window shopping and trying just a few of them. Here’s a list of the ones I liked the most.
Address: 25 Galerie de la Reine, 1000 Bruxelles
Neuhaus is one of the most important chocolate shops in Belgium, not only because it’s one of the oldest, but also because it’s where the Belgian praline was born in 1912.
The first one I saw was inside the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, which is full of different chocolate shops.
Address: 5 Galerie du Roi, 1000 Bruxelles
Here’s where I found out that chocolates can totally be sold as if they were jewelry. Its boutiques are well lit and spacious, the chocolates are well protected behind glass and presented in pretty boxes that resemble accessories or makeup boxes.
Address: 17 Galerie de la Reine, 1000 Brussels
La Belgique Gourmande has some sort of carnivalesque thing going on. It is completely decorated with masks, colorful rings and harlequins hanging from the walls. I didn’t buy anything there, but just looking at the windows was quite fun.
Address: 44 rue au Beurre, 1000 Bruxelles
The cool thing about Galler is that they have a lot of beautifully colored chocolate eggs and chocolate bars, all with different flavors and presentations. Their orange chocolate bags and boxes reminded me of Hermès, and I’m guessing they chose that color palette on purpose to make it look fancier.
Address: 43 rue au Beurre 1000 Bruxelles
There were about four different Elisabeth Chocolatiers in different streets and each one of them had different sweets. While some had huge meringues, others had biscuits or chocolates on display, and they all looked gorgeous. Here’s where I discovered that happiness has a name: Mellow Cake.
Mellow cake is a super soft, super spongy marshmallow on a cookie covered with dark chocolate. I have tried other versions of chocolate marshmallow before, but never like this. This is a whole different kind of mellow cake. The first day I bought one just to try it; the next day I returned for a box.
In Brugges, I visited the Choco-Story Museum, a building from 1480 that originally was a wine tavern.
Address: 2 Wijnzakstraat, 8000 Bruges
A big section of the museum is dedicated to the origin and history of chocolate, which is nothing new for those of us who come from the same part of the world as cocoa beans. However, it is a quick and fun museum. The coolest part were the trash bins, which are shaped like cocoa fruits.
Besides the history of Belgian chocolate, the museum includes a little geography and botany, plus some recipes and even a presentation where they show you how they make pralines.
And they have a giant chocolate egg at the entrance.
The last chocolate shop I went to is where I tried hot choco-spoons for the first time.
A hot choco-spoon is basically a cube of chocolate on a wooden spoon that you put into a glass of hot milk. There were over twenty different flavors and it took me about five minutes to choose.
I chose dark chocolate with chili.
The trip was short. I would have loved to stay a few more days to see more, but still, I did a bit of everything. There were museums, galleries, books and lots of chocolate. Especially because, besides the box of mellow cakes, I bought a giant marshmallow covered with chocolate and walnuts. But whenever I feel like I’ve eaten too much chocolate, I remember German chemist Justus von Liebig’s words of wisdom:
Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power… it is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.