Anyone who wanders the narrow streets surrounding the Grand-Place in Brussels eventually spots lavish window displays piled high with tempting chocolate creations. The entire country’s relationship with chocolate goes way back—to the 17th century, in fact, when the Spanish brought it with them from Latin America while occupying present-day Belgium.
It’s said that Jean Neuhaus Jr., founder of the eponymous chocolate company, invented the praline in 1912 in Brussels. While the hazelnut variety is probably the most well-known of Belgium’s classic chocolates, the country has a long tradition of making a range of treats to exacting standards. This chocolate savoir-faire is passed down through the generations in the form of apprenticeships, years of study, and hands-on experience. That’s why Belgian chocolates are so prized and typically exhibit an unrivaled balance of finesse and creativity, present in flavors such as Earl Grey and lavender, saffron curry, and even Cuban tobacco.
It’s not all about pralines though. You can also find chocolate-covered marzipan, caramels, and truffles flavored with everything from Champagne to local speculoos spice cookies. And while most Belgian chocolatiers traditionally rely on couverture (chocolate for professionals that’s made to be remelted), a few ambitious artisans are now going the extra mile and trying their hand at bean-to-bar chocolate making that starts with raw cacao. Belgium is already home to many of the world’s major chocolate players like Callebaut, Godiva, Leonidas, Côte d’Or, Neuhaus, and Guylian, but here are seven more top-notch chocolatiers to seek out on your next trip.