Travel Hungry: Cities that show the best of world cuisine
Everyone needs a break. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, sunbather or spa lover, your choice of destination can be the difference between ecstatic escape and distressing disaster.
For those focused on food, the danger is even more pronounced - sky high expectations can lead to soul crushing disappointment, as well as rumbling tummies. To help you avert potential catastrophe and safely sample the best that world cuisine has to offer, here are our suggestions for destinations that won’t disappoint.
1. San Sebastian
The Basque country in northern Spain is a Mecca for foodie innovation and invention. In recent years, chefs here have been pioneering new techniques and redefining the fine dining experience. The small city boasts two of the world’s best 30 restaurants in Mugaritz and Arzak, and has two more of the top 50 within driving distance. These restaurants are at the cutting edge of what’s possible in a kitchen and are guaranteed to intrigue and challenge any visitor’s idea of what it really means to eat.
However, it’s not just the dazzle of the Michelin stars that make San Sebastian such a stellar destination. The real highlight, especially for those that may be working with a slightly tighter budget, are the hundreds of pintxos stalls scattered across the city. “Pintxos” are the region’s version of tapas and ensure that San Sebastian’s street food is just as exceptional as its headline grabbing restaurants.
Contrary to what may be popular conceit, France is not the nation that tops the Michelin Stars' table. Japan has three cities in the top ten, and those three boast more stars than the rest of the list combined. Of these cities, it is Tokyo that can truly claim to be the definitive fine dining capital of the world. The city hosts more than a whopping 225 restaurants with at least one star, including institutions such as the three starred Usuki Fugu Yamadaya, which specializes in serving the potentially deadly fugu pufferfish.
Tokyo is not just a sushi paradise. The dizzying variety on offer in the city is what makes Japan’s capital a truly top foodie destination, with myriad understated local restaurants as well as imposing modern monoliths catering for every palate. To experience food at its finest, head to Tokyo.
For a long time, British food was, perhaps deservedly, the laughing stock of the culinary world. It took us until the 1970s before we’d even go near garlic. For centuries, parsley was considered our most potent spice. However, the British food scene has now altered beyond recognition, and London has been at the heart of this culinary revolution.
The influence from decades of immigration and integration is obvious from even the briefest of examinations of the patchwork that makes up the city. Many distinct areas boast their own unique cultural heritage and have given rise to innumerable modern takes on classic tropes. From the curry houses of Brick Lane to the kebab shops of the North East, every tradition has left its fingerprints on the city. With world class dining destinations as well as street food pop-ups on the menu, London is now deservedly regarded as a top foodie destination.
4. New York
The melting pot of cultures that is New York City has given rise to some truly extraordinary food. The hustle bustle of the Big Apple has led to an incredibly proactive fine dining scene that can be considered to be at the forefront of trendsetting across the foodie-verse. The city is also proud to be the home of the restaurant currently considered to be the best in the world - Eleven Madison Park.
However, for the average tourist, it won’t be the glitz and glamour of Daniel Humm’s iconic kitchen that proves the biggest draw. It’s the institutions like Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side that have become destinations in their own right. Whether you’re walking through Chinatown or Little Italy, New York is chock full of revered restaurants that have satisfied locals and travellers alike for decades. Pull on your hiking boots and tuck in!
This small, Southeast Asian nation is arguably the world capital of street food. While Singapore boasts some exceptional individual restaurants in its own right, the real reasons to come here are the food courts. “Hawkers”, as they are known locally, are a national treasure and considered to be the place to head for an exceptionally reasonable, high quality and authentic experience.
The Hawker stalls are down to earth, relaxed and offer a more dynamic dining destination than anywhere else on this list. Each individual stall will offer their own take on a range of Singaporean staples, including satay, laksa, chilli crab and pork rib tea. With literally thousands of different stands to try, Singapore is the perfect place to totally immerse yourself in food.
Peruvian cuisine may not be as universally hailed as French, Italian or Chinese, but there can be little doubt that this South American slice of foodie heaven can cook with the best of them. What makes this food so unique is the influence of Europe married with traditional indigenous ingredients. The results are spectacular.
Being a coastal city, Lima is rightly famed for its seafood, and in particular for its ceviche - a method of “cooking” fish and shellfish in citrus juice. Not only does the city offer exceptional value for travellers (some street stands provide three course menus for as little as $3), but it is also home to three of the best restaurants in the world, all of which happen to be within a 20 minute drive of one another. For a taste of the unknown, there is no better holiday.
No list of foodie holiday destinations would be complete without Paris. The spiritual home of fine dining and the grand French gastronomic meal, the city is steeped in cooking culture and history. Boasting five restaurants in the world’s top 50, it’s easy to see why Paris is still considered by many to be the pinnacle of world food.
While it may be the more formal haute-cuisine that has earned the city its reputation, it is actually the multitude of relaxed cafes and wine bars that give Paris its distinct flavour. While it would be disingenuous to try and claim Paris as a destination for the budget traveller, it is perfectly possible to have an exceptional foodie holiday without breaking the bank - the City of Lights caters for every taste.
The joy of a foodie holiday is knowing that you cannot hope to experience all that a city has to offer in one visit. The great thing about these cities is that they require repeat viewing. Such is the quality, variety and excitement that each provides, we guarantee that none of them will leave you hungry.