History. Culture. Art. Food. Europe has something to offer everyone, but for the foodie traveller, the continent is a must-visit for a culinary adventure – but where do you begin? With such incredible diversity, and so many destinations to choose from, deciding what and where to eat in Europe can be a little overwhelming, but fear not. Whatever your budget and tastes, and wherever you’re thinking of visiting, there are countless dishes to try, and eateries to explore – if you know where to look.
With a culinary history tied into centuries of trade, climates that are perfect for growing the finest ingredients, and arguably as the home of gastronomy as an art form, Europe is quite the foodie hotspot. With more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other continent, and some of the most exciting upcoming chefs serving everything from fine dining to street food, every country in Europe is totally unique in its offerings. Whether you want to sample the very finest in haute cuisine, or are just looking for an authentic and delicious local bite, a few places do stand out. Here are some of the places that top the list for food travel in Europe:
Germany might not top the list of countries most often associated with fantastic food, but it’s a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to culinary experiences. Its food is steeped in a rich and traditional heritage; Ancient techniques like pickling and salting are still used regularly in German cooking, which features hearty dishes utilising the fantastic meats reared in its diverse regions.
Germany has something to offer everyone when it comes to great cooking, with an exciting and vibrant emerging street food culture and some truly spectacular fine-dining restaurants. Fun fact: Pollen studies have found that hazelnuts have been used in Germany for over 11,000 years.
On a budget?
If you’re visiting Germany but aren’t looking to break the bank when it comes to your food budget, then you’ll be glad to know there are plenty of delicious and affordable dishes to sample, and myriad places to try them. Street food in Germany has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in recent years, and many of the best German dishes are the simplest, quickest, and delightfully messiest, now embraced by this emerging culture.
Topping the list of budget bites in Germany is the Bratwurst. This authentic white German sausage is usually grilled, then served in a humble butter roll, with ketchup or mustard. For a delicious twist, give currywurst a try – it’s the same sausage, but sliced and served with a full-bodied curry sauce or powder. Popular the world over they may be, but bratwursts bought from one of Germany’s many stalls are unlike any other.
Other things to try include pretzels, Schaschlikspieß (a meat and vegetable grilled skewer), and Germknödel (an indulgent dough dumpling with vanilla cream and a plum sauce filling).
If budget is less of a worry, or if you’re keen for a more elaborate and high-end culinary experience on your German adventures, then there are a few places that are well worth the visit – and the comparatively higher price.
Restaurant Barriess is the 3-star Michelin brainchild of masterful chef Claus-Peter Lumpp known for his rigour and attention to detail. With a variety of menus including a taster, late summer, and vegetarian, Barriess is German fine dining at its finest. Close by is Schwarzaldstube, offering what has been described as a ‘once in a lifetime experience’. The restaurant also holds the coveted three stars, and serves nothing but the absolute top-tier of traditional cuisine with a modern twist.
Best foodie destinations:
There are a few particular standout destinations for food in Germany, but Berlin is probably the best place to start. With everything from street food offerings like ‘Street Food Thursday’ and high-end restaurants like Reinstoff, Berlin is a must-visit. Hamburg and Munich also offer unique and exciting street food opportunities with ‘Street Food Session’ and ‘Street Food Friday’ respectively.
If you’re solely interested in only the finest, then a trip out to the comparatively remote town of Baiersbronn, in the Black Forest, could be the solution. It’s the home of both Restaurant Barriess and Scwharzaldstube, and has been heralded as one of the world’s ‘most unexpected restaurant capitals’ by the New York Times – a must visit for travellers with a penchant for the finer things.
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The long-running joke about the quality of England’s cuisine is well and truly over, and if your European adventure is taking you to the home of tea and top hats, then there are plenty of delightful culinary experiences just waiting to be explored.
England has a unique culinary heritage, defined largely as a result of its historical relationships with a wide array of other nations. When the Franco-Normans invaded it, England was exposed to spices like nutmeg and ginger, and during the reign of the British Empire, relationships with India introduced curries and spices to the menu.
Known for its staple Sunday roasts, and its particular flair for puddings, pies, and pastries, English cooking has gone from the subject of international mockery to a leading source of some of the most cutting-edge and exciting restaurants, dishes, and chefs anywhere in Europe and the wider world.
On a budget?
England has plenty to offer gastronomic travellers who are looking for great flavours, pure techniques, and simple but delicious dishes. Fish and chip shops adorn almost every town and city across the country, and while some admittedly bring the name of this classic English dish down, seeking out a good ‘chippy’ (there’s always at least one, and locals can normally tell you which) is worth it – crispy beer batter, flaky white fish, and crunchy chips with a soft fluffy middle. Magic.
Another staple of English culture – the pub – is also home to some of the best affordable and enjoyable food in the form of ‘pub grub’. Many English pubs serve classics like the Sunday roast, sausages and mash, and steak and ale pies to customers, all washed down with a pint of local ale (room temperature of course).
For something a little less traditional a visit to the nation’s capital, the iconic city of London, could hit the spot. With a bustling and industry-leading street food scene, London has something for everyone. A visit to the beigel shops of Brick Lane (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) is the perfect solution for a quick and flawlessly prepared bite to eat, and a stop at one of London’s many food markets is a great way to try a humble English classic like pie with mashed potatoes.
For something a little more upmarket, England has some of Europe’s very best restaurants. Heston Blumenthal’s Berkshire-based ‘The Fat Duck’ is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world, and is more than worth both the visit and the price. Serving a menu that offers diners an innovative and inspired take on the classic English childhood, Blumenthal – a chef known for his manipulation of ingredients and his scientific gastronomy – also runs ‘Dinner’ in London, serving a slightly more traditional but nonetheless exceptional take on English classics. His ‘tipsy cake’ is iconic.
Best foodie destination:
If England is your destination, then the best choice for a foodie day out is without a doubt the ‘Big Smoke’ itself: London. The sprawling city has countless offerings of literally every variety for the travelling food-lover, from street food to fine dining. A visit to one of its many markets, or its top restaurants (the Ritz, anyone?) will satiate the palette of any traveller.
For a slightly less conventional English experience, the marvellously beautiful Cornwall, found at the ‘foot’ of England’s South West, is a fantastic place to visit. With a rich fishing heritage, it’s one of the best places to try fresh seafood, like crab, in the country, and it’s also home to the famous and delicious Cornish pasty. You could give the famous cream tea a try, and sample some fresh scones served with clotted cream and jam – just be careful about which way round you arrange your condiments (jam first, or cream first? The argument will probably go on forever…).
Want to find out about Food Fun Travel’s adventures eating around the UK? Click Here
Little can be said about French food that hasn’t been said before, but it would be a crime not to note that when it comes to food in Europe, France deserves a place as the beacon of the very finest cooking. The home of ‘haute cuisine’, France has a refined and longstanding relationship with the culinary arts, from Georges Auguste Escoffier’s development of gourmet kitchen practices in the 19th century, to the nouvelle cuisine movement of the 1960s.
Any food-loving traveller in Europe should experience authentic French food at least once. While the nation is best known for its fine dining, with global institutions like the Cordon Bleu Culinary School paving the way for each new generation of chefs, even the most humble of French cooking is superior to many of its international counterparts. With an astonishing selection of wines and champagnes to boot, France is one of the best places to eat in the entire world, not just Europe.
On a budget?
One of the great pleasures of eating in France is the immense pride the French take almost universally when it comes to cooking and food. In France, food is respected as integral to society from an early age, with schools even setting aside a full hour or more for lunchtime, during which pupils are served sit-down meals, and taught how to dine with one another politely and properly. This means that even if you’re not looking to indulge in the famous fine-dining of the nation, then whatever you choose to eat will usually still be superb.
Classic (and affordable) French light bites include things like the croque monsieur – a ham and cheese toasted sandwich – or French onion soup served with crusty bread. Quick eats, like baked Camembert, are also divinely indulgent, particularly when paired with the perfect local wine and mopped up with fresh bread, and ‘moules frites’ (mussels served with fries) can be enjoyed in a variety of sauces.
Other classics to try in France, that won’t break your budget, include the simple croissant or pain au chocolat with a coffee – when freshly prepared, and eaten warm out of the oven, these pastries are some of the most enjoyable in the world.
If you’re looking to spend a little more to experience some of the finer foods on offer in Europe, then doing so in France is possibly the best choice. The country is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, and it’s little surprise that when looking into the best 3 Michelin star restaurants in Europe, France is well represented – Paris alone has 10 such establishments.
Top of the list, and indisputably one of the very best restaurants in the world, is Guy Savoy. Serving the famous ‘colours, textures and flavours’ menu, as well as an astonishing variety of wines and masterpiece dishes, this Parisian restaurant is an example of how food and art can merge, and the results are inspirational. Just one look at dishes like the ‘skate wing ‘cooled’ with caviar’ will have you salivating.
If you’re travelling further south, then you could make a trip to Régis et Jacques Marcon, which is close to Lyon, and set to a stunning countryside backdrop. Chef Marcon makes full use of the warm, damp climate here, serving dishes that emphasise local ingredients like chestnuts, mushrooms, and lentils. The restaurant has more than earned its three Michelin stars, offering guests the very finest French cooking with dishes like courgette bavarois, and whole roasted John Dory served with chanterelles, asparagus and rosemary flowers.
Best foodie destination:
It’s difficult to narrow the list of foodie destinations in France down to just one or two, but without question, Paris deserves a mention. If you’re travelling to Europe then the City of Lights is not just one of the most legendarily romantic and beautiful places to see, but also offers travellers some of the very best food that can be found across the entire continent.
Other than Paris, arguably the best way to enjoy French cooking is to pick a region and explore all that it has to offer. Each region in France is known for a variety of different wines and ingredients, which vary due to climate and culture, and choosing which of these most appeals is half the fun of a foodie holiday in France. The warm south, with its Mediterranean climes, is known for its sublime fruits and vegetables, whereas when it comes to seafood, Brittany has some of the best ‘fruits de mer’ on offer.
To find out about Food Fun Travel’s foodie adventures in France Click Here
The home of cooking, Italian food is all about family. Far from the precise and measured artistry of French haute cuisine, Italian cooking comes from the heart. Meals are often prepared for the whole family to enjoy together, meaning that large, one-pot dishes are standard fare. This, along with the hot climate and the stunning produce that grows, as a result, makes Italy the perfect destination for a food-filled getaway.
Light breakfasts, world-leading coffee, and fresh ingredients are all on the menu in Italy – in 2014, retail volume sales indicated that people were buying more fresh food and produced than pre-packaged, which is an indication of the pride the average Italian takes in good food, and a good sign of the quality on offer during a trip to Italy.
On a budget?
Italian food is famous for its lack of fuss – it’s all about simplicity and great ingredients, meaning that you don’t need to fork over all those traveller’s cheques to try some fantastic food in Italy. Wherever you choose to stay in Italy, from Rome to Milan, there’s always a great meal just around the corner.
For a light (or sometimes heavy) bite, then an authentic Italian pizza could be the perfect solution. Genuine Italian pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven, have a thin, crisp base, and make use of a simple selection of fresh ingredients. Even the simple Margherita (tomato sauce base, with fresh mozzarella and basil) is utterly delicious if it’s made the real Italian way.
For a treat you can enjoy on the move, you could sample some gelato. This Italian ice cream isn’t quite the same as its mass-produced global counterparts; it has a smoother, silkier texture and flavour, which is achieved by including less fat in the base, and churning in less air during the freezing process.
Pasta, another Italian staple, is also a great and sure-fire way to get major bang for your buck whilst trying some of the best food Italy has to offer. A classic carbonara or bolognese never cost a huge amount, but are absolutely divine – and they’re fairly different from the herb-filled versions usually served outside of Italy; real Italian bolognese contains only beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato, white wine, and milk, and is served with tagliatelle, not spaghetti. Carbonara sauce, similarly, is made from nothing but eggs, cheese, and pancetta, with black pepper as a garnish.
Italy might be the home of simple soulful cooking, but it’s also the setting for some of the most exciting and vibrant restaurants imaginable. Italy’s heritage when it comes to food, coupled with the absolutely world-class ingredients grown across the country, make this European foodie haven the perfect place to experience some truly exceptional fine dining.
Appearing in the Netflix documentary ‘Chef’s Table’, and critically acclaimed as one of the best all-time Italian restaurants, Osteria Francescana is Chef Massimo Bottura’s masterpiece. Hailed as the best restaurant in the world in 2016, this Modena-based dining room offers diners a menu with titles alone that bring a smile, such as ‘Oops! I dropped the lemon tart’. Inspired both by Italian culinary heritage and Bottura’s own life experience, this is a must-visit for those that can afford it.
When in Rome (as they say), La Pergola is a fantastic chance to experience the finest Italian food. Heinz Beck’s guidance has resulted in this stunning restaurant’s status as a ‘temple of international gastronomy’, which is the first – and still only – restaurant in Rome to hold three Michelin stars. The menu is inspired, and the dishes like ‘Cod on kidney beans and iced parsley snow’ are works of art.
Best foodie destination:
Food is wonderful across all of Italy, and the main decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to visit its’ more rural or urban destinations. Italian cities, particularly Milan, Rome, Venice, and Florence, offer a wide array of restaurants, street vendors, and cafes that cater to the sensibilities of foodie travellers perfectly. The comparative density of the number of eateries on offer in Italy’s major cities make these great destinations to visit to try a little bit of everything, whatever your budget, and they’re also sources of incredible history, art and culture.
If a more traditional, rural adventure sounds more to your liking, then visiting a region like Tuscany – with its incredible vineyards and timeless aesthetic appeal – could be the answer. A trip to Sicily, Italy’s southern island could also be a lovely way to avoid the bustle of the city, and Sicilian citrus is iconic, with lemons that are possibly the best in the world.
For more of Food Fun Travel’s food adventures in Italy Click Here
You could write volumes on all the fantastic places to eat in Europe, and still never come close to scratching the surface of a comprehensive guide. Some destinations are certainly more popular than others, and while Germany, France, England and Italy strike a nice balance between some of the most standout and diverse cuisine available in Europe, a few places that could just have easily made the list include:
With the hugely popular city of Amsterdam drawing massive numbers of tourists every year, the Netherlands also has some incredible food on offer that’s worth checking out. A particular highlight is ‘poffertjes’ – small, fluffy pancake-like battered delights served with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar.
Spain has some truly wonderful cuisine, which strikes a balance between the family-centric attitudes of Italian cooking and the Mediterranean ingredients on offer. Citrus-filled dishes and seafood are a specialty here; tapas – small bite-size dishes meant to be shared – are a standout, along with authentic paella – a seafood risotto-like dish which, when cooked perfectly, has a sticky, caramelized base. Divine.
Greek cooking is a broad and delightful church, and whether it’s the mainland or one of Greece’s many breathtaking islands, such as Corfu or Crete, there are some traditional dishes here that are simply to die for. Lamb kleftiko might be the most iconic, and is arguably one of the tastiest dishes native to Greece; it’s made with a lamb shank that’s cooked slowly, inside a foil package in the coals of a fire – a technique which harkens back to the practices of hungry sheep-thieves from centuries past.
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A Food Fun Travel Guest Post by James Hale