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Food & Drink

Best Belgian chocolate in Brussels

World-famous for its quality and scrumptiousness, Belgian chocolate is worth a trip to Brussels in its own right. Here’s our guide to the city’s must-visit spots, ranging from emerging chocolatiers, to the heritage players who have shaped the history of this delicious world.

Ask anyone on the streets of Brussels for directions to the nearest chocolate shop, and the answer will invariably be, “They’re everywhere!”

Chocolate has been a major industry here since the 19th century. There are over 2,000 chocolatiers in the country, collectively producing some 172,000 tonnes annually.

So do the Belgians eat enough of these delights to justify the high number of shops lining the streets? “Belgians generally enjoy a praline every afternoon with a cup of coffee – it’s very much a part of their tradition,” says Avril Pendergast-Fischer, a trained chocolatier and a Neuhaus Chocolate marketing director. “A chocolate box is a fixture at every dinner party – in some cases it’s presented as the actual dessert, or as an accompaniment.”

Where to begin a chocolate tour of Brussels? Lots of chocolate makers congregate in the famous Grand Place – including Godiva’s first ever shop, opened in 1926 – and there are even more in the nearby and equally chocolate- box-pretty Galerie de la Reine. A visit to the Grand Sablon (also known for its antique market) and surrounding streets is also a must – here you’ll find, among others, royal warrant holder Wittamer and “bean to praline” chocolatiers Pierre Marcolini and Blondeel. Don’t panic if you run out of time – Brussels airport happens to be the biggest chocolate emporium in the world. 

Photo: Neuhaus Chocolates

What the doctor ordered

The story behind Neuhaus is quite a treat in itself. Founder Jean Neuhaus, a Swiss pharmacist, opened a store in central Brussels’ beautiful Galerie de la Reine in 1857, from where he started selling medicine enrobed in chocolate to sweeten the pill. The maverick’s equally inventive grandson, Jean Neuhaus Junior, came up with the idea of filled chocolate 15 years later – and so the praline was born. Jean’s wife, in turn, came up with the nifty ballotin gift-box in 1915. Today, this royal warrant holder counts as one the most exclusive chocolate purveyors in the world. In the Galerie de la Reine boutique, Neuhaus’ beautifully presented wares – such as its bestselling History Collection box – are displayed on the original pharmacy cabinets likely to have stored those chocolate-covered pills that propelled the business into what it is today.

Neuhaus Chocolates

Galerie de la Reine 25-27, Brussels

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Photo: Blondeel

Mr. Bean

In the wake of the bigger global chocolate players, a handful of smaller makers have emerged, striving to revive the craft of Belgium’s chocolate tradition. Not one to cut corners, “bean to praline” chocolatier Frederic Blondeel creates chocolate from scratch in his artisanal Brussels factory, diligently roasting beans before blending pure cocoa butter with other natural ingredients to create an array of pralines and bars. You’ll find these in Blondeel’s charming stores (three in Brussels, one in Hong Kong), where classic flavors mingle with less conventional ones, such as cinnamon and Matcha tea. Our favorite? The Truffon – a white chocolate-enrobed praline with hazelnut-nougatin.

Blondeel

Rue de la Paille 32 (Grand Sablon), Brussels

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Photo: Pierre Marcolini

Haute chocolate

“Couturier chocolatier” Pierre Marcolini crafts his creations from bean to bar, presenting them so stylishly that you might think you’ve strolled into an ultra-modern jewelry boutique. Since the first shop swung open its doors in the mid-90s, Marcolini has established a global reputation for his cocoa craft, combining flavors and texture in innovative ways. To bring out the nuances of single-origin cocoa beans, all roasting is done in-house. Marcolini believes beans differ in character as much as grape varieties do, and since each chocolate tablet has the bean variety listed and described on the wrapper, you’ll get to explore and compare these notes for yourself. Try the macaroons too, for which Monsieur Marcolini is also famous.

Pierre Marcolini

Galerie de la Reine 21, Brussels

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Mary the maverick

Mary’s first shop opened in 1919 on Rue Royal, a stone’s throw from the Royal Palace of Brussels. In 1942, legendary founder Madame Mary Delluc was the first chocolate purveyor in Belgium to earn a royal warrant and she was also the first female chocolatier to emerge in Europe. Delluc passed away in the 1950s, but many of the innovative recipes she invented are still used today. You can sample an array of pralines and hand-rolled truffles at any of Mary’s six Brussels shops, but we highly recommend a visit to the original boutique, which in the past doubled as a high society tea salon – its Art Deco design is as noteworthy as the artisan delights within.

Mary

73 Rue Royal, Brussels

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Photo: Wittamer

Delights of all kinds

Royal warrant holder Wittamer is a major player in Brussels’ chocolate terrain, but you’ll only come across its contemporary-lux boutiques in the chocolate haven that is Place du Grand Sablon – a beautiful area known for its chocolate shops and antique dealers (a famous antique market is held here at weekends). A couple of doors down from Wittamer’s chocolate shop, you’ll find a separate patisserie in which the most decorative cakes compete for attention. Once you’ve made your choice, take a seat and watch the world go by in this well-heeled part of Brussels.

Wittamer

6 Place du Grand Sablon, Brussels

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Go, Ginkgo!

Not a chocolate boutique as such, but since excellent pâtissier Ginkgo dedicates a chunk of space to Ardennes-based chocolatier Deremiens, we feel it deserves a place in this guide. The praline selection spans classic flavors and more unusual ones – carrot and Orval go surprisingly well with beer. Opened at the end of 2017 in Saint-Gilles, this small, beautifully designed spot has already built a loyal following, addicted to its delicious, made-on-the-premises cakes and pastries – and, of course, Deremiens’ pralines.

Ginkgo

Place Julien Dillens 8, Brussels

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Learn from the master

Fancy making your own Belgian chocolates? Book a one-hour workshop at Atelier de Neuhaus, an artisanal space launched in 2015, next-door to the original Neuhaus flagship boutique in Galerie de la Reine. Guided by Neuhaus’ maître chocolatiers, you’ll be taught the professional chocolate tasting ritual to best enjoy the nuanced flavors. Next, you’ll get to try your hand at molding chocolate tablets and shapes, and decorate pralines to devour on the spot or take home.

Atelier de Neuhaus

Galerie de la Reine 29, Brussels

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Last edited: August 7, 2018

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