When I first spotted at Freizeit.ch (Swiss leisure portal) a tip for visiting the newly opened Visitor Center of the Camille Bloch Chocolate factory, I decided immediately about our next trip´s destination! However, here I must confess, until then I didn´t know that the famous chocolate bars Ragusa and Torino come from one factory! And even the name Camille Bloch didn´t ring any bell to me :O And that was the reason I wanted to visit CHEZ Camille Bloch as soon as possible!
How to get there
The head office of Camille Bloch SA is located on Grand-Rue 21 on the outskirts of Courtelary, in the French-speaking part of the Canton of Bern (called also Bernese-Jura). From Bern, you can get here by car in about an hour.
The outdoor parking is free of charge, it is a few steps away from the Visitor Center.
Admission fee for adults is 15CHF, for children (6 – 16 yo) 8CHF. There is also a family ticket (1+3 and 2+2) available for 32CHF.
Opening hours are from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:00, during the weekend from 10:00 to 17:00. On the website, you will find special opening hours during holidays and free days.
Between the cash desk and the shop / café, you´ll find a dressing room, where you can leave your coats and lockers (2CHF deposit) for backpacks and bags. Through the turnstiles, you´ll get to the exhibition area. The tour is not organized, the pace of enjoying the exhibition is solely upon you.
A bit of history
As it is quite common in Switzerland, Camille Bloch Chocolate factory is a traditional family-owned business. It´s run by the third generation of the Bloch family (as it is e.g. by Kambly).
The company was founded in 1929 and its headquarters was first in Bern. In 1935, production moved to a former paper mill near the Suze River in Courtelary.
You will learn interesting information during the tour not only on large panels but also on small labels, so you definitely recommend looking under the “lids”. You will learn, among other things, why it was a good idea to reduce a size of chocolate bars, or where Mr. Bloch came to the name of Ragusa chocolate. Or how did the company deal with the situation when employees were “headhunted” by the nearby watch-factories.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the flagships of the company are chocolate bars, Ragusa and Torino. Ragusa, which contains whole hazelnuts and hazelnut cream, “came to the world” in 1942 and became a sensation almost overnight. In 1948, the company came up with another innovation, filled chocolate Torino (and you guess correctly that it was named after the Italian city of Torino :)).
In 1959, Rolf Bloch followed his father´s footsteps and became the director of the company. He used his knowledge of London and New Your internship (in cocoa companies and advertising agency) and established an advertising department in the company.
In 2005, his son Daniel Bloch becomes the director, and under his leadership, the company comes in 2014 with another innovation – Ragusa Blond chocolate. And Torino Blond follows soon 🙂
In this section, visitors will learn how chocolate is made – from cocoa beans to chocolate bars.
Chocolate is flowing here and you can watch “Maîtres chocolatier”.
Throughout the tour of the visitor center, we were able to taste excellent chocolate. Immediately after paying the admission, we received a chocolate praline, then tasted the creamy Ragusa. In the production part, we tasted the necessary raw materials for making chocolate (nuts from Turkey and almonds from California), and finally, of course, the excellent Ragusa and Torino (such a pleasant difference in comparison to Swiss Chocolate Adventure, which I wrote about here recently).
Fun for kids
The exhibition is well prepared for small visitors. From headphones they can listen to interesting information, they can take a selfie and have it sent by email or on touch screens they can solve interesting tasks.
But also classical crayons get a word in – with them they can design their own chocolate wrapper or in the “smell lab” they can try to guess how do the chocolate ingredients smell.
At the end of the exhibition, you can enter two cinemas.
In the further one (beware: you can easily miss it, it´s located behind the flower swing) you can watch an interesting panoramic animated projection. In my opinion, it allegorically tells the history of the company. The movie takes about ten minutes, the break between the projections is 5 minutes.
Shop and Café
You cannot leave without buying a chocolate or other souvenir (such as Ragusa lip balm, hmmm … :))
The café offers lots of hot and cold drinks (such as home-made ice tea), local specialties, sandwiches, salads and other goodies.
While you enjoy something from the menu, kids can spend time in the children’s corner – where they can play with wooden trains, draw with chalks or crayons, view books or build dice.
- The entire exposition fully meets the requirements of the present time – it is modern, interactive, full of touchscreens and visual perceptions. At the same time, it retains a touch of “good old times”, especially thanks to period photographs.
- I liked that despite all the conveniences of the modern time, the exposition wasn´t “impersonal”. One could ask the pleasant staff or “Maître chocolatier” for anything.
- The place is wheelchair accessible, you can easily get there with a stroller. There is a changing table on the toilets, a children’s playroom in the café and a children’s playground outside.
- All information is in French, German and English.
- We spent about an hour and a half in the visitor center. Of course, then we spent some time in the shop 😉 I think we would have been here longer if the weather had been better and the children could have tried the outdoor playground.
- If I had to compare with the Cailler, Frey, and Alprose chocolate factories we visited (my reviews are here and here), Camille Bloch is probably is on the top (and believe me, this is not a sponsored post – although I wouldn´t mind if I received a box full of Ragusa Blond box;) )
And what about you? Have you already visited CHEZ Camille Bloch? What were your impressions? I´d be happy if you leaved me a message! And do not forget to pin this for later!