Eating has now become a reason to travel. It’s not just for the sights, it’s for the food. Travelers love to eat after all. When it comes to exquisite cuisine, globe-trotting pays off. You just have to know where to look to find the best food and markets.
What makes these cities the food capitals of the world are not the people on Instagram hashtagging all the time, it’s the quality of the food and restaurants. That’s what brings these cities to this list.
1. New York, USA
Why you should go here: This is the true mecca of the food world, allowing you to go on a gastronomic world trip without ever leaving the city. As long as you’re not incredibly picky, it won’t cost much either. Make sure to check out the Museum of Food and Drink.
What you should eat here: Cheesecake. Decadent and rich but incredibly simple. The towering ivory slices throughout the city make even me want to take a bite – and I’m lactose intolerant. Be sure to check out Junior’s for the most iconic New York cheesecake you can get.
What you should buy here: You can take advantage of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, food carts, farmers markets (Union Square’s is awesome), and gourmet stores. Be sure to check out Dean & DeLuca and Zabar’s for established markets if you wanna get your chef on.
2. Tokyo, Japan
Why you should go here: Normally, you hear Tokyo and you think sushi. ‘Nuff said. But, that is most certainly not the case. Tokyo is much more than sushi. They have the most Michelin star restaurants in the world and great casual dining. Tokyo is a hot spot for foodies.
What you should eat here: Kaiseki cuisine, the ultimate Japanese cuisine that has been refined in both preparation methods and appearance. This is the epitome of Japanese food aesthetic. Natural, simple, and clean. Only seasonal ingredients that pass intense scrutiny are used in this cuisine.
What you should buy here: The Tsukiji Fish Market is enough to get Tokyo on this list. Start at Tsukiji Fish Market for a sushi breakfast and pick up any cooking supplies you might need. You’ll find anything – from Japan to France – you might want.
3. Barcelona, Spain
Why you should go here: Barcelona is this wonderful area where there’s fresh seafood and the innovative Catalan cuisine.
What you should eat here: Paella – I jokingly call it Spanish fried rice – is an amazing rice dish usually made with seafood that Barcelona is famous for. My personal favorite was the squid ink paella at La Fonda. But, be careful, it’ll stain your teeth black for a little.
There is also a tapas (“small plates”) culture, so be sure to check out a tapas restaurant for lunch. There’s something for everyone at tapas bars, but you have got to try jamón ibérico while you’re there. Europe is the only place you can get it and it’s less expensive in Spain.
What you should buy here: On top of fine restaurants with chefs who treat cooking like the art and science that it is, you’ll find the Boqueria. The Boqueria is one of the world’s best food markets, so if you’re in Barcelona, you have to go at least once. Mercat de Santa Caterina is another market to go by if you want to go to a market that’s a little less touristy.
4. San Francisco, USA
Why you should go here: San Francisco is another great melting pot. It’s also one of the few cities where the Chinatown is really authentic. Go here to experience the best authentic cuisines you can find on the West Coast.
What you should eat here: San Francisco’s iconic food has been around for about a century now. It’s called Joe’s Special – it is unclear where it originated or what exactly goes in it. However, it is agreed upon that every version of it contains ground beef, eggs, and spinach. But, that’s not all there is to try there.
What to buy here: San Francisco’s seafood scene is fantastic: abalone, Dungeness crab, sand dabs, and bay shrimp all make a list of wonderful treats to try. Make sure to grab a baguette of crusty sourdough French bread.
I know if I have a kitchen next time I visit, I’m going to make a seafood chowder with that as a bread bowl. It’ll be great. Definitely check out The Ferry Plaza’s Farmer Market and Acme Bread Company if you want to pick up ingredients and groceries, they’re incredible.
5. Paris, France
Why you should go here: Now, this list wouldn’t be complete without Paris, since it was once hallmarked as the food capital of the world. Ah, Paris, it’s not as great as you think (it smells terrible), but it still has pretty damn great food.
What you should eat here: Paris does not have a specific food they are famous for. And really it’s mainly their pastries which are their biggest works of art. So throw yourself in, try the escargot, crepes, jambon-beurre (the most Parisian of sandwiches), duck confit, et cetera.
Don’t just check out the big name restaurants, find the hole-in-the-wall ones that have survived, they’re the best. My cousin took me to this wonderful crepe place that I would love to go back to.
What you should buy here: While it stands out for the fine dining, nothing is better than a Parisian patisserie. The Paris food experience is about giving into temptation and having mouthwatering pastries. I mean, the French invented the macaron, eclair, brioche, and so much more.
Croissants have forever been ruined for me after eating them fresh from a bakery every morning with my cousin for a week. Make sure to take one day for a picnic with food from one of the bountiful markets.
6. Sydney, Australia
Why you should go here: Okay, so what foodie doesn’t want to visit Australia? Australia’s produce and seafood markets are second to none.
What you should eat here: At least of the 40 best Australian foods. However, there are so many other things to try like the snow egg, truffled egg pasta, and Japanese stones. Be warned, those three are cult dishes so they can only be found in one place.
What you should buy here: You’ll find a stunning array of exotic seafood as well as tours, daily auctions, eateries, sushi bars and even cooking classes in some of Sydney’s markets.
7. Hong Kong, China
Why you should go here: From haute Asian fusion to exquisite roasted goose, Hong Kong is a feast for the senses.
What you should eat here: LanKwai Fong, or pedestrian alley, is home to Indochine 1929 (expensive but good) and incredible Vietnamese soft-shelled crab. Wanchai offers Beggar’s Chicken; which takes a full six hours to prepare.
One Michelin star restaurant Tim Ho Wan is the best place to experience dim sum at a reasonable price. The owner used to be the dim sum master at a three Michelin star restaurant. The foodie experience, however, does not end with the restaurants. The food carts at Temple Street Night Market offer delectable choices.
What you should buy here: Hong Kong is more of an eating out experience, but shop the department stores for cooking supplies if you want to go it alone.
8. Lyon, France
Why you should go here: Lyon is where France originally elevated food into an art form. The city still caters to gourmands of all budgets, although it’s the haute cuisine that clearly stands apart from the rest. With more than 1,500 restaurants (thirteen awarded Michelin Stars), there’s no shortage of culinary establishments in this gastronomic center.
What you should eat here: Mâchon – the culinary tradition of Lyon – is a type of meal served in the morning (before lunchtime) but it is a heavy meal. It can start with pate, followed by a meaty main course topped with a sauce, and finished off with some cheese. It’s an exemplary show of Lyonnese cuisine started by the mothers of silk workers and now in bouchons all over the area.
What you should buy here: Enjoy the more rustic cuisine washed down by the best French wines. Burgundy and Rhone are like an hour away. Beaujolais and Macon are even closer. Can you say awesome location? Sorry, I’m a total wino.
9. London, England
Why you should go here: London currently has a thriving restaurant culture, and that is not just because of celebrity chefs. Add the extraordinary culinary diversity of its multi-ethnic restaurants with some affordability and it’s not hard to see why this city beat out the odds to overcome Paris as a food destination.
What you should eat here: Have that stereotypical afternoon tea or a Ploughman’s Lunch. Don’t forget to try a full English breakfast (I really need to make it one of these days) and all those savory pastries the British love.
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
Why you should go here: Copenhagen is the gastro capital of Scandinavia. On top of 18 Michelin Stars between 15 restaurants and 13 Bib Gourmands, the city also has some of the world’s best chefs and Northern Europe’s biggest food festival, Copenhagen Cooking (I swear I’m going to go when I finally go to Denmark).
What you should eat here: If you can afford it, go to Noma, often praised as the world’s best restaurant. If not, Copenhagen is the center of the Nordic food resurgence and has a thriving cafe culture. Run by a cafe and try some of the new Nordic food. As I always say, you gotta eat your way through a city.
What you should buy here: Be sure to get a taste of the Nordic love for coffee at the Royal Café. Part design museum, part porcelain china shop, part upscale eatery, the Royal Café is less fine dining, more Mad Hatter’s tea party. Take some coffee home with you.
So go out, explore, and eat!