Food is never too far from our thoughts, with most of us mulling over the next meal during the majority of the hours we spend awake. And never is this more apparent than when we are on our travels. There is something about being in a foreign city that makes us want to try all the local delicacies and treat ourselves by being a bit more frivolous and adventurous than usual.
Whether we're talking street food from a roadside cart or six-course dinners in the finest of fine dining restaurants, Europe has some great food hotspots. So here are a few foodie cities for anyone looking for a new culinary quest to put on their travel list.
The Usual Suspects
We couldn't create a list of the best food cities in Europe without including the usual suspects. However, if the list was only made up of the places that we all know are synonymous with great restaurants then it wouldn't be terribly exciting.
Destinations such as Rome, Paris and Madrid attract people from all over the world for many different reasons, but one of them has to be the food. The tapas mile of Cava Baja is great for sampling many of Spain's best dishes, whilst the Testaccio neighbourhood of Rome is the best place to head when in Italy's capital. Paris has the second largest number of Michelin stars of any city in the world. And from the creperies on every corner to some of the world's most renowned restaurants, there is plenty to tickle taste buds of every preference.
People take Florence city breaks in their droves to experience its wonderful art galleries and historic religious buildings, but many go for the food too. With lush, fertile land all around the city, local restaurants and the natives who eat in them are intent on making the most of the regional products that grow in this area.
Whilst restaurants will give you a taste of a real steak Florentine or 'Pappardelle sulla lepre' (a pasta dish which can include various types of game meat), the street markets will offer you the chance to buy some amazing bread, oils, meat, fish, vegetables and pasta to recreate something special in your own kitchen. Be sure to take an evening stroll along the bank of the River Arno too, as you will be rewarded with some of the best gelato in Italy.
Belgium is famous for its indulgent chocolates and waffles, but Brussels is proving that there is much more to the country's cuisine than sweet treats. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take the opportunity to sample some of these staples, with Pierre Marcolini offering perhaps the most hedonistic of boutique chocolate shops.
Those looking for a more balanced meal may want to head to the Grand Place and the area surrounding the Gare de Bruxelles-Chapelle. Here you will find exciting eateries such as Comme Chez Soi, La Maison du Cygne and the wonderfully named L'Idiot du Village. These establishments are doing wonderful things with ingredients such as duck breast, seafood and pigeon that will make your mouth water in anticipation throughout the entirety of your Brussels city break.
If you are looking for a city that will really offer a sophisticated dining experience, and you don't mind parting with the cash to enable this, Monaco is definitely the place to go. The city of Monte Carlo mixes the revelry and extravagant lifestyle of Las Vegas with a dash of French finesse to create an atmosphere that is difficult to describe.
The food takes great influence from Mediterranean cuisine but the cooking styles and presentation techniques are probably closer to those you would find in France. This combination ensures you will not be underwhelmed by your choice to dine in this decadent city. Head to Elsa or Joel Robuchon's restaurant for an evening you'll never forget.
Prague may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of food, but there is a selection of great restaurants looking to change this. The cuisine of the Czech Republic is by no means as famous as that of France, Italy or Spain, but hearty dishes that include sumptuous stews, sauces to savour and mountains of meat will light a fire in your hungry belly.
An evening at La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise will give you the perfect opportunity to sample some Czech delights and your Prague city break will not be over until you've tried Svíčková na smetaně (beef sirloin topped with cranberry and doused in gravy) and followed it with some Ovocné knedlíky (fruit dumplings, pictured above) for dessert.
Before embarking on your food tour of Europe, why not speak to Fred.\ Holidays. Our passionate team will be able to give you an insight into the best places to stay and find you a great deal. Call the number above for more details.