Part chocolate museum, part wax house, part candy store, and all fun.
By Sarah Jackson
What do chocolate and wax figurines of your favorite celebrities have in common? You can find them both at Chocotopia just off of Old Town Square.
The storefront of Celetná 15 greets visitors with a wax statue of Albert Einstein, but peek inside and you’ll see what looks like a confectionary paradise straight out of Candy Land. A wispy white tree dangles colorful candy-like ornaments from its branches. Just a few feet away, you’re jolted into a tropical jungle, under a canopy of cacao trees in Chocotopia’s restaurant. The sounds of flowing water and birds overhead will round out the full tropical experience of a cacao plantation in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, where Chocotopia has been getting the beans for its creole chocolate for the past six years.
Chocotopia wasn’t always such an eclectic mix of entertainment. It began as chocolate store Viva Praha in 2007, just down the block at Celetná 10. Just a year later, Viva Praha added a chocolate museum, ChocoStory, one in a chain that originated in Bruges, Belgium. Last year, the business merged with Grévin Wax Museum and Chocotopia, the half-chocolate wonderland, half-wax museum, was born.
Henk Mestdagh, who opened Viva Praha with his wife, Simona, now serves as general manager of Chocotopia. Currently the museum sources all of the chocolate that goes into their products from Mestdagh’s native Belgium.
“The red line is always chocolate for us,” says Mestdagh. “Anything we do must have a touch of chocolate.”
The third floor certainly has its fair share of the tasty sweet. Here you’re welcomed to the chocolate museum with free chocolate buttons from the likes of Belgium, Costa Rica and Vanuatu. Although the wax museum is one floor below, there’s no shortage of wax figurines throughout the history exhibit.
As you weave through cutouts of cacao trees, you’ll find a figurine of a man working on a cacao plantation and one of a Spanish captain planning an import of cacao to Europe. You can read up on how chocolate is produced from bean to bar and see collections of chocolate molds, pots and cups. When you’re done, visit the demo area to watch (and sample!) chocolate being made. Or, for a more hands-on experience, you can try making your own treats, such as chocolate bars or Belgian caraques, in a workshop.
On the second floor in the Wax Museum of Legends, you’ll find uncanny look-alikes of national and global celebrities, including mainstream pop culture figures from Katy Perry and Brad Pitt to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. (True to form, the room also has wax models of various desserts.)
The wax museum celebrates Czech figures with a room dedicated to popular Czech athletes and another area showcasing characters from Czech folklore tales. There you’ll see a water goblin, an executioner, the mythical monster Golem and the door of Dr. Faust.
Incorporating local legends, Mestdagh says, was important in the design of the wax museum.
“We have the educational part in the history of cacao,” says Mestdagh. “I also wanted to give some historical or interesting information about figurines. … So that’s why we think it’s important to give people also the educational part. If they want to learn about culture and heritage of the country, they can also see something like that.”
The final room has recreations of a handful of political figures, including the Czech Republic’s first president Václav Havel and Queen Elizabeth II.
Mestdagh is trying to amp up the museums, bringing some advanced technologies into the equation to create a more interactive experience for visitors.
Besides its workshops and a newly opened evening school about chocolate-making, Chocotopia now offers guests the chance to purchase a 360-degree virtual reality experience that will transport them back in time to the fifteenth century in the Yucatan Peninsula to come along on an explorer’s discovery of chocolate drinks. This year, Chocotopia even debuted special boxes of chocolate that come to life (think leopards, birds and other animals from a cacao plantation popping off a box) thanks to an augmented reality feature available in the store’s app.
Stripped down though, without these technological features, the company’s simple roots are still pretty sweet.
“My aim is to get people into Chocotopia in general,” says Mestdagh. “As long as they have a good experience, and [even if] that was buying one lollipop or one piece of chocolate, I think we succeeded.”