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Where to Find the Best Food in Europe

With Europe beginning to open up, it’s time to start planning your next foodie adventure!  If you travel for food like I do, you may be wondering which European foods you should sample.  European cuisine is rich and varied, and each country and region has its own specialities and unique dishes.  So where can you find the best food in Europe?  Let’s explore all the delicious foods from Europe and see which tops the list!

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How to Choose Your Top European Food Destination

For some people, choosing which European country to visit is purely down to their delicious cuisine.  Italy is famous for pasta and pizza, whereas Spanish paella might top your list of European foods to try. However, some European dishes aren’t as well known. 

For foodies who love eating out at restaurants, knowing which cities have the most restaurants to choose from could help you decide.  CIA Landlord Insurance recently carried out a study to see which cities have the most restaurants per capita, and Lisbon in Portugal topped the list with 1 restaurant per 103 people living in the city.

Colourful Yellow Tram in Lisbon
Lisbon – The Best European City for Restaurant Lovers

Paris France came in at number two, with 1 restaurant per 124 people, followed by Florence Italy, Barcelona Spain and Palma de Mallorca in Spain rounding off the top 5.

Other visitors who prefer to browse local food markets and enjoy street food might be happier in Palermo Italy which is renowned for its cheap and tasty street food.  Markets in other Mediterranean countries like France, Spain and Greece are also very tempting – well, markets in every country really!

Then there is the style of cuisine to consider, which varies depending on the climate and the local ingredients.  In mountainous regions, European dishes are heartier and richer to fuel people through cold weather.  Warmer countries around the Mediterranean tend to have lighter food, with fresh vegetables and fruit providing the base for delectable salads which are equally tempting!

Other countries have a mix of everything with regional specialities providing the best of both worlds.  No matter where you choose, European foods will not disappoint but to help you narrow it down I’ve chosen my favourite contenders for the best food in Europe:

Countries with The Best Food in Europe

Italy

For me, Italy has to top the list.  OK yes, pasta and pizza are famous the world over but having freshly made ravioli in Milan, or sampling the simplest pasta with olive oil, tomato and basil in Florence, or with black pepper and pecorino cheese in Rome are not experiences that you easily forget.

Of course, there is more to Italian cuisine than just pizza and pasta.  Rich meat stews in the northern region of Trentino, an array of street food in Sicily, incredible seafood in Veneto, balsamic vinegar and Parmesano Reggiano cheese in Emilia Romagna, risottos, incredible cheeses, cured meats, wine and prosecco to name just a few of the mouth-watering foods you can enjoy in Italy. 

READ MORE: What to Eat in Venice Italy

Then, of course, you have Italian desserts to think about!  Tiramisu is the quintessential Italian sweet, with mascarpone cream, coffee, liqueur and a sprinkling of chocolate.  Gelato needs no introduction, and nowhere does ice cream better than Italy!

Tiramisu - Classic Italian has to be the Best Food in Europe
Tiramisu – Classic Italian has to be the Best Food in Europe

Austria

Austria is one of those European countries which surprised me with its food.  I’d heard of the Wiener Schnitzel before I visited, but I didn’t know much else about Austrian cuisine.  I quickly realised that some of the most iconic European foods were from Austria! 

Sacher Torte chocolate cake was invented in Vienna, and while there are rivalries for every famous dish I loved sampling the competing cakes to choose my favourite version (Café Demel if you’re wondering!).  Apple Strudel was also created here, and in the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace, you can watch it being made traditionally as it was for Austrian royalty.

READ MORE: What to Eat in Vienna Austria

Café culture is huge in Austria too, with the Austrian’s sweet tooth on display with the beautifully decorated cakes waiting to be sampled.  Austria has some splendid wines, and the cows from the mountain regions provide rich milk for chocolate and cheeses. 

Wiener Schnitzel breaded veal cutlet with new potatoes- European Food at its Finest
Wiener Schnitzel – European Food at its Finest

Spain

I fell in love with Spanish food when I lived in Barcelona.  And of course, I’m talking about more than just paella.  While traditional Valencian paella is made with chicken and rabbit, seafood paella is the most famous and while I adore it, I found an even more delicious alternative in the shape of black rice with cuttlefish. 

Tapas is another huge tick for Spanish cuisine, and the variety of tapas alone is staggering.  Fried aubergine with honey, chorizo with cider, grilled padrón peppers (where once in while you get a spicy one), sliced octopus sprinkled with smoked paprika, green beans fried with serrano ham and many, many more.  I’m drooling with the thought!

Then you have the classic Spanish olive oil, ham and wine and cava (the Catalan version of Champagne).  Manchego cheese and again, the simplest things are sometimes the best – my favourite breakfast of toasted bread rubbed with tomato and garlic with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Seafood Paella in Spain
Seafood Paella in Spain

Greece

It’s been a long time since I visited Greece, but memories of the food there have stayed with me.  Simple salads of cucumber, black olives and tomato topped with fresh herbs, olive oil and crumbly feta cheese. 

Substantial meat dishes like roast lamb or moussaka layered with aubergines and bechamel, grilled fish and gyros kebabs in pitta bread smothered with tzatziki yoghurt and cucumber sauce.  

A lunch of pitta bread with hummus and taramasalata, a bowl of olives,  stuffed vine leaves, feta and spinach puff pastry pies, or pastries filled with minced lamb or smothered in sweet honey and nuts.  All washed down with a glug of aniseed-flavoured ouzo.  What a meal!

Greek Salad - Some of the Best Food in Europe
Greek Salad – Some of the Best Food in Europe

Portugal

Like its Spanish neighbour, Portuguese food is incredible, but perhaps less well known around the world.  Pasteis de Nata custard tarts are probably the most popular dish to try, but regional cuisine in Portugal really shows off the best of Portuguese food! 

Fresh seafood is plentiful around Portugal’s long coastline to the east and south.  Cataplana was a revelation for me when I tried it on a food tour in the Algarve – a fish stew cooked in a copper pot filled to bursting with prawns, clams and cod. 

Further inland, dishes such as pork with clams in the Alentejo region or beef stew with creamed spinach were highlights for me when I visited Evora, whereas in Lisbon the humble bifana pork sandwich and cod fritters were my favourites on the food tour I took there.  Porto is famous for port and wine made in the city and in the nearby Douro Valley, and the calorific francesinha sandwich smothered in cheese with a fried egg on top as to be tried at least once!

Portuguese Custard Tarts - Delicious for Breakfast or Any Time of Day!
Portuguese Custard Tarts – Delicious for Breakfast or Any Time of Day!

Denmark

I have only visited Copenhagen in Denmark, but if the food there is anything to go by, Danish cuisine must be on your list of delicious foods in Europe.  Start the day with a bowl of hot porridge with your topping of choice, suggestions include chopped apple, nuts and toffee sauce which I can confirm was very tasty!

With a vast coastline, trying the seafood in Denmark is a must – in particular pickled herring which is most popular here.  Served curled up on an open sandwich with red onion, pickle and dill, it has a delicate and slightly sweet flavour.

READ MORE: What to Eat in Copenhagen Denmark

Smorrebrod open sandwiches are an attractive way to eat your lunch, with beautifully arranged toppings such as chicken mayo and bacon, fish patties or egg and prawns.  I defy you to choose just one.

Smørrebrød Open Sandwiches from Copenhagen
Smørrebrød Open Sandwiches from Copenhagen

Hungary

Goulash is the most famous Hungarian dish, and when visiting Hungary you must try this wholesome soup.  It is indeed a soup, not a stew, in Hungary – made with slow cooked beef and flavoured with paprika.  Paprikash is more of a stew, with a thicker sauce again flavoured with paprika but can be found with different meats, and even fish or mushrooms.

Lángos is the Hungarian street food of choice, a flat, deep-fried bread topped with sour cream and cheese as well as an array of optional extra toppings.  Cheap and filling, they’re not to be missed! 

READ MORE: What to Eat in Budapest Hungary

For dessert, try the palacsinta pancakes filled with fruit jam or cottage cheese, Dobos Torta chocolate cake with a crisp caramel top or a traditional poppyseed cake.  A shot of palinka fruit brandy will round off your meal nicely and give you a wonderful introduction to Hungarian food.

Goulash - European Food from Hungary
Goulash – European Food from Hungary

France

Ahhh France.  I almost forgot about France!  Some people regard French cuisine as the best in the world, and while that accolade goes to Peru in my book, there is no denying that French food is some of the best food in Europe. 

Although I no longer eat foie gras for ethical reasons, I still remember a meal I ate in Paris, where I tasted it for the first time in a restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower.  French food may seem overly fancy, but there is no need to dine in expensive restaurants to enjoy the best French dishes.  A bowl of steamed mussels in a white wine sauce, served with crisp frites French fries is one of my personal favourites.

I lost my heart to a particularly ripe camembert as it oozed onto the crunchy baguette I’d bought from the little bakery on the corner of the street, and couldn’t resist the array of cakes, pastries and macarons for dessert.

I ate fish soup every day from the trucker’s café near where I stayed in Perpignan, then filled my plate from the buffet of pâté, terrine and salads before tucking into cassoulet sausage and bean stew or a duck breast with blackcurrant sauce followed with a mousse au chocolat

Forget the expensive haute cuisine, and enjoy the simple ingredients from local market stalls and shops and you cannot go wrong!    

Simple and Classic Moules Frites from France - A Bowl of steamed mussels with french fries
Simple and Classic Moules Frites from France

The United Kingdom

Hear me out.  I know that British food has a terrible reputation around the globe but I truly believe that the UK is worthy of a place up there among the countries with the best food in Europe.  While I adore fish and chips, British seafood is far more than fried cod and potatoes.  Scottish salmon, Norfolk crab and Cornish oysters and lobster will rival any other you can find. 

Afternoon tea was born here, and until you’ve argued about which goes first – the clotted cream or the jam – in Devon and Cornwall I swear you haven’t lived!  British cheeses are begrudgingly accepted by the French, and our vineyards are changing how British wine producers are seen too.

Without trying haggis, a Sunday roast dinner and sticky toffee pudding and custard, washed down with a pint of cider or beer you absolutely cannot say a bad word against British food!

READ MORE: An Edinburgh Food Tour

The other huge benefit of British cuisine is the variety.  Nowhere else in Europe can you find this range and quality of international restaurants all in one place.  In most British cities you could eat a different cuisine every night of the week and still find something new and exciting the next day. 

Haggis Neeps and Tatties - British Food is More than Just Fish and Chips
Haggis Neeps and Tatties – British Food is More than Just Fish and Chips

 

These are just a few of the best countries for food in Europe.  However, there are lots of other foods from Europe that I haven’t tried yet – pierogi in Poland, fondue in Switzerland, waffles in Belgium…. The list goes on.  Gradually I aim to visit every country in Europe and to try all of the European foods I can!  Which will you choose for your next trip?

 

One thought on “Where to Find the Best Food in Europe

  1. JoJo Hall says:

    Awesome post! I’m such a picky eater and it’s hard for me to break out of my comfort zone to try new foods while I’m traveling. But some of these dishes from countries I didn’t get the chance to visit the last time I was in Europe look awesome and I wouldn’t mind giving them a try.

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