It’s no question that Europe is home to some of the most incredible hubs for gastronomy in the world. Renowned chefs spend years in the continent’s most culinary-savvy cities, brushing up on their skills and perfecting their palate. There’s so much amazing food, it’s hard to pick a place to start! Luckily, the handy guide below features the top 8 European cities to satisfy whatever cravings you may have.
1. Naples, Italy
Scooters whisk down the cobblestone alleyways and the smell of fried handheld foods wafts from street-side stalls and trucks. The Mediterranean breezes roll off the ocean waves. The weather is mild, but never too cold for a scoop of apricot and fig gelato. This is Naples, Italy, and these are its flavors:
At the foot of Naple’s oldest castle, Castel Dell’Ovo, awaits succulent seafood and oceanfront views at II Transatlantico. Diners can enjoy lobster or luxurious angel hair pasta with fresh mussels (among many other culinary delights) while taking in the sight of Naple’s quaint coastline. For more budget-friendly dining, go for the pasta con patate at Trattoria Da Nennella.
Margherita pizza (the classic Neapolitan treat of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, whole basil leaves, and a finishing drizzle of olive oil) actually got its start in Naples. It all began when Queen Margherita herself insisted upon having mozzarella on top, and this style now remains an iconic Italian staple throughout Italy and abroad. Pizzeria Brandi was the original eatery to serve it this way, and you can still order it there today! As legendary (and delicious) as Margherita is however, you can’t have just one while enjoying your stay in Naples; check out Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba (the oldest pizzeria in Naples), Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo (the street it’s located on is known as ‘Pizza Street’ for its sheer number of killer pizzerias), and L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele (the famous location featured in Eat, Pray, Love).
While Naples certainly has no shortage of fresh-made pastas and seafood preparations in sit-down environments, it also doesn’t lack in greasy, deep-fried, decadent street foods. These irresistible foods typically come served in a paper cone known as a cuoppo. Friggitoria Vomero is hailed as having one of the best fried selections in all of town. Here you’ll find calzoni (calzones), panzarotti (potato croquettes), arancini(fried rice balls), olive all’ascolana (breaded olives stuffed with spicy ground meat), deep-fried zucchini flowers, and salty eggplant strips.
Pizza fritta (pizza folded in half and deep fried) is another popular Naples street food, and can be eaten on the go and secured for usually a single euro. La Masardona and Di Matteo are great places to give one of these crispy handheld pies a try.
Who could forget desserts?! Italian desserts range from quick and simple to fancy and meticulous. On the streets, scoop up a cone or brioche bun stuffed with smooth sicilian gelato, a basket of sugar-dusted zeppoli, or a picture-perfect cannoli. For something to savor at the table, go for a rich slice of tiramisu (made with some of the best mascarpone cheese around), crema fritta (indulgent squares of deep-fried custard cream), or sfogliatella riccia– a flaky phyllo dough confection stuffed with a sweet ricotta filling. Buon appetito!
2. Prague, Czech Republic
The city of Prague looks plucked right out of a fairy-tale. Its culinary offerings quite taste like one too, but they’re very real and just waiting for you to experience them!
For a cheap lunch or quick snack, begin your day with an open-faced sandwich or chlebíčky from Sisters Bistro. Open-faced sandwiches are a fast-food staple here, and can be topped with anything from potato salad to smoked mackerel or pickled herring. If you’re looking for something a little more indulgent, go for a chimney cake, or trdelník. Trdelník, while Slovakian and Transylvanian in origin, are a commonly found pastry in Eastern Europe countries like the Czech Republic. These street food delights consist of a crispy roasted dough coated in a buttery cinnamon-sugar and nut mixture. Some places will offer them with melted chocolate or Nutella inside.
Visit Cafe Louvre for the best svíčková: braised beef with bread dumplings in a delicious cream sauce. Finish off this hearty meal with by splitting their heavenly apple strudel for dessert. Now you’re fueled for a night out on the town!
Speaking of a night out on the town, did you know that many beers run cheaper than water in Prague? It’s true! Prague has an incredibly strong and ever-growing beer culture, and there’s never a shortage of pale ales, stouts, and IPA brews to sample. Take advantage of its presence by tasting a few at bars or via a brewery tour. Cheers!
3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
From coffee-shops and canals to tulips and tantalizing tastes, Amsterdam serves up a culinary scene as breathtaking as its artistic heritage.
The food that the Netherlands is perhaps most famous for is the stroopwafel. While these syrup-filled waffle cookies are popular enough that they’ve made their way to grocery store shelves outside of the Netherlands, nothing beats a stroopwafel served hot and fresh from a street vendor. They’re perfect on their own, or enjoyed as a sweet complement to a plain cup of coffee.
Haringhandels or fish stalls deliver raw herring that has been preserved in brine. This dish can be eaten alone or as a sandwich (known as broodje haring) and gives nod to the city’s port history. If you can’t stomach herring, you can always count on a street vendor dishing out crispy fries (served with a dollop of mayonnaise) or bitterballen, deep-fried meatballs that are the perfect pairing to Belgian beers.
Come night, feast on savory Indonesian food by ordering a rijsttafel
or rice table. This smorgasbord allows you to sample a large variety of Indonesian dishes, and is perfect for families. Craving something a little smaller? Pay a visit to the bountiful Cheese Room to pick up crackers, olives, and a block of Gouda. Or two. Or three.
4. San Sebastian, Spain
Trivia time: what city comes in second for the most Michelin stars per square meter? It’s San Sebastian, Spain, preceded only by Kyoto, Japan.
If you’re looking for luxury dining, this may be the unsurprising paradise for you to explore! Start your culinary adventure off with a trip to Mugaritz, which is currently listed as one of the top 50 restaurants to visit in the world. Michelin star dining not in your price range? No worries! There’s still plenty of amazing food to be had from street stalls and pintxo bars. “Pintxo”, which literally translates to ‘skewer’ and essentially suggests the presence of tapas, is a great way to sample a variety of great cooking at an affordable price. Slow-cooked veal cheeks, grilled octopus, peppers stuffed with salt cod, roasted suckling pig, baked egg custard with buttery caramelized brioche, and mushroom risotto are just a few of the offerings you have to look forward to. Each pintxo bar puts its own twist on the dishes it serves, so don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation from the chef or the locals!
5. Paris, France
Paris may be the city of love, but in this article, it’s the city of food!
Start your Parisian culinary journey off the proper way by first purchasing a fresh baguette from the boulangerie, paired with the finest “stinky” cheeses from the cheese shop, or fromagerie. If you’re looking for something a bit more filling, sit down at a cafe where you can enjoy authentic crepes (dessert or savory) and croque monsieur sandwiches.
Bide a little time before dinner by experiencing a professional dégustation or coffee tasting. Roasteries like Belleville Brûlerie offer cupping sessions where you can also purchase freshly-roasted beans to take home!
Come dinnertime, step into a traditional French bistro for tempting plates of oysters and wine-smothered chicken paired with bowls of dreamy ratatouille. Finish it off with a decadent chocolate mousse. If you’re feeling especially indulgent, stop into the famous Ladurée for a colorful sleeve of macaroons savored the french way— with a shot of dark espresso on the side.
6. Berlin, Germany
The culinary scene in Berlin has proven to extend far beyond merely that of its famous currywurst. In fact, in addition to its burgeoning list of Michelin star-rated restaurants and growing wine culture, Berlin is proving itself to be a marketplace for diverse cuisines, with flavors inspired by Scandinavian, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese influence.
Currywurst is nevertheless, a must. This simple albeit popular street food consists of a fried pork sausage smothered in curry ketchup. Pair it with a Pilsner and you’re good to go! You also can’t fail with a classic soft pretzel.
Every Thursday at the Markthalle Neun, street vendors gather for Street Food Thursday. Seize this opportunity to delve into German mac-and-cheese, Bavarian dumplings, and bao buns stuffed with pork belly. After you’ve worked off a lunch of street food, it’s imperative that you order schnitzel for dinner. Come breakfast, pick up a doughnut (nicknamed a “Berliner”) to enjoy with your kaffe.
7. London, United Kingdom
London is another great melting pot for which to discover both classic and diverse flavors.
The most classic of London’s flavor offerings, begin perhaps with breakfast. A full English breakfast, also called a “fry-up” consists of a hearty serving of sausage and bacon, beans, tomatoes, eggs, fried bread, and oftentimes (but not always) potatoes, black and white pudding, or mushrooms. For the best full English breakfast, visit a place like Hawksmoor Guidhall or the Regency Cafe.
London also serves home to a wide array of street markets, each one hosting food vendors offering everything from traditional fish and chips, to brisket burritos and Vietnamese banh mi. Indulge as you please, just make sure you save room for afternoon tea!
8. Thessaloniki, Greece
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece, after Athens. It’s as sun-drenched as it is flavor-drenched.
Any proper trip to Greece begins with a gyro. Pick these, along with koulouri (a type of bagel) and mpougatsa (a pastry filled with cheese or meat) up at a street-side stall to enjoy while you wander by the oceanfront. If it’s a bit warm out, grab a frappe, Greece’s most popular coffee drink, to cool off with.
Hit up Pizza Poselli for generous hunks of Greek-style pizza (thin crust, tangy sauce, loaded with local cheeses and a variety of vegetables) or Local for a fancier atmosphere that dishes out salmon carpaccio and Greek wines. End your visit right by indulging in a chunk of sticky-sweet baklava and stopping by the Mia Feta Bar; you haven’t had real feta cheese until you’ve experienced it fresh from the homeland.