An indulgent round-the-world chocolate tour
As any chocoholic will tell you, not all chocolate is born equal. Diverse and rich in variety, it's akin to fine wine, cheese and coffee among connoisseurs. And with World Chocolate Day fast approaching on 7th July, we've investigated the top spots around the globe to indulge in – and celebrate – this creamy confection.
Ah, Paris. Home to some of the finest confections – and confectioners – in the world. With chocolatiers such as Jean-Paul Hévin, Edwart and A la Mère de Famille occupying premium spots around the 1st arrondissement, you could easily confine your chocolate tour to central Paris alone. Add in a visit to gourmet chocolate museum 'Choco Story' and you'll be laughing (though your dentist might not!). To get in the sweet spot for serious chocolate action, consider a stay at Grand Hôtel du Palais Royale or the Hôtel l'Hotel.
Did you know: According to a 1996 study by psychologist Neil Martin, even just the smell of chocolate increases 'theta' brain waves, which trigger relaxation.
Côte d'Or, Godiva, Leonidas – Belgium is synonymous with some of Europe's most famous chocolate brands. But stroll around Brussels and you'll find all manner of independent artisans weaving their own chocolate magic – sometimes with more impressive results than their better-known counterparts. Check out Place du Grand Sablon and its bustling weekend markets, exploring the unique and boutique chocolate shops dotted around the square.
You can't talk about chocolate without mentioning Switzerland. Home of world-famous Teuscher, Lindt and (of course) Toblerone, the Swiss have got something of a monopoly on sumptuous sweetmeats. From hotel Alex Lake you're just five minutes' taxi ride from the Lindt Chocolate Experience, where a Maître Chocolatier will take you through the tasting process with over 30 different chocolate creations to savour.
Did you know: When eaten in moderation, dark chocolate is considered to have several health benefits. Its source, the cacao bean, contains antioxidants, as well as being rich in minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron.
You can't make chocolate without cacao beans. A sacred crop for much of Costa Rica, they're an important part of the country's cultural and economic heritage. Get hands-on experience of the chocolate production process with La Fortuna's rainforest tour. Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Arenal Volcano, you can learn about the history and origin of cocoa and chocolate, with tastings of fine organic produce (and of course chocolate) along the way. Follow this up with a stay and a soak at the natural hot springs at Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa.
Following on from its spectacular 25th anniversary in 2018, this year's Eurochocolate festival in Perugia runs from 18th – 27th October. Drawing crowds of up to a million people each year, this is truly a chocolate-lover's paradise. Free tastings, demonstrations, shows and food stalls are just the start. You'll also stumble across giant chocolate sculptures and masterpieces from esteemed chocolatiers. And just down the road, the Renaissance fortress of Rocca Paolina homes "Eurochocolate World" where throughout the festival you can explore the habits, customs, traditions and products of cocoa-producing countries. From Villa Monte Solare or Villa di Piazzano you're less than an hour's drive from the celebrations, giving you the option of dipping in and out of the festival.
Next up is Sweden's answer to Eurochocolate. Stockholm's Bak & Choklad Festivalen runs from 10th-13th October 2019, with 40,000 revellers enjoying Scandinavia's largest chocolate and baking event. Run by pastry chef masters Magnus Johansson and Tony Olsson, you'll find everything from the finest chocolate treats to professional pastry competitions. And just 20 minutes by taxi from the luxurious Bank Hotel, there's every reason to pop in for a visit.
Did you know: In Mel Stuart's 1971 film release of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the infamous chocolate river was made from real chocolate (plus 150,000 gallons of water and cream)
For those who like to plan ahead (or who like their chocolate on the chilly side), February brings the Chocoa Festival to Amsterdam. Within walking distance from both The Dylan and Canal House hotels, this two-day confectionary knees-up combines chocolate tastings and talks with wine, coffee and craft beer. What could be better?