A sweet treat that so many find impossible to resist, chocolate used to be referred to as the food of the Gods, and has been around for over 4000 years.
Want to learn more about this delectable ingredient, while tasting some of the finest chocolate that the world has to offer?
Then book yourself a ticket to one of these chocolate-loving destinations:
Home to more chocolatiers per square foot than any other city in the world, Brussels is known for being the chocolate capital of the world.
To begin with, pay a visit to the Musee de Cacao et du Chocolat. This is a private museum that will teach you how chocolate is made, with daily demonstrations so that you can see the process for yourself. They also offer free tasting sessions, helping you to learn how to differentiate between the different types of chocolate out there.
Once you have buffed up on your chocolate knowledge, take a stroll through the city to check out some of its renowned chocolate shops.
Here are a few that you definitely should not miss out on:
- Godiva and Leonidas – two of the biggest chocolate companies in the world, both born in Brussels, with flagship stores here
- Mary – founded in 1919, Mary Delluc was the first woman to pioneer Belgian chocolates, helping to change it from a medicinal ingredient to a luxury treat
- Zaabar – uses innovative ingredients to create rich Belgian chocolates. Expect to see everything from exotic spices to fragrant flowers
- Belvas – one of the first organic chocolatiers in northern Europe, the chocolate at Belvas is gluten-free, organic, fair trade, and sugar-free, but still tastes as good as all of the other Belgian chocolates out there
- Neuhaus – this is where the praline was invented, and you can taste them at the original store, made to the original recipe
Due to its weather, its Swiss architecture, and its history of chocolate-making, Bariloche in Argentina prides itself on being “Little Switzerland”.
The very first place to head to is the Fenoglio Museo del Chocolate, which is the city’s chocolate museum. Here, you will be able to learn about the history of chocolate in Argentina, the production process, and even watch chocolate being made right in front of you.
Then, make your way over to downtown Bariloche, to Mitre Avenue in particular. This road is known as Avenue of Chocolate Dreams, and for good reason too…
No matter how much you prepare yourself, you will probably end up slightly overwhelmed at the amount of chocolate all around you. There are just so many chocolate stores to visit here, but with the majority of them offering up samples on the street, you will be able to have a quick taste before deciding whether or not you want to explore the shop further.
Known as the “sweetest place on Earth”, Hershey used to be called Derry Church, before its name was changed in 1906 due to the popularity of the chocolate.
There are quite a few chocolate-related things to do here:
- Visit Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you will enjoy a tour of the factory, the opportunity to create your own chocolate bar, a chocolate tasting experience, and many other sweet attractions
- Try one of the chocolate treatments at The Spa at Hotel Hershey. These include an edible dark chocolate face mask, whipped cocoa baths, chocolate massages, chocolate hydrotherapy and more.
- Enjoy a chocolate-filled meal at Hershey Grill, where your meal will begin with chocolate butter, and end with an array of chocolate wonders.
- Head to the Iberian Lounge at Hotel Hershey, for a chocolate cocktail. Choose from the Hershey’s Kisses Signature Chocolate Martini, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Martini, and the Hershey’s Chocolate Caramel Martini, amongst many others.
- Take a ride on the Hershey Trolley Works Tour to learn more about the history of the town of Hershey, and how chocolate changed its fortune
St. Lucia, Caribbean
The Caribbean island of St. Lucia is known for its tropical beaches and sparkling seas, but it has long since also attracted serious chocolate lovers.
Cocoa is actually one of the most important crops on the island, with its history here dating back to the 1700’s.
The place to stay at on St. Lucia is Hotel Chocolat, an estate that makes chocolate from beans grown on its very own plantation. In fact, the hotel offers a Tree to Bar experience, where guests can explore the groves, pick their own cocoa pod, and then create their own chocolate.
There are numerous cocoa plantations to be found all over St. Lucia, such as the Emerald Estate, La Dauphine Estate and the Anse Mamin Plantation, all of which offer tours of their grounds, while showing visitors how they make chocolate.
Of course, spa treatments are one of the highlights of a relaxing Caribbean break, and many of the spas in St. Lucia offer treatments that feature chocolate.
Here are a few spas to check out:
- Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort – offers a chocolate body scrub using Dead Sea salts and 100% organic cacao
- Ti Kaye Village Resort and Spa – their chocolate package includes a chocolate body scrub, a chocolate massage and a chocolate wrap
- Kai En Ciel Boutique Spa, Jade Mountain Resort – their Chocolate Delight treatment makes use of different layers of warm and cool chocolate
Although Mexico is not a major producer of cacao, and actually consumes more cacao than it produces, chocolate is a huge part of Mexican culture, and features in the daily diet here.
Cacao-based drinks are extremely popular, and you will see these being sold just about everywhere, from five star hotels to vendors on the street.
Wondering what the different drinks are? Here are a few that you have to try:
- Tejate – known as the “drink of the Gods”, tejate is a complex drink made from corn, roasted cacao beans, rosita flowers and mamey seeds. Preparation for this beverage takes a few hours, so tejate tends to only be available after 11am.
- Champurrado – the perfect drink for a cold day, this beverage is extremely rich and filling, almost like a porridge
- Tascalate – served cold over ice, tascalate is a light and refreshing cacao drink
- Chocolate – a classic hot chocolate drink
- Chocolate-Atole – made and consumed only in Oaxaca, this drink features beans that have been fermented for five months, and tends to be made for ceremonies and rituals
Of course, when in Oaxaca, you will likely visit several mercados, which are the local outdoor markets, to do some shopping. In addition to the many other goods on display, you will find several local vendors selling their own handmade chocolate, featuring a huge variety of different fruits, nuts, herbs and spices.
If you are looking for chocolate shops, then Mina Street is the place to head to. From chocolate boutiques to chocolate bars, each with barrels of cocoa beans in their doorways, you will never be short of chocolate here.
Zurich and Broc, Switzerland
Switzerland is home to some of the biggest players in the chocolate world, and Zurich is home to factories and stores belonging to three of them – Lindt, Treuscher and Sprungli.
Want to bag a chocolate discount?
Then make sure that you head to the Lindt factory store, as you will not only enjoy a percentage off retail price, but you will also be able to purchase half-price chocolates that were rejected due to incorrect packaging or some other business error.
When it comes to visiting the smaller, quainter chocolate stores, here are a few that you should not miss:
- Confiserie Sprungli – founded in 1836, this iconic Swiss company sell every type of chocolate you could imagine. While they are known for their Luxemburgerli macarons, you should also give the truffle cake, as well as the fresh truffles of the day, a try.
- Confiserie Honold – there is plenty to choose from at this traditional confiserie, but you cannot beat the spiked hot chocolate with the homemade cake
- Laderach – a family-owned chocolate shop with some innovative handmade chocolate varieties. Each month, a new, experimental flavor is launched
- Teuscher – founded in 1932, Teuscher is famous for their filled chocolates, such as their delectable champagne truffles
Zurich itself is quite a foodie city, and there are so many food-related attractions to be found here.
Want more chocolate?
Less than a two hour drive from Zurich lies the town of Broc, which is home to the Maison Cailler factory, now owned by Nestle.
Cailler has an impressive history, and a factory visit will definitely not disappoint…
From watching a live camera feed of the factory floor to peeking in on the production process, to enjoying all-you-can-eat chocolate samples at the end, you will no doubt get your fill of chocolate here. If you don’t, there is plenty of chocolate to purchase from the factory store.
Ecuador grows some of the most highly-prized chocolate in the world, and was the largest exporter of cocoa in the world until the start of the 20th century. While mass production moved elsewhere, Ecuador found itself a new niche, in that of fine beans.
The best way to really experience Ecuador’s chocolate culture is by following the Ecuadorian Cacao Route, which is a nine day journey.
Some of the places that you will see include Hacienda Canas, where you will learn about harvesting cacao beans, and Rio Muchacho Organic Farm, where you will experience the chocolate-making process from bean to cup. You will also stop by the town of Vince. This is the original home of Arriba chocolate, which many connoisseurs would say is one of the finest beans available.
If you do not want to plan this trip yourself, there are many package holiday tours that you can book, in which a guided tour will take you along the Ecuadorian Cacao Route, ensuring that you do not miss out on any highlights.
Tain l’Hermitage, France
A quaint, historic town, Tain l’Hermitage sits by the Rhone River, and while many know it for its fine wine, it also has quite the reputation when it comes to chocolate.
This is where Valrhona is based, a premium French chocolate manufacturer, and a visit to their factory and store is a must.
This is not just any ordinary factory visit…
Valrhona have transformed their historic location into an immersive world of chocolate, where visitors are able to learn all about it. Your journey begins by using each one of your senses to get to know chocolate, before the production secrets of this traditional brand are shared with you. You will also learn more about growing cacao beans, as well as look behind-the-scenes into the workshops of master roasters and coaters.
There are so many other activities to enjoy here, no matter what age you may be.
When it comes to tasting a few of the different chocolate-based dishes around town, there is plenty to choose from
If you simply cannot decide, give one of these a try:
- Crepe au Chocolat – a crepe that features a melted chocolate spread
- Chocolat Liegeois – a cold dessert consisting of chocolate, ice cream and whipped cream
- Tarte au Chocolat Amer – a chocolate tart featuring bitter chocolate
- Croissant au Chocolat – the second-most popular croissant, featuring a chocolate filling
If you are visiting Tain l’Hermitage in February, make sure you are available on the last Friday. This is the start of the four-day Salon des Vins de Tain, which is a local wine festival.
While you may not be in the mood for wine, this is also where many local chocolatiers gather to showcase their goods.
With historic roots in so many different cultures around the world, chocolate is so much more than just a sweet treat. From the traditional chocolate-making techniques in Belgium to the cacao culture of Mexico, these destinations are guaranteed to give you a whole new appreciation for chocolate.