12+ Underrated European Destinations for Food Lovers


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You know Paris is known for baguettes and Germany’s Bavaria region for pretzels, but let’s dive into those off-the-beaten path culinary jewels you might not be aware of. Warning: this list may cause hunger!

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1. Aarhus, Denmark

While many go straight to Copenhagen when visiting Denmark, Aarhus isn’t to be overlooked. Named the European Capital of Culture in 2017, Aarhus has museums and funky neighborhoods that make for fun exploration.

When it comes to food, Aarhus is as metropolitan and worldly when it comes to flavor as its big sister Copenhagen, but it also boasts more traditional Danish dishes like Smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich; Æbleflæsk, a dish with apples, salted pork belly, and herbs; and flæskesteg, roasted pork with cracklings.

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2. Budapest, Hungary

If you’re “Hungary” (couldn’t resist), Budapest is a great place to be. After visiting the Castle District or contemplating The Shoes on the Danube Promenade, cozy up to the nearest restaurant offering local far like lángos, deep-fried flatbread with toppings; goulash, a hearty stew of meat and vegetables; or rakott krumpli, scalloped potatoes.

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3. Calabria, Italy

This southern region of Italy doesn’t get as much attention as Tuscany or Sicily, and yet it’s a nearly-untouched natural gem, with graceful mountains and crystal-clear waters.

Foodwise, spice lovers will be happiest here, as the peperoncino (chili pepper) reigns supreme. Try it mixed with meat in ‘nduja, a spicy spread; in salsiccia, spicy sausage either cooked or smoked; or even to spice up aglio e olio, the ubiquitous pasta dish of oil and garlic.

You’ll also find unique cheese like provola and caciocavallo, as well as seppia (squid) and spada (swordfish) to tempt your tummy.

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4. Lyon, France

Lyon offers something for everyone, with the Musée Cinéma et Miniature, Parc de la Tête d’Or, and the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, but above all, it’s known as the gastronomic capital of France.

Sample delicacies like quenelle (fish croquette), fromage blanc (cheese spread with herbs, salt, oil and vinegar), or andouillette (spiced pork sausage and wine) at one of many charming bistros in the city, or if you love food markets, check out Les Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse.

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5. Kraków, Poland

While you certainly can find traditional dishes like pierogi and kielbasa in Kraków, you might be surprised at how modern many of the restaurants are. You can find unique spins on classics like borscht soup with beets or golabki cabbage rolls that are anything but old-school.

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6. Porto, Portugal

Too many tourists turn to Lisbon when looking for the ultimate Portuguese culinary experience, but Porto shouldn’t be overlooked. After gazing in awe at the bookstore Livraria Lello, where J.K. Rowling was inspired to write her Harry Potter series, check out the iconic Mercado do Bolhão, a historic market with vendors who are happy to tell you about the food they sell.

In terms of local flavors, seek out francesinha, a sandwich on steroids; bacalhau, dried and salted cod; and pastéis, a custard tart.

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7. Galway, Ireland

On the Green Isle, Galway is the hidden foodie gem. Located on the west coast, the city offers many fresh seafood dishes, including mussels and oysters. And there are solid Irish classics like stew and scones, always washed down with a Guinness or tea…depending on the time of day!

Plan it right, and you could also enjoy local music when you dine in a pub!

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8. Belgrade, Serbia

After exploring the Kalemegdan fortress, strolling along Knez Mihailova Street at sunset, and maybe even taking a sunset cruise, it’s time to think about what’s for dinner in Belgrade.

Local delicacies include cevapi, a grilled dish of minced meat; ajvar, a spread made of sweet bell peppers and eggplant; and gibanica (egg and cheese pie made with filo dough). Serbia also produces fantastic wine and rakija, brandy made from fruit.

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9. Crete, Greece

Food doesn’t get any fresher than it is on Crete, Greece’s largest island. This was the birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet, which people all over the world have tried to emulate, though nothing comes close to the original.

Even fruits and vegetables taste better here, cultivated in the rich soil of Crete under the hot Greek sun. Be sure to try dakos (a variation on the Greek salad), lamb with chicory, or gamopilafo (a rice dish). And if you’re brave, wash it down with locally-made raki.

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10. Tirana, Albania

While there are still traces of its Communist past, Tirana is all modern these days. Pay a visit to Bunk’Art 1, an art museum in what used to be an anti-nuclear bunker. And a trip up the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car will give you unparalleled views of the city.

But let’s talk food. Try fërgesë, a dish of tomatoes, roasted peppers, feta, onions, and yogurt. Or byrek, a spiral pie of phyllo dough, spinach, and feta.

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11. Innsbruck, Austria

Not too far from the Italian border, Innsbruck is completely about comfort food. Tiroler speckknödel, bacon dumplings with sauerkraut, chives, and brown butter, will leave you satiated, as will käsespätzle, homemade egg noodles with cheese and onions.

But no matter how full you are, you must try dessert. Either apfelstrudel (apple pie) or sachertorte (chocolate tart) will hit the spot. You may need a nap afterward!

Image Credit: Colby D./Yelp.

12. Brussels

Because it has French and Dutch influence, as well as a little German for good measure, Brussels is a culinary melting pot. It’s known for its Belgian chocolate; in fact, there’s an entire street that is filled with chocolate shops selling pralines (bonbons with different flavors inside) right near the famous Mannekin Pis statue of a nude boy relieving himself.

But save the chocolate for after dinner. First, grab one of the many artisanal Belgian beers to sip while you consider your options. Will you try moules frites, mussels with french fries? Or maybe a hearty waterzooi, stew with chicken or fish and vegetables? There’s also américain, the Belgian version of beef tartare.

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Other Cities to Consider

If you’re still hungry after visiting all these cities, here are a few other underrated gourmet destinations to consider:

  • Cartmel, England
  • Prague
  • Stuttgart, Germany

If you truly want to sample some of the best food Europe offers, skip the spots everyone else is visiting on Instagram. Instead, find the places the locals eat, and you’ll have an unparalleled foodie experience on your next vacation!

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