On my recent visit to Brussels, I was lucky enough to be invited to Belgian Chocolate Village, a brand new chocolate museum. Belgian Chocolate Village occupies part of the old Victoria biscuit factory in Koekelberg in the of north west of the city.
At its height, this factory employed 1,500 people and produced 6,000 tonnes of chocolate and 4,000 tonnes of biscuits every year. Until recently was home to Godiva, so it’s a place steeped in chocolate history. The 900 square meter museum had been open less than a week when we visited, so we were honoured to be amongst the first visitors to look around.
Although a little off the tourist track (we took a taxi for the short journey from the centre of town), Belgian Chocolate Village offers an exciting glimpse into the history of chocolate and Belgium’s part in it. Wandering round, it feels a little like a modern science museum with interactive displays and giant touch screen presentations mixed in with all kinds of chocolate making equipment and memorabilia.
All the interactive and audio visual displays are in multiple languages (as is the accompanying audio guide, should you choose to use it), so everything is very accessible and easy to understand. You can learn about the history of cacao in Mesoamerica, how it was prepared, its introduction to Europe, the economics of cocoa trading and the birth of of the vast array of brands we have today.
My favourite exhibit is the small tropical greenhouse which houses growing cacao trees and some of the shade trees that are often grown with it, including bananas. Things you wouldn’t normally expect to see growing in Belgium!
What struck me most was just how well produced Belgian Chocolate Village is. It’s clear that a lot of thought – and money – has gone into making an interesting experience, with the interactive displays in particular feeling particularly slick.
I believe that the museum will also be hosting workshops, classes and demonstrations, although there didn’t happen to be anything on during our visit. If you’re planning on visiting yourself, it’s probably worth checking to see what’s on before you come, as my only real complaint was that there was nothing to taste on our little tour. There is a cafe upstairs, but I’d love to see tastings as an integral part of the standard tour.
As it is, the museum can easily be done in a couple of hours and it’s a fun and interesting diversion for any chocolate lover who finds themselves in Brussels.
Belgian Chocolate Village
Rue De Neck 20
1081 Brussels (Koekelberg)
tel: +32 (0)2 420 70 76
Entrance fee: €8 Adults, €5 Children. Open daily except Mondays.
Thanks to VisitFlanders for organising our trip to Brussels and making our afternoon with Laurent Gerbaud possible.