True foodies understand that one of the most important parts of any holiday is what’s on your plate. For those who believe that a city’s culinary expertise is just as essential as any other tourist attraction, we’ve rounded up Europe’s best spots where you can have your fill of food and culture in equal measures.
Home of the slow food movement, Italy awaits foodie travelers with open arms. In Venice, linger over an Aperol spritz and traditional cicchetti Venetian snacks before dinner. In Rome, savor cacio e pepe, a simple pasta dish featuring fresh pecorino cheese. However, serious foodies know that visiting Tuscany is essential in order to taste Italy’s very finest cuisine. Bologna is home to ragu alla bolognese, a hearty, meaty sauce which has been prepared in this region for centuries. We suggest lingering in the shadow of Bologna’s iconic Asinelli tower, savoring a full three-course menu al fresco on a warm summer evening.
Portugal was cited as the “world’s hottest destination” by multiple travel publications in 2017, and it continues to gain popularity as the world discovers the delights of Portuguese cuisine. Porto enjoys a prime seaside location, and access to a daily supply of fresh fish. One dish you won’t want to miss is bacalhau, the Portuguese word for cod. You can order it a variety of different ways, but the most decadent is bacalhau à bras, a mix of codfish with potatoes, eggs, and marinated olives which melts in your mouth. Pair it with a glass of Port wine, produced locally in the Douro River Valley.
While Croatian food is largely focused on grilled meat, the country’s large stretch of seaside also provides plenty of access to sardines, mackerel, anchovies, squid, shrimp, octopus, and other delightful seafood. One of the most unique Croatian seafood dishes is crni rizot, or black risotto, which gets its color from squid ink. Mussels, clams, and other shellfish are often mixed into the risotto to give it even more flavor. Split’s seaside location makes it the ideal place to enjoy Croatian seafood away from the tourist masses a bit further south in Dubrovnik. In between meals, explore the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, a massive complex built for the Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century B.C.
Although often misinterpreted as appetizers, meze dishes are not intended to serve as the introduction to the meal, but rather to be a meal on their own. Meze dishes are carefully designed to match with wines and liquors such as ouzo and raki. They are also meant to be shared amongst many in a communal dining experience. Copy the Greeks and head to a taverna for an evening of tasting meze, drinking local spirits, talking and laughing with friends, both old and new. Popular meze dishes include hummus, seasoned meatballs, rice-stuffed grape leaves, sausages, and fried cheese.
Macedonia’s capital recently underwent a massive renovation project and the city is now receiving more tourists than ever before. The eclectic river banks (they have pirate ships), and polished museums are not the only attractions in the city center worth your attention though. Take a stroll through the Old Bazaar, and enjoy the smell of meats slow cooking drifting out of kitchen windows. Grab a burek, a savory puff pastry with spinach and feta cheese, to enjoy for lunch on the go. For dinner in Macedonia, sit down for a hearty meal of tavce gracve, a simple, chunky dish of beans cooked in a skillet seasoned to perfection with different spices, sausage, and veggies which results in a flavorful masterpiece.
Although Slovenia is a tiny country, it offers a great amount of culinary diversity. Local ethnologists categorize the country into around 20 distinct culinary regions, each with its own highlights. Slovenia’s Julian Alps are a popular hiking and skiing destination, and Slovenian hearty, meaty stews are designed to fuel adventurers for hours. Don’t miss the opportunity to try jota, a popular stew with beans, sauerkraut, and pork. But try to save room for dessert, as Slovenia offers many amazing cakes such as prekmurska gibanica, a layered cake with fillings such as poppy seed, cottage cheese, walnuts, apples, and cream.
Santiago de Compostela is the final destination for weary hikers who trek the Camino de Santiago. It’s no surprise the city is a gastronomic goldmine, as the hundreds of thousands of people who have voyaged the Camino over the centuries certainly bring a big appetite to the final stop on the trail. Whether you are celebrating completing the Camino, or just indulging in some outstanding Galician food, Santiago de Compostela offers a wide array of tapas to whet your appetite. Try pimientos de padron, fried green peppers seasoned with salt. For the main course, order Galicia’s most famous dish, pulpo a la Gallega, boiled octopus with potatoes and paprika.
If your version of the perfect diet includes pizza, gelato, and limoncello, then Sorrento is your perfect foodie getaway. Surrounded by citrus orchards with countless lemons and oranges to add fresh flavor to your drinks and desserts, Sorrento is home to people passionate about preparing food which will delight guests and locals alike. If you want to learn how to cook it like they do, sign up for a pizza or gelato-making course during your stay!
Kotor remains off-the-beaten-track for most travelers, making it even more special to head there for a foodie getaway, especially during the warm summer months when the sunlight sparkles on the water. Freshly caught seafood makes an appearance on most menus, and influences from nearby Croatian and Italian cuisine are frequent. Locally produced smoked meats and cheeses are perfectly complemented by the Kotor region’s famous olives. Cevapi, a popular Balkan dish of minced meat served with potatoes, is another excellent choice when visiting Montenegro.
Logroño is at the center of the popular Rioja wine region, and is home to one of the most famous tapas streets in Spain—Calle Laurel is dotted with more than fifty cafes and bars, each serving their own signature tapas. You’ll want to try the champiñones a la plancha, local mushrooms fried in oil and served on top of a small piece of toast. Enjoy a glass of wine and two or three tapas at one bar and then continue on in the next locale. Continue hopping from one bar to the next all evening long for an unforgettable tapas tasting experience!
For true foodies in search of up-and-coming destinations with high quality ingredients and traditional recipes with new twists, a trip to Kosovo is a real treat. Pies are a priority here, with savoury fillings such as flank steak or chicken and mushrooms. As elsewhere in the Balkans, bureks can be found everywhere, at all times of day. Bread and dairy and good, high quality staples, but if you want to be adventurous, try the deep-fried lamb brains.
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