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Happiness is just a chocolate away…. More precisely, a Belgian chocolate! Ever wondered how the two became so closely linked? Follow us, we’re taking you on a quick journey through history:

Did you know that cacao was discovered in Mexico, 4,000 years ago? The Olmec turned it into a drink, used in their rituals. The Mayans, adding water, cornmeal and chilli, considered it the beverage of the Gods. The Aztecs praised it so much they used the beans as currency…

All the way to Europe

Legend has it that explorer Hernán Cortés, returning from his trip to South America, brought cacao beans back to Spain in 1528. A gift from an Aztec emperor… Vanilla, sugar, cinnamon were added to sweeten what was thought to be a bitter medicine: a revelation!

©  Cyril chocolat© WBT - Gabriele Croppi© WBT - Philippe Lermusiaux

Belgium and chocolate

Cacao arrived in Belgium as early as 1635, when the territory was under Spanish occupation. Hot Chocolate was still a sign of luxury and mostly enjoyed by nobility or to impress visitors. By the 1900s, the country was independent, with colonies of its own. Finding cacao beans in Congo placed Belgium as one of the main traders on the market…

Game changing: the praline

Chocolaterie Druart à Angreau - Pralines© Pierre Pauquay© Pierre Pauquay© Chocolaterie Vanlieff's_Droits réservés

In 1857, Jean Neuhaus opened a pharmacy in the prestigious Galerie de la Reine in Brussels. To make the pills more palatable, he has the brilliant idea to cover them in a thin layer of chocolate. From apothecary to sweet shop…

In 1912, his grandson, Jean Neuhaus Jr, then invents the most fabulous treat: a chocolate shell filled with a creamy, melt-in-the mouth ganache. The praline was born… In 1915, Louise Agostini, his wife, designs an elegant box to present them, called a ballotin, making them the perfect gift for travellers to take home.

Belgian chocolate today

There are over 2,000 chocolatiers in the country to this day. It’s all about quality, of course, with a minimum of 35% cacao needed for a treat to quality as Belgian chocolate. 172,000 tonnes are produced each year, mostly exported and enjoyed all over the world.

Chocolate “Made in Wallonia”

So much choice, you might wonder where to start... Here are some of our favourite chocolate artisans:

  • In Rochefort or Ciney > Sigoji, for their pépites gourmandes, delicate single origin chocolate disks filled with salted caramel, Muscavado based caramel or almond/pistachio
  • In Liège, Verviers, Theux > Darcis for their exquisite chocolate batons (or sticks) in an incredible range of flavours: raspberry, vanilla cream, orange, banana/passionfruit…
  • In Dinant > O Chocolat for their sumptuous pralines, chocolate spreads and pâtisseries
  • In Erezée > Chocolat Defroidmont for their chocolate cubes on sticks, perfect for decadent hot chocolates
  • In Horrues > Manon d’Or for their incredible coconut truffles and Manon praline (moka, hazelnuts, crème fraiche, walnuts all in one treat)

Chocolate crawls are highly recommended ;) Pass Pass

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