Italy has olive oil, France has wine, but Belgium has something much better: chocolate.
Belgian chocolate is renowned throughout the world for being perfect due to the years that Belgian chocolatiers have spent tweaking their methods to make the best possible product. Chocolates make the perfect souvenir, but there are so many places to get them, how do visitors know they are getting the best? Those looking for the perfect piece of Belgian chocolate perfection should pay a visit to these fantastic Belgian chocolate shops.
Leonidas produces some of Belgium's most beloved chocolates. Founder Leonidas Kestekides was a Greek immigrant who originally started making chocolates in New York in the 1900s, but after attending World Fair's in Brussels and Ghent, he decided to stay in Belgium and improve his chocolate-making technique. Now Leonidas chocolates have risen to the peak of fame in Belgium, with 356 shops in the country. Visitors can become familiar with the products in Belgium, but as a global company, if visitors get hooked they can easily get their fix at 1,400 other shops worldwide. Leonidas keeps their chocolates simple so customers can savor the unique flavour and creaminess. The craziest they get is occasionally adding orange cream or an assortment of nuts.
Simon Stevinplein by Stephan Dumon
Stephan Dumon is one of the most famous chocolatiers in Bruges and while he has several small shops around Bruges, the Simon Stevinplein chocolate shop in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the city square is among his newest shops. Although walking around Bruges feels like a step back in time, Stephan Dumon has a modern approach to chocolate making. Through their artisan chocolate-making techniques and quality ingredients, Stephan Dumon creates not only classic chocolate creations but hosts a seasonal and contemporary chocolate line that uses experimental flavours to push the boundaries of what people think they know about chocolate.
Pierre Marcolini and his eponymous chocolate shops are purveyors of high-quality and stylishly designed chocolates throughout Belgium. Their flagship store sits in Brussels and when visitors enter, they feel as if they have walked into a high-end jewellery shop instead of a chocolate shop. The atmosphere is fitting considering their chocolates look as if they could be massive chocolate diamonds or an elegant caramel-filled brooch. These chocolates will cost a bit more than the usual luxury chocolate, but they are well worth the extra price, not just for their aesthetics, but for their taste. Visitors should try their unique four spice blended chocolate or the many flavours from their ancient praline line.
Chocoladehuisje is a whimsical and just a little bit naughty gem in Bruges. This is an excellent visit for those that want quality handmade chocolates from Belgium, but also want to have a little fun with them. Chocoladehuisje provides high-quality artisan chocolates moulded into unique shapes like fruits or ducks, edible chocolate boxes filled with even more chocolates and the naughtier chocolate bosom in varied sizes and occasionally filled with caramel and other goodies. This shop is excellent for visitors who want to get their friends and family back home some Belgian chocolate souvenirs, but want to go about it with a sense of humor. Opening a box filled with a chocolate bosom, complete with silky lingerie is sure to get a few laughs from someone back home.
Nuehaus is where praline got its start, and Brussels is where it happened. Chocoholics in Brussels will want to visit the historic location of the chocolate genius Jean Neuhaus at the Galerie de la Reine, although Neuhaus has chocolate shops all over Belgium. Neuhaus keeps a classic approach to chocolate, believing that it cannot be improved upon any further without overcomplicating the affair. Visitors can head to the shop to try pralines as they were originally intended or gain knowledge of, and a palate for, some of the oldest recipes for chocolate in Belgium. This is perhaps the best shop to go to for those who want to get a taste of the classic chocolate of Belgium.
For visitors who want to try Belgium's best chocolates, but don't want to travel between all the different specific stores in Belgium, Chateau Blanc in Antwerp is the one stop chocolate shop. Chateau Blanc sells their own unique high quality blend of pralines made in-house while distributing the works of the best chocolatiers in Belgium like Leonidas, Godiva, Dolfin and Cafe Tasse. Visitors can get an assortment of those chocolate products and their pralines all wrapped up in a travel friendly box, in the form of chocolate diamonds or pick up a pair of unique hand shaped chocolates that are specific and very popular in Antwerp due to the city's name, which stems from the world 'hantwerpen', or hand-throwing.