7 Delicious Chocolate Destinations in Europe
For thousands of years, chocolate was the sole domain of Mesoamerica and indigenous cultures like the Maya, Aztec and Olmec. Incredible then, to contemplate just how far the venerable cocoa bean has come.
Until relatively recently after all – the 16th century in fact – chocolate was completely unknown in Europe. Today of course, most of our chocolate comes from cocoa beans grown on plantations in West Africa – a notable legacy of colonialism and the Atlantic slave trade.
Whether you yearn for fair-trade, shade-grown chocolate or big brand chocolate bars, check out seven destinations in Europe that elevate the cocoa bean to high art.
Swiss chocolate is synonymous with quality and the country consumes more of the stuff per capita than any other place on the planet.
The most popular Swiss chocolate brand is Lindt & SprÃ¼ngli AG. The company factory in Kilchberg, a municipality of Zurich, is a major tourist attraction. A cursory tour of Canton hamlets of course, unveils a multitude of superb chocolate shops.
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Belgian chocolatiers pioneered new techniques in the 1800s and raised the (chocolate) bar to new heights. The country has too many fine destinations to count, from Brugge to Antwerp, LiÃ¨ge to Ghent, and all unfurl a wide variety of sumptuous family-run chocolate shops. Why not however, begin in Brussels? The pre-eminent capital city of Belgium is awash with chocolatiers who display world class skill and prowess with their cocoa nibs, chunks and powders. One need not venture far from the UNESCO World Heritage Grand-Place to procure a delicious truffle.
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Think “England” and “chocolate” and Cadbury immediately comes to mind. While the English infamously covet the hyper-sweet rush confections like Creme Egg and Crunchie provide, the country’s recent surge in the culinary world has brought with it a taste for gourmet chocolate as well.
The Chocolate Society in London for one, is a haven for purists. The impressive luxury purveyor on Elizabeth Street, Victoria produces some of the best handmade chocolates in the city.
A certain world famous Food Hall in Knightsbridge offers some pretty remarkable gourmet items as well. Harrods is definitely a go-to hot spot for chocolate lovers in London.
Other phenomenal chocolatiers in the city include Harry London Chocolates, a venerable institution, and L’Artisan du Chocolat.
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As a notable culinary hub, Paris has palpable panache when it comes to chocolate. The arrondissements of the glamorous French capital teem with capable chocolatiers. One of the best is Christian Constant, a certifiable master who won Europe’s Grand Prix Chocolate Award in 2001. Constant’s shop in the 6th, close to some of the best hotels in Paris, is the perfect indulgence after a walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg.
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The Maison Cailler chocolate factory in Broc, Switzerland – now property of NestlÃ© – is a virtual “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” experience. The 45 minute tour includes lessons on the history of chocolate, production techniques and yes, copious samples.
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The Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum (Imhoff Chocolate Museum) is a popular tourist attraction in the fine city of Cologne. Immerse yourself in over 3,000 years of chocolate history, watch modern production methods in action and take a dip in the world-record, three-metre high chocolate fountain.
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Italy is another notable culinary destination with a passion for chocolate. For a fun day trip outside of Rome, head to the diminutive comune of Norma, some 50 km southwest of the capital. There, the Museo del Cioccolato Antica Norba operates a first-class museum and factory. Fill up on some tasty samples and take a stroll in gorgeous Giardino di Ninfa park nearby.
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