A guide to the 10 best chocolate shops to visit in Brussels
Belgium is synonymous with chocolate, but where do you go to find the good stuff?
Brussels may be known as the capital of Europe, but for most visitors it is simply the world capital of chocolate. Belgium has been synonymous with chocolate since the praline was invented there. Every other shop seems to be a speciality chocolate store, proposing delicacies from the handmade to artisanal, ethical to organic, and a kaleidoscope of pralines and truffles, bars, biscuits and hot chocolate. So where are the best chocolate shops in town? Here’s our ultimate guide.
41 rue de l’Etuve, www.choco-story-brussels.be/en
Right opposite the Manneken Pis statue, this newly reopened, state-of-the art museum dedicated to chocolate has to be the first stop for every chocoholic. Perfect for both children and adults, the exhibits spread over three floors of a 17th century red-brick mansion. Audio guides lead you from the origins of chocolate with the Aztecs and Incas, through Mexico and Brazil, recounting chocolate’s arrival in Europe, the Swiss inventing the modern chocolate bar and a Belgian creating the praline. Finally, a master chocolatier demonstrates in a show kitchen how to make a praline.
Signature chocolate: Kakaw Aztec Bar, based on an ancient recipe.
25-27 Galerie de la Reine, www.neuhauschocolates.com
Brussels’ spectacular King and Queen’s galleries are an obligatory stop for shoppers and foodies. They are lined with exclusive boutiques, including the gilded Art Nouveau showroom of Neuhaus, perhaps the most famous chocolate shop in the world. Few realise that this was originally a pharmacy, opened by Jean Neuhaus in 1857. It became renowned for Neuhaus’s “confiseries pharmaceutiques”, medicinal remedies enrobed in chocolate to make them more palatable. The chocolate proved popular, and he became a full-time chocolatier. Then, in 1912, his grandson invented the first creamy ganache-filled bonbon, and the praline was born. Once you try the free chocolate everyone is offered, there is no doubting the quality of the cocoa, which comes from their own farms.
Signature chocolate: Praline Caprice, filled with vanilla cream.
Mike & Becky
243 Avenue Brugmann, www.mikeandbecky.be
The sign outside this artisan chocolate shop says: “Savour the aroma of freshly roasted cocoa beans – it comes from here!” The brainchild of a typically cosmopolitan Brussels couple, from Russia and Germany, Mike & Becky is a 100 per cent bean-to-bar operation, buying from five sustainable plantations in Peru, Dominican Republic, Belize, Congo and India. Launched in 2016, and with no professional experience, these two enthusiastic amateurs only produce organic bars, so don’t ask for pralines or truffles. There are a dozen exotic flavours to try, including mint, hazelnut, marsala spices, raspberry and pepper. And there is a 90-minute class every Saturday for €25 (Dh100) where you get to create your own bar.
Signature chocolate: Rio Maranon, made from rare Crillo beans harvested straight from the Peruvian jungle.
1 Rue des Minimes, www.eu.marcolini.com
There are Marcolini stores in every major capital, but the story of the man most chocophiles would agree is the greatest chocolatier alive, began in this 19th-century mansion overlooking the Grand Sablon square. His minimalist flagship boutique spreads from the chocolate shop on the ground floor up to a salon and tasting lounge where everyone in Brussels wants to be seen sipping a very special hot chocolate – spicy, thick cocoa topped with whipped chocolate cream and tiny meringues. The shop is decorated with his distinctive logo, a giant cocoa husk, because for Pierre Marcolini, everything begins with the husk that covers the magical unprocessed cocoa bean.
Signature chocolate: Raspberry Heart – fresh raspberry ganache with lemon zest.
6 Place du Grand Sablon, www.wittamer.com
Across the Sablon square from Marcolini sits a very different chocolate universe, the distinguished maison of the Wittamer family, founded in 1910 as a “Boulangerie Moderne” and today supplier to the royal court of Belgium. Although the descendants of Henri Wittamer established themselves as some of Belgian’s most respected chocolate-makers, their Grand Sablon headquarters still sells cakes, biscuits, candied fruits and homemade ice-cream. Somehow all of this, including the entire chocolate production from the roasting of cocoa beans, takes place in a maze of laboratories and workshops hidden behind the chic facade – but the public never get to see any of that.
Signature Chocolate: Orangettes – exquisite confit orange sticks dipped in dark chocolate.
39 Rue de Ganshoren, Koekelberg, www.frederic-blondeel.be
The schoolboyish Frederic Blondeel loves to explain to enthusiasts who visit his Willy Wonka-style factory on the outskirts of Brussels that “while my contemporaries are opening up new outlets everywhere – Brussels, Dubai, Paris, London – I have quite simply closed all my shops and come back here to the factory where I can concentrate on what is most important – making better chocolate, from the bean to the bar.” His factory also houses a boutique and cafe to taste and buy Frederic’s latest creations, with a 90-minute visit every Saturday (€25) offering glimpses of the Heath-Robinson machinery – for roasting, tempering and enrobing – that produces the final, exquisite pralines and truffles that have made him one of Belgium’s most famous chocolatiers.
Signature chocolate: Chocolate Spread, flavoured with Piedmont hazelnuts.
The Belgian Chocolate Makers
125 Chaussee de Charleroi, events.zaabar.com
Located off shopping haven Avenue Louise, this initially looks like another of the numerous chocolate shops selling mass market products to tourists. But the boutique, recently renamed The Belgian Chocolate Makers, is owned by chocolatier Zaabar, renowned for his exotic spices and fruit flavourings. There is still a Zaabar corner where you can buy anything from chilli pepper, clove, cinnamon, lavender, violet or cardamom flavoured tablettes, while the rest of the space is dedicated to a huge open kitchen where classes are held every Saturday (€42.35 for one hour). The rest of the time, the artisans create fresh truffles and pralines sold uniquely here under their Belgian Chocolate Makers brand.
Signature chocolate: Louis Vuitton Chocolate Bag, made with ruby cocoa beans.
2 Rue de Ravenstein, www.chocolatsgerbaud.be
A bubbly, larger-than-life character, Laurent Gerbaud is forever popping into his packed tea room to chat with customers and offer advice on his favourite products to try that day. You can see the chocolate production going on at the back of the salon, and there is also a private workshop where Laurent conducts a hands-on lesson every Saturday (€35). Passionate and inspiring, Laurent is self-trained, initially learning his craft at adult education evening classes. The shop’s location is perfect, too, opposite the landmark Bozar arts centre, where a retrospective of Pop-artist Keith Haring has opened.
Signature chocolate: Ma Cherie, his interpretation of the famous Mon Cherie, but without alcohol.
2 Avenue Coghen, Uccle, jeromegrimonpon.be
Announced as Brussels Chocolatier of the Year by foodie guide Gault & Millau, Frenchman Jerome Grimonpon operates a tiny bean-to-bar laboratory, cafe and boutique where he carries out the whole chocolate process from the initial roasting of the cocoa bean to coating his seductive pralines and truffles. Grimonpon only sells his chocolates on the premises, and the selection for sale is freshly made each day. So serious chocoholics have to make a pilgrimage here, where they can watch him at work through a huge glass window, taste the latest creations, then sit down to try a thick, aromatic hot chocolate that he says is inspired by the legendary Chocolat Chaud of the Angelina salon de thé in Paris.
Signature chocolate: Detox – blackcurrant jelly and rosemary ganache.
2 Galerie du Roi, maisondandoy.com
The venerable Maison Dandoy may be one of the world’s most famous biscuit-makers, having crafted, back in 1829, a secret recipe of rare spices for the delicious gingery speculoos cookie, but nothing compares to sitting down for a rich foamy cup of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, made with the help of master chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud’s artisan chocolate. Enjoy it with a handmade Christmas Saint-Nicolas speculoos biscuits.
Signature chocolate: Speculoos Chocolat au Lait, coated with Laurent Gerbaud’s artisanal chocolate.
Updated: February 11, 2020 07:21 PM