Best chocolate shops in London and Europe
If Willy Wonka went on a tour of the world, he would probably start by visiting these master chocolatiers
Few companies have such a storied history as Neuhaus. Dating back to 1857, over the decades it has been the confectioner of choice for Belgian royalty and been responsible for some of the chocolate world's landmark innovations. Counted among them is the praline, which is now not only a staple of its own collections, but of chocolate shops around the world. Other signatures include the Caprice and Tentation, filled with crispy nougatine biscuit and fresh cream or ganache. Alongside these tried and tested sweets you'll also find contemporary new ranges, from collaborations with top chefs to pretty, themed packaging.
Various locations across Europe; neuhauschocolates.com
After years supplying his top-notch chocolates and cakes to some of the best restaurants in Paris, patissier Jacques Genin opened up his eponymous shop in Le Marais, and has since expanded to a second in the French capital. His creatively flavoured concoctions are dreamt up in the 200 square metered laboratory, which sits on the first floor of the original store. Beyond his picture-perfect truffles he's also renowned for his other confectionery, and you'd be remiss to leave without a handful of his famed caramels or glistening pate de fruit.
Various locations in Paris; jacquesgenin.fr
Chantal Coady went from a Saturday job selling chocolates in Harrods to founding her own retail empire, and was even made an OBE in 2014 for services to chocolate. Opening her first shop on Chelsea's famous King's Road in 1983, she has since expanded to four more shops across London and the UK, in addition to writing five books on the subject. The brand has become renowned for its imaginative and artistic approach – both in its aesthetics and flavours – and is even rumoured to have been an inspiration for Joanne Harris's famous book Chocolat, with the author among Coady's first customers.
Various locations across the UK; rococochocolates.com
Henri Le Roux
This legendary chocolatier is best known for his caramel au beurre sale – nicknamed CBS – made from the finest salted butter sourced from his native Brittany. This is just one of more than 80 creations, however, that Henri Le Roux has made throughout his career spanning five decades. Specialities include the Truffe de Truffe, an indulgent mix of bitter chocolate cream and fresh truffle, with other inventive combinations including the Soizig, a praline chocolate with buckwheat crumble, and the Aliberts, which sees a base of lime marzipan topped with a thyme-flavoured chocolate cream. He has shops across France and the rest of the world, while you can also witness the creation of the confectionery first-hand at the factory in Landevant.
Various locations across the world, chocolatleroux.eu
Family-owned Venchi dates back to 1878, and today it still makes its chocolate in the traditional Piedmont style. This involves sourcing the finest ingredients from Italy – from Piedmont IGP hazelnuts to Sicilian pistachios – to make specialities such as bars of nutty gianduja or cremino, sandwiched with white almond paste. It regularly updates its collection with new flavour combinations inspired by the country's cuisine, with recent additions seeing the classic tiramisu transformed into a rich praline truffle topped with layers of coffee, mascarpone and Venezuelan cocoa.
Various locations across Europe; venchi.com
This London chocolatier and patisserie was born out of founder Sir Evelyn de Rothschild's lifelong love of confectionery. It now has two stores – its flagship in Belgravia and another in Richmond – with the former also playing host to a chocolate-filled afternoon tea and truffle-making classes. Its signature is its sea salted caramel elephants, the shape a tribute to R Chocolate's involvement with the Elephant Family charity, which helps protect Asian elephants and their habitat. Meanwhile the chocolate itself is just as ethical; sourced from Original Beans, not only is it made with high-quality ingredients but with sustainable production and conservation in mind.
Various locations in London; rchocolatelondon.co.uk
Jean-Paul Hevin's culinary career began in earnest in 1976 when he met celebrated chef Joel Robuchon while working at the Hotel Nikko as a young apprentice. In the decades since, he has gone on to become one of France's most important pastry chefs, with multiple boutiques across Paris as well as further afield in Japan and Taiwan. As an indication of just how seriously he takes his chocolate, he pioneered the concept of the 'chocolate cellar'; based on the idea of a cigar humidor, it is designed to control the humidity of the room. An equally forward-thinking approach is taken with his minimalist truffle designs, with pared-back flavours that allow the quality of the ingredients to shine through.
Various locations in Paris; jeanpaulhevin.com
La Maison du Chocolat
Robert Linxe opened his first La Maison du Chocolat on Paris's chic Faubourg Saint-Honore in 1977, inviting visitors to experience chocolate beyond the overly sweet, candy-like confections that were commonplace. It quickly expanded and now has stores around the globe, including multiple boutiques in Paris as well as being stocked in Harrods and Selfridges in London.
Various locations in Paris and London; lamaisonduchocolat.fr
Few brands come with the pedigree of Wittamer in Brussels. In 1999, the chocolatier was tasked with designing and making the wedding cake of Prince Philippe and Countess Mathilde of Belgium and ever since has been a royal warrant holder of the country. An unadulterated way to sample its high-class chocolate is by making your way through its 10 'tablettes', bars that each showcase the different depths of flavour that can be found in the confection. It's especially worth a visit around Christmas and Easter, where the windows and counters come alive with all manner of eye-catching seasonal treats.
6-12-13 Place du Grand Sablon, 1000 Brussels, Belgium; wittamer.com
Contemporary chocolatier Bubo opened its first boutique in Barcelona in 2005 and has since opened three more outposts in the city, as well as in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Tokyo. While leaning on classic French pastry tradition, the Spanish brand has a distinctively modern aesthetic led by creative director Ernest Ameller, that makes a statement with minimalist and graphic silhouettes and lines. All its chocolates, individual pastries and cakes are made by hand, even the nuts are toasted on site to ensure its pralines have the optimum taste and crunch.
Various locations in Barcelona; bubo.es
Peter Beier Chokolade
It is the ingredients that make this chocolate stand out. All chocolates are 100% homemade with cocoa beans from Peter Beier’s own plantation in the Dominican Republic. Other ingredients, such as fruit and nuts, are sourced from its Orsholt Gods estate, north of Copenhagen, where the chocolate is produced. The whole system is driven by the philosophy “from Earth to table” and it shows in its quality and taste. You can order the chocolates, pralines and cream puffs online or visit one of the lounge stores across Denmark for chocolate brunch and tapas.
Various locations in Denmark; gb.pbchokolade.dk
Debauve & Gallais
This quaint Parisian chocolate shop is the oldest in the city and something of a favourite with the world’s royals. For the past 210 years, almost every monarch, emperor and VIP guest in Paris has commissioned creations from the master chocolatiers. The origins of its famous ganache-filled pastilles, truffles, almond crunches and Queen’s Coins can be traced alongside that of the French elite. Today, this finery can be experienced by all from prince to pauper as Debauve & Gallais seeks out the best cocoa beans and other base ingredients throughout the year.
Various locations; debauve-et-gallais.fr/en
If you want to take in the sights of Berlin, this centrally located chocolatier is the first stop you should make. Here the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the Berlin TV Tower have been intricately recreated in chocolate, alongside other figures such as the Titanic and Airbus A360. However you take the confection, you're sure to find something that will satisfy your sweet tooth; choose from a selection of 200 different types of praline at the counter, indulge in a handmade mini torte at the cafe or go all-out at the chocolate restaurant on the upper floors, featuring a creative menu infused with cocoa.
Charlottenstrasse 60, 10117 Berlin; rausch.de
Pierre Herme is indisputably the most influential figure in modern patisserie, and therefore it's little surprise that you'll find his name above boutiques worldwide, with European stores in France and London. While his macarons are legendary, don't overlook the assortment of bonbons on offer – or combine the two with the new collection that sees the meringue-based confection embedded in chocolates in passion fruit, lemon, pistachio and hazelnut flavours. Other creative twists include chocolate-covered, nutty nougatine, which comes in his signature combination ispahan (raspberry and rose) alongside other tempting fruity flavours.
Various locations; pierreherme.com. Image © Maison Pierre Herme Paris
Alongside watches and cheese, chocolate is among Switzerland's best-known exports. Laderach is one of the country's sweetest success stories, with its high-end boutiques positioned across the country, as well as destinations further afield. Founded in 1962, the family-run company offers a wide selection of classic pralines, truffles and chocolate slabs and is a reliable source of seasonal gifts. For those that want to discover more about the process behind the products, Laderach runs Chocolate Experience centres in Bilten and Vevey in Switzerland, with special exhibitions and workshops. They also offer guided tours of the factory in Ennenda.
Various locations; laederach.com
Oban Chocolate Company
This independent shop makes all its chocolates by hand. Stop off for an indulgent cup of hot chocolate in the open-plan cafe, from where you can watch its artisans at work in the factory. It regularly changes its combinations using recipes devised in-house, so there are plenty of options, from traditional fruity flavours to those with a distinctively Scottish twist. The natural choice is a boozy whisky truffle, while the cranachan variation takes this to the next level by incorporating all the best bits of the traditional dessert, including honey, raspberry and toasted oatmeal.
34 Corran Esplanade, Oban, PA34 5PS; obanchocolate.co.uk
Paul A Young
Marmite, sourdough and goats' cheese may not seem like natural choices to pair with chocolate, but in the expert hands of Paul A Young they are transformed into some of the most delicious truffles to be found in London. He now has outposts in Soho, Islington and The Royal Exchange. Whichever branch you go into, it's impossible to leave without a bag of his signature salted caramel truffles. If you're brave enough, you can even try your hand at making these and his legendary brownies at his regular masterclasses.
Various locations in London; paulayoung.co.uk
While you can order some of Patrick Roger's creations online – including single-origin bars, assortments of truffles and orange or ginger confit covered in chocolate – to get the full experience you need to visit one of his stores in person. In the windows you'll find his large-scale chocolate sculptures, which have to be seen to be believed. As much an artist as a chocolatier, he even occasionally holds exhibitions of his artworks – edible and otherwise – which showcase his sleek and contemporary visual style.
Various locations in France and Belgium; boutique.patrickroger.com
Often regarded as the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon's distinct food scene revolves around the traditional and hearty fare served in the bouchons lining the streets and, in later decades, the nouvelle cuisine spearheaded by the city's legendary chef Paul Bocuse. But when it comes to all things sweet, Bernachon is something of a Lyonnaise institution. If you can resist the rows of glistening pralines and truffles, then you'll discover the chocolate-based patisserie. Its signature is the President, an indulgent cherry-based cake topped with delicate ruffles of chocolate. The original – created by Maurice Bernachon in 1975 to celebrate Bocuse receiving the Legion d'Honneur from President Valery Giscard d'Estaing – weighed in at 3kg.
42 Cours Franklin Roosevelt, 69006 Lyon, France; bernachon.com
Pierre Marcolini may come from a conventional pastry background, but his approach is far from traditional. The Belgian haute chocolatier has long placed precedence on bean-to-bar retailing, with the process of making his chocolate from scratch enabling him to have complete control over the ingredients and quality. It also comes through in his contemporary, playful and often slightly tongue-in-cheek creations, which have seen him collaborate with names as diverse as interior designer Tom Dixon, fashion and record label Maison Kitsune and quirky womenswear brand Olympia Le-Tan. He has stores around the world, including in Belgium, France and London.
Various locations; marcolini.com
Oriol Balaguer Barcelona
Oriol Balaguer spent seven years working with el Bulli's Ferran Adria before taking the plunge to pursue his own culinary venture. The master patissier owns several boutiques across Barcelona as well as two in Madrid. Head to the outpost in the Sarria district to pick up a collection of confectionery before making a stop at La Xocolateria. There you'll find plenty of ways to experience chocolate in all its glorious forms, from customised lollipops and award-winning croissants pumped full of the sweet treat to rich and creamy authentic Spanish hot chocolate served with some of the best churros in town.
Various locations across Barcelona and Madrid; oriolbalaguer.com