Europe’s deep appreciation for good food leaves no shortage of cities with thriving, dynamic food scenes. Here are 9 European cities for foodies that are making waves in the culinary circuit. How many have you been to? Let us know in the comments!
Considered by many to be the food capital of Europe, this Spanish Basque city has the second highest concentration of Michelin stars per square mile in the world after Kyoto. Travelers come from all over the globe to take vacations designed around dining in San Sebastián. Known for its pintxos restaurants, the Basque-equivalent of tapas or small plates are found primarily in the old quarter of the city. Don’t forget to throw your napkins on the floor when you’re done, though! It is a tradition and the dirtier the pintxos bar, the better they tend to be.
The city’s molecular gastronomy has caused quite a stir among food enthusiasts in recent years. San Sebastian restaurants like Arzak and Mugaritz serve dishes that play with the physical forms of the ingredients they are comprised of. Each patron receives edible art, ensuring a thought-provoking dining experience.
You could visit this city for a week and subsist solely off of street treats and market fare. Get a fast introduction to the Amsterdam food scene with a plate of cured herring from one of the city’s many herring carts or haringhandels. If it’s cooked fish you crave then try kibbeling, battered and deep fried white fish served with an herbed mayonnaise sauce. Add a cone of thick cut French fries known as patat or frites covered in mayonnaise and curry ketchup and you’ve got yourself a complete, albeit nutritionally void, meal. For dessert treat yourself to a stroopwaffel comprised of two thin waffles sandwiching a gooey layer of caramel, or some oliebollen, deep fried sweet dumplings dusted with powdered sugar.
Even if you’ve been to Paris a dozen times, you can always find another brasserie, patisserie, or boulangerie to explore. If you’re looking to dine in a Parisian institution however, Benoit is an excellent choice. The only Parisian bistro to receive a Michelin star, this restaurant dates back to 1912. Experience classics like pâté, escargots, and boeuf bordelaise.
When the multitudes of dining options overwhelm you, why not pack a gourmet picnic in the park? Stop into Claus, a beloved Parisian gourmet grocery and café on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, then make your way over to the gardens at the Palais Royal for an open air brunch.
Fans of German food will probably be familiar with the Berlin street dish of currywurst, or sausage with ketchup and curry powder, but the city is teeming with refined and inventive eateries renowned the world over. Those chasing Michelin stars will find their happy place at restaurants like Facil, Reinstoff, and Weinbar Rutz. More recent additions to the scene include the Berlin chapter of Soho House’s the Store Kitchen, sophisticated Nordic offerings at dóttir, and an upscale carbohydrate heaven at Standard Pizza.
Beyond the classic and the modern, Berlin features food from all over the world. Visitors will find large offerings of Turkish, Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai restaurants, to name just a few.
You may not be able to picture Georgian cuisine off the top of your head but think warm, freshly baked breads, tender roasted meats, dried fruit leathers, ample use of walnuts, and roasted vegetable dishes to give ratatouille a run for its money. Famous dishes include khachapuri, bread baked with cheese in the shape of a boat and often topped with butter and a raw egg, and khinkali, Georgia’s take on a meat-filled dumpling.
The area is also one of the oldest wine regions in the world, allowing for superlative natural wines to be found in eateries throughout the capital city. Take in classic dishes and wine pairings at Tbilisi restaurants like Gabriadze Theatre Café and Purpur.
Copenhagen was the city that spawned the “New Nordic Cuisine” culinary trend back in the early 2000s. Championed by René Redzepi and Claus Meyer of Copenhagen’s now world-famous Noma restaurant, it revolves around using local ingredients and seasonal produce to create simple, elegant dishes, adapted from traditional Nordic techniques. A number of renowned and Michelin-starred restaurants opened following Noma’s lead, cementing Copenhagen as one of Europe’s great food cities.
There are also many “must-have” classic dishes to try during a trip to the Danish capital including smoked and pickled herring, Danish cheeses, and Smørrebrød – a Danish open-faced sandwich. Classic examples of Smørrebrød include egg and shrimp, marinated herring, beef tartar, and cod roe all atop buttered rye bread.
London’s contemporary food scene is very much alive and thriving with inventive dishes from copious Michelin-starred kitchens. Indulge in the deep-fried sea anemones at Barrafina in Covent Garden or roasted veal sweetbreads at three-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea.
If you’re a first-time visitor and want to check off the classics, then you can’t leave without at least one afternoon tea. This light meal accompanied by tea or champagne typically comes between lunch and dinner and is taken very seriously in upscale hotels and tea rooms all over the city. If you think this is an antiquated practice long out of style, take a look at the month-long wait to get a reservation in the tea rooms of the Ritz or the Savoy.
Visitors will leave full and happy with a Sunday roast at the neighborhood pub accompanied by a pint of bitters, or some takeaway fish and chips from one of the city’s many “chippies.” Chicken tikka masala is ubiquitous at restaurants city-wide, and is even reported as being the U.K.’s most popular dish.
Some say Greece’s second largest city outpaces Athens when it comes to dining. Known as the country’s culinary capital, part of Thessaloniki’s success lies within its proximity to fertile land producing top notch produce including olives, grapes, beans, and grain. Quality ingredients are of the utmost importance when your gastronomic scene is known for its simple, straightforward cuisine in the city’s many mezedopola, casual eateries serving small plates (meze) to accompany alcoholic drinks. There are many nearby wineries producing excellent varietals to pair with your meze, or sip on ouzo, retsina (resinated wine), or tsipouro (pomace brandy) if you prefer.
Roman food is famous for the use of “poor man’s” ingredients known as the fifth quarter, or quinto quarto. These are the offal of animals that are often thrown away elsewhere including the tongue, tripe, brain, and liver. If you’re an adventurous eater you’ll be in dining heaven and if you’re a picky eater why not say “when in Rome!” and expand your horizons with quinto quarto.
Italy’s capital city is also famous for combining simple fresh ingredients into dishes that far surpass the sum of their parts. Nowhere is this more evident than with the classic Roman dishes of carbonara and cacio e pepe. Translating to “cheese and pepper” cacio e pepe is made solely with black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pasta. A certain gastronomic alchemy takes over when the ingredients are combined to create a dish that has been consumed since ancient times.
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