For anyone with a sweet tooth, Easter is the best time of the year – a four-day weekend to indulge in your share of the 80 million chocolate eggs sold annually in the UK. But of course Easter isn’t the only time to treat yourself. Make your summer extra scrummy with a holiday to some of Europe’s favourite chocolate destinations.
Germany probably isn’t the first country that comes to mind when you think of chocolate. But it actually produces the most, rolling out 10% of the world’s chocolate exports. That includes over 200 million chocolate bunnies – not surprising given that Germany invented the Easter Bunny back in the 17th century, based on their tradition of the Osterhase (Easter hare).
Look out for some of the country’s biggest brands while you’re there – like Kinder’s kid-sized eggs and bars, and Ritter Sport’s colourful chocolate squares in 40 flavours.
If you’re heading to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, don’t miss a visit to Chocolaterie Amelie – an Aladdin’s cave of handmade Bavarian goodies. Watch the masters at work in the show kitchen, and then cure your cravings with a box of creamy truffles or a slab of chocolate bark topped with nuts or sweets.
Austrian’s have used their cocoa expertise to honour their most famous musician. The Mozartkugel (Mozart ball) is the quintessential bite-sized treat – a ball of pistachio marzipan and nougat dipped in rich dark chocolate. Sample the original version in Salzburg’s Café Konditorei, where they were created back in 1890.
Or if you prefer a proper dessert, sachertorte is a must-try. First served at the Hotel Sacher in Salzburg in 1876, this dense chocolate cake is topped with a layer of apricot jam and smothered in a dark chocolate glaze. You can find it all over the country now, from city cafés to mountain huts – wherever you try it, pair yours with a big dollop of freshly whipped cream and some glorious views.
Italy’s chocolate history goes way back to the 16th century – Italian explorer Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover cocoa, on his voyages to South America. It was traditionally used to spice up savoury dishes. And these days, recipes like chocolate and pumpkin ravioli are still popular.
In summer, you can cool down and get your chocolate fix at the same time with a scoop or two of gelato. Look out for flavours like stracciatella (vanilla with flakes of dark chocolate) and cremino (a popular sweet made with layers of chocolate and lemon, hazelnut or coffee cream). Hop between parlours in the towns around Lake Garda to find your favourite.
Even in hot weather, nothing beats a classic Italian hot chocolate – so thick you could eat it with a spoon. Ask for yours ‘con panna’ (with whipped cream) and that’s pudding sorted.
With names like Lindt, Milka and Toblerone within its borders, it’s no wonder Switzerland’s called the home of chocolate. Nestlé even invented milk chocolate here in 1875, and you can find out how they did it on a tour of Le Nest museum in Vevey.
In Interlaken, you can channel your inner Willy Wonka and whip up your own creation at the Funky Chocolate Club. Or just pop in for a cup of fresh strawberries drowning in pure melted choc.
Or make a day of it with a trip on the chocolate train. This vintage railway will whisk you to the town of Gruyères to find out how the nutty cheese is made, before travelling on to the Maison Cailler chocolate factory in Broc.
The big name in Polish confectionary is Wedel. Founded in 1851, it’s the oldest brand in the country and is still going strong. Munch through a box of their best-loved product, ptasie mleczko – chocolate-covered marshmallows that are simple but deliciously moreish. Or you could try Wedel cake (made up of layers of wafer, chocolate and hazelnut cream) and snack bars in endless flavours, from dark chocolate with egg nog to milk chocolate with peach and cranberry.
In Kraków, you can visit a Wedel lounge to try chocolatey waffles, crêpes and pastries. And in Zakopane, which used to belong to Austria, you can still see the Viennese influence in the cafés that craft beautiful cocoa desserts and drinks.
See a sweeter side to Europe with a Lakes & Mountains holiday.