If Willy Wonka lived in Switzerland, his residence would probably be at Toggenburgerstrasse 41 in Flawil.
That's because in this quaint location among rolling hills and green meadows, there is a real life chocolate factory with all the bells and whistles. There's even a chocolate fountain and a workshop - but more on this later... And the best part of all is that the Maestrani family will admit even those without a golden ticket!
The Chocolarium is a hands-on chocolate factory in Switzerland.
There are a number of chocolate factories in Switzerland and we receive regular requests from overseas visitors about activities. By the time I visited the Chocolarium in Flawil for the first time, more than 100'000 visitors had enjoyed it before me. That's quite a number, but I still felt like I had just discovered a hidden treasure.
For one, there is a proper chocolate factory spewing out thousands of sugary bars, hearts and sticks in all shapes and sizes. On the other hand, the Chocolarium is a place where the public is allowed a peak behind the chocolate industry. It is a place to let the imagination roam and to discover why the Swiss are masters at chocolate making.
Behind these doors, an imaginary world unfolded to me.
At the sight of these delicious swirls and sampling stations, I really had to pull myself together...
The Chocolarium teaches visitors of all ages about the entire process from bean to bar. Interactive rooms focus on the raw ingredients and their origin or on the method how they are processed. There are lots of gimmicks to push, pull and twist. And I have to admit that even I felt inspired to participate.
Mondays through Fridays, the actual chocolate factory is in full operation. From an 80 meter long walkway high above the factory floor, my eyes are dizzy from the various conveyor belts transporting chocolate bars from one machine to the next. Cameras are not allowed there, so you will have to go and see for yourself...
Inside the Laboratory for Inexplicable Happiness.
After all that theory, a golden entrance door leads me to the secret laboratory where all the magic happens. We all know that eating chocolate makes us feel good, but how does all that luck make its way into the chocolate? This is the big question the Chocolarium is trying to answer.
Here, the scientists have collected lucky charms from all over the world. Now it is up to us to figure out what makes chocolate so special!
As Willy Wonka says, "Time is a precious thing. Never waste it."
The machine of luck keeps my attention for the better part of a quarter hour. Despite the chocolate fountain spewing unlimited amounts of dark, milk or white chocolate, I feel a craving to do something hands on. Towards the end of the exhibit, there is a chocolate workshop like I have never seen one before. Those who wish to discover their inner chocolatier may request a chocolate bar of their liking - still in a melted state.
At the toppings station, you can go crazy with all the yummy fixings before inserting your bar into the freezing hub. This is a cool contraption that will surely grab your attention. Making your own tailored chocolate bar is no time wasted, trust me!
The futuristic building that houses the Chocolarium has plenty of parking. And the "Flawil, Maestrani" is bus stop is just a few steps from the entrance. So, what's holding you back? "Welcome my friends, welcome to my chocolate factory."