If there’s one thing that’s worth checking out in “Belgium”, what would that be? While some would think of its postcard-worthy Neoclassical architecture, chocolate lovers would agree that those god-tier Belgian chocolates are worth flying to Belgium for. From soft-centered confections with chocolate casing (Pralines) to hand-finished chocolate figurines, there’s nothing better than sinking your teeth on these heavenly treats.
And while all cities have their fair share of amazing chocolatiers and rich chocolate-making heritage, one city stands out when it comes to Belgian chocolates: Antwerp. Since the very first time the cacao beans were brought to the harbor, Antwerp has become a paradise for sweet-toothed locals and travellers.
And today, the love (for chocolates) is still in the air and even has become sweeter than ever. Antwerp boasts its strong presence of world-famous chocolatiers, chocolate shops on every street corner, and guided tours and workshops. Antwerp is also the birthplace of the largest Belgian chocolate museum in the world.
So if you’re a chocolate addict (and you’re proud of it), don’t miss these 5 fun experiences in Antwerp.
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1. Visit Chocolate Nation
Antwerp is home to Chocolate Nation, the largest Belgian chocolate museum in the world. The museum explores chocolate in Belgian culture, tradition, and its contribution to the world. It has 14 thematic rooms and in the 60-90-minute tour, you’ll discover the love story between the little country and the delectable delight, which has been thriving for generations.
In Chocolate Nation, you’ll learn all of the steps to creating Belgian chocolate, all thanks to the fun multimedia presentations and interactive exhibits. The tour begins in the cocoa plantations of the equator and progresses to the world’s largest cocoa storage port in Antwerp. You’ll also see a fantasy machine that demonstrates how chocolate is made.
The best part? Samples are included in the tour! You can also take a piece of Chocolate Nation home with you by dropping by their gift shop for chocolates and other souvenirs.
2. Get your hands on Antwerp Hands
No Antwerp visit is ever complete without tasting the Antwerp Hands.
Antwerpse Handjes (Antwerp Hands) are iconic hand-shaped biscuits or little chocolates that originated in the city. For generations, these hands have become a symbol of the city, from cookies decorated with sliced almonds to chocolates filled with praline or marzipan. Today, the popular regional product has become the perfect gift to express friendship and gratitude.
What’s with the hands? This sweet treat comes with legendary stories of triumph and brutality. According to legends, the city was under the control of the horrifying giant Druoon Antigoon. The brave Roman soldier Silvius Brabo conquered him, cut off his hands, and threw them into the river Scheldt.
Other origin stories are darker and more atrocious. Some say that the hands symbolise the Congolese that were forced into labor in the19th-century. Well, that’s a lot to take in for a seemingly wholesome treat.
3. Check out the best chocolatiers in Antwerp
While it’s possible to purchase a box of Belgian chocolates from your local supermarket or online, nothing beats visiting a real Belgian chocolate shop. The city has an overwhelming array of chocolate shops, so you won’t run out of places to visit. Chances are that, there’s a shop or two near your serviced apartment in Antwerp.
If your Antwerp stay is short and you only have one stop to visit, let it be The Chocolate Line in the historic Palace in Meir. Not your usual chocolate nook — this opulent chocolate shop in Antwerp is a “heaven on earth” for chocolate connoisseurs. It offers a unique variety of chocolates for all tastes, including flavors of wasabi, bacon, chili, and chicken skin. No gimmicks — everything is made by professional chocolatiers.
Other must-visit chocolate shops ranked by bloggers, journalists, and chocolate aficionados include:
- Pierre Marcolini, Haute Chocolaterie – a shop offering exquisite craft chocolates that celebrate the purity and excellence of ingredients from around the world.
- Burie Chocolatier – aside from offering beloved classics and chocolates with a twist, this shop is drawing customers by having their “monthly chocolate sculpture” in the window. These range from a detailed imitation of the White House to a full-sized ostrich.
- DelRey – known for its wide selection of sweets, from petits fours to pastries, macarons, and dessert cakes.
- Günther Watté – chocolate café that serves a variety of chocolates, pralines, coffee, tea, dessert wine, and pastries
- Sjokolat – known for pralines, chocolate, and truffles in a diverse range of tastes.
4. Join a fascinating chocolate tour
You’ve heard of ghost tours, pub crawls, and wine tours, but have you ever heard of chocolate walking tours? That makes sense if you want to walk with like-minded chocoholics and get immersed in the history of your favorite sweet treat.
And yes, you can find several chocolate tours in Antwerp. Usually, these tours introduce you to the wonderful history of Belgian chocolates, including the “praline”, and how wealthy Antwerpenaars and Belgians developed a liking for this delectable confection. The tour also involves visiting some chocolate factories and shops for samples.
5. Create your own sweet treat in a chocolate workshop
Want to do something other than store-hopping and sampling chocolates? You also have the option to take a chocolate workshop and make your very own goodies.
A chocolate workshop is a fun group activity, whether you’re on a team-building trip with colleagues or with a party with your friends. One recommended workshop is the one of Carolien Krijnen from Chocalicious.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a content writer during the weekends, and a travel and food blogger 24/7. She may be an awkward introvert but she’s got a lot to say about travel, food, and cultural appreciation. To know more about hotels and travel blogs, you may visit PREMIER SUITES PLUS Antwerp.