European Countries' Cuisine, Ranked From Worst to Best
Travel is all about exploring nature, connecting with history and experiencing new cultures. Oh, who are we kidding? It's really about the food!
Eating and drinking across Europe is at least as exciting as sightseeing there. But while all European countries offer some fine dishes, not all are created equal.
To make choosing the right European destination for a culinary trip easier, we decided to rank the food in all the nations of the European Union. Our list is based on lots of time spent traveling the continent, sampling the local cuisine throughout.
Of course, these results are subjective. Agree? Disagree? We'd love to hear what you think.
20. Finland, Denmark & Sweden
The Nordic countries of Finland, Denmark and Sweden (plus Norway and Iceland, which are in Europe but not in the European Union) blend in together when it comes to cuisine.
These nations combine mostly rural land with long coastlines along the Baltic and North Seas. As a result, menus in Scandinavia consist of many vegetables, game meat and fish, much of it fermented.
This simplicity can be effective, but when compared to the cuisine of other European countries, well...fermented shark just doesn't cut it.
Plus, food in Scandinavia is the priciest in all of Europe, thanks to a super-strong currency and high VAT rates. As we have heard it described, “Scandinavian food is expensive and uninteresting” — a less-than-stellar combo.
Still, Sweden did introduce us to the Smorgasbord and Swedish meatballs, so it’s not all that bad.
Where to Eat in Scandinavia
Despite its last-place ranking on our list, there are some true culinary winners in Scandinavia. In 2023, Denmark and Sweden have at least one Michelin three-star restaurant, an extremely rare and coveted honor indicating "exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey."
Take the special journey to Frantzén in Stockholm, Sweden or Geranium in Copenhagen, Denmark.
19. Lithuania, Estonia & Latvia
When your country’s cuisine is made up of things that survive the bitter cold (think: barley, potatoes, rye, beets, berries) it’s difficult to get too excited.
Soups (borscht, beet root soup) and rye bread simply have a tough time competing with heartier dishes of game meat in the countries to the south.
Baltic countries are also big on pickling — pickled herring is particularly popular — which is, we'll say, an acquired taste.
Where to Eat in the Baltics
While Lithuania and Latvia have not yet earned a Michelin star, Estonia has a one-star restaurant and a two-star one.
But both are creative cuisine, so they're not great for getting to know local cuisine. For that, Tripadvisor travelers have given 4.5 stars to Vincents in Riga, Latvia and Dominic in Tallinn, Estonia — and 5 stars to Amandus in Vilnius, Lithuania, where local ingredients representing the best of the Baltic region take center stage.
Seafood in Croatia's Adriatic coastal cities like Dubrovnik and Split can be amazing. But most of Croatia’s foods are similar to its neighbors, who are better known for their versions. For example, goulash is more famous in Hungary and pasta and sauces are renowned in Italy.
Much of Croatian cuisine is game-based, with turkey, pork and even the “edible dormouse” found abundantly on menus.
Uh, no, thank you.
Where to Eat in Croatia
Eleven establishments in Croatia received one star from Michelin in 2023, meaning they qualify as "a very good restaurant."
Try 360º in Dubrovnik, Monte in Rovinj, Noel in Zagreb or Pelegrini in Sibenik.
With its inventive takes on indigenous Croatian dishes, Draga di Lovrana in Lovran challenges the notion that the country's cuisine is uninspired.
Bulgaria is part of the Balkans, and shares some of the same recipes as Greece and Turkey. It's known for its hearty cuisine, as well as dishes rich in dairy and veggies.
With tripe soup (tripe is the muscle wall from a cow's stomach) and a cold yogurt-based soup making the list of the country’s dishes, Bulgaria is not a place to go for fine dining.
That said, as with all the countries in Europe, Bulgaria does have a few dishes that wow. Banitsa, a cheese-filled filo pastry, is a popular snack and breakfast dish that's easy to fall in love with.
Where to Eat in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is rising in the culinary scene, but not enough to land on any "Best Of" or Michelin star lists.
Still, if visiting Sofia, follow the recommendations of Tripadvisor travelers, who give top marks to the 4.5-star Cosmos. Here, traditional Bulgarian dishes like chicken kavarma — with veggies, paprika and the Bulgarian herb chubritza — are made with love and innovation.
In Slovenia, try the struklji, a steamed, boiled or fried dough dish filled with either meats and cheeses or apples.
Sound similar to Austria’s strudel? Not quite, but the Hapsburg Dynasty from Austria did spread across Slovenia, so there's a definite Austrian influence in the cuisine here. In addition to the strudel-esque struklji, the Austrian dish of schnitzel is popular in Slovenia, too.
There's nothing wrong with these dishes in the least — they're sublime. It's just that it's better to try them in Austria, where they're from.
Where to Eat in Slovenia
Slovenia has eight Michelin restaurants with one star, including Strelec Restaurant in Ljubljana, which was included in the 2019 World's 50 Best Restaurants awards. It boasts an enviable setting that's so very Slovenia: an actual medieval castle.
Hiša Franko is the country's only two-star restaurant and it serves creative regional cuisine. Like many restaurants of its tier, it sources many of its ingredients from the surrounding farms and mountains. Expect ingredients to be day fresh and excellent quality.
15. Czechia & Slovakia
Many dishes found in the Czechia are crossovers from its neighbors, Austria and Hungary.
You’ll find goulash, sauerkraut and dumplings, just like you will in its former adjoined country, Slovakia. (The duo once formed Czechoslovakia.)
Traditional cuisine in these countries is otherwise pretty basic, though not without its merits. In the Czechia, try vepro knedlo zelo, roasted pork paired with dumplings and cabbage; in Slovakia, opt for bryndzové halušky, potato dumplings with sheep cheese and bacon.
These are both beautiful countries, we admit, and the food is far from terrible. But you can enjoy better cuisine elsewhere in Europe.
Where to Eat in Czechia & Slovakia
Czechia has two one-star Michelin restaurants in 2023, both in Prague: Field and La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise. Field's 10-course menu is a veritable feast; La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise is known for its freshly foraged ingredients and traditional Czech techniques.
Slovakia hasn't made the cut for Michelin just yet, but Tripadvisor reviewers rave about Bratislava restaurants Albrecht and Houdini Restaurant.
When you are stuck between France and Germany, you’re bound to have cuisine that reflects both countries. Props to Luxembourg for also having some originality in its menus.
Traditional dishes include judd mat gaardebounden (pork neck with beans), träipen(fried blood sausage) and a number of fried-fish dishes, including the friture de la Moselle, a river fish eaten with your fingers.
Hmm, we still think sticking with French and German food is a better idea.
Where to Eat in Luxembourg
With nine Michelin-starred restaurants in this tiny country, it's safe to say you can find a great meal here.
Ma Langue Sourit is the only restaurant to receive two stars in 2023. The restaurant focuses on a full sensory experience for diners, and is known for its creative use of local, organic produce.
It will anger the Irish to be compared in any way to the UK (next slide!), but the foods are pretty similar. Sorry!
There are a couple things Ireland does better, though. One is the beer; this is, after all, the birthplace of Guinness.
The other is butter, which truly does melt in the mouth here. With a high-fat concentration that makes it extra creamy — plus the cows get to nosh on Irish green grass all day — Irish butter is fantastic.
Otherwise, Ireland is basically known as the home of potato dishes. So it's safe to say that, on the lengthy list of reasons to visit the Emerald Isle, food isn't near the top.
Where to Eat in Ireland
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at Dublin's Merrion Hotel is one of four restaurants in the Emerald Isle with two Michelin stars. The restaurant focuses on French-style cooking but utilizes local ingredients thoughtfully.
Dublin is also home to a collection of one-star restaurants, and there are three one-star standouts (Chestnut, Ichigo Ichie and Mews) in County Cork as well. In total, this relatively small country has 20 restaurants that have earned stars.
12. United Kingdom
While the British would argue that deviled kidneys, liver and onions, Pease pudding, and steak and kidney pie are “delish,” most visitors probably wouldn't choose these items unless they were stuck in the English countryside with no other option.
Does this continue the stereotype that British food is bad? Yes, it does. And it's true that this stereotype isn't entirely true; London and Edinburgh’s food scenes are home to some of the best international restaurants in the world. But that just means food from other countries makes their culinary scenes great.
The fact is, not many people travel to the UK expecting a great meal, and there is always a bit of truth behind stereotypes.
Where to Eat in the United Kingdom
The U.K. has five restaurants that have received eight stars from Michelin, five of which are in London (including Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, by the famed celebrity chef). There are also two in Bray (Waterside Inn and the Fat Duck), and one in Cartmel (L'Enclume).
Though most of these establishments are French, two focus on British cuisine with a twist, L'Enclume and London's CORE by Clare Smyth.
For a hearty, traditional English fare go to Rules. As London's oldest restaurant, it's been embracing the classics since 1798.
11. Hungary & Romania
With two-thirds of Hungary lost mainly to Romania after World War I, and Hungarians now Romania’s largest minority group, we’ll combine the two countries in terms of cuisine because they share many of the same dishes (try cabbage rolls and pork jelly in both). There are some differences, though.
Romania incorporates much of its foods from its neighboring countries, including Hungary and Poland, with minced meat filling its menus.
Hungary is famously home to goulash — a wholly satisfying meat and vegetable stew — and embraces spices like paprika. (Paprikash, meat simmered in paprika, derives its name from the spice.) Thanks to these and other traditional dishes, Hungarians enjoy the better food of the two countries.
Where to Eat in Hungary & Romania
In Budapest, Hungary, you'll find five Michelin one-star restaurants and the two-star Stand. As a whole, the country has nine restaurants that have received the honors. All the lauded restaurants serve either modern or creative cuisine, but you'll find a modern take on traditional Hungarian dishes at Stand.
Though Romania doesn't have Michelin stars at the moment, Kamin Restaurant in Izola is praised for its homemade olive oil, delectable dishes and breathtaking views over the Gulf of Trieste.
A combination of Slavic, German and Yiddish foods, many people think of meat and cheese when they think Polish cuisine. (Pierogi, anyone?)
From chicken noodle soup, rosol, to red beet soup with dumplings, and fasolka po bretnonsku stewed beans to white borscht soup with hard-boiled eggs and kielbasa, Poland knows how to keep you warm during its cold winters.
This country is about comfort foods, all the way. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Where to Eat in Poland
Poland has three restaurants receiving a star from Michelin in 2023. Nuta in Warsaw and Muga in Poznan both have one star. Bottiglieria 1881 in Krakow boasts two stars and is classified as creative cuisine.
Though modern, Nuta and Muga focus on traditional Polish cooking with a modern twist.
Traditional Dutch menus will be filled with herring, including raw herring with chopped onions eaten on bread (Holladnse nieuwe).
But we prefer the sweet cuisine found in the Netherlands: poffertjes, small puffed pancakes topped with powdered sugar (like an American funnel cake) and the stroopwafel, syrup waffle cookies.
We also recommend bitterballen, deep-fried meatballs coated in breadcrumbs and served with mustard. The dish is regularly and best enjoyed with a nice cold beer.
Where to Eat in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has an impressive 123 restaurants on Michelin's list with an impressive 20 two-star restaurants and three that have earned the top award.
The three-star De Librije in Zwolle is helmed by a born-and-bred Netherlands chef who's open about his love for his home region's food.
Malta may be small, but its cuisine is mighty.
Of course, with its Mediterranean location, seafood dishes are plentiful on the island. A seasonal approach here applies not just to what’s harvested from the soil, but to what's fished from the sea.
Try hobz biz-zejt — bread stuffed with tuna, capers, tomatoes, onion and garlic — as an appetizer before digging in to your main course of lampuki pie (fish stew).
Even the pasta sauce here is regularly made with squid and octopus!
Belgian waffles may be the first thing that come to mind when you think of Belgium, but this intimate country nestled between France and the Netherlands is actually the creator of the French fry. (Although France tries to lay claim to the honor.)
You may not think it’s worth it to visit a country entirely for its French fries, but Belgium has truly perfected this fabulous comfort food, and we kindly disagree.
Alternatively, you may prefer the moules-frites, mussels in wine and butter served with fries. It’s pretty much a standard of the coastal country, and is simply delicious.
Oh, and need we remind you of Belgian chocolate? If it's good enough to be Godiva, it's good enough to have our hearts.
Where to Eat in Belgium
An incredible 138 Belgian restaurants have earned stars in 2023 (three with three stars, 21 with two stars and 114 with one star).
Of the ones who've earned the top honor, choose Hof van Cleve. Its chocolate grenade dessert does Belgium proud.
There are more than 40 types of bratwurst (sausage) in Germany, and more than 5,000 brands of German beer. For these two reasons alone, foodies can find much to love here.
Better yet, Germans know how to combine excellent food with inspired revelry, as is evident at the country's famous annual Oktoberfest, draws more than 6 million attendees.
And don't even get us started on the simple joys of a great pretzel or hearty helping of spätzleegg noodles.
Spätzle is one of many dishes Germany shares with Austria, coming up on this list.
Where to Eat in Germany
Germany has a jaw-dropping nine three-star restaurants. Think that's impressive? It also has 50 two-star and 270 one-star establishments!
Another excellent choice is the Michelin two-star honoree Vendome, an ideal spot to try fine dining with a traditional touch. The restaurant elevates regional German cuisine through inventive preparation. Berlin's two-star restaurant Tim Raue has also been listed on the 50 Best Restaurants in the World list.
For a three-star experience, try Rutz, also in Berlin.
The national dish of Austria is its breaded and fried schnitzel, or veal cutlet. Vienna’s Figlmuller Willzeile is known as the birthplace of the dish and has been serving it for more than 100 years.
Vienna is also home to the semi-sweet chocolate torte with thick layers of apricot jam known as the sacher torte.
And then, there is the flaky delicacy known as the apfelstrudel, or apple strudel. Although it's long been popular across Eastern Europe, the sweet treat was created for the Hapsburg family, who reigned from Vienna.
Are these three distinct dishes enough to warrant a visit to Austria for food? Combine them with the wonderful Grüner Veltliner wines created in Austria’s Wachau Valley along the Danube River, and the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Where to Eat in Austria
There are 16 Michelin-starred restaurants in Austria, including the three-star Amador in Vienna.
Also in Vienna, the two-star Steirereck im Stadtpark focuses on Austrian ingredients and traditional techniques, with a twist. Its tagline? "Austrian cuisine beyond its boundaries."
Salzburg, too, has some superlative places to dine, including the two-star Ikarus and SENNS.Restaurant.
4. Greece & Cyprus
We will first be clear that Cyprus is not part of Greece and not near Greece — it’s actually closer to Turkey (not in the EU). The Turks and Greeks have a generations-old feud between them, and both wanted Cyprus for themselves. And although we know this will cause some anger, this trio of nations, despite any ill will between them, share a lot of common dishes, albeit with different names.
Consider this: souvlaki, kebabs and sheftalia? All kebabs of meat.
Stuffed grape leaves (you say dolma, I say dolmathes)? The same.
Gyros and shawarma? Both involve marinated meat, typically served on flatbread.
Thick yogurts most often called Greek yogurt? Same.
Let them battle out who does it better; these dishes are fantastic no matter what version you try.
Where to Eat in Greece & Cyprus
In Greece, head to Delta in Athens for Michelin two-star cuisine. The one-star Varoulko Seaside in the city serves up top-notch versions of Greek favorites, including the traditional appetizer taramosalata, a fish roe dip. It's also one of the most affordable Michelin restaurants in the world.
Cyprus isn't on Michelin's radar just yet, but of the thousands of restaurants on the island, more than 1,380 reviews on Tripadvisor find La Maison Fleurie in Limassol to be out of this world.
3. Spain & Portugal
Thank you, Spain and Portugal, for adding so much spice to so many of your dishes.
We are sorry to group you together, for you are each a beautiful country that stands alone, but with your shared location on the Iberian Peninsula, your cuisine is quite similar. (And similarly fantastic.)
Traditional Iberian Peninsula food is renowned for paella/arroz de pato(rice, spices, meat or veggies) and tapas/petiscos(small dishes starring seafood, ham and cheese).
Many now-popular Spanish and Portuguese dishes were once considered peasant food. But tossing in the freshest ingredients and spices to create one-pot dishes is so much better than whatever fancy foods royalty was eating decades ago.
Where to Eat in Spain & Portugal
Spain has restaurants in the second, third and fourth spot of the 2023 World's 50 Best Restaurants list. They include Disfrutar in Barcelona, DiverXo in Madrid and Asador Etxebarri in Axpe.
The country touts 248 restaurants on the Michelin list, including 13 three-star winners like El Celler de Can Roca, which has been named the best restaurant in the world in the aforementioned list twice. Its interpretations of traditional Basque dishes are at once reverent and playful.
As for Portugal, it has seven two-star restaurants and 30 one-star winners. Go to Alma, in Lisbon, the first restaurant in the country to earn two stars.
Food isn't just food in France; it's “cuisine.” Even Julia Child admitted that it wasn’t until her time in France that she became a cook: “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”
French cooking is so inspirational that it has led to the training of many much-revered chefs at Le Cordon Bleu. Michelin ratings, the hard-to-come-by stars awarded to the world’s best restaurants, come from France. The country is the queen of rich, decadent sauces, and no other country in the world can compare when it comes to indulgent pastries and breads, most famously the melt-in-your-mouth croissant.
And we haven’t even mentioned the cheese yet! There are 1,600 distinct types of French cheese — brie, bleu, chevre and munster among them — and we'd happily eat them all.
Pair this cheese with bread, and you have the perfect item — so good, you could eat just that in France and be happy.
But don't forget to try the country's amazing wines as well. France is the birthplace of Champagne, Cabernet Franc and Bordeaux, among many others.
Could you visit France just for a culinary experience? Oui!
Where to Eat in France
An astounding 625 French restaurants garnered Michelin ratings in 2023, of which 29 earn the top honor.
Not surprisingly, many of these restaurants are all about traditional French haute cuisine. Head to three-star L'Ambroisie in Paris to try traditional French dishes in their uttermost perfect preparation.
Is it possible to travel through Italy and not rave about the food? We’d like to see you try.
The Italians have perfected pasta and sauces, have invested and continue to create the world’s best pizza, and offer the better-than-ice-cream sweet treat of gelato.
There is the Florentine steak, the thin-sliced prosciutto from Parma, the larger-than-your-head Amalfi lemons that create limoncello liquor, and, of course, the best wines from locally harvested grapes to wash everything down with.
Italians know how to take the fewest ingredients of the freshest variety and make a dish shine, unlike the French who drench their cuisine in sauces.
Said Chef Wolfgang Puck of Italian food, it’s “all about ingredients and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.”
Italy may be an obvious choice for the No. 1 pick. But really, was there any other option?
Where to Eat in Italy
Having taken the top spot in the World's Best Restaurants list twice, Osteria Francescana in Modena is worth planning a trip around.
The restaurant's clever takes on traditional Italian pastas and meat dishes are made with exceptional care by chef Massimo Bottura, who dearly loves his home country.
Others that made the best-of list at least once? Piazza Duomo in Alba and Le Calandre in Rubano — both of which also have three stars.
Michelin's Italian Guide features 380 restaurants in total.