First, a confession.
I am of Swiss ancestry. My husband is Belgian. To say that chocolate is of importance to our very essence is a serious understatement. But whose nation’s chocolate reigns supreme? The heated discussions on this topic over the years have tested our time together as a married couple. Belgian! No, Swiss! No, Belgian!
Fortunately, it is a delicious duel. Over the years, I’ve conceded only this: that Belgium does produce the most delicious and exquisite chocolate pralines in the world. Full stop.
It’s my privilege to provide this list of our (tried and tested) top five Belgian chocolate ‘chocolatiers’. Some of them are available in North America, but others require a trip to what we shall justifiably call ‘the land of chocolate.’
Best Chocolate Shops in Belgium
1. Van Tilborgh
The smallest, and the best. Since 1981, this small, family run chocolate shop in Bruges has produced some of the best handmade pralines we’ve ever tasted. The horse-head pralines are their speciality, and are kept behind the main counter. Available in full milk, dark or a combination of both light and dark chocolate (my favorite), they are fresh, melt-in-your-mouth pralines that are smooth and perfect in every way. Heavenly.
Founded in 1976, Galler is a wonderful addition to the chocolate scene. Galler produces delicious, brightly wrapped chocolate bars with fruit, nut, mousse and liqueur fillings. You can also choose from pralines, fruit jellies, chocolate spreads and Belgian ‘Langues de Chat’ (playful chocolate cat tongues), wrapped in their signature orange ballotins (box) and tins. Galler received the prestigious Belgian Royal Warrant in 1994.
3. Pierre Marcolini
The star Belgian chocolatier and self-proclaimed Haute Chocolaterie of Pierre Marcolini is very ‘au courant’ and deservedly so. Marcolini produces exquisite artisanal chocolates in gorgeous packaging, in shops that feel like jewellery stores. Everything looks too beautiful to eat, but resistance is futile. Your friends and family will love you forever if you bring them a box of Marcolini chocolates.
Celebrating over 150 years as the creator of the ‘praline’, Neuhaus is one of the first brands of Belgian pralines I tasted. Though it may be more mass-produced than the smaller houses, Neuhaus retains its high quality and consistency. I will confess to once receiving and eating an entire (small) ballotin within 24 hours. All by myself. Can you blame me?
Crafting delicious pralines & confections since 1913, Leonidas is a large (1400 stores worldwide) Belgian chocolate company, with an international presence with wide product variety to match. Just as interesting to my kids as the chocolates in the ballotin, was the company logo of Leonidas, King of Sparta. (They’re crazy about ancient history).
Should you find yourself across the border in Holland, be sure to enjoy a Dutch chocolate experience there. After all, is there a thing as too much of a good chocolate thing? I didn’t think so.
[travellingmom tip: Go for quality chocolate pralines in a mix of white, milk and dark chocolates. Children tend to prefer milk chocolate, which is great news if you love dark! Treat yourself to a ballotin of the best pralines you can afford, and if they make it home, savour each one in remembrance of the ‘land of chocolate’.]
Photo Credits: Van Tilborgh, Pierre Marcolini, Galler, Neuhaus, Leonidas
Do you love chocolate? Have you ever tasted Belgian pralines? Share your favorites in the comments below!