There are many European countries where you will be enticed to enjoy the magical world of chocolate! The top producing countries are Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland which together produce 35% of the world’s chocolate. There are chocolate makers with a long history as well as innovative young artisans creating new, refined and unusual chocolates for everyone to enjoy. There are chocolate museums to explore and workshops to visit where tasting is obligatory! Chocolate always makes a lovely gift and great souvenir but always buy double the amount you think you will need as they will prove truly irresistible!
1. Gorgeous pralines from Belgium
Belgium is well known for its beautiful chocolate and amongst its best-known brands are Neuhaus, Lady Godiva, Leonardis, and Wittemar. All present their chocolates in the most beautiful boxes that make them almost too good to eat! Probably the best-known brand is Guylian with its pretty boxes of seashell shaped pralines. Many of the chocolate companies have a long history such as Neuhaus which dates from 1857. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy Belgian chocolate as there are more than 2,000 specialist shops in the country!
Have you ever tasted a beautiful Belgian praline? The taste is velvety smooth and perfectly balanced. Belgian pralines are made with fresh cream which makes them perishable. They comprise of a chocolate shell that is filled with cream, caramel or seasonal fruits. Interestingly, they were invented by a Belgian pharmacist as the perfect way for his customers to swallow their medicine! In every city, artisan chocolatiers can be found like Château Blanc in Antwerp which is known throughout the city for its wonderful pralines. Their most popular type is the round white chocolate praline, which is filled with cream and decorated with a walnut on the top.
If you are visiting Brussels, allow time to join the 2.5-hour walking tour of the city which includes visiting six different chocolate shops!
2. Champagne truffles from Switzerland
Switzerland is another country that is famous for its excellent chocolate and such brands as Lindt and Suchard immediately come to mind. Teuscher Chocolate is another brand, which has been made since 1932 and is regularly named as one of the best chocolates in the world. The Teuscher factory is in Zurich, where its best seller is its plain chocolate Champagne truffle. Another Swiss brand to watch out for is Favarger which has been making chocolates since 1826. The Aveline is a type of praline and the company’s best seller. Probably the best known Swiss brand of all is the Toblerone chocolate bar in its distinct cream and red triangular box.
Each year in Versoix there is the Festichoc – a chocolate festival that attracts chocolate artisans from all over the world. There are some very special displays including some amazing chocolate sculptures.
3. Pack some German chocolates
Delicious German chocolate is always a popular gift and if you are visiting Cologne you are particularly lucky as it is known as the ‘chocolate capital of Germany’! Stollwerck is one of the biggest German brands plus Milka (which was originally Swiss) and the perennially popular Ritters Sport. If you are looking for an attractive gift to take home, the distinctive boxes of Merci chocolates with their individually wrapped sticks of chocolate are perfect.
Many German chocolates have marzipan centers which are made totally from almonds with no added sugar. Niederegger is one of the country’s top brands for this type of chocolate and the company’s factory is not far from Berlin. There are a number of specialist chocolate shops scattered throughout the country such as Bitter & Zart in Frankfurt that has a selection of over 100 different varieties….decisions, decisions!
4. Enjoy some great Italian chocolates!
Probably the best known Italian chocolates are Ferrero Rocher which are foil-wrapped balls of milk chocolate that are filled with roasted hazelnuts and covered with small pieces of hazelnut too. As well known are the globally popular Kinder chocolates which are produced by the same factory.
The Italians love chocolates and cakes and combine the two in the truly delicious treat.
Pangiallo Romano which was first made in Rome is a mixture of nuts, honey, raisins and chocolate, and Panpepato is a slightly different version with even more chocolate and lots of spices.
In Milan, Venchi chocolates are much loved – in particular the ones made with a filling of gianduja which is a tasty cream made from ground Piedmont hazelnuts. The Venchi shop can be found near Duomo de Milano (the cathedral). In Perugia each October, the Eurochocolate Festival lasts for nine days and attracts thousands of visitors. There are tasting sessions to enjoy as well as the chance to buy plenty of good chocolate. In 2003, the largest chocolate bar ever was made at the festival – weighing 5,980 kilos.
5. Fine chocolates to tempt in France!
Paris is known for its beautiful dark chocolate. The French capital has a high concentration of chocolatiers and hosts the very popular four day Salon du Chocolat exhibition each year – which even has a fashion show featuring outfits made from chocolate! Maison de Chocolat is one of the top award-winning chocolatiers in the city with an amazing display of handcrafted truffles, caramels, and macarons. The current favorite flavor is salted caramel chocolate.
If you are visiting Marseilles, watch out for L’Espérentines. These special chocolates were created in the city to mark its 2,600th anniversary in 1999. The chocolates are shaped like an olive leaf with a filling of almonds, orange peel, and mint. The outside case of each is in bright green colored chocolate!
6. English chocolate is a worldwide favorite!
This has to be at the top of the souvenir list for anyone visiting England! Cadbury’s chocolate has been made in Bourneville on the southern outskirts of Birmingham since 1910 and it is possible to enjoy a tour of Cadbury World which tells the story of the company and includes plenty of samples of chocolate along the way!
Other well known English chocolate companies include Rowntrees of York and the Mars company – well known for its Mars bars and Galaxy chocolate bars which are retailed in many European countries under the brand name Dove. Terry’s of York is another famous company, well known for its elegant gold box of dark chocolates, called ‘All Gold’.
7. Amazing Chocolate sculptures in Spain!
Oriol Balaguer is very well known in Barcelona as he is a master of chocolate who makes the most amazing chocolate sculptures and was the creator of the award-winning eight texture chocolate cake – which can be enjoyed in one of his chocolate shops in the city. Born in 1971, he is certainly viewed as a true innovator in his profession – make your own decision by sampling some!
8. Sicily for wine, pistachios and great chocolate
Bonajuto is definitely the name to watch out for when visiting the island of Sicily. This family-run chocolate business was started in 1880 and is now in its 6th generation. The chocolate is very distinctive with a strong, powerful taste achieved by the special production method. There are 17 different flavors in the range, with cinnamon, vanilla, and cardamom being amongst the favorites.
9. Treat yourself to some Mozart chocolates in Austria
Mozartkugel (Mozart chocolates) have been made in Austria since 1890 and are very popular. They are made from balls of pistachio flavored marzipan that have been dipped in thick dark chocolate. They are named after the country’s famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Whilst these are the most traditional Austrian chocolates, Zotter chocolates are proving very popular because they are created by a team of experimental chocolatiers who have created such unusual fillings as cheese, tequila and lemon and coconut and trout!
10. Buy a bar of Wedel chocolate in Poland!
E Wedel is a very well known name in Poland as it is the largest manufacturer of chocolate – really good chocolate, either plain or milk. There is a huge range of different chocolates to choose from with an array of fillings including jelly, yogurt, jam, and fruit.