There’s no way you’re going to Belgium without taking a tour of a chocolate factory. Belgian chocolate has long been a lure for chocolate lovers. More than 172,000 tons of chocolate are produced every year in Belgium, and there are more than 2,000 chocolate shops throughout the country, which is just slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. The Zaabär Factory Shop is one of the country’s best chocolate factories and offers an array of chocolate bars, cookies, chocolate-covered fruit, spices, nougatines, and more for sale. The almost 6,500-square-foot workshop includes a tasting area where you can sample the candy on offer and attend demonstrations and discussions on chocolate history, and the space also plays host to a “Chocolate Academy” where visitors of all ages can experience the art of chocolate-making firsthand.
The Shanghai M&M’s store marries Chinese tradition with candy culture. At the door, life-size statues of the red and yellow M&M characters greet guests. The real treat here is the “Great Wall of Chocolate,” and just like the Great Wall of China, this wall can also be seen from space. Okay, maybe not, but it is the world’s largest M&M’s candy wall. The M&M’s store in Shanghai sells M&M’s in 22 colors and in three varieties: milk chocolate M&M’s, peanut M&M’s, and almond M&M’s. The 172,000-square-foot, two-story mecca was designed as a “retail-tainment” destination, so visitors not only walk away with a bag full of sweets but also a bag full of treats, be they T-shirts, mugs, or other merchandise. Daily performances by the M&M's characters make for a fun meet-and-greet show.
Candylicious started in Singapore and has since expanded to Malaysia and Dubai. Its biggest store, at more than 10,000 square feet of confectionary bliss, resides in The Dubai Mall. Dubbed the world’s largest candy store, Candylicious carries more than 5,000 kinds of candy, including the exclusive offering of Candy Crush Saga sweets at the Dubai location such as the Lemonade Lake collection and the coconut Colour Bomb hard-rock range. At all Candylicious locations, visitors will find everything from Hershey’s Kisses to sky-high pillars of jelly beans to giant lollipops, fruit chews, gummies, and more sweet finds.
Facebook / Le bonbon au Palais
Georges Marques is France’s very own Willy Wonka. He was inspired to create a 1950s-style schoolhouse that takes visitors on a sweet journey back to their childhoods with an abundance of old-fashioned treats, candied fruits, jellies, and chocolates. His store pays tribute to the beauty behind the creativity and artistic vision of candy-making in France. Marques himself carefully chooses each variety of the 200-plus candies he sets out on display in his shop, which are thoughtfully arranged in vintage apothecary jars. Marques doesn’t just look at flavors, though; he also places great emphasis on the history behind the candy. The berlingots de Carpentras he sells, for example, are said to be have been a favorite of Pope Clement V in the fourteenth century, and more recently have been produced by the same manufacturer since 1844. A nostalgic favorite from a Frenchman’s childhood known as petit pois au lard (peas with bacon) can be found at Bonbon, as can bergamot-flavored jellies from Nancy; vibrant green marzipan with chocolate from Lyon; a specialty from the Pyrenees called Le Teton de la Reine Margot ("Queen Margot breast”), and many more confections that chronicle France’s history in sugar.
The most famous gummy bears in the world come form Germany. The Haribo “Goldbären” (gold bears) were created in 1920 in Bonn. Today, Haribo is the largest manufacturer of gummy sweets anywhere, and the company has a cult following that could give Disney fans a run for their money. Although you can’t visit the factory itself, you can stop by the Haribo factory store. The entire Haribo line is on display in the 2,152-square-foot space. Walls of Pick & Mix let you hunt and gather for your favorite treats, and an area dedicated to merchandise means you can walk away with more than just candy. Also on display is a gallery showcasing the 13 winning designs from Haribo’s collaboration with German universities.
Facebook / Papabubble
At the Tokyo branch of Papabubble, candy fans can actually watch the candy-making process in action. More than a third of the space of the Daimaru store is dedicated to making candy. Artisans stand behind glass walls pulling, stretching, cutting, and shaping candy in batches that are then packaged and put out for display. Think sugar animals, spiraled multi-colored lollipops, candy jewels and sushi, and seasonal treats like Christmas candies and Day of the Dead candy skulls. Color is paramount here — bright, sometimes sparkly packages and candies fill the walls, shelves, and display areas on the sales floor.
The Hello Kitty Sweets store in Taipei offers a culinary experience totally inspired by Japan’s famous cartoon cat, girl, er, character. Upon walking in, you are immediately transported to Kitty World, where almost everything is pink, petite, and edible. A selection of themed candies and chocolates are on display in the front room, including mini cakes, lollipops, sweet pots of melted chocolate and caramel in collectable jars, cookies, and more. If you want the full experience, make a reservation in the Sweets Café, where you can dine on an entire Hello Kitty-themed menu in a plush setting complete with pink walls and bow-adorned banquettes.
It’s all about keeping things local at Hope and Greenwood. Award-winning confectioners Kitty Hope and Mark Greenwood — who style themselves Miss Hope and Mr. Greenwood — are at the helm of this candy store, which was the focus of a four-part series on BBC Two in August of this year. At Hope and Greenwood, the duo creates their own brand of sweets from gummies & jellies, marshmallows, truffles, pudding fudges, and boiled sweets like Sicilian lemon sherbet drops and custard giant lollipops. The bright red exterior of the shop can be seen from streets away. Inside, shelves are packed with their creations. Glass cookie jars hold more than 100 varieties of hard candy to mix and match and package in retro-style candy striped packages, boxes and bags. The store has been named Best Original Store and won The Great Taste Awards, too.
Sweet! Hollywood is another Wonka-inspired candy store. This one is 30,000-square feet and features candy from the Wonka brand and more. All levels of cavity caution are erased from your mind when you enter Sweets. Here, you’ll find The Sweet Tooth™, an oversized white chocolate molar, The Golden Chocolate Egg, an enormous milk chocolate egg adorned with real 23-karat gold luster, and colorful White Chocolate Pencils. At the heart of the store is the WONKA® Inventing Room — a place where you can actually design your own candy bar. More than a dozen themed candy boutiques make up the Sweet! Store including the Yucky room, where guests eat out of urinals (hence the name yucky!); Lollyland, which is filled with candy trees; and the Sticky room, which is tacky with fresh taffy. As for the candy, unique and exclusive collections include Wonka artisan chocolates as part of the Inventing room collection; the Traveling Trunk Collection, which features 12 natural wonders sculpted into chocolate miniatures (think volcanic lava candy, tropical jungles, desert cliffs, sandy deserts…); the Kaleidoscope Collection that focuses on carnival flavors like funnel cake and caramel apple truffles; and the Observatory Collection which recreates the wonders of space in candy form with treats like Black Hole Cherry Caramel™, Martian Mallow Mint Chip and Spice Oddity™.