Europe’s Best Small Town Foodie Destinations

25 July 2019

Off to Europe and can’t wait to sample Spanish tapas, authentic Italian pasta and rich, buttery croissants? While there’s undoubtedly some incredible culinary experiences to be had in the big cities of Paris, London, Madrid and their busy and bustling counterparts, not all of Europe’s best foodie finds are situated in the capitals. In fact, smaller cities and towns are where you’ll find the true delights. Authentic, fresh, locally sourced and artisanal are the name of the game when it comes to these small town foodie gems.

San Sebastián, Spain

Spanish food is the stuff dreams are made of; patatas bravas, paella, sangria, cured meats – and in San Sebastián , you can almost guarantee that any meal will be good. There are 18 Michelin Stars in total around San Sebastien, and no shortage of more affordable, family-style restaurants too.

The city is renowned for its cuisine, so foodies will be in absolute paradise. It’s also famed for pintxos, small bar snacks that are served everywhere from local drinking holes to avant-garde fine dining spots, typically skewered with a small stick and containing some kind of bread. The pintxos you’ll find vary from sea urchin custards to traditional Spanish hams and cheeses, depending on where you go.

Spain/Patatas Bravas:


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Porto, Portugal

Lisbon receives lots of attention as a foodie destination, but Porto is where the real gems are. From the delicious port wines to the Portuguese version of tapas - petiscos, or ‘small plates,’ there’s hardly a bad food experience to be had in Portugal’s second city. Walk the cobbled alleyways here or do a quick search online and you’ll see no shortage of five-star-rated places to grab a bite to eat. Whether you want fine china and perfectly presented pasteis de nata (a gorgeous Portuguese custard tart) or budget-friendly sardines, there’s an option for you.
One rule is that all tourists have to try the francesinha. It’s a sandwich on steroids, with thick white bread, ham, sausage and steak, all covered in a thick layer of melted cheese and served in a tomato and beer sauce. Oh, and you’ll normally find that it comes with a fried egg and a serving of fries too. Your arteries will clog just looking at it, but it’s all worth it.



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Gdansk, Poland

Poland might seem an unlikely place to find foodie heaven, but very few people have set foot in Gdansk and left without raving about the traditional food. Gdansk has managed to shake off its sombre reputation as the city where World War 2 started, and instead has developed something of a Cape Town atmosphere. Nowadays, Gdansk is cosmopolitan, beautiful, modern and artsy – and unsurprisingly, it has food that keeps even the fussiest patrons happy.
For those that thought dumplings were only found in Asia, think again. Pierogi is one of the most popular regional foods. These dumplings are traditionally filled with potatoes, onions, and cheese or mushrooms and sauerkraut, then boiled or fried and served with fried bacon bits and sour cream. Or there’s the local favourite, a beetroot soup found in much of Eastern Europe and known in Poland as barszc – dunk bread rolls into it and enjoy the sweet and sour taste mingling with savoury notes of garlic, vegetable stock. Top it with a dollop of sour cream and some dill, and you’re onto a winner. There’s also potato pancakes, delish local cheesecakes, and cured sausages of every variety imaginable. And that’s not all – there’s incredible Western food including Naples-style pizza, towering burgers, and plenty of fresh seafood.
For the most authentic experience possible, delve into one of the many local ‘milk bars’, a throwback to Poland’s communist past where affordable food was served canteen-style and subsidised by the government.



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Bologna, Italy

Not exactly a ‘small’ town, but definitely a bit off the tourist track, Bologna is an established University town with a thriving food scene. You might have focused on the heavy Italian foodie hitters of Florence and Rome before, but Bologna blows them both out of the water. Of course there’s the obligatory pasta – opt for tortellini with a sage butter sauce or tagliatelle with slow-cooked beef ragu, soft enough to melt in your mouth and possibly the world’s most perfect comfort food. Bologna has so much more to offer than just pasta though; there’s the local sparkling wine named Pignoletto, fresh produce and homemade cheese at one of the many markets, and even lunch at the oldest pub in the world. How’s that for history and food combined?


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