My favourite foodie cities
For me, one of the most exciting things about travelling is sampling the food of different cultures and regions. Towns and cities are some of the best places to sample the local cuisine, not least because there are lots of opportunities in a small area. Some cities have become synonymous with food and I often refer to them as foodie cities.
Europe has a huge variety of cultural cuisines. You could travel a whole lifetime and still not experience all that Europe has to offer the foodie. I have selected a few foodie cities that I would recommend as foodie destinations.
If Paris is the heart of France then Lyon certainly is its stomach. The late Paul Bocuse, a Lyonnaise chef, did much to put the city on the modern foodie map. His own restaurant, the l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, achieved three Michelin stars and was renown the world over. He also operated a string of brasseries in Lyon, named Le Nord, l’Est, Le Sud and l’Ouest, each specialising in different aspects of French cuisine.
Apart from fine dining, there are a number of rustic restaurants called bouchons. These were originally run by women and provided food for the many silk workers of Lyon. They used cheaper cuts of meat and peasant food cooked well and innovatively. Today this tradition has been kept alive and you will find many of these on street corners all over the city.
Visit the market stalls of Les Halles de Paul Bocuse for all kinds of Lyonnaise treats including macaroons and the famous Quenelles de Brochet.
Evora, Alentejo in Portugal
Alentejo is a south-central region of Portugal and is known as the most authentic and preserved regions of the country especially in relation to food
The simple, honest cuisine, that Alentejo is known for is best experienced in the regional city of Evora. Much of the local cuisine is based on the regions produce. Almonds, wheat, fine olive oil, beans, vegetables, honey and of course the meat of the free-range, acorn-fed black pig are the basis for the food in Evora. There are plenty of eateries in the city but it is worth visiting the farmers market for a taste of local produce such as ewe’s milk cheese and the local bread, Pão Alentejano.
One of the most famous types of meat you’ll find here is raca Alentejanao often referred to as porco preto (or black pork). This is from the free-range, acorn-fed black Iberian pigs and has been described by many as a magical taste sensation.
As Alentejo borders the sea you can also expect to find a plentiful supply of seafood in Evora, based mostly around octopus, cod and sardines. Sopa cação is a favourite local fish dish; a hearty thick dogfish soup it is often eaten as a main course.
The Danish capital is a relative newcomer to the gastronomic scene. This is due not just to pastries and bacon but the opening of Noma. This Michelin-starred restaurant gave birth to what became known as ‘New Nordic Cuisine’ which champions local and in-season produce to create simple but elegant dishes using traditional Nordic techniques.
However, there is more to Danish and Copenhagen food than Michelin-starred establishments. Danish cheeses and smoked or pickled herring feature strongly. The classic Smørrebrød, an open sandwich of buttered rye bread, often topped with a combination of egg, marinated herring, beef tartar or cod roe is a must-have. It is also the place to try what we British and Americans call Danish pastries and the Danish callWeinerbrød or Viennese Bread.
Rome is a must on every foodie’s bucket list. It is a melting pot of all the different regions and much of the food reflects this. There is a reason why there are so many food tours and cooking schools offered to visitors to the Italian capital.
The passeggiata is an evening stroll taken in the evening for the purpose of socialising and is an Italian tradition taken seriously in Rome. Public places and piazzas and filled with people gently walking around. This is the time to eat gelato, the Italian version of ice-cream. Rich and decadent it is available all over Italy but Rome has some, though not all, of the best gelateria.
Bari, Puglia (The heel of Italy)
Visit Puglia’s seaport Bari to taste its exceptional street food.
Inside the Old City, street food lives up to its name. Either it is prepared in small cupboard-like recesses in the walls or cooked actually outside the front doors of the families making it. Most popular are the focaccia barese, a bread topped with olive oil, tomatoes and herbs; orecchiette, literally “little ear” shaped pasta; and spagliozze, deep-fried squares of cornmeal. Finally, finish off with a generous helping of rich and creamy gelato from the gelateria in the piazza.
Greek food is one of the world’s most popular cuisines and Thessaloniki on the Aegean coast is the best place to sample it.
The street food of Thessaloniki has a well-deserved reputation as being the best in Greece. Most common are the koulouri, similar to a bagel; gyros, meat-filled pita bread with yoghurt or sauce; mpougasta, pastries filled with cheese, cream or meat. Sweet flaky pastries are everywhere and popular snacks. Souvlaki, also a popular street food, is a Greek version of the ubiquitous kebab.
In the restaurants and tavernas, you will find traditional Greek dishes such as moussaka, lamb dishes and, in the Kalamaria area, some of the best fish dishes in Greece. The more informal tavernas will serve mezedopola, small plates or mezes, filled with bite-sized food to go with your drink.
There are so many more foodie cities to visit and everyone will have a different recommendation. Those above are my current recommendations and will over time change I have no doubt. Which foodie cities would you recommend?
NOTE: An edited version of this post, written by the author, first appeared on the Avanti Travel Insurance blog. This post is a fuller version and includes an additional foodie city.