Last Updated on January 7, 2022 by Jim Ferri
In search of the great chooclatiers in one of Belgium’s most wonderful towns…
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
By Jim Ferri
With an open weekend before I flew home from Amsterdam, I decided to go to Bruges, Belgium.
It wasn’t a decision made on a whim. In fact, I had been mulling it over for several weeks as I trained about Europe before I finally decided to take the plunge. I made a reservation on the Amsterdam to Bruges train.
My goal: to find the best Belgian chocolate in Bruges.
Why Bruges? Along with it’s famous medieval architecture and canals, Bruges is also a chocolate hot spot with an incredible number of chocolatiers and shops. In a word – or more precisely five – it’s nirvana for chocolate lovers.
(I might add that because Belgium is also nirvana for beer lovers, some enterprising travel companies offer tours that combine the best of both worlds.)
And since the Benelux is a small area with good roads and train service, it’s quite easy to get about. My Amsterdam to Bruges train took slightly less than 3 1/2 hours. It’s a trip you can do in an hour or so less by car.
If you’re already in Belgium, you’ll find that Bruges is also a very easy and short day trip (just about one hour) from Brussels by train).
Although getting there wasn’t a problem, my search, turned out to be considerably harder than I envisioned. You can follow it on the interactive map below.
Table of contents
Start With A Plan to Find the Best Chocolate In Bruges
My methodology was quite simple. I made a list of chocolatiers recommended in a few Bruges guidebooks and articles on the city. Then I walked the streets in the old city where most were located.
Before setting off, however, I visited Choco-Story, the city’s interesting Chocolate Museum. It helped answer a few questions I’m certain are on every chocoholic’s mind…is it an aphrodisiac (perhaps, yes)…does it cause high cholesterol (no, it reduces it)…does it make you fat (dark chocolate doesn’t)…etc.
Once out of the museum, my first stop was at Dominique Persoone (also know as The Chocolate Line), an attractive little store on Simon Stevinplein. It was located across from a little carnival that had been set up in the square.
Once inside, I asked for three Belgian chocolates: one with a cherry liqueur, another with walnuts (it was shaped like a walnut shell on the outside and filled with chocolate with little pieces of walnut.
The third had a “biscuit” inside, which the saleslady recommended since it was a popular item at their shop).
The one with the cherry was over the top and the walnut excellent, but I was surprised by the biscuit. For some reason I had expected a tiny cracker inside but it turned out to be crunchy chocolate instead. It was very interesting but not what I had expected. Nevertheless, I rated each well above all the other chocolates I had ever tasted.
Café Tasse Is Not Run by Nuns
I also headed over to Café Tasse, a small Belgian chocolate shop by the nearby Begijnhof, which is still home to an order of nuns. In fact, I was lured into Café Tasse, because I erroneously thought it was associated with the convent.
In my mind I associated it with monks making ales and wine, and wondered what type of chocolates nuns would make. And, after all, it did have an image of a nun on its sign.
Nevertheless, nuns or not, once inside I found an interesting array of chocolates. I bought a Grand Marnier, a Cointreau, an Irish cream and a caramel with nuts, the latter my chocolate dessert. I soon realized I was only in the second shop and already liqueur-filled chocolates had become a theme in my search.
The Cointreau, as it turned out, was very creamy and delicious. The Grand Marnier, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired, namely the taste of Grand Marnier.
I also wasn’t enthused about the Irish Cream either, probably because I thought it would taste more like Baileys. The caramel, on the other hand, was quite good.
Wandering further I came to Detavernier Patisserie, which also incorporates the Tearoom Carpe Diem. It seemed popular and appeared to be doing a brisk Belgian chocolate business.
I wandered inside but found that its main business was pastries (it was a patisserie, after all) so I decided to pass them by. Probably helping in that decision was that the super-rich chocolate I was buying and consuming, in addition to the occasional free sample, was making me lose my appetite.
A Map of Bruges: A Walking Tour of Belgian Chocolatiers
This map depicts a walking tour of most of the places mentioned in this article. It is interactive; press +/- to enlarge it or make it smaller. It can also be viewed, and the route followed, on your smartphone.
Around the corner on Katelijnestraat I stumbled across Lady Chocolates, which also seemed popular gauging by the number of people going in and out. But when I saw the promotional signs in the windows – “Belgian Chocolates – Promo Best Price – Best Buy” – I realized its popularity was based on price and decided to pass it by.
Ditto for Daya Chocolates (“1 kg Belgian chocolates for €12.80”), Sukerbuyc Chocolaterie, Verheecke, Brown & Sugar and Moeder Babelutte (despite its chocolate fountain and cups of hot chocolate you could purchase). Unfortunately, they all seemed to be targeting the mass market, rather than concentrating their efforts on producing the sublime chocolates I sought.
Finally…Nirvana, the Best Chocolate in Bruges: Dumon Artisanale Chocolatier
The next day, still wandering about on my search, I discovered Dumon.
At first, I had trouble finding it in the area around Market Square, where I was told it would be. But then I was directed to a tiny 400-year-old brick building on the street directly behind the Square. Looking more like a small cottage than the chocolate Utopia it turned out to be, it appeared to have had a “newer” neighborhood built around it.
Nevertheless, it was here I found the Bruges chocolate for which I’d been searching – all made from “ancient recipes.” The caramel almost made my tongue melt. The cherry (“be careful, it still has the stone inside”) was bursting with a delicious cherry liqueur. The walnut and all the others were superb.
Dumon has been in business only twenty years, which doesn’t seem like a very long time compared to some of the other shops, but its chocolate was far and away the most incredible Belgian chocolate I had tasted in Bruges, or anywhere for that matter.
And it’s a family operation, with Mom and sister behind the tiny counter, happy to give you samplings of their luscious little masterpieces. The cheerfulness of the whole place only seemed to enhance the pleasure of everything I tasted.
If you’re looking for Dumon, and want to taste the best Belgian chocolate in Bruges, stand in Market Square with your back to the tower and take the street on the upper left. Look for the little shop on your right at the next corner, and go down a few steps to find nirvana.
And don’t forget to try the caramel.
Good Hotels Your Search for Chocolates in Bruges
When you tire during your personal search for the best Belgian chocolates in Bruges, you’ll find more than 300 hotels in the city ranging from 5-star properties such as the Hotel Van Cleef, Hotel Prinsenhof, Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, Relais & Châteaux Hotel Heritage, etc. to many European and American chains including Crowne Plaza, Park Hotel, Belforthotels, Floris Hotels, Martins, and Novotel, among many others.
There are also many apartments, B&Bs, and budget properties. Although the latter are usually not in the center of the Old Town, they aren’t necessarily that far afield. The good Ibis Budget Hotel at the Brugge Centrum Station, where I stayed, is just an easy 10-15 walk to Market Square.
Trains: Amsterdam to Bruges / Brussels to Bruges
The Amsterdam to Bruges train is a 3 1/2 hour trip. The fare is approximately $59 – $85 depending on class of service. If you’re in Brussels the train ride is only a bit over an hour and costs considerably less – approximately $11 – 16 per person. Of course, if you have a Eurail Pass, the Amsterdam to Bruges train, as well as the Brussels to Bruges train, are both free.
If You Go:
Dumon Artisanale Chocolatier
Tel: 050 34.62.82
The Chocolate Museum (Choco-Story)
Wijnzakstraat 2 (Sint-Jansplein)
Tel: 050 61.22.37
Admission: Adult €8; 65+ €7; Children 6 – 11 €5