On another note...I am just beginning to think about becoming a professional chocolatier. I hope to take the EcoleChocolat class and then study with Callebaut while living in Europe. Do you have any advice for someone just starting to learn about the business?
Thanks so much,
Most people who come to Belgium visit Brussels, Brugges and Antwerp. Not sure how deep you want to go in Belgium, but as you probably know, Belgium is known for chocolate and has some 300 independent chocolatiers. If your focus is chocolate, I'd say a day in Brussels and a daytrip to Bruges (by train) would be enough. Bruges is a very beautiful city, built on canals, and very charming. Plus the Choco-Story museum is there as well as some independent chocolatiers (one was featured in a Rick Steves guidebook.)
If you are only going to Paris and Brussels and not renting a car, I'd say fly in and out of Paris and then take a train from Paris Nord to Brussels Midi. From there, you can connect to Brussels Central which is just a three-minute walk to the Grand Place. You can stay in a Grand Place hotel (like the Ibis), do the Grand Place and Sablon chocolate tours, and then take a train to Bruges for a day.
To get to Barry Callebaut in Wieze, Belgium, I think you might need to rent a car. You can do that from the Brussels airport, which you can access easily by taking a train from Brussels Central directly to the airport.
Let me know if you have any more questions. Happy to help.
Great to hear from you. Are you saying you viewed my website at: www.brussels-belgium-travel-guide.com? That does have a good bit of chocolate info in it. There's more to come once I get back over there.
If you are flexible on when you can travel, flights are least expensive pre-summer and post-summer. Can you give me an idea of your budget? That will help me recommend a hotel. But I will say if you can stay near the Grand Place - say in the Ibis Hotel - you'll be close to much of the action and chocolate.
For a Grand Place Chocolate Tour here's what I recommend:
1. Tasting at Neuhaus (in the Grand Place)
2. Tasting at Godiva (in the Grand Place)
3. Tasting and a quick demonstration watch at Chocopolis (near Ibis)
4. Tasting and demo at Planete Chocolat (behind the Grand Place - see my page)
5. Cafe Tasse tasting - also great place for charm - see my page for directions. Five minute walk from Grand Place.
6. Tasting at Galler Chocolate in the Grand Place (nice packaging too)
7. You should be able to do all of that in a few hours. Then I'd go to the Sablon Square and visit Wittamer Chocolate - a small upscale boutique that only has one shop.
8. Across from Wittamer is Pierre Marcolini - also upscale. (See my 'Shopping page' under 'Attractions'.
9. I don't recommend the chocolate museum in the Grand Place - to me it's a disappointment. You can read my story on it and decide for yourself. If you are able to go to Brugges and visit 'Choco Story' Museum - that's better.
When I say 'tasting' above, you'll have to choose a few chocolates to buy. The only one who will give you a free chocolate (one!) is Chocopolis. At least that's my experience.
There's also a Leonidas in the Grand Place, but I think the other chocolate shops are better.
You might also want to take a walking tour with Brussels Walks. They have a chocolate tour you can look into (also on my site.)