It is difficult to describe European food in a word, a sentence or a paragraph – because European cuisine, like its culture, is a melange of cuisines from across the continent and it can vary dramatically from country to country. However, you will find certain commonalities that run across the breadth of European food.
In particular, you will notice the meat has much more prominence in European cuisine than any other. From the classic French steak au poivre to jamón ibérico in Spain, and from the Austria’s schnitzel to Germany’s bratwurst sausages, European food features meat aplenty. However, rest assured that there are plenty of vegetarian alternatives and options as well, so you will not be struggling to decide what to eat in Europe. You will often find that meat and vegetables in Europe are well-seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs, or served with a sauce for flavour. Potato dishes are also very common in Europe, served on their own to accompany a meat main course or created into a dish in its own right. You will observe that most meals in Europe are made up of several courses that are served sequentially, especially in fine dining restaurants and venues.
Wine is also an important component of European meals. While Spain, France and Italy are the most prominent wine producing countries in Europe, many other nations in the continent have their own wine regions that specialise in certain types of grapes and flavours. However, as with food, wine preferences and production change from country to country. A great way to experience the wine culture of the city you’re in is to visit a winery for wine tasting, or to simply ask your server at the restaurant to help you find a good wine pairing for your meal.
Of course, the only way to truly understand European food is to experience it first-hand. Wherever you travel in Europe, you will find a wide range of dining options ranging from budget-friendly to the exact opposite – so take your pick and start munching your way through the continent!
No Europe trip is complete without feasting on the local food and drink. If you’re curious to know more about European cuisine and culture, visit your closest SOTC branch to learn more.
One of the best parts of the European culinary scene is the availability of cheap but delicious food that allows you to sample the best flavours of a country’s cuisine without burning a hole in your pocket. Most European’s cities will feature at least one food market or have plenty of street food vendors to choose from. Famous food markets in Europe include De Foodhallen in Amsterdam, which is an indoor market serving a range of local and international food options with live music or sports screenings for entertainment; Le Marché Raspail in Paris which serves as a go-to market for French foods like bread and cheese, but becomes an active food-truck venue on Sundays; and La Boqueria, which is a bustling market for produce and dishes located off Las Ramblas in Barcelona. The attractions of food markets are not only the prices and the food itself; you will notice that most markets are buzzing with energy, both from tourists and locals, making them some of the best places to eat in Europe and major tourist attractions in their own right.
A great way to understand the cuisine of a country is to make it yourself – with the help of a local expert. Most cities will offer you the opportunity to take up an afternoon cooking class, where you can meet with a local chef, select and work with fresh produce, and cook up a delicious local dish with guidance from a culinary whiz.
One of the most famous cooking classes in Europe is the one that takes place with Nonna Ciana near Siena in Italy, where you can not only cook up a scrumptious pasta dish, but enjoy wine, olive oil and other produce from local farms and producers. Whether you’re travelling solo or with your children, cooking classes are something that everyone can enjoy.
Another fantastic way to understand the cuisine of the country you’re in, is to see what is available on the supermarket shelves. If you’re on a tight budget or simply want to take an afternoon off from sightseeing, a picnic is a great way to relax and try some local snacks without breaking the bank.
Head over to your closest supermarket or bakery to pick up some local must-haves, find yourself a picnic blanket and a nice park or green spot to settle in to, and you are good to go. If you’re unsure of what to purchase for your picnic, just ask a local; they are always more than happy to help you out and show you an authentic part of their culture.
If your budget and bank account allow for it, fine dining in Europe is a unique, luxurious experience that everyone should experience at least once in their life. There are many iconic Michelin-starred restaurants dotted around the continent, serving up both traditional cuisines and innovative, modern concepts, so there are plenty of options to choose from. Some of the most notable upscale places to eat in Europe include Le Meurice in Paris for an opulent atmosphere juxtaposed against simple yet scrumptious dishes; La Pergola in Rome that serves unique dishes that are both local and international, traditional and modern; and Lasarte in Barcelona, where you can feast on dishes that look like they belong in an art museum. Most popular fine-dining restaurants get booked out several months in advance, especially during the spring and summer, so make sure to make your reservation as soon as possible to avoid missing out.