Easter means different things to different people - a religious observance, a celebration of spring and new life, a four-day weekend. What we can all agree on is that it is a great excuse to eat chocolate - if ever one was needed.
In honour of the holiday, falling this year in late March, we have compiled the only list you’ll ever need to read: where in Europe you’ll find the best chocolate. In a continent that’s known for fantastic sweets, there are some unmissable opportunities to sample, buy and enjoy.
1 . Switzerland
This one’s a given! This stunning country of mountains, lakes and tidy cities in central Europe is well known for its chocolatiers. It’s not just one spot, either - you’ll find a decent bar of milky cocoa-based goodness almost anywhere around the nation. We think their secret is the cows - nowhere will you see better cared-for bovines than in Switzerland! Bedecked with bells and perfectly groomed, the herds are a sight for sore eyes.
Where exactly should you go? Switzerland is a relatively small place, so it’s easy to see - and taste - it all. Pick up a car rental in Bern
and you’re on your way. Any Swiss brand of chocolate you pick up in the supermarket is likely to be superior to you usual fare, and you can also visit the source. Maison Cailler is less than an hour’s drive from Bern and a good place to start, a big factory offering tours and tastings. Other hotspots include the Durig workshop in Lausanne, Teuscher flagship store in Zurich, the Alprose factory in Caslano, Beschle in Basel and many more.
Want to learn as well as ingest? We recommend visiting the “Alimentarium” Food Museum in Vevey. Located near Lausanne on the shores of the gorgeous Lac Leman, it’s a fascinating place which explores all aspects of food and dining. The giant fork sticking into the lake marks the spot.
2 . Cologne, Germany
We’re being a bit more specific here. Chocolate lovers are free to explore as much of Germany as they wish this Easter but if they’re serious about their cocoa cravings they might want to focus on Cologne in the western part of the country.
The city is home to a chocolate museum, and a big one - the ultimate destination for chocolate lovers. Situated on an island in the Rhein, it is a glass-and-metal building whose unassuming interior hides a lot of delicious things to taste, see and discover. There is a Grand Cafe full of specialty drinks and dishes, various exhibitions covering all areas of chocolate making history and processes, tours with tastings, and even courses offered for those who would like to try their hand at making some chocolate.
You won’t be missing out on good chocolate elsewhere in Germany either. Bordering both Switzerland and Belgium, it’s no surprise that some of the expertise would have rubbed off! Brands to look for include Ritter Sport, Milka, Moser Roth and Stollwerck, which has its origins in Cologne. Pick up your rental car in Cologne
, visit the museum and follow your tastebuds.
3 . Belgium
This is the country which invented the praline in 1912, changing the chocolate game forever. Although other places and other artisans have become increasingly influential, Belgium is still considered the home of chocolate and the place where you’ll find some of the world’s finest.
Pick up a Brussels car rental
to begin your Belgian trek, the city which caters so well to anyone with a sweet tooth. There are chocolate shops everywhere you look, including the original flagship store by Godiva and a whole range of lesser-known master chocolatiers. They have this down to an art - so enjoy a morning or afternoon of drooling over window displays! Stick to the Grand Place and the Sablon neighbourhood for the best boutiques.
Brussels is also home to another Museum of Chocolate, and it’s not the only one: Eupen and Bruges
have them too - those seeking knowledge will be well pleased! There are other famous chocolate makers throughout the country, although you can certainly get your fill of cocoa goodness without straying from Brussels as most will have shops in the city. Try the “little chocolate hands” or “Antwerpse handjes” in Antwerp
, a Liege waffle with chocolate sauce, and be sure to get in some cafe visits for a delicious Belgian hot chocolate, wherever you go!
4 . Italy’s “Chocolate Valley”
You probably knew that you could get great wine, pasta and pizza in Italy, but did you know that this gorgeous country also has a valley of chocolate? In Tuscany is a hidden gem - the “Chocolate Valley” which is located near Pisa, 40 miles west of Florence. To get there, pick up a rental car in Florence
and head west on the A11 then south on the SS439 to visit the main centres of the chocolate trail: Prato, Pistoia, Pontedera and Pisa
The towns mentioned above, and others along the way, are home to many Italian chocolate makers. The best part of a self-drive tour for chocoholics, as opposed to wine lovers, is that there’s no issues with finding a sober driver!
Likely spots to stop and indulge include Pasticciera Mannori in Prato, Caffè Slitti in Monsumano Terme, original chocolate master Roberto Catinari’s shop in Agliana, Casa DeBondt which is located just outside of Pisa, and the famous Amedei pastry boutique and chocolaterie in Pontedera - you can buy bars of this delicious chocolate in stores in Florence also.
5 . London, England
This isn’t a city most would associate with chocolate in particular, but for foodies in general it is somewhat of a wonderland, and artisanal chocolate treats are big at the moment on the diverse and delightful London food scene.
Chocolate boutiques you might like to visit in London include Paul A Young Fine Chocolates with stores in Soho, Islington and Bank, Rococo in Chelsea, and Hotel Chocolat with a restaurant overlooking Borough Market. On the more mainstream side of things, chocoholics can visit the the Lindt designer outlet in Wembley, and the impressive M&M’s World store - these are found only in five of the world’s biggest tourist centres.
Borough Market near London Bridge is a centre for all kinds of tasty treats, and while it’s not just chocolate that’s sold here, you’ll undoubtedly find some. Other places of note: Alexeeva and Jones handmade chocolate shop in Notting Hill, Selfridges Chocolate Library with bars from all over the world, and the Crosstown Bakery outlets around the city with exquisite chocolate-filled doughnuts. Taste your way around this exciting city, and then pick up a London car rental
to continue the adventure in the charming UK.
Easter is coming early this year, so be in quick to book your chocoholic holiday!