Original blog post featured on The Journal by Intrepid, by Bex Shapiro.
Think of Europe and there’s no doubt that cobblestone streets, historic architecture and that picture-perfect coastline makes an appearance. But the food (ah the food!) is sure to feature too.
As diverse as the continent is small, it offers something for every type of traveller – delicious eats included.
But where will your taste buds be delighted most this summer? What cuisine will have your Instagram glowing and your friends green with envy? Well, let us take you through the best European destinations for foodies, so you can stop wondering and start munching…
Chances are you know very little about this country, let alone the cuisine. But let us be the first to tell you: Macedonian food is the next big thing. We could write about it all day long but it’s basically a delicious mix of Balkan, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean. Think an abundance of cheese, pastry and meat, alongside a much-needed selection of super fresh veggies and a less-needed but always-appreciated helping of local wine.
One of the best parts is the way in which this hearty cuisine tends to be served: with a warmth that comes from an awareness that tourists are rare in this part of the world; with a skill that comes from recipes passed down from generation to generation.
So, venture into this landlocked gem and you’ll discover lakes so clear they feel pretend (Lake Ohrid), riverside villages so far from civilisation you’ll be the only non-local (Janche), and, of course, a wealth of foodie wonders worth bragging about for months.
Our recommendation: This 10-day foodie adventure takes you through Macedonia and Montenegro i.e. some of the tastiest, prettiest parts of lesser-discovered Europe. Macedonian highlights include discovering the country’s up-and-coming wine scene, a pastry cooking class with local villagers, and a beekeeping masterclass and tasting session.
We probably don’t need to tell you why Greek food is so great. Equal parts healthy and fresh, staples that include olive oil, feta cheese, fresh fish and filo pastry are hard to fault. Neither is the history; the country’s culinary culture is considered to be over 4,000 years old and its rustic simplicity, combined with plentiful herbs (dill and mint) and the most tender meats (it’s all about the lamb here), are what food dreams are made of.
Though you’ll find quality eats anywhere you go, our favourite region has to be the Saronic Islands, close to the mainland, filled with a rugged coastline and abundant olive groves.
Visit with Intrepid and you’ll explore places few people do: the beaches of Kardamyli, the fish markets of Aegina, and the charming seaside town of Nafplio. And that’s just for starters.
Our recommendation: Hop on this 9-day Real Food Adventure in Greece for cooking classes with locals, pistachio farm visits, a trip to a family-owned ouzo distillery, and a bunch more foodie fun starting in Athens.
Slovenia is one of those countries so pretty that you simply can’t take a bad photograph there. Known as ‘Europe in Miniature’, it really has something for everyone, from soaring mountain ranges like the Julian Alps to super cute towns by the sea. Accordingly, the cuisine is equally diverse – boasting everything from alpine stews to prsut (air-dried ham) to some sensational strudels.
The charming capital of Ljubljana is the ideal place to start your culinary tour, where we recommend taking a day or two to laze by the riverside cafes, sample some of the delicious cakes, and try out schnapps, a fruity liqueur that doubles as the country’s national drink.
Then journey onto Lake Bled for romance and adventure in equal measure, before discovering Slovenia’s many other gems. One of the nearby must-visits is Piran, a town near the border of Italy and Croatia. Known for its quality olive oils and wine, it’s also close to one of Intrepid’s most magical Slovenian experiences: a meal with a local family where every single thing you eat is grown and prepared on the property!
Our recommendation: Take a trip to supremely underrated Slovenia (and Croatia) on this 9-day food trip from Ljubljana to Split. Highlights of the Slovenian section include wine tasting at a coastal town and Lake Bled’s famous cream cake, kremna rezina.
Is there a European country with more iconic food? Probably not. So much more than just pizza and pasta, Italian food is regional, seasonal, simple and delicious. It truly is hard to go wrong here, but allow us to introduce some of our favourite regions anyway.
First off, Tuscany – a region known for vineyards, local ingredients and pretty much every foodie fantasy one might have. (Hint: Intrepid trips there let you stay in a genuine Tuscan farmhouse, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, where you can wine-taste and bruschetta-munch as much as you please.)
Secondly, we adore the southwestern coastal town of Sorrento. Colourful and cobbled, it’s pretty as a postcard. It’s also home to regional specialities like buffalo mozzarella and limoncello, a refreshing lemon liqueur.
Last but not least, Venice is a surprising culinary gem. Boasting rich risottos, creamy polenta and more wine bars than picturesque alleyways, it’s a perfect place to begin or end any food-filled visit to Italy.
Our recommendation: Italy’s cuisine is just so mouthwatering that we couldn’t keep it to just one option. For an overview of food in the country, check out this 8-day trip which visits Rome, Bologna, Venice and more. Or hit up this tour of Southern Italy for a more in-depth look (and taste!) of the region’s cuisine with stops in beautiful Matera and Sorrento.
Montenegro is not well-known, but just give this Balkan country a few years and the secret will get out. After all, the landscapes speak for themselves here: all deep blue Mediterranean waters and charming small towns. Plus an array of traditional restaurants serving Turkish snacks, Italian staples and a ton of quality local beer and wine. If that didn’t whet your appetite, the coffee culture will.
And if you do visit (you should), the coastal town of Kotor is simply a must. World Heritage-listed and oh so dazzling, it’s set between towering mountains and a stunning harbour.
Wander through the steep-but-stunning alleyways and you’ll see why Kotor is a perfect example of the food scene’s diversity. You’ll find grilled kebabs, goulash, traditional bean soups, enough seafood to keep you happy for life, and so much more.
Our recommendation: This 10-day foodie adventure takes you through Macedonia and Montenegro, two of Europe’s coolest, undiscovered countries. In the Montenegro leg of the trip expect the following highlights: a visit to a a centuries-old smokehouse, a tour of an authentic olive farm, and many a drink at one of Kotor’s picturesque wine bars.
Croatia is really hard not to love. Home to over 1,000 islands and nearly as many reasons to visit (sun, sea, good value, and waterfall-filled national parks, to name but a few), its culinary capital is Istria. This peninsula jutting into the Adriatic Sea is dreamy for foodies, mostly thanks to its truffles, olive oil, steak and prosciutto.
Once you’ve gorged for longer than necessary, there are a multitude of other stunning cities to visit – try Pula, Zadar and Zagreb, for starters.
Of these, one of our favourites has to be the walled city of Zadar. Once the capital of the region of Dalmatia, this food lover’s heaven is known for its fresh seafood and locally-grown cherry liqueur that’s simply a must-try. Sweet. Literally.
Our recommendation: Do Croatia’s food scene justice on this 10-day trip dedicated to its cuisine (and neighbouring Slovenia’s). You’ll be able to enjoy oysters in the enchanting town of Rovinj, visit one of the country’s acclaimed boutique wineries, and try a cooking class in coastal Split.
Taste buds tempted by all of Europe’s foodie wonders? Intrepid have a whole range of trips dedicated solely to food! Browse them here.
Image Credits: All c/o Intrepid Travel.