Elsewhere I’ve enthused about the Belgian beer, but I realise that this isn’t to everyone’s taste. However, surely we all like chocolate? And in my opinion Belgian chocolate is hard to beat, especially if, like me, you prefer your chocolate dark and bitter and packed with cocoa flavour! And in Brussels you’ll be assailed by chocolate smells and chocolate tasting opportunities all over the city centre, so it would be really churlish not to at least sample a little bit, wouldn’t it?
In fact, so keen are the shops for you to try their offerings that you’ll find people handing out vouchers for a free chocolate or inviting you into a shop to taste one. And once inside, of course you will want to buy! We succumbed, of course, and bought some treats for friends and family – and OK, I confess, a few goodies for ourselves too!
What to pay: The best chocolate isn't cheap but it is exceptionally good. In my view it's better to buy a little less and pay more for it - better for your taste-buds and your waistline, that is!
IT IS NOW 100 YEARS AGO THAT JEAN (II) NEUHAUS INVENTED THE PRALINE IN BRUSSELS.
Belgians use the word PRALINES for what is called "chocolates" by tourists. If outside the touristic centres you ask for chocolate you will get a bar of chocolate.
The production of pralines in Belgium is now in hands of a number of companies who have industrialized the process what does, fortunately, not mean that quality has diminished. These larger companies have oriented their production to the export making of the Belgian pralines a luxury export product of world wide fame. There are also a good number of artisanal workshops. Belgians consider that brands like Neuhaus, Godiva, Corné are the better ones at least among the big producers. Leonidas is lower in rank but also in price.
When a Belgian offers pralines, he will buy the better rated ones, but for his own use he might take the Leonidas because the difference in price is wider than the difference in quality. When offering pralines we usually buy a ballotin (box) of 500 or 750 gr. mixed (assortment). For our own use we select the types we like most. My favoured praline types, for example, are the "manons" especially the"manons sucrées" of Neuhaus. I prefer to stay with the traditional Belgian taste of the pralines so that a Marcolini is not on my list.
What is remarkable with Belgian pralines is the significant price increase as soon as they cross the Belgian border. Worst increase of price is when they are sold at luxury shops like Harrods in London. Multiplication by 2.5 of the Belgian price. I can understand that the poor Londoners buy Belgian pralines at Harrods by only one or two pieces at the time! Therefore, when you leave Belgium buy some kilos at the Brussels airport. There are good shops with a large variety of the best pralines.
A price idea: 40 - 50 €/kg
Are pralines good or bad for health? They are certainly good for the moral, they induce a euphoric feeling. Some addiction to pralines has been reported. I am one of these praline addicts.
I had bought chocolates in Brugge for my self and gifts for friends. Passing the Neuhaus on our last afternoon in the city I could not resist the hand dipped fresh strawberries which were tempting my taste buds through the window. Ah heavenly to eat in the sunshine and save one box to bring home. I couldn't buy the flowers from the market as I had seen this two days previously. The flower market is on Tuesdays and Sundays 8.00 - 18.00. The rest of my shopping was the usual way I like to shop = just window shopping, I did like the Easter theme of their window dressing. My last shopping errand was to buy my favourite thing from trips = postcards, I can never have enough but can't quite work out what to do with them!
What to buy: Oh Chocolates of course so many chocolate shops with so much choice;
What to pay: Depends on how many chocolates you buy all the handmade chocolates are priced as single so they can add up to be expensive.
Founded in Brussels in 1857 by Jean Neuhaus, NEUHAUS CHOCOLATIER makes luxury Belgian Chocolates, biscuits and ice cream. Jean Neuhaus opened his first store in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The pics shown here are of the shop in the Galeries.
Today, Neuhaus has over 1,000 stores in 40 countries. All Neuhaus products are still made in Viezenbeek, near Brussels and are exported worldwide.
To say I don't like chocolate is a bit of an understatement. However, even I can spot chocolate class when I see it. Wittamer is a real Brussels institutions: its shocking pink trademark packaging being as sought after as the contents.
As if the content of the shop weren't enough, you should just see the window displays! They are very tipical. In the photo you see a detail from their 2004 Valentines Day display. I've seen the World Cup tournament in chocolate, Louis Vuitton in chocolate, Jacques Brel in chocolate... kids just love it.
What to buy: And what contents, what a spectacle... I'm afraid that my powers of expression cannot do justice to the Wittamer wonderland, so I let them speak for themselves. Ths following is taken from their website:
The Wittamer constellation speaks all languages of celebration and good taste, interpreted in inspired boxes of delicacies - chocolates, almond paste, marrons glacés, natural fruit paste sweets, jams and jellies, caviar, champagne and the finest Clarets.
What to pay: Their prices start from a couple of euros for small decorative marzipans, up to around €35 for 1kg of chocolates.
For all you armchair travellers and virtual tourists out there, they even do mail order! here is a selection of prices - these include DHL delivery to Belgium: more information on the website below for other arrangements:
Mini-box G 5.50€
Box, 300 G 12.90€
Box, 500 G 21.50€
Box, 750 G 32.25€
Box, 1 KG 43€
I was asked by friends to bring them some belgian chocolates.
So I wondered if they were more expensive in the tourist areas / airport
What to pay: For 500 grams :
- Rue de tongue - 42 euro
- Grand Place - 42 euro
- Airport - 37.5 euro
It seems they have a set price in the shops in Brussels.
Of course I arrived back in to work and they said "No, no you should have got Leonidas chocolates - half the price and better quality"
Don't say chocolates if you say
'Pierre Marcolini' He creates.
Actually he is quit young and rather new in
business compared to more settled names.
But he won a few prices , hes creations are
mouthwatering , original....expensive.
Anyway , I think you should go and see one
of his shops and see what he created.
Of course Easter , 6 december , 14 februari...
I took this picture on the 'grote zavel' but there
are more shops in Brussels. He had this small cups of chocolatemousse in different
layers , colors , tastes in the window of the shop.
Just have a look on the website.
This next sentence I took from the website...
I can't hold it back.
"Everything starts with a tree,
the majestic, rare, fragile and tropical cacao tree,
whose fruits contain magic seeds: the cacao bean.
It has to be handled with the utmost craftsmanship
by the chocolate maker,
fermented, roasted, ground and kneaded
in order to give birth to great vintages
with a divine flavour and sublime scent, transformed by the artisan in chocolates,
cakes, ice sobets and chocolate milk..."
When Pierre Marcolini decided to open his flagship chocolate shop right across the road from the ultimate chocolate artist, Wittamer, it was generally felt to have been a very bold decision. However time has shown that there is space and custom for 2 fine chocolatiers on the Sablon.
Pierre Marcolini specialises in elegant creations with high cocoa content. He is a world champion patissier.
When his shop first opened in the Sabon, there was a fountain of chocolate (I couldn't even get through the door because the smell made me feel unwell). It's no longer there, but while it was people could help themselves with the aid of spoons!
The website is a complete tribute to the cocolatier's trade.
What to buy: Vakes, pralines and other chocolate products. Taste, quality and elegance are the trademarks, as much with the packaging as with the products themselves.
Easter eggs to die for if you happen to be in town aat that time. Othewise, beautifully presented selections of chocolates.
What to pay: More expensive than other chocolatiers in brussels... up to €45 for 1kg.
It doesn't get much better for quick relief from shopping when you manage to come across a first rate coffee shop, that's also a first-rate chocolatier. Although small the coffee shop has a beautiful winding staircase with half a dozen tables on the first floor indoor balcony. When you buy a coffee, they normally slip a couple of choccies onto the tray, which makes a great improvement from the dried up, wrapped biscuits you get with most establishments.
What to buy: Their range of chocolate coated Espresso beans certainly pack a punch and come in attractive little bags, making them ideal for presents. There are about five types to choose from, or an assorted bag.
A manufacturer of premium chocolate GODIVA CHOCOLATIER was founded in Belgium in 1926 by Joseph Draps, who opened his first boutique in the Grand Place in Brussels. Godiva also sells truffles, coffee, cocoa. biscuits and ice cream.
Godiva operates more than 450 retail boutiques in the U.S. Canada, Europe and Asia.
Godiva's signature package is the gold ballotin (french for "small, elegant box of chocolates).
IanGrace's husband Werner, surprised me with a box of Godiva Chocolates. Thank you Werner that was so sweet and thoughtful of you. The picture here is courtesy of IanGrace, used with her permission.
Amongst the many great chocolateries in Belgium, Pierre Marcolini has certainly the best Belgian chocolates!!
The art of chocolate making is fueled by Pierre's love of the product, an unwavering quest for perfection, and an ability to see past the conventional lines that dictate flavor combinations. Passionate about chocolate since his childhood, when he would hide chocolate simply to experience the pleasure of finding it later, Pierre Marcolini is now offering the world the chance to share in his passion.
Not content with simply making good chocolate, Pierre opted to create great chocolate and did so by starting at the very core – the couverture. In 1995, the dream he had been cherishing for so long came true: to make his own chocolate direct from the cacao bean.
Continuing in his uncompromising quest to produce the world’s best chocolates, Pierre picks the highest quality ingredients to add to his couverture. His infusion chocolates include pieces with fresh Tahitian vanilla, Earl Grey Tea and rich coffee from Java. His nougatine collection contains chocolate pieces with flavorful marcona almonds and crunchy biscuits from Brittany. The truffles are infused with ingredients such as champagne from Saint Martin D'Ablois in France and the tonka bean from South America.
In the twelve years since Pierre opened his first shop in Brussels, his success has grown exponentially. He has been the recipient of several accolades, reaching a pinnacle when he won the prestigous title of “World Champion of Pâtisserie” in Lyon, France. Now with boutiques worldwide, Pierre Marcolini revels in the fact that he has had such success while remaining true to his beliefs regarding perfection in the art of delighting the palate, an absolute respect for the product, and a liberated attitude when it comes to combining the two.
What to buy: Delicious chocolates and pralines with cocoa coming from all over the world . Truffles and chocolate bars.
When chocolate starts to get shapes of little figures.
Eastern and Saint Nicolas are those moments when you can buy chocolate in all kinds of shapes and figures. The windows of the shops are packed and decorated. The decoration can even be made out of chocolate!
They all whisper from behind the glass “Come inside and buy me. Eat me!”.
Ah sometimes they are so beautiful it is hard to put your teeth in it!
On this picture it is the occasion of Saint Nicolas, a Saint that is told to like kids and bring them presents.
What to buy: Chocolates of course!
This chocolate shop is very recognisable by the chocolate fountain in the window to the shop – as it continuously oozes the silky brown stuff over three levels, as a small crowd of chocoholics (all-women) salivate outside. We bought a few loose chocolates, and they were very good quality, but I’m no aficionado (and thus not a wobbly)
The shop is very small and quaint and filled with the most wonderful handmade chocolates you could imagine. The shop keeper was very friendly and helpful. It is located just one street over from the Grand Place. We visited many chocolate shops in the area. None compared to this one. La maison du chocolate artisanal is our very favorite.
What to buy: This chocolate shop offers the best pralines in Belgium.
The ONLY thing I shopped for in Belgium was chocolates and I tried a few from quite a lot of shops. People have differing opinions on the best, my recommendation is to try a few from the ones that look interesting and when you find one you like, then buy yourself a box.
I found the ones I liked were from the midrange shops, the higher end, highly recommended shops that I tried in Antwerp were not to my liking, too many flavors combined in one chocolate.
My favorite of any place on this trip was in Ieper and it was a shop that was only in that city but I did finally find a place in Brussels that had white chocolate with fresh cream. The box and ribbon said Grand-Place, not sure if that's the name of the shop but it was on a side street off the Grand Place.
Also on the Grand Place you'll find a couple that have branches in many cities, Godiva which is sold worldwide and Neuhaus and somewhere near the Grand Place I think there was a Leonidas which I can get here in Chicago.