Sweeten your next trip away by choosing one of the world's best destinations for chocolate lovers. Whether you want to travel to chocolate's ancient ancestral home in Mexico or stay closer to home in Europe, we have 10 fabulous cities that are sure to get your taste buds tingling. Why not plan to visit more than one of them and really indulge in chocolate in all its many tasty forms?
Zurich might not be Switzerland’s capital city but it surely deserves the title of "chocolate capital" – and not only of Switzerland. You'll be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world with as many chocolatiers. Take Läderach, for example. Producers of melt-in-the-mouth chocolate truffles for more than 50 years, you can try the wares for yourself by visiting one of their Zurich shops. Then there's Sprungli, family-owned since its inception in the 1850s. Lose yourself in its flagship store on the Bahnhofstrasse, browsing for treats such as white chocolate studded with real, edible Alpine flowers, and their signature Luxemburgerli – a mini macaroon with a variety of fillings, including, of course, chocolate.
If you're familiar with Godiva, you'll already know that Belgium takes chocolate seriously. Visit the famous chocolatier's very first shop in Brussel's Grand Place. This is an excellent spot to begin your chocolatey pilgrimage. You'll find plenty of chocolate shops, old and new, big and small, in or close to the Grand Place. If you're a praline fan, try Neuhaus, in the Galeries Royales St. Hubert; they claim to have invented this moreish confection of nuts and sugar. If you have slightly less of a sweet tooth, try Galler's ‘Black 85’. And, if you're happy with sweet things and want as much bang for your buck as possible, head for Leonidas, which specialises in white chocolate.
Did you know that the ‘City of Light’ is also a city of chocolate? As well as the delicious chocolat chaud you can enjoy in patisseries and bistros across the city, you'll find a plethora of excellent specialist chocolatiers. À la Mère de Famille, said to be the city's oldest chocolatier, is a must-visit. Meanwhile, if you're happy to branch out from chocolate, Jacques Genin, in the fashionable Marais neighbourhood, not only produces some of the city's finest but is almost equally well-known for mouthwatering pâtes de fruits and caramels. Choco-Story Paris (also known as the Musée du Chocolat) offers an excellent overview of the history of chocolate both in Paris itself and across the world. It also provides entertaining children's tours.
Set aside the olive groves, the Renaissance art, the truffles and even the wine – at least for the moment – because chocolate is also one of Tuscany's gems. Visit the ‘Chocolate Valley’, which encompasses Prato, Pisa, and Pistoia, and you'll soon see what you've been missing. The area immediately around Pisa is particularly well-provided with chocolatiers. For instance, there's Amedei, once a small artisanal producer and now the well-deserved winner of more Golden Beans at London's Academy of Chocolate than anywhere else. Alternatively, see where it all started for Tuscany with a visit to Agliana, where Roberto Catinari opened his now almost legendary chocolate shop. And, if your trip coincides with Easter, make time for Pasticceria Mannori in Prato, known and loved for its chocolate eggs.
Fancy making chocolate like the Aztecs? The Chocolate Museum Vienna Bo-Yo not only guides you through the history of chocolate but lets you make your own bars using Aztec-style tools. However, as tasty as your own creations will undoubtedly be, you can't come to Vienna and not indulge in the city’s most famous dessert, Sachertorte. Apricot jam sandwiches the cake's rich, dense chocolatey halves, and ganache coats its top and sides. Vienna has plenty of coffee houses at which to indulge in this waist-threatening treat but Café Sacher Wien at the Hotel Sacher probably tops the list. It's an elegant venue and also serves "the Original Sachertorte" (a moniker it won following a legal battle). The precise ingredients are secret but the result is so good that you might need to queue for a table.
Oaxaca's association with chocolate – and the cacao (or cocoa) bean – is long and venerable. At the same time, chocolate also permeates everyday life in the city. For instance, you don't need to splash the cash to enjoy a cup of champurrado from a street stall. This combination of chocolate and masa corn is not always as sweet as you might expect but is definitely moreish! Then there's tejate, sometimes called ‘the food of the gods’. Actually another drink, it's made from fermented cacao beans, toasted corn, pixtle and cacao flowers. Make time, too, for a visit to La Soledad artisan chocolate shop, where you can stock up on your new favourite Oaxacan chocolate blends. And, if you still have room in your luggage, another excellent shopping (and sampling!) spot is Texier Chocolatería.
Get to know London's chocolatey side with a Chocolate Ecstasy tour around Mayfair. Designed by passionate foodies, you'll get to sample everything from rich, creamy chocolate drinks to the chocolates that were Queen Elizabeth II's favourites. Then, for a premier English chocolatier, pay a call on Charbonnel et Walker. London has several of its stores but the one in the Royal Arcade on Old Bond Street has decor and surroundings that are as luxurious and eye-catching as the chocolates themselves. Finally, perhaps Brick Lane means bagels or curry to you but did you know it's also the home of one of London's best chocolatiers? Head for Dark Sugars, where as well as truffles and gourmet chocolates in general, you'll find a range of tasty hot chocolates.
You only need to follow your nose as you walk through Bariloche to know that this is a city that appreciates chocolate. Set in Argentina's Patagonia, at the foothills of the Andes, the chocolate industry here owes much to mid-twentieth century European immigrants. Of course, it now has a very South American flair and there's nowhere better to appreciate this than at Mamuschka, an Aladdin's cave of chocolatey comestibles. There's also a café where you can relax with a hot chocolate or fortify yourself for a walking tour of Bariloche's other chocolate hot spots. Mitre Avenue – sometimes called ‘the Avenue of Chocolate Dreams’ – is a great place to start. And, if you want to learn more about chocolate production and chocolate's importance to the city, take a tour of the Museo del Chocolate Havanna.
When it comes to chocolate, Barcelona is a must-visit. In 1780, Barcelona was the production place of the first machine-made chocolate. Nowadays, with no shortage of chocolaterias and churrerias, Barcelona has an excellent choice of both artisanal and machine-made chocolates. Fargas is the city's oldest chocolate shop, and has a plaque to prove it. All its chocolate is made on-site, and the whole place smells so tantalisingly delicious that you'll probably want to move in. If you like drinking chocolate, visit Carrer de Petritxol. Locals often call the street "sweet street", which probably says everything you need to know about it!
If you fancy combining your chocolate with craft beer, you can't go wrong with Cologne. Visit Cologne Chocolate Museum on the banks of the Rhine and not only will you have the chance to create the chocolate delicacy of your dreams, you'll also get to experience a walk-through tropical glasshouse with its own cocoa tree. Elsewhere in the museum, other attractions include a three-metre high chocolate fountain and – in the absence of Oompa-Loompas – robot hands will offer you Nappos (chocolate-covered nougat) straight off the production line. Vintage-lovers will enjoy the vintage packaging section of the museum, children will ooh and ahh at the display of Kinder surprise toys, and everyone will love the gift shop and the Chocolat Grand Café.
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