For a bit of chocolate craziness here are a few of our top tips about chocolatiers, chocolate factory tours and some of the best chocolate makers in Europe.
Chocolat, chocolate, schokolade, cioccolato or xocolata - no matter what you call it, chocolate love is pretty much universal. Whether you are looking for chocolate factory tours or the best chocolate makers, we share a few of our top European chocolate destinations, accessible by train. Choc by choo choo. What’s not to love?
Belgium is the boss when it comes to chocolate. Praline was invented here (albeit by a Swiss chocolatier) in 1912 and, from that point on, Belgian chocolate was booming. Head to Brussels’ Grand Place for a chocolate hit like no other, with all the greats including Godiva, Mary, Neuhaus and Leonidas tempting you into their historic and heavenly boutiques. The city’s Belgian Chocolate Village is a pretty tasty place to hang out too. For full on and full fat chocolate, go in May for Brussel’s Chocolate Festival.
For chocolate factory tours in Belgium you generally need a group of at least ten people, the leading one being at Chocolatier Manon in Brussels, or opt for a chocolate making demonstration at the capital’s Planète Chocolat instead.
Your chocolate cup will runneth over in Bruges too where chocolatiers are a-plenty, the leading ones being Dumon, BbyB and Confiserie De Clerck, all in the environs of Katelijnestraat. The Chocolate Line is also a grotto of gorgeous gifts, its founder Dominique Persoone famous for creations such as chocolate lipstick and chocolate massage cream, as well as some of the craziest chocolate concoctions. If you haven’t OD’ed on chocolate you can visit the Choco-Story museum in Bruges.
The Chocolate Line can also be found in Antwerp, along with other classic chocolatiers such as Pierre Marcolini, Burie and Elisa Pralines. One of the best Belgian chocolate tours, Chocolate Adventure, is in Antwerp, run by gastronomic tour operator Culinaire Wandelingen.
In Geneva alone there are around thirty chocolatiers, the most historic one being Favarger which is now in its seventh family generation. As well as their tantalising treats, you can take a tour, see a demonstration and learn about its UTZ Certification, the all-important sustainable cocoa accreditation. Also in Geneva, Du Rhône Chocolatier is famous for its pralines, Teuscher for Champagne truffles, Stettler for its funky flavours and Auer for its ganaches and chocolate covered almonds. Head to Confiserie Arn for hot chocolate to melt all hearts.
Zurich likes to compete for the best place to visit in Switzerland for chocolate, and it doesn’t do too badly. There are numerous people offering chocolate walking tours, taking you to the city’s highlights such as the iconic Sprüngli. This is one big beautiful box of bonbonnières where timing your visit for their hot chocolate is also highly recommended.
Other top choc stops in Zurich include Läderach with its kilo size saliva-inducing slabs, or Max Chocolatier which has its finger on the pulse when it comes to fashionable chocolate flavours. The traditional Confiserie Honold in the Niederdorf (Old Town) is a landmark, where the marble counter has seen every type of treat bring smiles to people’s faces, the most famous being its own creation, the cherry kirsch baton. You will also find plenty of fine chocolate at Conditorei Péclard im Schober, where afternoon tea is an institution.
For chocolate factory tours in Switzerland that are accessible by train, head to the more commercial but family-fun Chocolat Frey factory near Aarau or the Lindt Chocolate Experience at its shop and original factory site at Kilchberg, just 7km from Zurich. Maison Cailler factory is just a quick walk from Broc-Fabrique station and the Camille Bloch Chocolate Factory is a truffle’s throw from Courtelary station. You can even take a Chocolate Train during the summer months between Montreux and Maison Cailler, which is part of the Goldenpass service. Read more about the Chocolate Train below.
There is a veritable cornucopia of chocolatiers to be found in Paris, with the catwalk of chocolate creations led by Jean-Paul Hévin, Patrick Roger, Jaques Génin, Jean-Paul Hévin and Edwart. All have boutiques scattered around the city, although Patrick Roger’s boutique on Boulevard Saint-Germain is almost a religious experience for chocolate worshippers. Le Marais is also a particularly chic ‘quartier du chocolat’ in Paris.
Choco pilgrims mustn’t miss Vincent Guerlais in Nantes, a charming city located on the banks of the Loire in western France. Guerlais adds contemporary flair to his chocolate skills, his most famous creation being Guerlingots, his name for the most precious of pralines.
For chocolate factory tours in France, the Vhalrona Visitor Center in Tain-l’Hermitage, just 50 mins by train from Lyon, is one of the best with exhibitions, workshops, shop and a cafe of course. It is on the site of the original factory, dating back to 1922 and its École du Grand Chocolat is the chosen training venue for many international pastry chefs and chocolatiers.
Chocolate festivals and events in Europe
You don’t have to wait for Valentines Day, Christmas or Easter to indulge in the food of the gods. You can also book to go to one of many European chocolate festivals and events, all accessible by train. Delicious dates for your diary (precise dates vary according to the year) are: The Chocolate Festival in Brussels in May; Cioccolato in Turin, Italy in November; ChocoArt in Tübingen, Germany in early December, Eurochocolate in Perugia, Italy in October and, for the pièce de résistance, the Salon du Chocolat in Paris end October or early November. The Salon is a worldwide affair, with spin-off shows in Lyon, London, Brussels and Milan, to name but a few. We told you it was a universal thing - chocolate makes people smile the world over.
For a real treat, take the Chocolate Train, a seasonal round-trip service that leaves from Montreux and gives passengers a glimpse into cheese production at Gruyère and the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory. This really is the sweetest scenic train ride, offering culinary connoisseurs a first class experience while discovering Swiss delicacies. The Chocolate Train combines both rail and bus travel, and runs from early May until late October. Tickets are bookable on their own website. Read more about chocolate and other top foods to try in Switzerland in our blog.
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