Falling For Chocolate in Bruges

Couples Travel, Europe, Food & Wine — By on August 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By Melissa Bressler
LG Contributor 

Having recently visited both Paris, France and Bruges, Belgium, I have come to a startling and unexpected conclusion. It’s bold, it’s controversial and it just might change every travel daydream you’ve entertained since you saw Moulin Rouge. But I stick to my claim 100 percent. And what exactly am I claiming? That Bruges might, just might, be a more romantic city than Paris.

I understand that no one hopes for a “Belgian kiss” after a dinner date and I agree that “We’ll always have Bruges” just doesn’t sound quite right, but this underdog city of love has something that Paris simply can’t touch: chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Boatloads of chocolate. Boatloads of pure, sweet, delicious Belgian chocolate, easily available and affordable all over the city. Yes, the winding, crystalline canals, sugary waffles and vibrant, historic architecture all bring their own magic to the Bruges experience, but there is nothing more sentimentally delicious than wandering hand-in-hand on a chilly day, sharing a few (or more) handmade chocolate truffles.

Bruges is full of chocolate shops large and small, ranging from the international giant Godiva to the tiny family-run Dumon, and with so many delicious choices, it’s easy to find yourself without a starting point, an overwhelmed and under-prepared chocoholic.

For first-time chocolate tourists in Bruges, three particularly delicious destinations should top the itinerary. The first stop on your tour should be Dumon, a small shop known throughout Bruges for its classic, buttery creations. Here, Madame Dumon and her family work to create the rich, hand-crafted truffles, chocolates and pralines that have made them very famous and very popular. The Dumon display case can sometimes draw a crowd of chocolate enthusiasts, both Belgian and foreign, so, if you happen to visit during the rush, be ready to wait and/or fight for your truffle of choice. They are definitely worth the wait; since the chocolates are made fresh every day and include no preservatives, they have a short shelf life and are near impossible to find in the States.

More adventurous chocolate-lovers can visit The Chocolate Line, famous for wacky but intriguing flavors. “Shock-O-Latier” Dominique Persoone prides himself on unexpected combinations, including white chocolate with curry and saffron, bitter ganache with almond praline and Coca-Cola, and truffles flavored with Havana cigars. At any given time, you can choose from more than 80 flavors, all handmade and completely unique.

For a chocolate experience that extends beyond Bruges, try Neuhaus, a company that began 150 years ago in Brussels but now sells its signature pralines in 40 countries. This company takes credit for having produced the very first Belgian praline, and their chocolates still hold up against the global competition. If you harbor any fear of insatiable Belgian-chocolate addiction, Neuhaus is your best bet for a steady supply back home.

But addiction could never happen to you. After all, it’s just chocolate, right? Wrong. This is chocolate so sweet, creamy and unexplainably Belgian that even the most adamant chocolate opponents (sadly, they do exist) stare longingly at window displays in misty-eyed disbelief, after just one short encounter.

To prove this true but potentially debatable assertion, I enlisted the help of my boyfriend, a long-time chocolate-hater but otherwise sane individual who prefers iceberg lettuce to ice cream and blackberries to bonbons.

Though he reluctantly dragged his feet behind me, we made our way toward Dumon, the first stop in our Belgian social experiment. Since Madame Dumon believes that each handcrafted chocolate deserves a thorough and personal description, the piles of truffles and pralines do not sport English labels. In order to sort through the excess, we enlisted the help of a friendly employee and, after a quick candy consultation, happily walked away with an assortment of confections, including one truffle flavored with candied lilac and another filled with dense mocha. The poor, chocolate-hating guinea pig took a deep breath, steeled himself and took a single, reluctant bite. The verdict?

“It’s um…surprisingly tolerable. You can have the rest. I mean after I try the one with the flowers on it. And that dark chocolate one. And that white-chocolate caramel-y thing we got at the end.”  Right. Point proven.

Photo credits: froboy4nitsirkroboppy

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    2 Comments

  • Jens says:

    Never been to Bruge and not a chocoholic either but this sounds really convincing! I still like myself a box of heavenly chocolates or two, you know.

  • susan says:

    We just visited Brugge Belgium and Dumon chocolatier. The best chocolate I’ve ever had and only eleven calories a piece! I’m not one who has to have chocolate but this is addictive.