So I’ve been here over 6 months and have so far made very little mention of chocolate. One of the things that Belgium is famous for is Belgian chocolates. So if you are coming to Brussels, where do you go, what do you buy and what should you pay for some of that finest Belgian chocolate?
I must admit that I am a fan of chocolate, but not necessarily of chocolates. The ones filled with sickly sweet fillings that we get in the Uk don’t really do anything for me, I much prefer a couple of squares of a simple high quality dark chocolate. The ones in Belgium are however a very different proposition.
Judging by the sheer number of chocolate shops around Brussels the Belgian people must be crazy about them. If you go to the touristy areas there are chocolate shops everywhere, which you’d expect. What you wouldn’t expect is that even in less touristy areas there are still a lot of specialist shops selling nothing but chocolates. They are like corner shops, there is almost literally one on every street. Almost any route you choose to walk along in Brussels will see you passing at least one at some point.
I did a little research about the subject, and apparently Belgium was the place where the praline was first developed. This was by Neuhaus according to this very useful article. A praline is a chocolate shell with a different filling, often a creamy or fruity one, but sometimes a chocolate or coffee mousse. Safe to say they are very different to the sweets that you get in a big metal tin from the supermarket in the UK as Christmas approaches.
Belgian chocolate is still seen as being the best in the world, and the reason for this is the existence of all of those small shops, many of which still make the chocolates by hand on the premises using the finest ingredients. As was pointed out by Best of Brussels last week, there is still a lot of variety to be found in the chocolate around Brussels, and they are not afraid to celebrate it! One of the events making up Brussels chocolate week recently was to create a giant chocolate train in Gare du Midi.
So the big famous chocolate shops that you will find all over the city are Neuhaus, Godiva and Leonidas (who have a UK online shop). If you search in google for brussels chocolate you will get loads more information. There are even chocolate museums, tasting, walking tours of the shops, more than your waistline can probably stand! There are several chocolate shops within chocolate throwing range of the chocolate train in these pictures in Gare du Midi.
I canvassed opinion around the office and their favourite choclolate shop in Brussels is apparently Marcolini, who have a very nice shop you can find off Avenue Louise (the main shopping street), just by one of the poshest hotels in the city. They ship them too.
The place that sells the biggest volume of chocolates is apparently the airport at Zaventem, who claim this on their website, they also claim to be 10% cheaper than anywhere else in Brussels to buy the brands that they stock. They are also of course very convenient, as you can buy before you fly and don’t have to fit them into your hand luggage.
Belgian chocolates are however not particularly cheap. This follows from the ethos of them being made by hand using traditional methods and the best ingredients. Expect to pay over €10 for a small, pre packed selection, rising to large amounts if you want to be more extravagant or pick out your favourites. A selection of around 20 pralines in a presentation tin, costs around €20 in the airport shop.
There are cheaper options though, most people in the UK will be familiar with Guylian and Cote D’Or chocolate for example. Cote D’Or is the equivalent to Cadbury’s here I guess and Guylian are in every supermarket both here and in the UK.