5 Scrumptious Chocolate Destinations Only Hours Away
We all love chocolate. And if you say otherwise you’re either lying, allergic to it or you’ve just not eaten enough.
Rather than waiting for the Easter bunny’s annual egg charade, why not treat yourself to a year-round search for the very best that Europe has to offer? Leave the supermarket confectionery to the kids, buckle up and pack a looser pair of trousers; this is chocolate for the grownups.
1. Eurochocolate Festival, Perugia
Held deep within the rolling hills of Umbria, the biggest chocolate celebration in Europe attracts nearly a million cocoa connoisseurs from all around the world every year.
Chocolate sculptures and art displays, street performances, and, of course, tasting, are all on the agenda during the nine day event, which has recently been extended to other cities such as Turin and Milan due to its immense popularity.
The festival even made the history books back in 2003 when it produced the biggest chocolate bar in the world – a delicious 7 m x 2 m, 6,000 kilogram slab of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Eurochocolate Festival usually takes place between 17-26 October.
2. Paris, France
If chocolate is the food of love, then where better to taste it than the most romantic city in the world?
With a long history of creating world-class and cutting-edge confectionery, the cosmopolitan capital offers an array of luxurious and artisan sweet shops designed to please even the most sophisticated palate.
Also well worth a visit is Le Musée Gourmand du Chocolat, a museum and workshop which covers the 4,000 year history of the treat (and the secrets of how it is made), alongside live demonstrations. And if all that still hasn’t persuaded you, how about this – they give out free samples.
Le Musée Gourmand du Chocolat is open daily from 10am-6pm.
3. Brussels, Belgium
Producing over 172,000 tonnes of the stuff every single year, it’s fair to say that the Belgians love their chocolate and you simply can’t visit Brussels without sampling a piece or two yourself.
Around 2,000 confectionery shops pepper the nation, so if you’re crazy about Couverture, a visit to the Lowlands is an absolute must – particularly during February, when it’s Brussels Chocolate Week.
Belgium has enjoyed a long love affair with the treat, and has been sharing its produce with the world since as far back as the 17th century. It was around this time that the then Mayor of Zurich visited Brussels, and first tried the drinking variety in the city’s spectacular Grand Place. Needless to say, he enjoyed it so much that he immediately exported it back to his own country.
Which brings us neatly on to the next choice…
Brussels Chocolate Week tickles the tastebuds every February.
When the Mayor returned from neighbouring Belgium with his new find, the Swiss took the original recipe and refined it, fortuitously inventing milk chocolate in the process.
Anyone who has tried the nation’s famous Lindt or Nestle brands will know just how good the result of that experimentation was, and Switzerland quickly became a nation of chocoholics.
Switzerland currently holds the record for the most chocolate consumed per head – at a huge 11.6 kilograms each year – so it’s no surprise that the Versoix Festival du Chocolat is so popular.
Featuring a range of confectioners and varieties of chocolate from all over the nation, the event has quickly become a go-to destination for continental cocoa bean cravers.
Next to luxury watches, chocolate ranks among Switzerland’s biggest exports, so the chocolatiers in the picturesque Jura Mountains (the home of precision watchmaking) spotted a real opportunity. Do make sure you pick up one of their famously unique chocolate watches if you’re in the area.
This year’s Versoix Festival du Chocolat takes place on the 5th & 6th April.
5. Cadbury World
Birmingham might not be quite as exotic a chocolate haven as its continental counterparts, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet.
A real British institution, Cadbury has been putting smiles on the Isles for almost 200 years, so where better to taste that milky magic than the place where it all began?
With a huge variety of different interactive zones and activities to provide an all-encompassing experience of Cadbury’s rich heritage (plus the world’s biggest Cadbury’s shop) it’s a fantastic day out for the whole family… and it’s as close to Willy Wonka’s famous factory as you’re ever likely to get!
Cadbury World is open between 22nd January & 30th November, and restricted dates in December.