Food Tourism: The 15 Best Culinary Destinations to Try in 2023

Lady wearing grey sweater lifting the first piece of pizza from board on table at restaurant

6min read

Published 26 September 2023

Flight Centre Author

By

Rachel Surgeoner

Writer and content creator


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What cities in the world have the best food? That's a huge call to make.

If eating on holiday is not just a means to an end, but a downright delicious opportunity to treat your taste buds at every turn, you are already well aware of the top foodie destinations around the world... You can't swing a cat in Paris without running into a good baguette. London has become a global culinary capital. New York City and its iconic bagels, hot dogs and pretzels. Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. Hong Kong is a food lovers adventure from cheap street eats to fine dining. Don't get us started on the real deal carbonara pasta in Rome.

While these destinations are famously known for their amazing food, let's lift the lid on some lesser-known foodie destinations around the world.

Read on for the best travel destinations for food lovers!

Elderly Lady smiling and standing next to food at a food market
Elderly Lady smiling and standing next to food at a food market
Elderly Lady smiling and standing next to food at a food market

On the menu:

France

Aka the land of croissants, macarons, onion soup, and all-round culinary delights. French cuisine is the foundation of fine dining and has informed modern cuisine around the world.

1. Lyon

Often regarded as the gastronomic capital of the world, Lyon has more restaurants per head than any other city in France. Most famous for being the home of Auberge du Pont de Collonges, the flagship restaurant of the late, famed chef Paul Bocuse, the so-called 'father of French cuisine'. When in Lyon, there are endless local dishes to savour – try the Quenelle (dumplings), any kind of locally made sausages, and the Cervelle de Canut soft creamy cheese.

Deli with lots of different meats, cheeses and bread in cabinet and on counter
Deli with lots of different meats, cheeses and bread in cabinet and on counter
Deli with lots of different meats, cheeses and bread in cabinet and on counter

Japan

Famous for sushi, sake, ramen, wagyu beef, and more mouthwatering delicacies, you'd be hard-pressed to find a country that pays more attention to detail in its cuisine than Japan. A culinary adventure awaits food lovers!

2. Osaka

The Dotonbori area along the city's canal is the place to dig into Osaka's famous traditional dishes. The neighbourhood comes alive at night with bright lights, bustling izakaya bars, and street vendors cooking up yakitori, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and more! Explore the town and follow in the footsteps of the Netflix documentary Street Food by getting the broiled tuna cheek at Izakaya Toyo, Okonomiyaki from Fue, and Takoyaki from Umai-Ya.

Man using spoon to poor sauce on okonomiyaki pancake
Man using spoon to poor sauce on okonomiyaki pancake
Man using spoon to poor sauce on okonomiyaki pancake

Italy

Italian is easily one of the world's most loved cuisines. Food in Italy is the closest thing you can get to a hug in incredible food form. The world's oldest surviving cookbook is Roman, so suffice to say Italians have been perfecting their delicious dishes for centuries.

3. Bologna

The capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is the Italian food lovers' holy grail being home to 42 DOP (origin-protected) products – we're talking Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar and more! Bologna is a great place to dig into the region's specialties. Start with a bowl of Tagliatelle Ragu (aka Bolognaise) – the dish as famous as pizza is worldwide - but save room for Torta di Riso (a sweet rice cake).

Two people sharing plates of thinly sliced meats and cheese
Two people sharing plates of thinly sliced meats and cheese
Two people sharing plates of thinly sliced meats and cheese

4. Naples

Pizza pizza pizza! Naples is where the perfect slice began. Here you can get a truly authentic Neopolitan pizza – go for the classic Margherita, the original pizza invented in 1889 for Queen Margherita. The star ingredient here is Buffalo Mozzarella, the cheese made in the Campania region where Naples lies with a DOP label. It's argued you haven't had real mozzarella until eating it in Campania as it's so freshly made it must be eaten within 48 hours of production. Now that's fresh.

Close up of Margherita pizza with small blob of cheese in middle
Close up of Margherita pizza with small blob of cheese in middle
Close up of Margherita pizza with small blob of cheese in middle

5. Milan

Northern Italy is known for its rice. Here risotto trumps pasta just about any day of the week. It's also the place to try Gorgonzola cheese, originally from the small town of its namesake in Milan. For lunch? It's all about Piadina (not to be mistaken for its resemblance to a quesadilla). This thin flaky flatbread is stuffed with thin slices of Italian meats and cheese. At dinner, you're staring into a bowl of hearty fare – your pick of Ossobuco, Cotoletta (the cousin of schnitzel), and of course, Risotto alla Milanese.

flatbread folded in half and filled with thinly sliced meat and lettuce
flatbread folded in half and filled with thinly sliced meat and lettuce
flatbread folded in half and filled with thinly sliced meat and lettuce

USA

When you think of this country's international dish, you immediately think of burgers (you'd be right) – but the huge multicultural population of America means you can get just about every cuisine known to man here. However, there are some modern American foods only America does best; cornbread, Texas BBQ, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy... the list goes on.

6. New Orleans

For a unique foodie experience in the USA, Louisiana brings it! In New Orleans Creole 'city' cuisine meets Cajun 'country' cuisine, soul food meets French food with plenty of fresh local seafood in the mix too. Confusing as it is tasty, dig into Jambalaya, gumbo, Muffulettas, red beans and rice, and more to really taste the flavours of this city for yourself. Save room for the famous Beignets (New Orleans' version of a doughnut).

Bowl of Seafood gumbo with lots of shrimp
Bowl of Seafood gumbo with lots of shrimp
Bowl of Seafood gumbo with lots of shrimp

Spain

Paella is definitely the country's national dish – there's no shortage of variations across the Spanish countryside but it's important to note the dish originated in Valencia and should either be made with seafood, rabbit or chicken. Giant legs of Jamón (cured ham) are not to be compared to Italian prosciutto. And snacks, so many snacks!

7. San Sebastian

Arguably the best place for said snacks (ahem, Pinchos as they are called here) is San Sebastian, where bar snacks are practically a religion. Endless variations of delicious morsels artfully assembled on bread. Being close to the ocean you can also expect an array of Basque Country fish and seafood. Eating Pickled anchovies and salt cod is a must!

Small pieces of bread with meat, cheese, sauce and sprouts on top
Small pieces of bread with meat, cheese, sauce and sprouts on top
Small pieces of bread with meat, cheese, sauce and sprouts on top

Mexico

No hard-shell tacos or cheesy nacho fries here! Mexican in Mexico is the real deal – fresh, colourful cuisine and authentic street food. This cuisine dates back thousands of years with culinary traditions that can be traced back to the Aztecs and Mayans. Mexico City is practically the mecca for tacos, but Oaxaca is one of Mexico's best travel destinations for food lovers.

8. Oaxaca

Oaxacan cuisine is all about local ingredients and indigenous cooking traditions. Spices are everything and make the base for the many varieties of mole sauce you've got to try! The region is also famous for cheese, mezcal, chocolate, and even grasshoppers (chapulines). Try the Nieves (ice cream) flavoured with chapulines, grab Tlayudas (taco meets pizza) from a local street vendor, and book into some incredible local restaurants. Oaxaca is a great place to take a Mexican cooking class, complete with a guided tour of the local food market.

pizza with refried beans, cheese and grasshoppers
pizza with refried beans, cheese and grasshoppers
pizza with refried beans, cheese and grasshoppers

Argentina

Food and fire go hand in hand in Argentina, and what specifically are we grilling here? Meat, glorious meat! Non-meat eaters might feel a little out of place at an Asado (BBQ) gathering where friends and family grill meats on an open fire for several hours at a time. Maybe BYO Empanadas.

9. Mendoza

Most renowned for its wineries and world-famous Malbec wine region, Mendoza's full glass of red pairs or some wine tasting perfectly with its local food. No surprise meat is big on the menu, parrilla is the Spanish word for grill, and in Argentina it's more than just a way of cooking, it's a cultural experience. Fans of chef Francis Mallmann should indulge in parrilla at 1884 Restaurante Francis Mallmann or visit Mallmann's Siete Fuegos restaurant at the base of the Andes in Uco Valley.

Grilled meat on a board on table with family sitting around
Grilled meat on a board on table with family sitting around
Grilled meat on a board on table with family sitting around

Thailand

Thai food is a treat for tastebuds like no other – the balance of salty, sweet, sour, savoury, and spicy is unto itself. Salads, soups, curries, noodles, rice... Thailand has it all covered.

10. Bangkok

Though you could eat your way around Thailand for eternity, the plethora of options in Bangkok is pretty impressive. There are plenty of fancy restaurants and bars with epic city views, but the heart and soul of the city's dining scene is on the street – or even on a boat at the floating markets. Prepare to line up for the crab omelette at Raan Jay Fai's Michelin star awarded roadside restaurant – but you can always dig into a bowl of sticky mango rice from a nearby vendor while you wait... dessert first? Sure, why not.

lady in boat with food spooning soup into bowl
lady in boat with food spooning soup into bowl
lady in boat with food spooning soup into bowl

Turkey

Turkish food certainly flies a little more under the radar here in the southern hemisphere – unless you count doner kebab – which you probably shouldn't as it's nothing like the authentic 'kebap' you'll get in Turkey.

11. Istanbul

Here in Istanbul the East and West converge resulting in a rich food culture with influences from Central Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The food here is delicious any time of day but a Turkish breakfast is something truly inspired; an epic spread including but not limited to cucumber, tomato, cheeses, olives, bread, honey, jam, eggs and sausage all washed down with tea. Once you've made room for more feasting, grab some meze, sample the array of different kebap options and save room for plenty of baklava and künefe – a delicious sweet and savoury cheesy dessert.

spread of dips, bread, cheese, vegetables, and tea on table in turkey
spread of dips, bread, cheese, vegetables, and tea on table in turkey
spread of dips, bread, cheese, vegetables, and tea on table in turkey

Denmark

Meat and potatoes. Rye bread and herring. Hot dogs, hot dogs and more hot dogs. This hearty fare might not conjure up images of culinary greatness, but rest assured Denmark has plenty of world-class food on the table. Make sure to get a booking at Copenhagen's world-famous restaurant NOMA before it closes its doors in 2024.

12. Copenhagen

Good food in Copenhagen is all about fresh, local and seasonal – as it should be. The Danes take popular cuisines and make them their own by using local ingredients – take for example Cophagen's organic Italian-inspired pizzeria BÆST which puts a Scandinavian twist on the classics. Love a good picnic? You'll love summer in Copenhagen, when green spaces are filled with friends and families enjoying Smørrebrød (open sandwiches) topped with cold cut meats or fish, and cheese.

Open style sandwiches lined up sitting on tall wooden plates
Open style sandwiches lined up sitting on tall wooden plates
Open style sandwiches lined up sitting on tall wooden plates

South Korea

If you thought Korean food only consisted of bulgogi beef and bibimbap, though fun to say, these are only the gateway dishes to a world of delicacies. From seafood pancakes to pumpkin porridge and soups and noodles for days, South Korea takes bowl food to the next level.

13. Seoul

Barbecue meats and fried chicken with beer? These Korean classics are a must, but you'll also want to dig into Naengmyeon (chilled buckwheat noodles), bingsu (Korean shaved ice dessert), and the ultimate Korean comfort food: kimchi jjigae. Don't miss the fresh seafood at Noryangjin Fisheries Market and chowing down on street food along Myeongdong Main Street – tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and hotteok (pancakes with brown sugar) – are a must!

Spread of different korean foods on table
Spread of different korean foods on table
Spread of different korean foods on table

Taiwan

If given the option to stop over in Taiwan, take it. This small island in East Asia is much more than a layover, it's one of the best foodie destinations. Fun fact: bubble tea was invented in Taiwan, and apparently cat cafes too!

14. Taipei

One of the most crowded places on earth sure has a lot of tummies to fill, hence there is no shortage of eateries open 24/7, serving up beef noodle soup and hot pot to the masses. Street food vendors flip deliciously flaky scallion pancakes and wrap up Fan Tuan (a burrito-like roll of sticky rice filled with pork floss), Taiwan's answer to breakfast on the go. Breakfast is only the beginning of an all-day grazing menu – snack your way through endless markets day and night.

hand using chopsticks to cook meat in pot of hot soup
hand using chopsticks to cook meat in pot of hot soup
hand using chopsticks to cook meat in pot of hot soup

Israel

The origins of hummus are widely debated, but one thing's for sure, it's highly celebrated in Israel and is often thought of as the country's unofficial national dish. If you too consider hummus a food group, you'll happily be dipping your way through this historic part of the Middle East.

15. Tel Aviv

Yes, you'll dig into hummus for sure, but also falafel, shawarma, knafeh (sweet pastry filled with cheese and sometimes even ice cream on top!), shakshuka, and even schnitzel! Breakfast and brunch are a serious affair in Tel Aviv. For lunch, check out the Carmel Market for traditional delicacies. The city stays up late, so you can take your time getting to dinner before hitting the clubs (if that's your thing).

large trays of middle eastern desserts being distributed
large trays of middle eastern desserts being distributed
large trays of middle eastern desserts being distributed

Alright, food lover, pack your stretchy pants and let's get you on your way to your dream foodie destination! Talk to us today about flights, accommodation, food tours, and more for amazing foodie travel destinations around the world!


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