The Chocostory Chocolate Museum, Bruges

Let me tell you a little something about me and museums. We haven’t always had the smoothest of relationships over the years and for a blog about travel, museums have not arisen all too often here.

what to do in Bruges
The Choco-story Chocolate Museum, Bruges

I attribute this to the museum overload we had during school days, not always pitched at the right level and frankly, for an energetic seven year old, there was always going to be a limit to how exhilarating a 3000 year old clay pot would seem.

And then, there were all the countless museum trips we made with my parents in London during the year my Grandfather had come to stay with us; a highly intelligent man, well-versed in every Shakespeare play (an impressive feat for someone who grew up in India in the early 1900s, learning English as a second language), he had a thirst for knowledge about British history.

best museums Belgium

My sister and I would whine as we traipsed around the war and history museums, wishing that we were outside playing and eating Mr Whippy ice creams but it’s funny, now that he is no longer with us, those very museum visits fill me with fond nostalgic memories.

Chocolate Museum Bruges

The Choco-Story Chocolate Museum, Bruges

I wonder what my Grandfather would have made of the ChocoStory Museum in Bruges, the kind of museum that I suspect most children need little persuasion to engage with. We enjoyed an informative (and calorific) morning at this museum during our recent pre-Christmas break in Bruges and with no pretence or misnomer, The Choco-story Museum does what it says on the tin – it tells the story of chocolate, through the ages and it tells it well.

Chocostory Museum Bruges

We arrive to be greeted with a small bar of Belgian chocolate (a good way to start any day) and learned all about the origins of chocolate, how it was conceived into the form we know today and how it makes the journey from bean to bar with words such as “conching” and “winnowing” entering my vocabulary for the first time.

free chocolate bar chocolate museum Bruges

Whilst many museums fail to catch my attention, the way this museum is curated so clearly in chronological order means that even those of us with shorter attention spans in museums can follow the story along easily.

history of chocolate museum

Did you know, for example, that the Aztecs used to mix cocoa beans with blood and serve it up as an offering to the Gods? You can rest assured this is not how I dish up chocolate to guests at my home 🙂

cocoa bean to chocolate production

And let us not forget that the concept of hot chocolate was not concocted by Western world coffee houses in the twentieth century as a decadent but winter warming delight to soothe their gullets through cold climates.

cocoa beans chocolate museumhow to cut cacao beans

It came as a surprise to find that hot drinking chocolate actually preceded the chocolate boxes and chocolate bars of the world and I was even more intrigued to spot these beautiful, authentic milk frothers of yesteryear, a far cry from the modern day contraptions used at turbo speed by baristas in financial districts all over the world.

Ancient chocolate milk frothers
Ancient milk frothers

Ever heard of the brands, Neuhaus, Leonidas and Lindt? Of course you have because if you weren’t an avid chocolate aficionado, you would surely have stopped reading long ago. Our visit to the museum though, showed me why and how these brands made their mark in the history of chocolate and who we can thank for the innovation of the chocolate praline, chocolate box and filled chocolates.

chocolate museum around the world

And as luck would have it, at the trivia quiz we attended on our cruise the following month, a question arose about who first invented a particular type of chocolate and guess which two members of the team proclaimed the answer loud and clear with a smug self-confidence?!

 

Choco-Story Museum Chocolate-Making Demonstrations

The other aspect of this museum that makes for a compelling visit is the range of workshops and demonstrations on offer. Whilst one chocolatier was guiding a group of schoolchildren through a hands-on demonstration (which I was secretly rather envious about,) Pumpkin, myself and other museum visitors joined a live demonstration being held by another fellow professional chocolatier, who was showcasing how pralines are made and even offering a generous taster of his efforts to us all, as we left the room.

Choco-story chocolate Museum demonstrations workshop

The live demonstrations proved to be quite popular (its funny how the earthy, nutty scent of a praline being conceived pulls in crowds) so it is worth checking the timings and arriving early to nab a spot in the front row, though for those of you less punctual or of a shorter stature (like myself), they helpfully project the demonstration onto a screen for all to see more clearly.

 

You will even find a quirky touch screen quiz in the museum, which pries into a few of your personal traits and chocolate preferences to give you a customized answer about which type of world chocolate suits you most (apparently, mine was Venezvuelan chocolate.)

Best tourist attractions Bruges

Mostly, I ignore the gift shop at museums, as I rarely collect bookmarks or pencils but this was a museum gift shop where I snooped with interest at many of the handmade chocolates providing temptation in every corner. If space and services permit in the future, I think it would be great to see an even larger selection of goods on sale in this gift shop, such as drinking chocolate, a chocolate counter or even a chocolate cafe – I have no doubts they would go down a treat for the most end-stage chocoholics, who still haven’t achieved their fix after all this!

top Brugge activities for tourists

If you have personally been affected by any of  the chocolate issues raised today 🙂 perhaps I can tempt you with my chocolate lover’s guide to Brussels, a round up of the best chocolate shops in Bruges or this decadent chocolate afternoon tea in London. And in case you were in any doubt as to Napoloen’s wisdom, I will leave you with my favourite quote from the museum:

Napoleon quote chocolate museum

 

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Choco-story, The Chocolate Museum, Bruges for inviting us to such an educational and tasty introduction into the history of chocolate. As always, all opinions are my own and no number of milk chocolate buttons will persuade me to lie. I am more Charlie (of chocolate factory fame) and less Pinnochio.

30 thoughts on “The Chocostory Chocolate Museum, Bruges

  1. My English husband and I laugh about the whole museum thing a lot – he was dragged around as a kid and doesn’t enjoy it now, whereas I have a whole group of expat friends who revel in it…!
    May I also just say your disclaimer cracked me up…

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:26 am

      Hehehe, thank you Emma! 😀 I don’t know what it was about museums and childhood here – maybe it was because we were dragged to them A LOT or perhaps you expat kids were just more cultured?! I just don’t think I had the attention span for it at the time and it’s a bit like school dinners, once you’re put off at an early age, it can be hard to get back into it but this chocolate museum may be the point of tide turning!

  2. A museum dedicated to chocolate?! Sign me up! I never was interested in visiting museums in my travels (must have something to do with being taken to them nonstop as a kid as well) until I recently discovered what a wonderful way they are to get to know a city or country. Now all I want to do this winter is go to museums!

    Hawaii is the only state in America where chocolate is grown, a proud fact any chocolatier in Hawaii will tell you. I got to see a chocolate making demonstration and of a little tour of a chocolate factory in Hawaii. It was so cool to see the bean-to-bar process and we even got to make our own bar. I would love to see more about the history of chocolate though!

    – Carolann

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:30 am

      Oh Carolann, your experience in Hawaii sounds AMAZING! I have been to a chocolate-making class but it’s not one where we made anything from scratch, it was more about re-modelling and decorating in actual fact so I would LOVE to see the full process in action of how it is made from bean to bar at a factory and to have a go at this myself! If I ever make it to Hawaii, I must remember to ask you where you did this! I’m also reassured to see that it wasn’t just me being a difficult child and not finding museums interesting – it just felt like it was all the time so lost my interest at that age but as you say, the older I’m getting, the more I’m learning what valuable sources of culture and information they are 🙂

  3. I’m not a fan of museums either – I prefer to see things in real life, scenery, talk to locals and try food. Having said that, I’d definitely make an exception for a chocolate museum! This looks amazing!
    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:34 am

      Yes! I tend to feel exactly the same way when I travel Angie but I’m now starting to see that perhaps I was never focusing on the right kind of museums for my personality. In the last year, I’ve now found two I really enjoyed: the old railway museum in York (which is odd given I know nothing about trains!) and now this one so perhaps I’e turned a corner! 😀

  4. Now this is my kind of museum! I’m a total chocoholic as is Paul so will definitely visit here if in the area

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:36 am

      Pumpkin and I are afflicted by the same disease as you two it sounds like Suze! This was one museum where I didn’t have to drag him into reluctantly and the delicious tasters of buttons, pralines and bars visitors are given helped me to see how they even manage to drag in those of us who don’t normally go to museums!

  5. A museum where you’re greeted with a bar of chocolate?! How are there not more of these!! This sounds like a way more fun alternative to the standard museum!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:38 am

      My thoughts exactly Jess! I tried to at least keep hold of my chocolate bar till the end of the museum trip but my husband’s one was polished off before I’d even read the introduction poster about the museum 😀

      1. Haha yeah I’d be doing the same as your husband… Chocoholics unite!!

  6. I visited the museum with my mom … admittedly, we whizzed through the story about chocolate and made a beeline for the demo. HAHA! Like mother, like daughter …

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:42 am

      Hahaha, two peas in pod eh Jaime?! My mum’s not a chocolate fan at all so it’s always handy being in an environment with my mum when she’s given chocolate because she just hands over her share to my sister or I! 🙂

  7. ladies what travel February 12, 2016 — 12:25 pm

    I visited this museum late one afternoon during my trip to Bruges. I enjoyed it, but didn’t feel as engaged as I’d hoped I might. Maybe it was because I was clock watching cos of closing time and I wanted to see the demonstration – that was my fave bit I have to say! x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:45 am

      The demonstrations are great fun aren’t they Keri?! I may not have been the first one at the demo but I can tell you I was the first one in the queue at the end when the chocolatier doing the demo was dishing out the pralines he had just made 😀 Shame that you didn’t find it as engaging Keri but I have sometimes felt that way in some other museums in the past too – perhaps you needed a bigger handful of chocolate buttons at the entrance to help change your mind 😀

  8. Did you say Chocolate Museum?! I’m so there! Sounds like a very educational day (I still can’t get over the fact that the Aztecs mixed blood and chocolate) and oh so delicious too. Yet another reason to plan a visit to Bruges… xxx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:47 am

      I certainly did Ayushi!! Yes, great way to draw people like me into museums, who don’t normally spend much time on holiday inside museums! The Belgian chocolate they were making on site at the demonstrations as well as the samples we were given were absolutely scrumptious! But I think I’ll leave the blood mixing to the Aztecs…. 😀

  9. Gosh, this sounds like such fun! You had already convinced me to visit Bruges again but now I’m adding this to my itinerary.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:49 am

      Haha, it was great fun Mandy! It’s funny, you don’t expect to go on holiday and find yourself revelling in the same activities as a 10 year old child but this was a museum that seemed to be appealing to the adults every bit as much as it was to the younger children! It’s a real must-do for any chocolate lovers! They have a frites museum in Bruges too I hear but we didn’t make it to that one!

  10. This certainly sounds like my kind of museum Shikha! What a perfect idea for Easter?!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:50 am

      Aaah yes good thought Katie! I imagine it’ll be really busy and popular at Easter time – now why didn’t they drag us to museums like this when we were kids?! I’d have paid a lot more attention! 😀

  11. We’re certainly not going to argue with Napoleon over the benefits of chocolate! We like a little every day :-). This chocolate museum looks fun – as you say, one that kids will be very happy to visit…

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:51 am

      Haha, he certainly did spread some wise messages didn’t he?! 🙂 I must admit, I have a bit of a weakness for chocolate too so it is often lurking in corners of our home too but I need to work on stopping myself at just a small piece or portion!

  12. I’m not a fan of museum’s either but I’d visit a chocolate one any day! 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 15, 2016 — 11:56 am

      Me neither usually Priti but this one won me over, I have always quite liked chocolate so it was great to learn all about its history and how it is made from bean to bar!

  13. We visited this place when we were in Bruges too! How can you not love it?! It’s a museum about chocolate!!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 21, 2016 — 7:31 pm

      My thoughts exactly Maddy! Such a fun museum – I’m so glad you enjoyed it too ☺

  14. This is making me crave for chocolate now. What a fun museum! I don’t think my kids would want to leave. We love visiting quirky and unique museums and this would be a great one to visit. I love that they have demos and samples.

    1. Sorry I missed this comment somehow Mary! It was SUCH a fun museum and the free samples were a dangerous thing for a chocoholic like myself! It’s the kind of place I thought would be fun for kids anyway but I just didn’t realise just how much adults would love it too 😀

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