Many people may know that Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, and San Sebastian is the place to sample the delights of the biggest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain.
But why not be a little more adventurous, and seek out one of Europe’s up-and-coming foodie destinations?
From the Belgian city of Bruges to the Albanian town of Lezhe, there are a host of gems off the beaten track just waiting to be discovered.
Porto, the home of everyone’s favourite Christmas tipple, has much to offer in terms of food as well as drink
Top quality: An example of the food at The Yeatman Hotel, which has its own Michelin-starred restaurant
Porto, the home of everyone’s favourite Christmas tipple, has much to offer in terms of food as well as drink. Street-food markets sit next to 100-year-old port cellars in the Unesco-listed old town. As the Portuguese city lies at the estuary of the River Douro where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, it offers great seafood, too, including the national delicacy bacalhau (dried salt cod).
Top table: Restaurante Pedro Limao (pedrolimao.com) has just six tables, but its ten-course tasting menu — there is no a la carte offering — is great value at £38.80.
How to do it: Ryanair from £88 return (ryanair.com). Doubles at The Yeatman, which has its own Michelin-starred restaurant, from £294 a night (the-yeatman-hotel.com).
Vienna is the place to go for coffee and sachertorte (chocolate cake), but the gastronomic capital of Austria is Graz, which is surrounded by farmland and vineyards.
With its wurstelstands — literally, sausage stands — buschenschanks (traditional Austrian taverns) and restaurants, it has something for everyone.
Top table: Eat like a local and go to the 17th-century Gasthaus zur Alten Press (zuraltenpress.at), where a three-course meal can cost less than £20.
How to do it: Lufthansa via Munich from £233 return (lufthansa.com). Stay at the Grand Hotel Wiesler, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favourite hotel in the city, from £95 a night (grandhotelwiesler.com).
Under Albania’s communist strongman Enver Hoxha, food was rationed, cookbooks were burned and recipes were lost. Now a generation of young chefs has returned from the West to revive and modernise Albanian cuisine. A number of them are based in Lezhe — 37 miles north of the capital Tirana — where farm-to-table restaurants serve the most updated traditional cuisine in the country.
Top table: Rapsodia offers a range of tasting menus from £13 to £18, including a ‘0km’ option, which consists of produce from the restaurant’s farm and local suppliers.
How to do it: Wizz Air from Luton to Tirana from £80 return (wizzair.com). Take a bus or car to Lezhe. Stay at the Mrizi i Zanave Agroturizem in the nearby village of Fishte from £36 a night (mrizizanave.al)
There’s more to Belgium’s cuisine than mussels and chips, and Bruges — laced with canals and described as the perfect pocket-sized medieval city — is the place to find it
There’s more to Belgium’s cuisine than mussels and chips, and Bruges — laced with canals and described as the perfect pocket-sized medieval city — is the place to find it.
Everywhere you’ll want to go is within walking distance of the gorgeous Market Square (pictured).
Start the day with a hot chocolate and marshmallows at one of the city’s many charming cafes
Follow up with a delicious lunch at an authentic Belgian brasserie and finish off the day with a refreshing glass of beer from the De Halve Maan (Half Moon) Brewery.
Top table: Brasserie Raymond is as traditionally Belgian as it gets. Lunch costs from £17, set dinners from £40 (brasserie-raymond.be).
How to do it: Eurostar from £98 return, (eurostar.com). Doubles at the romantic Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce from £176 a night (relaisbourgondischcruyce.be).
The birthplace of Archimedes, Syracuse in Sicily was once the foremost city of the Greek empire.
As a result, its food comes with the flavours of the southern Mediterranean introduced by the ancient Greeks, coupled with the Arabic influence of the Moors who ruled Sicily in the 10th century.
The best seafood is to be found among the restaurants of Ortigia, the city’s historic island centre that is separated from Syracuse by a narrow channel.
Top table: Regina Lucia, which has tables on one of the most beautiful baroque piazzas in Sicily, offers delicate dishes such as potato gnocchi with a spicy seafood sauce.
Pasta and main courses range from £16 to £19 (reginaluciaristorante.com).
How to do it: Ryanair to Palermo from £70 return. Doubles at the Ortea Palace for £250 a night (orteapalace.com).
Iceland’s second city, Akureyri, has a cluster of restaurants, which offer everything from the local delicacy, reindeer, to the chance to eat in a shed while watching cows being milked (stock image)
Iceland’s second city Akureyri has a cluster of restaurants, which offer everything from the local delicacy, reindeer, to the chance to eat in a shed while watching cows being milked.
For a comprehensive introduction to the town’s gastronomic attractions, however, hire a guide, who will treat you to a three-hour Akureyri Food Walk (akureyrifoodtour.com).
Top table: Strikid, with panoramic views over the port, offers a wide range of meat and fish, including langoustine sushi (£19) and duck breast with orange marmalade (£28.50), as well as a £47 tasting menu (strikid.is).
How to do it: Icelandair via Reykjavik from £394 (icelandair.com) or Wizz Air to Reykjavik from £70 (wizzair.com) and take a bus or car the 240 miles to Akureyri. Doubles at the Hotel Akureyri from £80 a night. (hotelakureyri.is).
Slovenia is one of the wealthiest countries to emerge from the Eastern Bloc, and its foodie credentials have risen in line with its economic fortunes.
One of its restaurants has even made The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
The medieval city of Ptuj, which is surrounded by the country’s Podravska, Štajerska, and Drava Wine regions, is undoubtedly the rising star of Slovenia’s food destinations.
Top table: Unsurprisingly, the Gostilna Ribic, or Angler’s Inn, on the River Drava, specialises in great fish — I particularly recommend the trout and pike-perch (pan-restavracija.si).
How to do it: EasyJet from Stansted to Ljubljana from £91 return (easyjet.com), then take the train or drive the 80 miles to Ptuj. Doubles at the Hotel Mitra from £89 (hotel-mitra.si).
Often dubbed the Florence of the south, Lecce, is situated just six miles from the coast in the up-and-coming Italian region of Puglia.
It is famed for a cuisine that is rooted in the cucina povera tradition, which relies on fresh, local produce, such as chickpeas, olive oil, tomatoes, and, of course, seafood.
Top table: For authentic Pugliese cuisine, go to Trattoria Le Zie, which translates as ‘the aunts’. It offers starters from £7, and mains from £8 to £11.50.
There’s no website, but call +39 0832 245 178 with any queries.
How to do it: Ryanair from Stansted to Brindisi from £100 return, then take a train, bus or car the 24 miles to Lecce. Doubles at the Hotel Louis C Jacob from £150 a night (hotel-jacob.de).
Scales done justice
It’s no surprise to find that Hamburg, Germany’s biggest port, has a famous weekly fish market called the Altona Fischmarkt
Hamburg has one of just 11 German restaurants with three Michelin stars, The Table Kevin Fehling (dish pictured above). It has a tasting menu costing £172
It’s no surprise to find that Hamburg, Germany’s biggest port, has a famous weekly fish market called the Altona Fischmarkt. Another Hamburg institution is a fish restaurant called Fischereihafen, with a balcony overlooking the River Elbe.
Meanwhile, a former cattle market has been redeveloped as a space for non-chain restaurants, cafes and stalls offering top-quality produce.
Top table: Hamburg has one of just 11 German restaurants with three Michelin stars, The Table Kevin Fehling. It has a tasting menu costing £172 (thetable-hamburg.de).
How to do it: EasyJet London to Hamburg from £63 return. Stay at the Sir Nikolai, with doubles from £109 a night (sirhotels.com/en/nikolai).
Ham it up
The average Spaniard eats 8lb of cured ham a year, and the finest type available — jamon iberico de bellota — comes from pigs that run wild in the oak woodlands around Caceres, where they feed on a diet of acorns
The average Spaniard eats 8lb of cured ham a year, and the finest type available — jamon iberico de bellota — comes from pigs that run wild in the oak woodlands around Caceres, where they feed on a diet of acorns.
Connoisseurs consume it cut wafer-thin on a plate warmed to 75 degrees, but such is its sweet and nutty unctuousness that there is no need to be that particular.
And ham is not the only game in town.
In the historic centre of Caceres, a medieval walled city, there is a selection of lively tapas bars.
Top table: The two-Michelin-starred Atrio. Meal for two (without drinks) from £300 (restauranteatrio.com).
How to do it: Iberia from London via Madrid to nearby Badajoz, a one-hour 15-minute drive from Caceres (returns from £181, iberia.com). Doubles at the Parador de Caceres from £91 a night (parador.es).