I can’t believe it’s time for the annual chocolate festival in Óbidos again. I actually made it to the festival last year, having narrowly missed it in 2011. If you’re drooling at the thought of a whole festival dedicated to chocolate, here’s my advice for getting the most out of your experience.
Top tips for the Óbidos chocolate festival
1. There’s plenty to enjoy without buying a ticket.
If you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to stump up the 7 euros (5 for kids) to get inside the castle walls, it’s still worth heading to Óbidos while the festival is on. There’s whole lot of chocolate activity going on in town, such as the chocolate sculptures on display at the catering school near the Pousada and stalls selling all manner of sweet treats. The chocolate fashion show (yes, I am serious!) on the final Saturday is free, too.
Rivalling the prize-winning chocolate sculptures inside the festival, the cake decorators really went to town on the Disney theme last year. Best of all, because they were on display away from the castle, they were free to enjoy.
2. Avoid the queues
Don’t bother standing in the long queues for tickets at the main ticket office near the car parks. You can enter Óbidos without a ticket and buy one at the entrance to the festival where there are hardly any queues. Better still, buy one from your hotel or one of the shops in town. Many hotels offer a package deal which includes accommodation and entrance fees.
3. Get away from the hoards
If you don’t like crowds, duck into one of the cobbled alleys off the main street in Óbidos and make your way towards the castle through deserted medieval streets.
4. Be prepared
Take a hat and sun cream if it’s a hot day, even at this time of year. There’s no shade and a long queue to get into the main tent with the chocolate sculptures. The tent is blissfully air-conditioned but even if the chocolate is still holding its shape, you may be melting by the time you get inside.
5. Some things are worth waiting for
Be patient but pushy at the live chocolate making demonstrations. If you make your way to the front of the crowd, you will eventually be rewarded with a taster.
6. Not all the treats are tasty
Unless you like thin chocolate shells filled with air and frothy, sickly sweet cream, avoid the Bembokas. They look like individual chocolate-covered cakes but taste revolting.
7. Try new things
Try the unusual chocolate treats on offer, especially the chocolate cheese. I was a little sceptical at first but it’s creamy and the combination actually works well.
8. Chocolate fashion
If you can’t make it to the fashion show on the last Saturday of the festival, most of the costumes are on display in a marquee inside the castle walls and there’s a big screen in the main church square which plays a recording of it on loop the following day.
9. Be aware of extra costs
Even if you’ve paid the entrance fee, you still have to pay extra for cooking classes. Kids’ cooking classes are 3 euros and adult workshops are 7.50 euros – grown ups need to reserve their place.
10. Schedule your fun
Check the programme for other activities such as body painting demonstrations, show cooking by top chocolate chefs and concerts so you get the most out of your visit.
11. Go on the right day!
Don’t make the same mistake I did and end up missing the festival altogether. Although it spans four weeks, the main festival grounds are only open from Friday to Sunday.
For more information and the programme, check out the official website for the international chocolate festival in Óbidos. The theme for 2013 is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
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Have you been to a chocolate festival? Would you like to? Let us know in the comments.