Bruges, Belgium: Where the chocolate is even better than they say

Let me just start off by saying that I was never really a huge chocolate person. I like chocolate, don’t get me wrong, but I was never one to rave over a simple piece of chocolate, and when it comes down to a choice between chocolate or vanilla ice cream, I almost always choose vanilla. Of course there are chocolate bars I like and I will eat, but pure chocolate was never really my thing.

Well when I arrived in Belgium (namely Bruges), it wasn’t long before I was greeted by a slew of chocolate shops. I had heard about the quality of Belgian chocolate, but I certainly wasn’t as prepared for the quantity of chocolatiers I would encounter in a town with a 30 minute radius from end to end. How would I know which one was the best? They were all swarming with people so it was hard to differentiate one from another. All I knew was that I would have to buy some chocolate somewhere.

We happened upon a shop called “The Chocolaterie” in the Burg area of Bruges, a relatively small store crowded with all things chocolate (and marzipan) and lots and lots of people. The shop was divided into two very distinct sections: one for everyday chocolate and one for those made with “finer ingredients.”

While we were there, the chocolatier cut up samples of their chocolate hearts filled with a light ganache of chocolate. All I had was a sliver, a tiny sliver…and I knew instantly that it was the best chocolate I had ever tasted. Back in America, I have yet to experience a chocolate that would phase me as much as this did.

Now I’m no snob (or so I like to believe), but now I was a convert so I opted to buy some from the finer ingredients section (pictured above) completely clueless as to what made the difference. But with a selection of chocolates made with cayenne pepper, chilies, cinnamon, and more, I was definitely intrigued.

The woman was sort of adamant about picking chocolates for me. All she asked was my preference between dark and milk chocolate and then started throwing things in my bag. I don’t know if it’s because I was a tourist or if she does that for everyone but it was all happening so fast. Before I knew it, I had a 10-piece bag full of vanilla, cayenne pepper, green tea, cinnamon, cardamom, hazelnut and other flavors I can’t even recall. The problem was I had no idea which was which.

She handed me the bag and very assertively stated:
“This is not chocolate to eat, it’s chocolate to enjoy.”

I sort of smirked and thought to myself “what is that supposed to mean?” But on I went, 4.25 euro poorer, and saved my chocolate for later.

It wasn’t until I got back to Amsterdam the next day that I had THE BEST piece of chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. I thought the heart was good, but this, THIS topped it all.

It was the first piece I pulled out of the bag. I had no idea what flavor it was but after one bite, I could tell it was green tea. The outside was firm and the inside was soft with bold flavor. It was decorated with a few crystals of salt that melded perfectly with its insides. For about a minute, I sat on the floor realizing exactly what that woman meant.

I haven’t yet finished the bag, because I’m trying to let it all last. I like to share it with others and see what they think. But as of right now, I’m halfway through and the green tea is still by far my favorite.

On another note, I want to thank you readers for all your kind wishes and interest about my trip! It’s really nice to read all your comments and know that you’re interested in hearing about it. So thank you! More to come.

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  • JEP

    I am sooo jealous of your chocolate experience:)

  • melissa

    I’m not much on chocolate either, but now I’m intrigued. you did a beautiful job of describing that experience. I hope I get to enjoy it like that someday.

  • Hillary

    JEP – I wish I could have you try some! I still have a bag.

    Melissa – Thanks for reading! I decided I might like chocolate more than I thought :)

  • http://aol LadyDi

    Well Hillary, Are you now an honorary chocoholic??? I have a feeling for the next number of years, everytime you see chocolates made in Belgium, youre gonna purchase some in an attempt to relive the taste. Mind you, I cant blame you a bit if you did as I am already a chocoholic…………. Enjoy the rest of your bag : ) LadyDi

  • Megan

    I enjoyed reading about your trip. I use to live in Belgium, the south part (Namur) but I can tell you that the BEST place for chocolates is in Brussels. The store is called “MARY’s” and they serve the Royal Family, but yet they have a store for the public and they are “to die for”/awesome. All of Belgium has very good chocolate just not Brugge. The best stores sre the locals. The more commercialized stores; Leonidas, Godiva, Neuhas they have good chocolate but is it the local/smaller stores that have the best, I think so!!!

    I am always telling my friends when I see some boxes of chocolates on sale here in Arizona to try them that Belgian Chocolates are the BEST in the world.

  • Joyce

    We have visited Belgium twice. I love the people, beautiful architecture, ice cream to die for, the lace, the unique taste of their chocolate– yet–I thoroughly loved the well-preserved simple designs of the buildings and homes along narrow cobblestone streets.
    By all means, remember to put all the chocolate treats in your CARRY-ON LUGGAGE as you fly home. We brought such a variety back for relatives and friends–It all MELTED together!!! We were heart-broken, but learned a very hard lesson!

  • Hillary

    Lady Di – I have a feeling I have become a convert. Lately I have been craving chocolate all the time and have made many recipes using chocolate!

    Megan – Sad, now I wish I tried THAT chocolate! Thanks for the comment.

    Joyce – I love Belgium too! I definitely saw a ton of lace shops in addition to the chocolate shops and good point about the luggage!

  • Maddy

    Oh man when I was in Brussels two years ago I nearly exploded from sugar overload. My favorite chocolate shop by far was Pierre Marcolini- did you happen to go there? They not only have chocolate but also macarons. The woman gave me a macaron for free because she was so shocked I had never tried one- needless to say it was the first of many. Great post!

  • Graydon

    I wholehearted agree! While others espouse the virtues of Mary’s in Brussels or the many Leonidas shops, my absolute favorite chocolate experience in Belgium was the pralines from Chocolaterie De Burg in Bruges! It is a little hidden away from the rest of the shops (in the Burg rather than in the Grote Markt), but the pralines I enjoyed from my trip to Bruges last September were absolutely sublime! I simply MUST go back to Bruges again for two reasons only: To FINALLY climb the 365 steps of the Belfry, and to get more pralines from Marleen at Chocolaterie De Burg!!

  • http://www.Ashford-Airport.Co.Uk/ Ashford To Brussels

    Yes, I would agree that Belgium is deceptive. We went flew to Brussels for my mum’s birthday and I will be honest, I didn’t hold out high expectations. It turned out to be the best day trip I’ve ever been on and I’d definitely recommend it. The journey took next to no time, the food was fantastic and we had so much fun sightseeing.


  • Marcia Barros

    I and my sister have been in the same chocolaterie you did 2 months ago ; In fact the correct name of the chocolaterie is “De Burg” (as you can confirm by reading the last to letters in the shop window shown in your picture). I read your text and started to laugh and read it out loud to my sister. We both could not stop laughing: we had exactly the same sensation you very sharply described! Even her phrase “It is not to eat, its to ENJOY” was the same. Good chocolate is everywhere in Brugge….yumy!!! Thanks for your text – nice reading

  • Russ Burns

    I sit here having just fiished the last of a box of 15 pieces purchased at De Burg two weeks ago. All of the descriptions in the world cannot even remotely prepare one for the experience of a box of these wonderful delights. Until one sits down and actually takes a small bite and slowly lets the textures and flavors of these works of art sink in they will simply never in the world understand!

  • Lorelei

    I TOTALLY agree! De Burg is soooo good. The best I’ve EVER had–and I went to every chocolate shop in Brussels the day before! In fact, I’m eating one of De Burg’s chocolates right now. :-) I brought some back for my mom for her birthday (in my carry-on luggage, packaged in styrofoam!), and she was blown away. I didn’t hear the “it’s not to eat, it’s to enjoy,” but maybe because we were too busy talking chocolate. Did you happen to have the piece that was brushed with pink metal? Something like a rose pepper thing? It was the best one I had there. Ever…ever…ever!

  • Jess

    Having had both Mary’s chocolates from Brussells and Chocolaterie de Burg, I can happily assert that de Burg is better. The fillings are more unusual but are absolutely amazing, Green Tea being one of my favourites.

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