The great European backpacking trip is one that every young adult dreams of taking. My freshman year, out of sheer spontaneity, I told my parents I bought tickets to Europe and spent the next couple of months planning every detail.
I hit sixteen countries in two months, traveling everywhere from Rome to Barcelona to Copenhagen to Munich. It was a whirlwind adventure, and I want nothing more than to go back and revisit it.
So for all you traveling foodies, for all you students studying abroad, for all you wanderers at heart who are stuck in one place for now, here is an European food bucket list. From the classic “touristy” items to the lesser known one’s, it’s got you covered.
1. Carbonara in Rome
When in Italy, eat all the carbs. This pasta dish originated in Rome and is composed of eggs, cheese, bacon and black pepper — basically a fancified (and better) version of American mac ‘n cheese.
2. Pizza in Naples
A photo posted by antOnia_brunZo (@brunzina) on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:08am PDT
Yes, this is where Neapolitan pizza got its name. And yes, I did make a trip to Naples and only stayed long enough to eat an entire pizza. Get the classic Margherita and watch as an old Italian man hand-tosses the dough and sticks the pizza in a wood-fired oven… and try not to drool.
#SpoonTip: Eat this with a fork and a knife. This is not (and I repeat not your New York slice that you fold and pick up with your hands).
3. Gelato in Florence
Not gonna lie — I ate gelato practically every day when I was in Italy. While gelato is good everywhere in Italy (and sometimes in France too), Florence has the best variety of gelato shops. #SpoonTip: Look for gelato that’s covered, not ones that are mounded into tall peaks and artificially colored.
4. Fresh Fruit in Cinque Terre
A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Jun 29, 2014 at 10:47am PDT
I’m telling you, fruit is better in the Italian countryside. Enough said.
5. Smørrebrød in Copenhagen
Love bagels and lox? Good, you’ll love smørrebrød. This Danish open-faced sandwich is covered in some type of spread (usually butter) and topped with all sorts of wholesome foods, like smoked salmon and capers.
6. Rostbratwurst in Munich
A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Aug 1, 2014 at 4:03pm PDT
Disclaimer: I hate hot dogs. Second disclaimer: This is by no means your average hot dog. Rostbratwurst is simple, just a bun and a sausage, but that’s the beauty of it.
7. Radler in Munich
Yes, Hofbräuhaus is Munich’s most famous beer hall, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to just beer. The smallest size is half a liter, so if you’re weak like me (#noshame), get a Radler — a mix of beer and lemonade.
8. Doner Kebab in Berlin
A photo posted by Patricia Santos (@patriciasantos03) on Aug 23, 2015 at 11:11am PDT
Doner kebab is the ultimate drunchie (those lucky Europeans), but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it while sober. It’s cheap and filling, making it a backpacker (and student) favorite.
9. Scones and Tea in Cornwall
Tea time is the best time. Take some time to relax and enjoy fresh scones with clotted cream — it tastes better than it sounds.
10. Anything from Borough Market in London
A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Aug 27, 2015 at 7:21pm PDT
Borough Market is one of London’s many food markets, but in my opinion, it’s the best. There’s a multitude of vendors there selling anything from fresh pasta to wild boar burgers.
11. Drinks in the Blue Lagoon
Iceland’s geothermal pool and spa was my last stop on the trip (#treatyoself) and provided a much-needed break from the busy backpacker life. The swim-up bar and this green smoothie equals pure relaxation. It’s the experience that goes with the food that makes this special.
12. Skyr in Iceland
A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Sep 5, 2015 at 8:59am PDT
I love Greek yogurt with an undying passion, but after discovering Skyr in Iceland, I can never go back. It’s packed with protein, even more than Greek yogurt is, and has a thicker texture and richer taste.
13. Moules Frites in Brussels
The English have fish and chips, but the Belgians have mussels and fries. Their famous Belgian fries are paired with a pot of fresh mussels in rich broth, making for a hearty, filling meal.
14. Liege Waffles in Brussels
A photo posted by Dyan Khor (@gohardkhor) on Jul 11, 2015 at 7:32pm PDT
These Belgian waffles are nothing like the ones in America. They’re made with a dough (not a batter) filled with sugar crystals, which caramelize when cooked. They’re served with a simple dusting of powdered sugar on top or even just by itself, because it’s perfect as is.
15. Chocolate in Brussels
Two words: Belgian chocolate.
16. Belgian Fries in Amsterdam
A photo posted by Dyan Khor (@gohardkhor) on Jul 13, 2015 at 2:29pm PDT
The Belgians take their fries seriously, so much so that fry-making techniques are part of their citizenship test. But Amsterdam has adopted Belgian fries as part of their own, and make them just as well (if not better — sorry Belgium!).
#SpoonTip: Get them with Samurai sauce. Lots of Samurai sauce. I promise you’ll love it.
17. Trdelník in Prague
Don’t even try to pronounce this Czech specialty. Instead, just stuff your face with it. It’s kind of like a chocolate churro but better.
18. Strawberries and Champagne in Luxembourg
A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Aug 4, 2015 at 5:12pm PDT
Luxembourg may be one of the smallest countries in Europe, but it’s one of the most hospitable. We found a picnic with free strawberries and champagne… here’s to hoping you’ll find the same.
19. Seafood Paella in Barcelona
Barcelona is right on the beach, which means all the seafood in this paella, which is arguably one of Spain’s most well-known dishes, is fresh.
20. Sangria in Barcelona
A photo posted by hangry diaries (@hangry_diaries) on Aug 24, 2015 at 4:04pm PDT
This classic Spanish drink is best enjoyed with tapas, because who doesn’t love a jug full of fruit and wine while munching on finger food?
#SpoonTip: Though you can get giant mugs of sangria on Las Ramblas, the main street, it’s not very good as all the restaurants are tourist traps.
21. Churros Con Chocolate in Madrid
If you’ve only had churros from Disneyland, you’re missing out. True Spanish churros are smaller, lighter and come with rich chocolate to dip in.
22. Pastéis de Nata in Belém
A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Jul 6, 2014 at 6:51am PDT
These Portuguese egg tarts were created by monks in Belém and are a Lisbon-area speciality. There’s only one shop that really sells them, Pastéis de Belém. Don’t be discouraged by the line — it moves fast and you’ll have your warm egg tart in your hands in no time.
23. Dessert in Sweden
Fika is Sweden’s coffee break ritual. It’s not just a coffee break but a chance to slow down and appreciate life… and some dessert.
24. Escargot in Nice
A photo posted by n a n c y c h e n (@nancylinchen) on Jul 13, 2014 at 12:58pm PDT
Don’t be afraid to be adventurous. These escargot (yes, that’s the word for “snail”) are full of garlicky goodness and come with bread to dip in. And I can guarantee you you’ll be trying to get every last bit of this dish in your stomach.
25. Macarons in Paris
26. Wine with a View in the French Riviera
A photo posted by Mary Kate Kerins (@lyfewithmk) on Jul 24, 2015 at 9:51am PDT
There’s nothing better than wine… except wine with a view. Chillin’ in the French Riviera, drinking a glass of French wine — now that’s the life I want to live.