San Sebastian may just be the world’s top food spot. This tiny Basque city with its grand Belle Époque architecture is home to more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else, second only to Kyoto in Japan. Despite the Michelin star fanfare, San Sebastian’s gastronomic delights are spread over in its gregarious pintxos bars, straightforward drinking dens serving everything from traditional rustic snacks to high-end gourmet dishes in small portions at affordable rates. If you are in this city looking for a local food experience, stop by at Bar Txepetxa (bartxepetxa.com), particularly for their house speciality—anchovy pintxos. Enjoy the freshly prepared silvery fillets marinated in a closely guarded family recipe and arranged with sushi-type precision on a warm slice of baguette, topped with spider crab, sea urchin roe and black olive pâte or redcurrants.
A bolognese dish served in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna. Photo by: Peter Adams/The Image Bank/Getty Images
La Grassa, or “The Fat One”, is how Italy fondly refers to Bologna. Famed for its restaurants’ offers of generous portions to diners, it is home to some of Italy’s culinary specialities—the hearty Bolognese sauce or mortadella being one of its primary contributions to world cuisine. A food lover’s ideal refuge, Bologna brims with well-stocked local markets that are flooded with Parma ham and parmesan cheese. The local osterie and trattorie are often the best places to sample traditional food—tortellini, tagliatelle in ragu sauce, mortadella and tigelle—freshly made and at pocket-friendly prices.
The restaurant Pappagallo (www.alpappagallo.it) is a Bolognese institution. A meal at this eatery, housed in a medieval building, is a must to sample authentic Bolognese dishes such as guinea-fowl breast with grapes, or the yellow lasagne.
Late chef Paul Bocuse at one of his restaurants in Lyon. Photo by: Maurice Rougemont/Contributor/gamma-rapho/Getty Images
The star of French gastronomy, Lyon is where you go with an expressed intention of eating. And then recuperate from all that you’ve eaten. The city’s signature bouchons—old-fashioned, small, local eateries serving hearty meals on tables, uniformly dressed in red and white chequered cloths and decades of family history—stand at the centre of this quiet yet buzzing city. Stop at Le Père Fillion Aux Trois Cochons (chabertrestaurant.fr) for some authentic Lyonnaise fare such as tablier de sapeur—breaded and fried tripe.
Les Halles (halles-de-lyon-paulbocuse.com), Lyon’s famed indoor central food market, is a feast for the senses. Spread over two floors, the market has five dozen stalls serving and selling everything between chocolate, cheese, wine, and tripe—all locally procured from the Beaujolais region and beyond. It is impossible to ignore the influence late chef Paul Bocuse, the grand-daddy of nouvelle cuisine, holds over Lyon’s culinary sophistication. To sample some of Bocuse’s great creations reserve a table at the three-Michelin star awarded restaurant Auberge du pont de Collonges (bocuse.fr/en/).
Tacos with cress and dried egg yolk, Relae restaurant, Copenhagen. Photo by: Y.Levy/Alamy/indiapicture
Copenhagen has a reputation for making some of the best coffee in Europe, and having the trendiest eateries on the continent. Take a boat across the lake to Amass (amassrestaurant.com), known for its modern, set-menu style and no waste approach. Its sourdough potato bread and goose is legendary.
If you’re a no muss, no fuss person, drop in at Relae (restaurant-relae.dk/en/) to draw out and maximise flavours from deceptively simple ingredients. You can choose between four or seven courses, with vegetables put centre stage in dishes such as Jerusalem artichoke mousse with passion fruit and coffee or fried salsify with salsify purée and bergamot. Pickled mackerel, cauliflower and lemon purée are all high on flavour and imagination.
If you need more reasons to visit Europe, go here; for a list of eight cities you must visit this year, go here; for essential experiences you must-have in the continent head here; and raise your glasses to Europe’s finest brew here.
is a failed skier and enthusiastic hiker. When travelling, she seeks out the hum of old neighbourhoods and the noise of bazaars. She is a freelance writer-editor and currently lives in Geneva.
Hey there! Like what you see (or not)? Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.