Europe boasts some of the world’s most iconic attractions. The Colosseum, the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, and the city of London, to name but a few. It’s the continent that birthed emperors and kings, poets and painters, and high street fashion. It’s also the home of pizza.
Well played, Europe.
For foodie travellers, Europe’s classic cuisine will always be a drawcard. With 44 countries, each with its own heritage of authentic dishes, and each enjoying a vibrant street food or local market scene; not to forget that there are just under 800 Michelin starred restaurants across the continent (only 23 of which enjoy the highest honour: 3 stars), it’s safe to say the menu in Europe is pretty diverse.
Hungry yet? Here’s your guide to dining in Europe:
When in Austria, be sure to tuck into a slice of traditional apfelstrudel (appel strudel), washed down with Viennese coffee. Surprisingly, this famous Austrian dessert did not originate in the land of the waltz but travelled an extensive route from Arabia via the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, before becoming a resident of Vienna.
Any respectable restaurant in Croatia will have a crni rizot (black squid risotto) on its menu, which is often served with other seafood, particularly mussels, clams and shellfish. If squid-ink rice is not to your liking, opt for the classic Croatian, brudet (fish stew) served with polenta.
France is food-famous; it’s like the Meryl Streep of the culinary scene – gorgeous, celebrated, classy, but a little aloof. So, where to begin?
We suggest kicking off your food journey in France with the humble baguette, a tasty ingredient of French culture. First thing in the morning, pop into the local boulangerie to pick up a warm loaf before hunting down the perfect croissant au beurre in Paris. Add some cheese – a little comté or camembert will do nicely. When dining out, be sure to order one of the classics, from soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup) to coq au vin, cassoulet, or confit de canard. If you’re on the hunt for something sweet and decidedly traditional, order the tarte tatin or chocolate soufflé.
Loosen the belt on your lederhosen… Germany is an altogether delicious destination! Start with bratwürst, a famous short and thin sausage which originated in Nürnberg, or tuck into its Berlin counterpart, currywurst. Another top German dish to try is kartoffelpuffer (potato pancake), available pretty much everywhere. Whatever you eat in Germany, it’s just good manners to wash it down with a decent beer. Hefeweizen, a cloudy, Bavarian-style wheat brew is the best by popular opinion.
A bit like a kebab, a Greek gyro is an institution – especially on the islands. Typically, chicken, pork, lamb or beef pieces are cooked on a rotisserie and wrapped in a pita along with salad, onions and a variety of sauces. These are awesome to grab on-the-go.
Ireland is enjoying something of a foodie Rennaissance, with a burgeoning gastro pub scene. But it’s still potatoes that make menu headlines in the Emerald Isle. Long before kale became popular as a superfood, the Irish have been mashing it into potatoes with milk, butter and scallions and calling it Colcannon. It’s possibly the world’s greatest comfort food, alongside Irish Stew. Unless you’re avoiding carbs. Then it’s sorry-for-you.
Go on and give yourself permission to Eat Pray Love your way through Italy. The boot-shaped country is famous for its pizza and pasta – both eaten slowly, and among friends, and followed by a serving of gelato.
As far as sandwiches go, Portugal lays claim to the best. Bifanas are so popular, you’ll find them everywhere in the country. Served with pork in a crunchy Portuguese roll, the secret is in the marinade, which is made with spices including paprika and garlic, and white wine.
In Spain, paella is a must. There are three traditional ways the dish is served: Paella Valenciana (white rice, vegetables, chicken, duck and rabbit meat, land snails, beans, and spices), Seafood Paella (rice, seafood, and seasoning), and Paella Mixta, which is a freestyle mix of rice, chicken, seafood, vegetables, olive oil, saffron, and other spices. It’s a great summer dish and goes down well with a cold jug of sangria.
Even if you have never been to Switzerland, you’ve probably had Swiss chocolate. Lindt bunny, anyone? Swiss chocolate is famous for two reasons: cocoa butter, which makes the chocolate quick to melt at body temperature, and Alpine milk, produced by cows roaming the grassy mountain regions.
Who knew? Turkey’s Şiş kebap (shish kebab) is actually an umbrella term that refers to a whole host of streets foods – not just the skewered meat that we’ve come to know and love in Mzansi.
You can’t talk about food in England without mentioning tea. Afternoon tea is not to be missed – whether you’re in London or Inverness. Originally a drink reserved for the upper class, tea has evolved to a daily norm. In fact, the entire United Kingdom drinks nearly 165 million cups in a day – that’s 62 billion cups a year. Count yourself in good company and have a cuppa.
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