The best food cities for the hungry traveler

From street food to slow food to decadent sweets, eat your way through different world cultures with our 13 best foodie destinations

Explore the best street markets in Hanoi, Vietnam

Explore the best street markets in Hanoi, Vietnam

Category Cities

Date 10th April 2017

For those who believe a particular dish is reason enough to travel half way around the world, here’s a list of foodie destinations across the globe to delight your traveling tastebuds.

Farm-to-table – Vancouver, Canada

Veggie heaven at Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver
Veggie heaven at Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver

If it’s not local, it’s not on their table. Generous agricultural lands, pampered by a long growing climate, Vancouver has access to an array of regional produce from all across British Columbia. Get your fix of colorful, seasonal fruits and veggies at the stalls of the Granville Island Public Market and Nat Bailey farmer’s market, selling local products all year-round.

Farm-to-table isn’t just a trend but a way of life for the restaurant Farmer’s Apprentice. The exclusively seasonal menus may evolve based on the weather or the chef’s emotions, but one thing is consistent: you’ll only get the freshest products from local farms right onto your fork. Treat yourself to their Northern Divine caviar and Gem oysters. At the restaurant Burdock & Co, with your first spoonful of sea urchin rice congee you’ll be tasting raw materials from BC’s islands, coastlines, valleys and urban gardens. By the last spoonful, you’ll be full of the pure goodness offered by the Canadian Pacific Northwest.

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Fine dining – Lima, Peru

Cebiche, a typical fish dish of Peru's coastal regions, as served at Astrid & Gaston
Cebiche, a typical fish dish of Peru’s coastal regions, as served at Astrid & Gaston © spersper

Three restaurants in Lima have made a name for themselves as the world’s 50 best restaurants.

The restaurant Central embarks you on a gastronomical journey through varying Peruvian ecosystems. An array of products intricately selected by a team of investigators makes every dish a celebration of Peru’s coast, mountains, or Amazon. Or in the Miraflores district, transport your taste buds to Asia with the restaurant Maido’s Nikkei and Japanese cuisine, infused with rare Peruvian ingredients and cooking techniques. And if your head isn’t spinning by then, wait until you try Astrid & Gaston’s cebiche (cured raw fish), a masterpiece of elegance and Peruvian heritage. Their tasting menu Lima de todas las sangres (The blood that flows through Lima) is a well-curated tour through the heart of the capital.

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Masters of meat – Montevideo, Uruguay

Can you hear the sizzle? Meats cooking on the parrilla at the Mercado del Puerto
Can you hear the sizzle? Meats cooking on the parrilla at the Mercado del Puerto

The tug-o-war between Uruguay and Argentina to win the title of king of meats is enough for you to pack your fork and knife and judge for yourself. In Uruguay, a nation of 12 million cattle, you’ll often come across old markets busy with the sound of meats sizzling on the parrillas (open grills). Sink your teeth into some of the world’s best grass-fed beef at the Mercado del Puerto, the old port market in Montevideo inaugurated in 1868.

Chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), achuras (offals) – anything a carnivore could desire just dripping on the hot coals. If the endless spirals of sizzling sausages don’t give you the meat sweats, wait until you top your choripan (grilled chorizo in a baguette) with chimichurri, a Uruguayan pesto with red-pepper flakes that pack a punch.

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Raw food – Sydney, Australia

Stay fresh with juices from Parisi Café right by Bondi Beach, Sydney
Stay fresh with juices from Parisi Café right by Bondi Beach, Sydney

Like a wave over Manly Beach, the Aussies in Sydney are surfing on the raw food trend. With a sunny climate across most of the country, fruits and vegetables grow in abundance, giving easy access to fresh produce.

At the restaurant Earth to Table, tuck into a sky-high bowl of zucchini pasta before grabbing some sunshine in the Centennial Park. Craving a raw treat? Pana Chocolate will have you drooling over their raw Caramel Choc Chunk cake slices. There’s even something for the carnivores – Raw Bar in Bondi serves plenty of raw Japanese-inspired options with the advantage of being close to the beach.

Slop on the sunscreen, and sip up the vitamins and minerals in a raw foods smoothie from Parisi café to keep as a cool as a cucumber under the scalding sun.

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Street Food – Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi street food © Maxime Guilbot
Hanoi street food © Maxime Guilbot

Vietnam is the mecca of street food. Among the dizzying traffic and noisy markets of the capital, Hanoi, you’ll find street hawkers, food carts and makeshift cafés at every turn – all dishing out some genuinely fresh speciality, ready to be devoured on the spot.

Sit down on tiny plastic stools on Ta Hien Street to enjoy some hot and fluffy Banh Bao stuffed with marinated pork, hit up a corner stall for some lotus root-infused sticky rice, or take a food tour with Hidden Hanoi and let an expert guide wind you through busy streets and hidden alleyways to find the best Bun Cha (barbecued pork with fresh noodles) in town.

Hanoi may owe its emblematic café culture to the French bringing over coffee in the 19th century but they have certainly made it their own. Try the cà phê trứng at Café Giang, a traditional coffee made with egg whites – it’s like drinking creamy tiramisu out of a cup.

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Vegan foods – Berlin, Germany

Vegan burger in Berlin
Vegan burger in Berlin © Mr. iMaax. ☜

Kermit said it first: it’s not easy being green. If you want nothing more than to feast on sustainably-grown produce, with no hint of animal products in sight, look no further than Germany’s capital.

Berlin is bursting with vegetarian and vegan-friendly options and the culinary scene is as diverse as the city’s international population. With an all-vegan supermarket chain called Veganz, a butcher called The Vegetarian Butcher slicing plant-based delicatessen anybody would mistake for the real stuff, and the world’s first ‘vegan avenue’ Schivelbeiner Straße – welcome to herbivore heaven.

Book a table at Lucky Leek for some fine vegan dining or cool down with a creamy scoop at Der Eisbärliner.

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Unusual culinary experiences – Tokyo, Japan

A dinner and a robot show? Everything's possible at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo
A dinner and a robot show? Everything’s possible at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo © eddy_

If it’s stepping out of your culinary comfort zone you’re after, the borderline bizarre gastronomic experiences Tokyo has to offer might just be for you.

Want to try over-the-top concepts? Have your meal handcuffed in a prison cell at Alcatraz E.R., watch robot fights while you eat at Robot Restaurant, to name a few – and that’s just the setting. The restaurant Asadachi is the king of getemono (grotesque foods). They serve up a hot serving of like grilled salamander, frog sashimi, raw pig testicles, and – breathe in – still-beating frog’s heart.

When it comes to unusual snacks, Japan is the proud mastermind behind wasp crackers, seaweed sandwiches and octopus ice-cream. Would you like a curry lemonade with that?

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Sweet treats – Paris, France

Treat yourself to a sweet macaroon at Ladurée
Treat yourself to a sweet macaroon at Ladurée

The truth is, for those with a sweet-tooth, it’s hard to go wrong in Paris – every few hundred feet there’s a shop window singing its own proud ode to gourmandising.

The café Angelina sees lines forming around the block for its famed hot chocolate, the patisserie Jacques Genin does a mille-feuille “à la minute” so delicate it’s no wonder they call him the “Picasso of pastry”, and ordering macaroons at chic Ladurée – the pâtisserie responsible for all the decadent confectionary featured in the 2006 Marie Antoinette film – is not unlike shopping for fine jewellery.

Jean-Paul Hévin is the master of all things chocolate and you really haven’t lived until you’ve tried Pierre Hermé’s pièce-de-resistance: the Ispahan croissant, an almond-raspberry-lychee affair sprinkled with candied rose petals that is bordering on obscene.

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Fast food and burgers – Washington, D.C., USA

Burgers prepared by the minute with fresh ingredients at In-N-Out burger joint
Burgers prepared by the minute with fresh ingredients at In-N-Out burger joint

It isn’t a cliché if it’s the truth – the USA is the home to the most fast food restaurants per capita. And the winning title goes to the city of Paducah, Kentucky as the city with the highest density of fast food restaurants (13.18 fast food joints per 10k people, to be exact). However, this UNESCO Creative City is more often visited for its craftsmanship and National Quilt Museum than for its abundance of fast food.

For the best burgers, you’ll have the go cross-country from East to West – starting with Five Guys burgers in Washington, D.C. At Five Guys, the classic burger, fries, and Coca-Cola combo don’t disappoint since their opening in 1986, proudly using fresh ground beef for the juiciest of patties. In the other corner, the West Coast fast-food diner In-N-Out is quite the competitor.

Founded in California in 1948, perhaps it’s In-N-Out’s Double-Double (double patty) burger with its signature sauce that makes it the best, or maybe it’s their secret menu with secret recipes that makes them unique – you decide.

For the really dirty junk food as we all know it, Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas takes the cake. The menu – all-you-can-eat Flatliner Fries cooked in pure lard, and Bypass Burgers up to about 8,000 calories. Eat this meal of a lifetime at your own risk.

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Coffee shops – Helsinki, Finland

Warm up at Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo coffee roasters
Warm up at Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo coffee roasters

With an average of 2.64 cups of coffee per person per day, the Finnish are the world’s biggest coffee consumers. Perhaps it’s a way to stay warm during the long, cold winters, or maybe now it’s become a habit to socialize around a warm drink in the many good coffee shops.

Helsinki’s answer to this coffee addiction is a sprouting of quality roasters and cafés around the capital. In an old garage in the meatpacking district, Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo (Helsinki Coffee Roastery) serves fresh, seasonal, speciality coffees. On Aleksanterinkatu, the main shopping street, coffee aficionados will appreciate the centrally located La Torrefazione for their use of syphon filtered coffee. The more traditional Italian espresso and macchiato are served at Signora Delizia, a tiny coffee shop frequented by the truest of coffee lovers.

A stone’s throw from the SkyWheel, board the giant panoramic wheel and soar 40 metres over the city. Get a bird’s eye view of Market Square and the Uspenski Cathedral just in time for your next coffee break!

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Slow food – Florence, Italy

Antipasti from Italy
Antipasti from Italy © Winniepix

Ask an Italian which is the best city in Italy for food and chances are they’ll point you in the direction of wherever they grew up. If you have the time, by all means, drive across the country trying all the regional staples like Stecchi alla Genovese (fried meat skewer) or Saltimbocca alla Romana (prosciutto-wrapped veal)… With such reputed traditional and regional cuisine, it comes as no surprise that an organisation such as Slow Food, founded in Italy, strives to preserve the small traditional food business in the face larger “faster” food corporations.

Tuscany is at the heart of the Italian talent for slow-cooking, slow-eating and that oh-so-sweet dolce far niente (delicious idleness). Head to the region’s capital, Florence, for all the prosciutto, pecorino and pappardelle you can handle, directly sourced from farmers, at Culinaria De Gustibus Bistro. More than a restaurant, the De Gustibus is a network of local farmers, passionate about organically grown traditional food. Join a De Gustibus tour or workshop to get your hands on delicious Tuscan wines and dishes.

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Food festivals – New York, USA

An iconic New York City food truck
An iconic New York City food truck

There are heaps going on in New York City, any given time of year. From a chili cook-off to a Jamaican Jerk festival and food truck rallies, this is a city that likes to celebrate its food.

Here’s a small sample of what’s on in the coming spring and summer months: Brooklyn’s weekend Smorgasburg market sells delicious eats from virtually every world kitchen you can think of, and the Broadway Bites culinary pop-up market promotes local artisans and small businesses.

Then there’s the Food Film Fest, where you eat the food featured in the films as you watch them, and at the huge NYC Wine & Food Festival, you can pick and choose from activities like mozzarella-making, dining with a celebrity chef or indulging on champagne and fried chicken on Pier 92.

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Local markets – Mexico City, Mexico

Prickly pear cactus at the Mercado San Juan in Mexico City
Prickly pear cactus at the Mercado San Juan in Mexico City © katiebordner

Getting lost among the regular shoppers and rows of goods in a city’s markets is one of the best ways to witness local culture and daily life in action. With over 300 mercados (markets) spread across the different neighborhoods, in Mexico City you’re truly spoiled for choice.

Mercado de la Merced, set in the grounds of the old monastery in the historic centre, has been a favourite since colonial times and sells everything from cacti to candy to chicharrón (pork rinds), while Mercado de San Juan nearby the Palace of Fine Arts is where chefs and serious foodies go for rare ingredients and imported products.

The crown jewel is La Central de Abasto, the largest wholesale market in the world, where you’ll find bright displays of fruit, vegetables, salty Oaxacan cheeses – piled dangerously high in hopes of attracting the buyers’ attention – and a seemingly endless supply of tortas (Mexican sandwich), tamales (steamed corn meal) and tortillas. Dig in.

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Looking for more travel inspiration? Eat your way through the city with New York’s best on-the-go eats, Paris’ top food spots, and our favorite restaurants in Copenhagen

Originally published

10th April 2017