Fancy being whisked away on a tour of the tastiest places ever, simply overflowing with your favourite treats? Thought so. Well get ready to have your taste buds tickled – and don’t forget your toothbrush!

Just imagine…..opening a Wonka Bar and finding a golden ticket.  A golden ticket which means a visit to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory, plus a lifetime’s supply of chocolate.

Wouldn’t it be great meeting Mr Wonka’s little orange-skinned, green-haired Oompa Loompas who would take you on a boat ride down a chocolate river and around the factory.  I’m sure you’d be ‘bursting’ to try an everlasting gobstopper, a giant toffee-flavoured mushroom or the lickable wallpaper.

The problem, as you already know, is that none of this is real.  The story of Charlie and Mr Wonka was written nearly fifty years ago by Roald Dahl.  The book was called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A few years later, it was made into a film and the name was changed to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  A second film was made only a few years ago – you’ve probably seen both of them.

Ah well, we can always dream!  At least we don’t have to meet those horrible children that Charlie had to put up with – like that greedy Augustus Gloop or that spoilt Veruca Salt.

Okay, there’s no real Willy Wonka factory but there are factories, special shops and even museums where you can learn about, make, buy and EAT all kinds of chocolates and sweets.  So, tighten your safety belts and get ready for a trip on the Sweetie Trail around Europe.

But, where to begin?

Ask any grown-up what country do they first think of when you mention chocolate and they’ll probably say Switzerland.  So let’s begin there.

All aboard the Swiss Chocolate Train

No, it’s not a train made out of chocolate!

The Swiss Chocolate Train is a special rail trip which begins in Montreaux.  It takes you on a journey up into the mountains to the old town of Gruyeres (famous for its cheese) and on to the Nestles chocolate factory at a town called Bloc.

The twisty journey plus the visits take a full day and whilst you’re thinking of the chocolate, the grown ups can enjoy the beautiful scenery in the valley below.  You might on the journey hear someone playing the alpenhorn……you can’t mistake it, it sounds like a cow with a sore tummy.  You might even hear someone yodelling…..that sounds like someone trying to sing under water.

Don’t tell that to any local Swiss people though, they wouldn’t be too happy!

Anyway, back to the railway trip.

At the Gruyeres cheese factory (be patient, you have to stop here before reaching the chocolate factory) your tour guide is a cow called Cherry.  Well, not exactly, Cherry speaks to you through headphones as you walk around the factory.

After the tour, you might even want to try a cheese fondue lunch.

Enough of cheese, let’s carry on to the Nestle chocolate factory.

Here, you are taken in groups around the visitor centre and learn about the history of cocoa and chocolate making, through the darkened rooms with interactive and cartoon-style displays.  Okay, it’s not a boat ride down a chocolate river but it’s still very interesting.

The tour ends in a tasting room but the visit doesn’t end there.  You’ll also have a chance to make your own chocolate recipe, before catching the train back to Montreaux.

The Alpose Chocolate Museum

Let’s stay in Switzerland but this time the visit is to Lugano, which is almost in Italy.

Here, you’ll find a chocolate factory with a museum next door.  You’ll see the whole process of cocoa being made into chocolate bars.  Just imagine the smell of chocolate as you walk around the factory and end up, as you would expect, in the tasting shop.

Not only that, there’s a two hour class especially for 6-12 year olds where you can make your own chocolate bars.

The The Alpose Chocolate Museum is maybe a little less exciting but you’ll learn a lot about the history of chocolate, from the Mayas and Aztecs over a thousand years ago in South America right up to the present day.

Cadbury World, Bournville

Number three on our European tour is still all about chocolate but is much nearer to home.  In fact, it’s Cadbury World in Bournville, which is part of Birmingham.

Cadbury World is not just a factory or ordinary museum.  It’s a whole village with a manor house that’s now a museum, a garden centre, a park, a school and even a local church.

You’ll need a full day to make the most of this adventure, but do remember to tell the adults to book before you go – it’s so popular.

There are fourteen amazing zones to visit, telling the story of the Aztec’s early love of chocolate and how it was brought by the Spanish to Europe.  There’s a full scale replica of John Cadbury’s first shop, right up to modern times showing how Cadbury’s chocolate is packaged and advertised.

There’s even a zone called Cadabra where you can take a gentle ride on one of the beanmobiles. At the Purple Planet, you’ll find the interactive zone where you can chase a cream egg or see yourself made out of chocolate.

And at the end of the tour, what else but……the world’s biggest Cadbury shop!

That’s enough of chocolate for now. Let’s find a few ‘sweetie places’ to visit.

Mr Cook’s Sweet Shop, Dudley

Only a few miles away from Cadbury World, you’ll find the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley on the other side of Birmingham; another place that will take you a full day to go around.

Here, you are taken back in time to the Victorian Age to find out what life was like then.  There’s a modern exhibition hall but the rest is a ‘real’ Victorian village (all the buildings were taken down and moved here) with a coalmine, shops, a fairground, trams, early motor cars and working horses.  People are dressed up in Victorian costume and you can watch them making things as they used to in those days.

In the middle of the village, you’ll find Mr Cook’s Sweet Shop where you can watch (and smell) the sweets being made by boiling up sugar in a saucepan and afterwards,  buy some pear drops, acid drops and other sweets that were favourites of Victorian children.

The Haribo Museum in Provence

Haribo is the biggest maker of gummy and jelly sweets in the world and they’re in nearly every sweet shop you go into.  Haribo started nearly a hundred years ago in Germany but its museum is in France, near a town called Uzes in Provence.

The Haribo Museum isn’t something you would expect to find on a holiday in the south of France, but it’s worth a half day visit, especially if you want a change from the sunshine and the beach.  Not far away is the famous Roman bridge called the Pont du Gard, so you could visit both places in one day.

The museum visit begins with you being given a bag of sweets and some tokens, which are used to operate the sweet machines inside.  There are lots of displays, including interactive ones and you’ll learn about the history of liquorice, fruit gums and other sweets.

You can’t go around the factory next door but at least you can take a look through the window to see the sweets being made.

The French have slogan for Haribo:

Haribo, c’est beau la vie – pour les grands et les petits.

I’ll let you translate that into English.

Sweets made the Italian way in Bari

If your family ever go on holiday to Italy, one of the popular places to go to is Naples in the south of the country.  Near there is the famous city of Pompeii which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption.

If you are travelling around Italy by car and you travel east to the other coast, you’ll come across the city of Bari.

Around Bari, there are lots of castles, cathedrals and museums to visit and the most unusual is the sweet museum in the middle of the city.  The museum is in the old sweet factory and you’ll be able to see the machinery and tools they used to make the sweets.

There aren’t any interactive displays but you will be able to ‘sample’ some of the sweets that are still made there.  The favourites are chocolate covered almonds and hazelnuts.

If you have a nut allergy, you’d better stick to the castles and cathedrals!

The Sweetshop and Sweet Factory at Beamish Open Air Museum

Beamish Open Air Museum is one of the best places anywhere to learn about what life was like a hundred years ago.

Like the Black Country Museum, most of the houses, shops and other buildings have been brought here and rebuilt, with the insides looking as they once were.

In the Edwardian town, you’ll find the Jubilee sweetshop and sweet factory, where you’ll be served by a shopkeeper dressed in Edwardian costume.  You can try the sweets that your great great grandparents would have enjoyed, sold not in plastic packets but weighed out and put into paper bags.

To look around the entire museum will take you a full day or maybe more….there’s so much to see.  You can enjoy your sweets whilst you’re riding around on the old tram or horse carriage to the railway station, coalmine, fairground, colliery cottages and high street.

Number eight on our European sweet trail is similar to Beamish and the Black Country Museum.  It’s in this country, not far from the other two and it’s a really worthwhile full day trip which will be enjoyed by all the family.

Mrs Fagan’s Sweet Shop at Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire

In the grounds of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, there are lots of ‘oldy-worldy’ craft shops……the grown ups will love it.

One of these shops is Mrs Fagan’s Sweet Shop (don’t worry it’s Mrs Fagan not Mr Fagin, so she’s no relation to that horrible character in Oliver Twist).

Like the shop at Beamish, you’ll feel as though you’re going back in time as soon as you walk through the door.  The shopkeeper is in costume and the sweets are kept in old fashioned jars, weighed out and sold in brown paper bags.

What’s different about Mrs Fagan’s shop is that it sells sweets that your grandparents used to spend their pennies on.

So, next time you see them, ask them about parma violets, liquorice Catherine wheels, rainbow drops and sherbert fountains.

For our last two places to visit, let’s go back into Europe.  First, a trip to Belgium.

The Chocolate Museum in Bruges

Bruges is a popular place to go on holiday, especially for a weekend and the Chocolate Museum is slap bang in the middle of the city.

The first thing you see when you go in is a giant Easter egg but it’s not made of chocolate… don’t bother trying to bite it!  On the next few floors, you’ll find an exhibition where you learn about the history of chocolate and how it was brought to Europe, just like the other chocolate museums.

There’s more to Bruges though than just a museum.

There’s a workshop for adults where they can make praline and truffles, so that ‘ll keep the grown ups happy.  Meanwhile, you can join one of the workshops for children.  There are three of them, for 6-9-year-olds, 9-12-year-olds and 12-16-year-olds.

The 6-9-year-olds make a drawing with chocolate and fill it with smarties; the 9-12-year-olds do the same but it’s a little more complicated and the 12-16-year-olds learn how to make a chocolate dip and chocolate pralines. The workshops last for about two hours and, of course, you take home what you have made.

The Chocolate Museum in Prague

Another popular place to go on holiday is Prague in the Czech Republic.  Here, you’ll find a chocolate museum like the one in Bruges.  They both belong to the same company.

Like the others, the Prague Cholocate Museum tells the story of the history of chocolate and in the exhibition centre, there are demonstrations showing how chocolate is made shiny and tasty.  You might not be making your own, but you can certainly sample the chocolate bonbons.

For kids, there isn’t a workshop , but if you’re between 6 and 12, you’ll be given a quiz sheet and if you put all the stickers in the right boxes, you’ll be given a small present at the end……and you can guess what that is.

And finally, did you know:

Liquorice allsorts were first sold when a salesman dropped his bag and mixed up all of his samples.

There’s no wine in wine gums.

Gobstoppers are made from over a thousand coats of sugar.

Aniseed balls were used in olden days to cure indigestion.

Hope you enjoyed the trip! Don’t know about you but I’m off  to get some sweets…

Share this article!

  1. KidsTravel2 on Saturday 1, 2013

    Yum – my mouth is watering already! The chocolate workshop looks great.

  2. […] And if this wasn’t sweet enough, join us on our eye-popping, European Sweetie Trail. […]


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