There’s a saying in Flanders, northern Belgium, that you are never really more than ten paces from good chocolate. And by good chocolate we mean good chocolate. Forget the wussy stuff you can buy from any street corner mini-mart in the UK, we’re talking rich, indulgent, send-you-to-heaven chocolate. The kind of stuff that makes the heart flutter for all the right reasons.
Flanders is a chocolate lover’s heaven.
You’ll be familiar with the famous brands such as Godiva and Callebaut, and many others besides, but don’t be blinded by the familiar wrappers: chocolate making is a craft in Flanders and taken very seriously. Whether it’s a well-known brand or a local artisan selling their homemade pralines, chocolate is a passion here. Its heady scent fills the air. Chocolate runs in the veins.
Belgium produces more than 172,000 tons of chocolate each year. There are more than 2,130 chocolate shops. The average Belgian eats 12 pounds of chocolate each year. That’s an awful lot of truffles.
Though ‘Belgian chocolate’ is the catch-all phrase, it’s Flanders that is the Belgian chocolate centre, and meltingly beautiful it is, too.
Whether you visit Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent – or any of the other great little places in Flanders – just about every street has its own chocolatier. Shop windows glow warmly with bags of crystallised orange segments dipped in dark, dark chocolate; truffles of all kinds are piled high on platters; specially hand-crafted soft-centres of every shape and flavour plead to be devoured.
The adventurous of palate should head for Yuzu in Ghent. Here, renowned chocolatier Nicolas Vanaise creates chocolates with some, er, surprising flavours and ingredients. Try pralines with mustard, ham and beer. Yup. In one chocolate.
The fashion-conscious can opt for Antwerp’s Chocolatier Burie for diamond-shaped chocolates – a must, especially if you don’t quite have the change in your pockets for the real thing.
And in Bruges, chocolate artists like Dominique Persoone are hard at work creating nothing less than chocolate perfection – sharing his love affair with the cocoa bean with the rest of us mere mortals. Anyone for chocolate snuff? It was Dominique who created such rare fancy for the likes of the Rolling Stones, no less.
Brussels is home to The Chocolate Museum, where you can taste, buy, and even make your very own chocolate with a Master Chocolatier. There’s also a number of chocolate walking tours (weekdays only. But given how much chocolate they eat perhaps a good walk is always necessary…), where your guides will point out all the major sights and explain the history of Brussels and why it’s famous for such mouth-watering chocolate temptations. At the weekend, you can visit Chocolate Planet and enjoy chocolate making and chocolate crafting demonstrations galore.
You can discover much more about Flanders’ passion for chocolate at visitflanders.co.uk/chocolate, and the best thing? It’s all only a short hop away by train or ferry or plane. Perfect for a weekend or mid-week chocolate fest!
This post is in partnership with Visit Flanders