It is a fact that while we are likely to struggle to remember the landmarks, monuments, and exhibits that spurred our travels, there are those quasi-religious, life-altering culinary experiences that remain etched in our memories for life. And as most European gourmands will attest, it is generally not those haute cuisines with hefty price tags that stimulate food epiphanies that feel almost like erotic pleasures. Most likely, it is that wild boar that has been faithfully cooked in accordance with a centuries old recipe in some rustic tavern somewhere on a hilltop village between Siena and Florence, or a rosette de lyon sausage in the spectacular food markets of Lyon, or a sample of bulbous snails.
Since the turn of the century, culinary travel has grown tremendously. As food continues to become an art form and with the term ‘foodie’ entering the lexicon as a person who has turned their passion for food into a very civilized hobby, our new relationship with food is invariably dictating why and how we travel. While the mega cities of New York, London, Tokyo, and Paris combine multiculturalism with celebrity chefs to create a dynamic global flair with a fancy soundbite, that elusive ecstasy of taste and flavor lies beyond these gastronomic powerhouses in the local bistros and taverns where menus are defined by what speaks to the region’s cultural heritage and what is fresh. Below, therefore, we take a look at 6 of the best foodie destinations in Europe as follows:
While Belgium has long been a foodie destination, there is even more reason to seek out its capital above its other delectable spots like Ghent or Bruges. In Brussels, you are likely to find a dense concentration of Belgium’s most renowned edible traditions such as frites, waffles, mussels, and beers. Plus, you could also wander through the Old Town’s traditional sweet shops, and grab yourself a skewer of strawberries served on a paper plate that has been run under a chocolate fountain. The best thing about Brussels is that it is easily accessible from much of Europe, so most travelers can be able to come up with an excuse for spending a day or two in the Belgian capital snacking on these classic treats.
This friendly city is characterized by a laid-back feel, so visitors may be forgiven for not realizing that it also famed for some serious culinary credentials. In keeping with Denmark’s no-fuss attitude, a traditional Danish lunch is likely to be an open- faced sandwich (smorrebrod) although recent years have seen Copenhagen play host to delicious events such as the Copenhagen Cooking Festival.
Cornwall is the one UK region which really stands out when it comes to food and drink. This large county in the south west of the UK has more Michelin starred restaurants per head of population than any other part of the UK. Perhaps this is because it is a major holiday destination that there is a special emphasis on quality, upmarket restaurants. Or maybe it is to do with the abundance of fresh local produce available thanks to its location next to the sea and full of rolling green fields for fresh farm produce. Padstow restaurants are favourites for tourists and locals thanks largely to the famous chefs based here. Other hotspots include Newquay, Falmouth and St Ives.
While most of Catalonia prides itself in its rich culinary heritage, bustling Barcelona perhaps takes the cake. The food here is divine- from rustic tapa dishes e.g. pan con tomate (grilled bread with ripe tomato juice) and patatas bravas (spicy potatoes with aioli) to rich chorizo and crisp, inexpensive cava. But even more than its delightful flavors which set it apart as a city with food that is worth fighting over is Barcelona’s mealtime culture. Supper does not commence until at least ten o’clock in the evening with meals stretching for hours. Families and children are always welcome, and it is not unusual to see servers going out of their way to provide a comfortable seat or bassinet for a young one so that everyone can spend time together, and the little ones can even pick up on the restaurant culture- a welcome respite from the messy, harried family dinners often seen in many households elsewhere.
The Swiss city may come across as a dull option, better known for its businessmen and deadlines. But Zurich’s corporate dominance has inevitably contributed to one of the most vibrant street food cultures in all of Europe. The best known is, arguably, the Vorderer Stemen Grill- a trusted standby for the best wurst in Zurich. The winter months also see plenty of roasted chestnut vendors pop up all over, giving the city not only a Christmassy feel, but a savory aroma as well.
Omitting Paris as one of Europe’s great food cities may seem a tad odd, but the fact is as the world’s unofficial tourism capital, the city is getting harder and harder for visitors to navigate And even though there is still a lot of amazing food to be explored, you are more likely to experience a dud in Paris now than ever before. It is for this reason that foodies are advised to try out Rouen- a smaller city in Normandy and a destination with plenty of delicious food for devoted eaters and uncharted areas for travelers. When it comes to pastry in particular, Rouen has some outstanding chops- try the local tarte normande (an apple pie that is open-faced), croissants, or éclairs for tasty treats that satisfy.