Besides visiting all the historical and beautiful places in different countries, another way to appreciate their culture is through their food. Not only do you get to see the culture elegantly placed on a plate, but you get to taste it, which is one of the best feelings ever. You can deliberately experience all of the smells and tastes of all of the different ingredients in the food in just one dish. One plate could give you an entirely different perspective on the country itself (which is hopefully a positive one). I had the opportunity to travel to four different European countries over spring break with two of my friends, which meant we were able to eat several different types of food! Here are some of the highlights of the European food I ate in only seven days. 

Day 1: Amsterdam, Netherlands

syrup, sweet, chocolate, pancake
Karla Fernandez

Little did I know that Amsterdam was famous for their pancakes. Not only are their pancakes a lot bigger and a lot thinner but they also cook the toppings you would see on top of American pancakes in the pancake. And not just sweet toppings, savory ones too!

I had the bacon and apple pancake (bottom left). At first, it seemed like a very unique approach to a pancake, and I was not sure if the apple and bacon were going to mesh well with each other--but they did! The thinly sliced apples gave the pancakes a sweet enough taste to complement the slightly salty bacon. Neither the saltiness nor the sweetness was overwhelming and the pancake filled you up just right.

This restaurant, Pancakes Amsterdam, also gives you a complimentary keychain of tiny clogs. You leave there full, satisfied, and with a souvenir!

Day 2: Naples, Italy

dough, tomato, cheese, basil, mozzarella, pizza
Karla Fernandez

Naples--where pizza was invented to honor the Italian Queen Margherita back in 1889 (hence the name pizza margherita). Unlike other Italian cities, pizza is usually sold for single servings (about 10 inches in diameter). But Naples, being where pizza was created, makes sure you get what you pay for. The pizza is sold to serve four to six people in 14-inch diameters. However, the menu at Da Michele Condurro did not clarify this, which is why you see three giant pizzas in the picture above. The fact that they were only 5 euros each also led us to believe that they were going to be fairly small…we thought wrong, but were not disappointed.

Pizza Napoli (on the top left) is a city classic and my personal favorite. It consisted of fresh mozzarella with spicy pepperoni topped with basil leaves. The crust is a little more chewy and thin than what we may be used to in America, but I was not complaining. I could literally taste the Napoli culture, and it was beautiful.

Day 3: Rome, Italy

sauce, pasta, spaghetti
Karla Fernandez

We arrived in Rome around 9 am and had to leave around 3 pm. With only a few hours to do what we wanted to do, we not only had to be efficient with time for sightseeing but also in the food we ate. Enough said, we had to get pasta first.

We tried a local pasta place called Pastificio Guerra near the Spanish steps. For only 4 euros, I had a delicious, fresh, homemade Italian pasta. Being so cheap, delicious, and near so many landmarks, there is usually a line (even though this pasta shop only has two options of pasta each day). But the limited options show just how much time, effort, and love is put into the meal. I chose the pasta marinara with fresh mozzarella topped with basil. Best pasta I have ever had, hands down.

cream, ice, ice cream, chocolate
Karla Fernandez

To top off Rome, we got gelato from Venchi Cioccolato near the Pantheon. I tried their famous chocolate gelato and with an additional scoop of strawberry. The chocolate was rich, creamy and reveals why the gelato shop itself has the word “chocolate” in it. They know exactly what to market on their menu, and they're doing it right.

Day 3-6: Madrid, Spain

curry, chicken, meat, rice, seafood, vegetable
Karla Fernandez

The first lunch I had in Spain was a classic Spanish dish. The first plate (primer plato) was paella. Paella is a signature entree that mixes rice, fish, and a variety of vegetables. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of fish, but the paella was very tasty. The fishy taste actually made the rice taste better and less dry. It also included calamari and chicken--two things I would never have thought to eat together. But oddly enough, the calamari tasted like chicken. So more power to the plate! 

whisky, ice, wine, beer, liquor, alcohol
Karla Fernandez

Although you may typically have your beer during your lunch, you may also choose to casually drink it in a beautiful park known as Parque de Retiro. Estrella Damm beer (seen in the picture above) is very well known beer in Spain and is seen in almost all restaurants. Beer in Spain is so casual that you may even see elderly people drinking it on a regular afternoon!

sweet, milk, cappuccino, chocolate, cream, espresso, coffee
Karla Fernandez

Finally, we went to San Gines Chocolate. This place has been around to serve the best churros con chocolate since 1894. As soon as you enter the chocolate cafe, you can smell and see the workers making their traditional masterpiece. For only 4 euros, you can enjoy a city favorite at any time of the day. Although their churros are unsweetened, they’re freshly made and served with a thick, sweet hot chocolate that you can dip the churro into. Definitely a must for anyone who visits Madrid. 

Day 7: Copenhagen, Denmark

milk, sweet, cake, coffee, cream, chocolate
Karla Fernandez

In the inner city of Copenhagen, there’s a cute cafe known as Cafe Norden that has a vast selection of eats. It's a great place to have a meal, dessert, or coffee while enjoying the nice view of Strøget, one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets. I had a chocolate biscuit (yes, the picture above was considered a biscuit) with a caffe mocca. The coffee was a lot stronger and less sweet than what I was used to. It was interesting because I initially tasted the coffee and then the chocolate, so the drink basically “turned” into a mocca in your mouth!

European food can say a lot about its country’s culture. From the taste to the smell, it’s something that I think everyone should have the chance to experience. With that said, if you have the opportunity to travel, take it. You’ll enjoy the sights, the history, and all the things that you’ll eat. Your future self and your stomach will thank you.