If you’re passionate about travel, you might be passionate about trying new food too. Exploring new cuisines, whether it’s wandering through food markets, grabbing a bite at a street food stall, or sitting down to a gourmet meal, is one of the very best parts of exploring the world – and trying to recreate these new dishes when you get home is all part of the fun!
So if you’re passionate about food, where are some of the most exciting and versatile destinations in the world?
From treating yourself to tapas in San Sebastián and tucking into sushi in Tokyo to trying tasty vegan food in Bali and feasting on pasta and fine wine in Tuscany, here are 11 of the best travel destinations for foodies.
1. San Sebastián, Spain
If you love Spanish food, you might have already been to Barcelona to tuck into tapas – or at least have dreamed of doing so.
However, San Sebastián, on the north coast of Spain, is arguably the foodie capital of the country. Tapas might have a different name in this small Basque city – it’s called pintxos – but it’s just as delicious. And that’s just the beginning…there’s plenty more on the menu here.
For starters, San Sebastián has one of the highest numbers of Michelin stars per square metre, coming second only to Kyoto in Japan, and greatly surpassing far bigger cities like Paris or New York. Three restaurants here have even been awarded three Michelin stars, which is perhaps one of the highest tributes in the world of food. So if you love fine dining, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
San Sebastián’s casual dining scene is a treat too. Its coastal location means it boasts some of the best seafood in the world, like bacalao al pil pil, a crispy fried cod dish. And its unique pintxos are pieces of bread topped with ingredients like prawns, anchovies, cheese, chorizo, or mushroom croquettes, then speared through with cocktail sticks, and served with drinks until late!
Experience the best of Spanish food
2. Hanoi, Vietnam
If you’re a fan of the fresh, fragrant flavours of Vietnamese food, you may want to think about a trip to Hanoi. While Ho Chi Minh City is a top contender for the country’s foodie capital, it’s the real capital, Hanoi, that probably just pips it to the post.
Vietnamese street food is an inextricable part of its culture, supporting countless families and economies, and Hanoi has it in spades.
While there are plenty of fine dining opportunities in the heart of the city, it’s the street food that’s the true beating heart of Hanoi’s culinary excellence – and one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture. Because food is so cheap, this is the place to come to eat like a king on a shoestring budget. But don’t let the low costs fool you; Hanoi food is complex, diverse, and delicious.
Must-try dishes include pho, which is rice noodles served with veggies and beef in a deep, tasty broth (tofu and chicken pho are everywhere, too). Bun cha ca is almost impossible to find outside of Hanoi, and these crispy fish cakes, served in noodle soup, are one of the city’s most beloved dishes.
Then there’s Bun rieu; a popular breakfast of rice noodles and crab in a rich tomato broth. And that’s without even mentioning the brilliant banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches)!
Feast on fresh Vietnamese cuisine
3. New York City, USA
Few places in the world are as iconic as New York City – and the good news is that its cuisine doesn’t let it down.
This is a city built by immigrants and as a result, it’s one of the best places to sample a whole range of diverse and delicious global cuisines – from Italian to Korean to Mexican – while also tucking into some of the city’s own legendary culinary creations.
For starters, there’s the classic ketchup and mustard smothered hotdog, offered by vendors on almost every corner. There’s the decadent New York cheesecake, which is indulgent, rich, and creamy. The city’s famous thin crust pizza is unbeatable too and because it’s served in slices, you can enjoy a selection of toppings. Plus, there’s a dizzying array of sugary donuts to drool over!
New York’s diverse cultures also mean you can feast on tasty tacos from the many tacos trucks, try exciting Korean barbecues in Koreatown, or head to Harlem to feast on soul food like Southern fried chicken, mac and cheese, cornbread, and collard greens.
Be sure to also visit a Jewish deli for a bagel, Chinatown for exceptional dim sum, and Little Italy for the best cannoli and ravioli outside Italy itself!
Discover the diversity of the New York City food scene
4. Tokyo, Japan
For fans of Japanese food, there’s only one real choice: Tokyo. The Japanese are known to live longer than other ethnicities and the main reason is their diet, which is low in meat, sugar, and fat, yet high in oily fish, nutritious vegetables like seaweed, and plant-based proteins like tofu.
If you like fine dining, Japan is also home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the world! But luckily, you don’t need to break the bank to eat well here.
Local izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) are not only full of atmosphere but serve up food just as tasty as the best restaurants. Plus, if you find it hard to decide on what to order, the Japanese preference of smaller, tapas like dishes will be right up your street – usually washed down with a few glasses of sake wine!
Some of the most popular dishes you’re probably already familiar with, like sushi, tempura, and soba noodles, but there are many other local delicacies to try. From unagi eel to okonomiyaki pancakes to chanko nabe (a hotpot stew traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers), there’s all kinds on offer.
Be sure to try wagashi, which are deliciously squidgy Japanese sweets made from rice flour and sweet beans.
Experience the unique tastes of Tokyo
5. Tuscany, Italy
Italian food is famous and loved all around the world, and there are so many gastronomic hotspots that it’s hard to pick one specific destination.
While Naples may be best for pizza and Bologna for rich tomato pasta sauces, the rural province of Tuscany, in the heart of Italy, arguably offers the most versatility. Plus, if you’re a red wine lover, it’s one of the best places in the world to go tasting.
In Florence, Tuscany’s capital, many of the most famous dishes are meat focused, like the bistecca alla fiorentina (a t-bone steak cooked on a wood fire) – or trippa alla fiorentina, which is tripe served with tomato and parmesan. But there’s plenty for veggies and vegans too, from hand rolled pasta with tomato, chilli, and garlic known as pici all’aglione, to ribollita, which is a hearty bean and Tuscan kale stew.
The climate here is fantastic for farming too, and for that reason, the fresh vegetables (particularly the tomatoes) are some of the tastiest in the world. Tuscany is also famous for its filled pasta, as well as its cured meats, which are often served with local cheese. And of course, this is the home of Chianti wine – a glass or two of which goes perfectly with every single dish mentioned above!
Indulge in the best of Italian food
6. Mexico City, Mexico
Most people in the UK seem to love Mexican cuisine. But if you’ve ever been to Mexico, you’ll know the food you get here just can’t compare.
The food scene in the capital, Mexico City, is one of the most exciting in the world – a place where authentic street food is just as mouthwatering as fancy Michelin cuisine. This is undoubtedly one of Latin America’s greatest culinary hotspots.
It’s Mexico’s distinct heritage that makes its food so unique. During the Aztec reign, the food was mostly plant based, with beans and corn as the key ingredients – something that’s still seen in Mexican cuisine today. Yet when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, they introduced meat and dairy, and when the Lebanese settlers arrived in the 1800s, they brought with them their shawarma-style meat spits.
Today, all these influences are seen in Mexican cuisine – from pork tacos al pastor (Mexican-style pork tacos) to fat burritos stuffed with rice, beans, and cheese.
The best tacos are found in local taquerias and historic cantinas, and the cobbled downtown Centro Histórico is heaving with both. With mouthwatering quesadillas, creamy guacamole, sugary churros, and enchiladas smothered in zingy salsa, this is a foodie paradise.
Try the majestic flavours of Mexico
7. Provence, France
Just like Tuscany, the French region of Provence is known for its gorgeous pastoral landscape, which produces wonderfully fresh and flavoursome ingredients.
Located in southwestern France, Provence boasts some iconic French scenery, including lavender fields, rolling vineyards, olive groves, and beautiful Mediterranean coastline – all of which contribute to its fabulous cuisine.
Provence’s mix of herbs is famous around the world, and this combination of thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, oregano, and bay leaf can be found in many of their dishes. Ratatouille is one of the best known, and while this hearty meal of stewed tomatoes, aubergine, courgette, onion, and peppers already bursts with ripe flavours, the Herbs of Provence take it up another notch.
If you love seafood, you’ll have to tuck into some bouillabaisse, which is the region’s beloved fish stew – or try brandade de morue, best described as an aromatic, salted cod dish.
Cheese lovers will want to try Banon; a local goat’s cheese that’s pungent yet creamy, and traditionally wrapped in chestnut leaves. And then there’s the wine…and while Provence’s rosé is unrivalled, the red and white wines are pretty delicious too.
Feast of the flavours of France
8. Delhi, India
It’s no secret that we Brits love Indian food. But if you’re really passionate about it and want to experience the best of the best, you’ll need to head to the country’s capital, Delhi.
India is home to an incredibly diverse range of foods, but it’s in Delhi where everything comes together – thanks in part to the city’s unique history. Just prepare yourself for a serious flavour explosion!
Originally a Hindu city, Delhi was first conquered by Muslim invaders, then by the Mughal Empire, then by the British, before finally becoming independent in 1947. The amalgamation of these very distinct cultures has left its impact on the culinary world, and today this multicultural city has its own unique cuisine unlike anywhere else in India. Some dishes you’ll know and others will be totally new.
The street food here is incredibly delicious and aloo tikki (potato patties), jalebi pakora (crispy spiral pakoras), samosas, and cardamom pudding are popular with locals.
Murgh Makhani (butter chicken) is also a favourite, but there are countless veggie dishes, from the diverse Chaat (which just means ‘savoury snack’) to veggie biryanis and dahls. And whether you want to eat your meals with rice, naan, paratha, or poppadoms and chutney – that’s up to you!
Let your taste buds explode in India
9. Brussels, Belgium
If you have a sweet tooth, and like the idea of sampling the best chocolate in the world, there’s one destination that stands out.
Belgian cuisine may be overshadowed by its neighbour France, but it’s just as good – and if you love desserts, it’s definitely better. The capital Brussels may be best known for moules-frites (mussels and french fries), beer, and chocolate, but it has much more to offer.
One classic dish is waterzooi, a creamy fish stew that dates back to the Middle Ages and will warm you up on a cold day. Other must tries for seafood lovers are crevettes grises (tiny grey shrimp) that are usually rolled in béchamel sauce and served in a croquette. Another unique dish is anguilles au vert; a meaty looking dish that’s actually made from eel and served in a chervil and sorrel sauce.
But it’s arguably the sweet treats that Belgium is most famous for, and the creamy, rich chocolate here is the best in the world – from the pralines to the truffles, and the many chocolate focused desserts.
Belgian waffles are also a must try. Bigger and crispier than American waffles, the grooves are also deeper, so they can hold more topping – whether that’s whipped cream, Nutella, or fruit.
Treat yourself to the beauty of Belgium
10. Bangkok, Thailand
Thai food is also really popular in the UK – and just like Indian cuisine, no matter how good your local restaurant is, there’s nothing like authentic Thai food from Thailand. And, in particular, from the capital Bangkok, which is undeniably the epicurean hub, as well as being regarded as one of the best dining destinations in the world.
Street food is massive here too, with the famous Khao San Road lined with stalls selling everything from curries to noodles to coconut pancakes and even – for the daring! – crispy fried insects and scorpions.
If you’re a fan of dishes like green curry, pad Thai, and pad see ew, make sure you try them in Bangkok, because the zingy, punchy flavours just can’t be compared to what we get over here.
The food markets are also unmissable; from the Taling Chan Floating Market, where you can feast upon fresh fruit and grilled seafood, to the Ratchawat Market, where you can tuck into bowls of mango sticky rice, and delightfully crispy fried rice noodles.
Located at the crossroads of India, China, and Oceania, Thailand is entirely unique, and its tangy, spicy, salty, and sweet food is just as distinct.
Taste your way around Thailand
11. Bali, Indonesia
Beautiful Bali has long been a travel hotspot, and luckily this intoxicating Indonesian island doesn’t disappoint when it comes to food.
Bursting with exotic, spicy flavours, Balinese food is extremely diverse, and offers just as much for veggies and vegans as it does for meat lovers. And, luckily, the food you can buy from a kaki lima (street cart) is just as tasty as those from a warung (local restaurant).
One of Bali’s most famous culinary exports is satay, which is usually made with either chicken or goat meat that’s grilled on skewers, and then served with peanut sauce. People who love heat will want to try spicy betutu, which is a traditional Indonesian dish of roast duck or chicken that’s rubbed with a spice mix, and made as hot as you like! Then the meat is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over hot coals.
Nasi goreng is Indonesia’s national dish, and while some versions contain chicken, it’s often veggie, consisting of fried rice, a sweet soy sauce, garlic, chillies, shallots, and a fried egg. Vegans can swap the egg for tempeh; a fermented soy protein that’s eaten widely across Indonesia.
Nasi campur is another versatile dish, where you can choose to add tempeh, tofu, veggies, fish, or eggs to your rice.
Embrace the exoticism of Balinese cuisine
While exploring the natural landscape, immersing yourself in the local culture, and learning about a country’s history are all important parts of travelling, if you’re a foodie, nothing beats the excitement of discovering a delicious new cuisine.
Our wonderful world is extraordinarily diverse, and this is reflected in its cuisine – which luckily means there’s an ideal travel destination for everyone, no matter your taste preferences or dietary requirements. And of course, the 11 destinations featured above are just a handful of the culinary hotspots all over the globe!
So, whether you want to tuck into spicy curries in India or Thailand, feast on fresh seafood in Spain or Japan, enjoy a vegan feast in Bali, or indulge your sweet tooth in Belgium, we hope this article has ignited your wanderlust – as well as stirred your appetite!
For more ideas and inspiration, why not check out our articles; 10 of the best vegan friendly UK cities and 11 destinations that every foodie should visit in the UK and Ireland.