Some people eat to live. Others live to eat. If you’re part of the latter group, chances are your vacations always include trips to great restaurants. If you’re an avid foodie, you probably do a little food-based research before you go, zeroing in on a few of your destination’s best restaurants or perhaps some signature dishes that you simply MUST try while in town.
Europe, of course, offers a wealth of some of the world’s most magnificent culinary capitals. Some are easy to guess while others might not be so obvious. A number have been on this list for decades and others are relatively new on the list of notable European food destinations. Take a look and consider including one or more of these on your next vacation itinerary.
Forks up! Ready, set, eat!!
1. Paris – Paris has long been at the top of the food chain! As a matter of fact, for a long time, Paris was THE place to go for amazing cuisine. While it’s still way up there, with 10 Michelin-starred eateries, it is indeed being challenged these days. Nonetheless, names like Alain Ducasse keep Paris’ spot as one of the world’s top food destinations for everything from soup to dessert. Of course, the pastries are beyond magnificent and you may find yourself indulging more often than you might wish. But Paris is a great walking city, so you can work off the extra calories.
2. Florence – Another city that’s long been on the list for those who adore splendid Italian food, Florence offers restaurants that are masterpieces, just like the art work you’ll find at the Uffizi or Accademia. The fare is rather rustic and includes not only traditional pasta dishes and other favorites, but also dishes like Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a succulent porterhouse steak seasoned the Italian way. And then there’s the gelato…
3. Barcelona – Wonderful Barcelona has gained so much popularity in the last 10-15 years, making it one of the most visited cities in Europe and second only to Madrid in Spain. Besides its spectacular Antoni Gaudi-designed buildings, it offers a ton of restaurants that serve small plates – or tapas. The beauty of such a restaurant is that you get to try more of a variety of offerings than if you were eating meals with large portions. Don’t forget the sangria!
4. Edinburgh – You might be surprised to find Edinburgh on this list, but it really is one of those spots that offers something different. And don’t worry – it’s not just haggis and meat pies. Edinburgh boasts top-notch seafood restaurants that serve succulent Shetland mussels, pubs where the food is unmatched, and plenty of eateries offering traditional dishes with a twist in addition to cuisine from other countries. The number of Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants in Edinburgh proves just how good the food scene is here in the capital city.
5. Bologna – As if one Italian city isn’t enough for this list, Bologna sneaks in with its fantastic offerings. After all, how could you not include a city nicknamed “La Grassa” – The Fat One? So much that shouts “great Italian food” started here, including Bolognese sauce, mortadella, tortellini, and so many wonderful sweets. Both the restaurants and the outdoor markets ae simply magnificent!
6. Brussels – Belgium’s capital is quite new to the list of great food cities, but as it gains in popularity as a destination – largely thanks to its being the capital of the European Union – more and more renowned chefs are eyeing the city as the newest place to set up shop. The chocolate, of course, has always been unmatched, but you’ll also find that the bistros in Brussels have begun to make a name for themselves, serving a variety of cuisine that very much attests to the variety of cultures present there.
7. London – It used to be that one would mention English food and noses would turn up in disgust. But today’s London is much more than bangers & mash and plum pudding. Alastair Little, Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White – all acclaimed chefs – are making their mark on the food scene in the capital city. And you can still find some traditional foods, but they’re much more inventive now, given a modern twist that makes them much more palatable.
8. Rome – Okay, one more Italian city. Rome is also a staple on this list though it’s often upstaged by Florence. Nonetheless, sampling “la cucina Romano” means trying everything from the amazing artichokes offered in just about every restaurant and outdoor market to the homemade gnocchi crafted at one of those little mom-and-pop restaurants you’ll find crowded with locals. Of course, there’s the gelato (so many flavors!) and the warm sfogliatelle (layers of pastry stuffed with ricotta) you’ll want to have for breakfast with a steaming cup of espresso.
9. Dublin – It was just a few years ago that the food in Dublin was extremely expensive…almost outrageously so. But because of a downturn in the economy, restaurants have been forced to rethink their menus and the result has been a new restaurant scene that’s equally as imaginative but more affordable. From the dark pubs to the fine dining restaurants, there’s so much incredible food here and the Irish approach meals with much vigor, which makes eating here lots of fun.
10. San Sebastian – This traditional Basque city, located on the Bay of Biscay and quite close to France, is a thriving tourist destination with a huge number of Michelin-starred restaurants, especially considering its size. Some provide local favorites in very traditional form, but the trend in San Sebastian is “New Basque”, much-loved tradtional dishes with a twist. And the seafood is to-die-for!