Every good chocoholic knows Belgian chocolate is the best in the world. But while tourists flock to the shops selling chocolate Manneken Pis statues around Grand Place, locals and in-the-know travelers head to Brussels’ chocolate Mecca – Grand Sablon.
Grand Sablon (Grote Zavel in Dutch) is a small square (a triangle actually) with the beautiful Notre Dame de Sablon church at its head. Lining the streets are cafes, bars, restaurants and shops – most notably the best selection of chocolate shops in Brussels.
Here’s my rundown of the chocolate shops of Sablon.
One of the oldest chocolatiers in Sablon, and my personal favourite, is Wittamer. Henri Wittamer began his company in 1910 and it is now run by his son and daughter. Wittamer is the Official Supplier to the Court of Belgium but we lowly peasants can visit the chocolate shop, bakery and café on Grand Sablon. My recommendation – climb the stairs to the café on a cold winter’s day and warm up with the thickest and best hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted. Then head over to the chocolate shop for a mixed box of pralines (and for me, an extra bag of raspberry hearts, delish!)
Place du Grand Sablon 6
+32 2 512 37 42
Wittamer Pâtissier, Glacier & Traiteur
12 Place du Grand Sablon
T : +32 (0)2 512 37 42
If Wittamer is classic and traditional, Pierre Marcolini is new and avant gard. When you first step into this shop you’d be forgiven for thinking you walked into a jewellery store. The chocolates are displayed in long glass cases, like tiny jewels. The clerks are immaculately dressed and handle the chocolates with white gloves. The décor screams decadence, and that is what Marcolini is all about. The cocoa beans are sourced from around the world, as are the unique flavours. Orange blossom, ginger, passion fruit and mango are just a few of the exotic flavours on offer.
Rue des Minimes 1
Place du Grand Sablon
If you are looking for a truly traditional Belgian praline, look no further than the inventor of this delicacy – Neuhaus. Neuhaus has been making chocolate in Belgium since 1857 and they were my first introduction to real Belgian chocolate. They invented the praline, ‘a bite-sized filled chocolate’ in 1912 and now their collection includes over 60 flavours. If you can’t make it to Sablon, or to Belgium for that matter, never fear. It is possible to find Neuhaus outlets in 50 countries around the world.
Rue Lebeau 79 (Grand Sablon),
T: +32 2 502 38 13
Many North Americans’ first exposure to Belgian chocolate comes in a shiny gold box bearing the name Godiva. Over 75 years ago Joseph Draps founded a chocolate company in Belgium named for Lady Godiva. His son Joseph took over and shortened the name to simply Godiva. These days Godiva chocolate can be found from New York to Tokyo or right here in Brussels on the Grand Sablon.
Grand Sablon 47/48
T: +32 2 502 99 06
When you’re talking about global expansion of a Belgian chocolate company, you can’t leave out Leonidas. These little yellow chocolate shops are the ‘Golden Arches’ of the chocolate world. With 1,400 outlets around the world, chances are you won’t have to travel all the way to Belgium for a taste. Nonetheless, you will find an outlet tucked in a corner of Grand Sablon, rounding out the Belgian chocolate offerings on the square.
Place du grand Sablon 41
T: +32 (0)2513 14 66
One Belgian chocolatier that I just can’t fail to mention, even though it can’t be found on Grand Sablon, is Zaabär. This new-comer on the Belgian chocolate scene, is pushing the boundaries of flavour and has beautiful packaging too. Their red pepper chocolate is one of my all-time favourites and their lavender chocolate is a close second. Their shop and factory is well worth a visit if you didn’t get your chocolate fill on Grand Sablon.
125 chaussée de Charleroi
The selection of chocolate shops in Brussels is endless, but if you are pressed for time and want one stop chocolate shopping, Place du Grand Sablon has something for every chocolate lover. What’s your favourite Belgian chocolate?
View Chocolate shops in Sablon in a larger map