Be it authentic paella in Valencia, a traditional Neapolitan pizza or mouth-watering meze in a tempting Greek taverna, there’s a seemingly-endless variety of tempting cuisine on offer throughout Europe. And yet, whether you opt for Michelin-starred fine dining, a hearty local speciality or a simple snack, there’s a common and consistent thread running through the underbelly of European gastronomy, that is to say that whatever your destination or budget, you’re guaranteed to eat well. We’ve picked just a few of our favourite foodie cities where your dining experiences are likely to be as memorable as the sights you see.
A somewhat predictable start maybe but as much as Paris is recognised as the capital of romance, it rightfully lays claim to being Europe’s capital of cuisine, too. This is, after all, the home of the Michelin Guide and boasts more three-Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city. And yet, you don’t have to go down the fine dining route to enjoy a meal of memorable proportions; you’ll find intimate bistros and cosy cafés all over the city (move away from the main touristy areas for some true hidden gems) where you can soak up the quintessential Parisian ambience over a leisurely lunch. Or for a simple yet equally satisfying meal on the hop, stock up on baguettes and fresh pastries and enjoy an impromptu alfresco picnic against one of Paris’ many iconic backdrops.
France’s second city, Lyon is often overlooked by Paris when it comes to epicurean affairs and yet offers a richness of cuisine to rival the capital and leaves many a gourmand itching to return for more. Set at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, this beautiful city is architecturally reminiscent of Tuscany with the cobbled streets of Vieux Lyon lined by grand restaurants and traditional, tempting bouchons serving gourmet food and local specialities, all accompanied of course by the wine of the nearby Côtes du Rhône. Just wandering around the city’s 40-plus daily markets, sampling regional cheeses, sausage or fresh oysters is a real treat and an absolute must is Les Halles de Lyon, a veritable Mecca for the food buff.
Waffles – check. Chocolates – absolutely. Moule-frites – why not? Beer – oh yes! As standard on any itinerary to Brussels as the Mannekin Pis and the Grand’Place, Brussels’ most famous foodie offerings would satiate the stomach rumblings of most visitors to the Belgian capital. And yet, Brussels more than holds its own against the gastronomic powerhouses of Paris, Rome and Barcelona, boasting in fact over 130 restaurants per square mile and the highest density of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe. It even has its very own annual beer festival!
When in Rome, mangia! With a cuisine as rich and diverse as its architectural heritage, you’d be hard pressed to have a bad meal in Rome. Whilst traditional Roman cuisine is rich and filling, you’ll find an abundance of pleasant pizzerias, tempting trattorias and fine-dining restaurants offering menus infused with flavours and dishes originating from Tuscany, Sicily, Emilia Romagna and indeed every region of this gastronomically-rich country. Steel yourself for a morning’s exploration with a pre-requisite espresso and keep up the energy levels by feasting throughout the day, it goes without saying you’ll be positively spoilt for choice.
With so many more cities to mention, we couldn’t possibly leave it there. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll pay a gastronomic homage to Barcelona, Bologna, Copenhagen and Istanbul.