Want to eat like a local on your next city adventure? Discover the highlights of Europe's best urban food scenes, from Bristol to Berlin and further afield.
For a city break with a difference, book a destination where you can live and eat like a local.
Best for... craft beer and coastal cool
Known for its canals, bustling seaport and idyllic islands, Gothenburg, on Sweden’s west coast, is fast becoming the Nordic beer capital. As of five years ago, it’s even been host to the country’s first Beer Week, where a large number of the city’s 200-or-so breweries and microbreweries get involved, including local beer legends Vega and Stigbergets. But outside this annual event, there are plenty of hotspots around the city that pair great brews with fantastic food – making Gothenburg a perfect weekend break.
If you’re arriving on a Saturday, make your first stop the Lindholmen Street Food & Design Market. It attracts a local crowd and serves delicious street food alongside homegrown arts and contemporary crafts. Set in an old warehouse in the hip Science Park area just north of the river, its food stalls sell everything from local fish platters to gourmet burgers, creative menus from a rotating roster of top chefs to classic Swedish waffles with whipped cream and sour cherry compote (dishes from around £5.50).
Local breweries are also represented, including Wet Whistle. Even if you’re not a beer fan, this outfit prides itself on having a brew to tempt everyone – from Light & Delicious APA to Smooth & Spicy wheat saison (beers from £6 per pint). Head to Gamlestaden, the old meat packing district north-east of the city centre, for more locally made and loved beers. At Spike Brewery, the newly opened taproom serves wood-fired pizzas and fantastic brews, including Fresh Prince APA and seasonal Mango Fandango (mains from £11.50; tasting beers from £3.30 per 15cl).
You’ll find Gothenburg’s first urban winery in this area, too. Wine Mechanics uses grapes from Pfalz in Germany and the northern Rhône region in France to make white, red and rosé wines that are best enjoyed in the restaurant – it’s set in a stylishly converted pigsty influenced by American West Coast design. You’ll find plenty of local fish on the menu, which includes herring, and at least one of the Swedish ‘seafood big five’ – lobster, crayfish, mussels, oysters and shrimp – depending on the season. There’s also steak and pasta on offer, if fish isn’t your thing (mains from £10).
How to do it: Hotel Bellora, just off Gothenburg’s central Avenyn, is a great base for excursions to the breweries using the city’s comprehensive bus, tram and subway network. The hotel has a modern, Italian-inspired restaurant and bar with dark woods and a wall of wine, while guest rooms feature floral wallpaper, modern velvet furniture, and black-and-white prints. Take the lift to the rooftop bar for a pre-dinner cocktail and great views of the Avenyn and King’s Park. Double rooms cost from £74 per night including breakfast (served with fresh warm breads, paté and cheese).
Best for... trendy bars and fresh seafood
Lisbon doesn’t lack happening neighbourhoods. From the clubs of its rejunvenated dockside and the perenially buzzing bars of Cais do Sodré, to the spruced-up cobbled streets of the old Alfama district, and boho Bairro Alto, this hip port city offers much celebrated places to eat, drink and party. One hilltop hood that has, however, remained somewhat under the radar, is Príncipe Real. Formerly a stately residential area of crumbling old mansions, antique shops and elegant parks, Príncipe Real has lately stepped into the food and fashion limelight with a crop of bold new concept stores, boutique hotel openings and restaurants that excel at traditional Portuguese cooking with inspired international flare.
Just up the hill from the gritty bars of the Bairro Alto, dining out in Príncipe Real is a touch more genteel. At the sleek Memmo Príncipe Real, in a hidden alleyway tucked off the main street, forward-thinking chef Vasco Lello is quietly building a fan base for his well-priced, imaginative cooking. Like the hotel itself, which overlooks terracotta rooftops and features an infinity pool, dinner here is both comforting and surprising, traditional and new. A lip-smacking opener of oyster with yuzu (£3 each), is balanced by the more traditional clam dish bulhão pato (£17), brought up to date with razor clams and cockles, served with rice and meagre (a fish similar to seabass), and a dessert of São Tomé chocolate, banana and salted caramel praline (£7). This is modern Portuguese cooking, a reflection of Vasco’s Portuguese heritage, influenced by his travels in Asia, Africa, and Brazil.
Wine, however, is strictly regional Portuguese. Take the opportunity to try Vértice, the Douro espumante (sparkling wine), which isn’t widely available outside of Portugal, along with the hotel’s port and tonic – you’ll find key ingredients and a recipe provided in your room.
Lisbon is a hilly, easy city to navigate, and it’s a pleasant downhill stroll from Príncipe Real to the centre. (A taxi on return is your best bet unless you have hardy legs. Príncipe Real has remained something of an exclusive enclave perhaps due to its lack of metro station). Near the port, the Mercado da Ribeira Time Out food market is an excellent spot to graze on regional Portuguese and international dishes such as suckling pig with sweet potato purée (dishes from £8), the creation of renowned chef Henrique Sá Pessoa.
Serious foodies book well in advance for a table at Alma, his flagship high-end restaurant in Chiado. Tasting menus focus on either meat or fish featuring the best Portuguese produce from delicate baby carrots with goat’s cheese and cumin oil, to colourful flavour bombs such as the scarlett prawn rice, and Asian-flair desserts that reflect the chef’s time in that region (£95 for five courses). Back in Príncipe Real, Pessoa has opened Tapisco, which proudly celebrates food from across Iberia; Spanish tapas, Portuguese petiscos, and vermouth (bite-sized dishes from £8). A few doors along, join the queue at A Cevicheria for pisco sours and ceviche (dishes from £10), for a little taste of Peru in Portugal.
How to do it: Double rooms at Memmo Príncipe Real cost from £180 per night, including breakfast.
Best for... Spanish flavours and tranquility
At Bristol Lido, the wooden-clad treatment rooms are relaxed, unfussy and comfortable, but the real draw is the food. There’s a poolside tapas bar and award-winning restaurant, and both menus have a Spanish lilt.
Meat, fish, vegetables and even manchego are cooked in a wood-fired oven, imparting a smoky flavour that adds intrigue and depth. Whether it’s a plate of cured meat and a glass of sherry, pork belly with garlic, chilli and clams, or ethereally smooth caramel ice cream, Lido covers all bases. It's a particularly good place to bring vegetarians, with intelligent, interesting offerings. You’ll leave well fed and rested.
How to do it: The Lido is situated in the heart of Clifton in Bristol and is accessible by car, train and bus. You can find further information and directions on the Lido website.
Prague, Czech Republic
On a walking tour with Eating Prague Tours, take in the sights via local delicacies, starting with a gingerbread house at Perníčkův Sen and ending at the 100-year-old Café Louvre. In between there’s the Choco Café, with 50 flavours of hot chocolate and traditional sauerkraut soup with foraged chanterelles at beautifully gothic Zvonice. A highlight is the Dlouhá gourmet arcade where you can buy meat from Czech farmers at Naše Maso which they’ll cook and serve for you on homemade bread. Across the arcade is Sisters Bistro, serving open-face sandwiches (chlebicky).
Near the Old Town square, U Supa is the oldest brewery with its own restaurant in town – the hoppy confit goose with roasted spaetzle dumplings is a treat. Don’t leave without trying a trdelník – sweet dough baked on a spit, turned over an open flame and rolled in cinnamon sugar. The Good Food Coffee House near the Old Town Square serves them in a variety of different flavours.
How to do it: Stay at the Clarion Hotel Prague City. Superior double rooms are available from £57 a night, including breakfast.
Best for... seafood and midnight sun
Situated on a small island well within the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and fjords, and the locals are extremely proud of the world-class produce from the region. The cuisine is highly driven by seasonality; in summer, a cold beer and a hard-boiled seagull egg is a midsummer night’s snack, and in winter, skrei cod, stockfish (dried cod) and clipfish (dried and salted cod or bacalao) are common. Don’t miss out on cold-water prawns – eat them straight off the boat on the pier – or the delicious local king crab.
Fiskekompaniet on the harbour has the best the Norwegian seas have to offer. For a cheap snack, local fishmongers sell hot Norwegian fishcakes – try Dragøy Fishmonger in Kystens Mathus on the main square for the best. Or opt for a reindeer hot dog at Raketten Kiosko, Norway’s smallest bar. You could also enjoy halibut or strawberry salmon roll at Rå Sushi, and drink at Ølhallen, one of the world’s northernmost breweries with rows of craft beer to choose from.
At Mathallen restaurant, head chef Gunnar Jensen fuses modern and traditional Norwegian food using everything from king crab to reindeer. Smak is one of the best restaurants in Norway – head chef Espen Ramnestedt uses locally sourced products from beef and seafood with home-grown herbs to make it a true culinary gem. Booking is essential.
How to do it: Stay at Scandic Ishavshotel on the scenic harbourside and wake up to an excellent breakfast each morning. Standard double rooms are available from £105 per night. Tromsø Camping may feel like the wilderness, but it’s a half-hour walk to the city centre. Economy cabins with four bunk beds start at £57 per night.
Best for... neighbourhood cafés & bistros
At Hotel Lutetia in Paris, mornings start with the satisfying act of rotating a Tête de Moine curler (or girolle, to give it its proper name) to shave silky Jura cheeses into delicate rosettes. The breakfast counter heaves with charcuterie, breads and pastries, and while there is green tea and egg white omelettes for those who want them, hot chocolate and madeleines seem like an essential start to the day when visiting Paris (breakfast mains from £3;).
Perhaps it’s knowing you can work it all off in the hotel’s state-of-the-art gym and famous Akasha spa. The recently renovated Hotel Lutetia is the Left Bank’s only palace hotel, and has luxurious rooms furnished with art books and fragranced by Italian perfumers Culti. There’s a playful touch and Asian influences in its restaurant, Le Saint Germain. Underneath its arresting stained glass ceiling, raw yellowtail slices with citrus, for example, are served with chunky miso-buttered soldiers (£26).
The art deco hotel, the grandest address on La Rive Gauche, is also home to frescoed Bar Joséphine, where tuxedoed mixologists create inventive drinks for a smart clientele. There’s also the hotel’s new Brasserie Lutetia, headed up by Michelin-starred chef Gérald Passédat, which features a dramatic fresh seafood bar (tasting menu £73).
A short walk from Lutetia is Semilla, a modern bistro serving seasonal salads and veal sweetbreads (mains around £26;). But a far more casual spot is tiny Les Pipos, where students, tourists and locals alike compete for tables. Friendly staff and hearty dishes such as bone marrow on toast and thyme-roasted chicken with mash, make suffering the odd elbow in the ribs a bit easier (dishes from £9;). Sunday mornings on the Left Bank are made for the Marché Raspail, where locals shop for produce, oysters, rotisserie chicken and cakes. Though not as polished as the nearby La Grande Epicerie, there’s no finer spot to buy stinky cheese.
How to do it: Double rooms at Hotel Lutetia start at £660 (room only).
Best for... New Nordic cuisine
Known more for the Northern Lights and Blue Lagoon than its foodie scene, Iceland is nonetheless having a culinary moment. Its gastronomic offerings have never been better, and friendly Sigrún’s spacious and tastefully decorated two-bedroom apartment, on airbnb.co.uk, is just a 10-minute bus ride from the city centre.
Start the day at downtown retro café C Is For Cookie, a great local breakfast spot with good espresso and fab cakes, including an incredible cheesecake (from about £3). To keep on the right gastronomic track, avoid the overpriced, bland soups served at many restaurants and search out some rewarding alternatives.
Four-restaurant mini chain Saffran does a wonderful and inexpensive range of healthy and delicious food. Lobster pizza is the must-have item on the menu, at a very reasonable £14. For a more upscale dining experience, go to Fiskmarkadurinn, which serves good cocktails, great sushi and sashimi, and a superb chef’s tasting menu (main courses from £32). After a day of sightseeing, grab bento boxes from Tokyo Sushi and head back to the apartment. This top-notch takeaway is £6 for a small box – great value if you’re on a budget.
How to do it: Rent Sigrún’s apartment from £138 per night (three-night minimum stay).
Best for... tapas & outdoor eating
Andalusian paradise Seville has everything you need for an incredible trip: sun, photogenic sights and endless food options. The cobbled streets that twist and turn off La Alameda de Hércules are the perfect start. Here, at the top end of the plaza, you’ll find Marta’s cute and compact apartment on airbnb.co.uk, two floors up from a quiet street and filled with arty prints, fun ornaments and elaborately tiled floors.
The area is hip, with hidden bars, endless tapas options and breakfast cafés. Just around the corner from Marta’s is Duo Tapas (00 34 955 23 85 72), which serves inexpensive and delicious small plates. Pick an outside table and try the solomillo de buey (beef fillet), boiled octopus and shrimp tortillitas, from €2.50 (£2.20) per dish. For a simple plate of jamón and an ice-cold beer, head to Taberna Águilas (00 34 637 70 68 68), a short walk from the old quarter’s wooden Metropol Parasol and beautiful cathedral. Vega 10 (00 34 955 23 77 48) in Triana, just across the river, is another must-visit tapas bar, where the salmon & mango tartare is out of this world.
How to do it: Marta's apartment can be rented from £49 per night.
Best for... markets and city walks
To fully immerse yourself in the London local food scene, book the Tyers Gate apartment, in a converted warehouse near London Bridge, and you’ll be within a short walk of Borough Market.
When hunger strikes, nip out for a cheese toastie, £6, from Kappacasein; treat yourself to homemade pasta, about £7, from Padella; or buy some fresh produce to cook for yourself in the apartment’s small, sleek kitchen. The following day, take a short stroll (or perhaps a longer walk via Tower Bridge, to work up an appetite) to the area around Maltby Street, Rope Walk and Spa Terminus. You can stock up on custard doughnuts from St John Bakery, beer from The Kernel Brewery and cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy.
Nearby is the tiny José Tapas Bar on Bermondsey Street. Bag a seat at a quiet time and snack on hake with aïoli, or fig with sheep’s cheese & honey dressing (plates about £7). Or set your sights higher, quite literally, and head to London’s tallest skyscraper, The Shard. Book a table at Aqua Shard on the 31st floor (mains from £20-40), or try your luck with the first-come-first-served policy at the bar.
How to do it: Onefinestay apartments come with hotel-quality linens, towels and toiletries. You are personally welcomed by staff, who are then available by phone 24/7, and you’ll be provided with an iPhone with free data and local area maps loaded for your stay. The Tyers Gate unit costs from £190 per night and sleeps two to four.
Best for... fabulous food & fashion
This city’s food scene caters to international designers, bankers and fashionistas who won’t suffer a bad meal. Plentiful rental apartments offer a cheaper alternative to the fashion-branded hotels that have colonised the city.
On the edge of Milan’s mini-Chinatown, Celia’s chic one-bedroom apartment, on airbnb.co.uk, is on the first floor of a classic Milanese casa di ringhiera (a characterful building with an internal courtyard and balconies), within walking distance of the central sights. Breakfast is one meal Italians don’t overindulge in, so have yours before venturing out.
On the same street, La Ravioleria Sarpi is an encouraging sign of new-era Chinese cuisine in Milan, partnered with a local butcher and offering refined dim sum and street-food bites from under €5 (£4.30). Alternatively, walk 15 minutes to Ratana, a modern Milanese bistro in an old art nouveau railway storehouse. Equally good for lunch or dinner, the menu makes little inspired changes to revive Lombardy classics like Milanese risotto with osso buco. Dinner for two starts at about €92 (£80). For pre- or post-prandial drinks, bustling Cantine Isola (Via Paolo Sarpi 30) can’t be beaten. This bar-enoteca (wine shop) is lined, floor to ceiling, with bottles, so you can sip before shopping. The counter heaves with complimentary small plates – there are towers of bruschetta, hunks of parmesan and rainbows of salumi.
For proper shopping, Eataly Milano Smeraldo, in the grand old Teatro Smeraldo, has theatrically arranged pan-Italian produce. The recipe packs are hard to resist: pasta meals, from simple tomato to wild boar, with dessert and paired wines in a chic canvas bag from €29.50 (£25.60).
How to do it: Book Celia’s apartment from £50 per night (sleeps two).
Best for... adventurous eaters
Bed down in Kreuzberg, a neighbourhood once almost surrounded by the Berlin Wall, to get a real taste of how this city has regenerated. Previously a hub for Turkish immigrants, artists and club denizens, it’s now a superb place to hang out and pig out.
Check into a Homestay apartment hosted by local chef Birgit, and enjoy a simple breakfast of German muesli, croissants, fresh bread and preserves on the terrace, which has panoramic city views. If you are lucky, Birgit will prepare you a dinner of homemade spätzle (traditional German dumplings) at the day’s end.
For a local lunch of lamb cutlets at €16.50 (£14.30), go to Rote Harfe, near Heinrichplatz, or shop at the Turkish market in Maybachufer for great fruit and snacks – jet-black olives, sesame-studded simit rolls and local honey (Tuesdays and Fridays). Later on, head to Kreuzberg’s arterial Oranienstraße. The fun flagship of Berlin’s Amrit mini-franchise serves pan-Indian food and colourful cocktails, with dishes about €8 (£7). A short walk south, in the nearby Berlin Mitte district, try Dottir, which opened last year. Chef Victoria Eliasdóttir, who had a stint at Alice Waters’ landmark Californian restaurant, Chez Panisse, runs the kitchen, serving dishes that draw on her Danish-Icelandic roots. The four-course menu – about €58 (£50) – changes daily but retains a strong focus on North Sea fish. Don’t miss the fresh baked bread with liquid browned butter.
Brunch is a Berlin weekend institution and you will be spoilt for choice in Kreuzberg. Adjacent to Görlitzer Park, Nest, is a leader: the Med-German dishes include everything from cheese plates to cured fish from about €5 (£4.30).
How to do it: Book Birgit’s place from £22 per night (sleeps two).
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of June 2019 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.