I live to eat. I travel for food. But there’s a higher calling out there, and you’re about to discover it (and, subsequently, make some travel plans of your own). Yes. It’s true. There’s a whole WORLD of Chocolate Museums (swoon). These museums educate about the entire history of chocolate, as well as the processes of making chocolate. And, they usually have tastings! While some are free, some charge an entrance fee. There’s usually a shop attached (thank you), and you will learn not only about the history of chocolate, but the history of chocolate and chocolate making in that area. What better way to learn about the world - and regional chocolate differences? You might see something like this...
A cacao tree with fruit pods in various stages of ripening. Taken on the Big Island (Hawaii) in the botanical gardens. Wikimedia Commons: Medicaster
Melanger that mixes chocolate liquor with other ingredients like whole milk powder, sugar, vanilla and additional cocoa butter in varying amounts depending on the chocolate being made. Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco, California USA. Wikimedia Commons: Sanjay Acharya
The first chocolate museum I ever visited was in Köln (Cologne), Germany – and I remember every single step I took in there, everything I saw and smelled, and of course, all I tasted. The air was redolent of goodness. Since then, I’ve been a chocolate connoisseur.
And, if in your travels to chocolate museums around the world, you see a tall redhead with a happy smile on her face, I say, hello, friend, well met.
Woman Chocolate Vendor, 1855, Paul Gavarni. Walters Art Museum
Calling all theobromides (a nickname I’ve twisted to call us chocolate-lovers…from the genus Theobroma - theos meaning gods, broma meaning food – food of the gods!)…
Photo wikimedia commons: Patchi, adapted by Wandering Educators
I’ll start with the Köln museum, since, well, it started this whole thing. The Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum (Cologne Chocolate Museum) is centrally located in Köln, right on the Rhine river. It’s got a beautiful building; a juxtaposition of old and new. Started in 1993, this museum feeds serves over 675,000 people a year! At this museum, you can see a tropicarium (a glass house where cacao trees grow), machines that make chocolate bars, a collection of historical vessels for drinking chocolate, chocolate molds, and (!!) a 3 meter-high CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN. Here, you can try a just-dipped-in-chocolate waffle cookie. Yep. On the way out, hit the chocolate shop, to sustain yourself on the way home.
Köln Schokolade Museum. Wikimedia Commons: Pedelecs
Köln Schokolade Museum. Wikimedia Commons: Hans Peter Schaefer
Köln Schokolade Museum chocolate fountain. Wikimedia Commons: Norbert Angermannn
Choco-Story Chocolate Museum, Belgium
Belgium knows more than frites. The Choco-Story Chocolate Museum is located in Bruges in one of the oldest medieval buildings in Bruges. Can’t make it anytime soon? Dig out some Belgian chocolate and peruse the online virtual tour.
Cacao pods. Choco-Story museum Brugge (Belgium). Wikimedia Commons: Yelkrokoyade
photos courtesy of Choco-Story.
Museum of Cacao and Chocolate, Belgium
More Belgian Chocolate goodness, this time in Bruxelles. Opened in 1998, this museum was started by Gabrielle Draps, the wife of the founder of Godiva Chocolates. The best part is that you can see chocolates being made by chocolate artisans! My mom took a chocolate class once in Chicago - our chocolate lives have never been the same.
Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat. Wikimedia Commons: Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat
Chocolate artisan Josse Démo. Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat. Wikimedia Commons: Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat
Where else but in Peru, where chocolate grows? At this museum, you can take a class, see the chocolate making process, stop at the cafeteria for hot chocolate, and shop at their gift shop. This museum has locations in Miraflores, Barranco, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Antigua, Granada, Punta Cana, and Santo Domingo. Guess there’s never too much of a good thing! Some locations offer farm tours.
Ollantaytambo, Chocolate Museum. Wikimedia Commons: Unukorno
Hershey’s Chocolate World, Pennsylvania, USA
An enormous complex of chocolate goodness is called Hershey’s Chocolate World. You know, Hershey’s Chocolate? Yep. And within Hershey’s Chocolate World you’ll find the Hershey Story, a museum that explores chocolate entrepreneur Milton Hershey’s life. Here, you can also do a countries of origin chocolate tasting experience – YUM to the single origin warm drinking chocolates, or take a class in the Chocolate Lab. While it may not be gourmet chocolate, it IS fun.
The Hershey Story, The Museum on Chocolate Avenue. Wikimedia Commons: The Hershey Story
Xocolate Museum of Barcelona, Spain
Located in a former monastery, this chocolate museum takes travelers on a journey, from the origins of chocolate to today. Chocolate has long been a bridge between cultures, from the Mayans and Aztecs who grew and worshipped it to consumers all around the world. Did you know that Barcelona has had a long and rich tradition with chocolate? According to their website,“in the 18th century the Bourbon army was a fanatical consumer of chocolate and, according to the ordinances, chocolate was present on the menus of the 18th-century military academies: “For breakfast each cadet and company officer shall be given one and a half ounces of chocolate with a quarter of a pound of bread...”. When the troops were in barracks, acting as garrison, chocolate was also commonly eaten. The halberdier corps, the monarch’s personal bodyguard, was enviously known as the “chocolateros”, because, as they were a pampered, elite corps, they consumed a great deal of chocolate.”
If you or your kids are NOT Bourbon soldiers, you can still experience plenty of chocolate and chocolate activities at this museum, celebrating both chocolate, and the role of Spain in disseminating chocolate to discriminating Europeans. YUM.
Xocolate Museum of Barcelona. Wikimedia Commons: Kippelboy
Some of the attractions at the Barcelona chocolate museum, including a grinding machine and impressive chocolate sculptures. Flickr cc: Oh Barcelona
Chocolate chefs through the window of Barcelona's chocolate museum. Flickr cc: Oh Barcelona
Ganong Chocolate Museum, New Brunswick, Canada
This museum is a celebration of Canada’s oldest chocolate company, Ganong (which started in 1873). Did you know that Ganong Chocolates was the first to create wrapped chocolate bars? And a heart-shaped box in North America? Located in St. Stephen, New Brunswick (known officially as Canada’s Chocolate Town), you can even attend the yearly St. Stephen Chocolate Festival (YUM!). At the museum, you can learn with hands-on exhibits, interactive computer displays, see antique equipment and chocolate boxes, and watch chocolates being made. You can also take a Heritage Chocolate Walk through town, to see important buildings in the town relating to Ganong Chocolates.
Ganong Chocolate Museum. Wikimedia Commons: GarrettRock
Perugina House of Chocolate (Perugina Casa del Cioccolato), Italy
Where else, but in Perugia, Italy, will you find Italy’s most famous chocolatier? Here, you can explore a whole house of chocolate, including a historical museum, chocolate factory, school of chocolate, and a gift shop. A one-hour museum tour includes tastings!! At the museum, you’ll learn about how the cocoa bean is magically transformed into chocolate, and see the making of the famous Perugina Baci (kisses). We all know Perugina Baci – lovely dark chocolate surrounding chocolate hazelnut cream. Swoon. I love you, too! Can’t get to Italy? Find Perugina at Eataly NYC and Eataly Chicago.
Plenty of Baci. Flickr cc: ci_polla
Teaching about chocolate. Flickr cc: ci_polla
Box of chocolates! Flickr cc: ci_polla
The Secrets of Chocolate Museum (Les Secrets du Chocolat Musee), France
Located in Geispolsheim, France (only 10 minutes from Strasbourg), you’ll find this small but full of goodness chocolate museum. Inside, you’ll see exhibits on the history of cocoa beans and how to make chocolate, a discovery workshop for kids, and all about the Marquise de Sévigné brand of chocolate. This museum is on the Route du Chocolat of Alsace (which is, in itself, worth planning a trip around).
You can take a virtual tour here.
World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe, Orlando, USA
New in Orlando, Florida, USA, the World of Chocolate Museum and Café is, like many things in Orlando, larger than life. Here, you can take guided tours with fun and knowledgeable chocolate connoisseurs, learning all about chocolate (and its importance in world history!), chocolate making, and chocolate tasting. You will also see several DOZEN hand-crafted, solid chocolate sculptures, representing global chocolate regions (3-6 ft tall!). You can take a chocolate making workshop, or purchase delicious chocolate treasures of all sorts. Eat them before they melt! Don’t miss the European-style Café – deliciousness awaits...
Photos courtesy of the World of Chocolate Museum and Café, Orlando
More Chocolate Goodness...
This is but the tip of the chocolate iceberg – there are chocolate museums located all around the world – some large, some small, some expanded factory tours, some museums that don’t make chocolate on-site.
Wherever YOU travel, do you search for chocolate?
Where are your favorite chocolate museums?
And a funny:
Death by Chocolate. Flickr cc: JD Hancock