The European Foods and Drinks That Locals Love
One of the best ways to get to know a different culture is through its cuisine. That’s especially true in European countries, where each one offers unique traditional dishes.
From the famed Chicken Kiev or fish and chips to lesser-known dishes like Latvian beet soup, here are at least three foods and drinks from each European country that the locals suggest you taste on your next visit.
A mountainous country in the Balkans, Albania is home to a surprising amount of vegetarian cuisines — or at least more so than some of its neighbors.
Byrek, its most famous dish, is a salty spinach pie made with a filo crust, while speca me gjize combines peppers (the more colors the better), rice and cottage cheese into oven-baked goodness. Both pair well with raki, a popular drink made with figs and other fruits. Just don’t drink too much — raki is said to have up to 90 percent alcohol content!
It probably won’t take long to travel through this tiny country sandwiched between France and Spain, but you could spend days just enjoying its delicacies. The national dish, escudella, is a hearty stew traditionally made with pasta and vegetables. However, some people prefer a more meaty approach that includes sausage, chicken, meatballs, veal and pigs’ ears.
For lighter fare, try cargols (snails), either slow-roasted and drizzled in olive oil or prepared in a creamy tomato sauce with Andorran sausage. And don’t miss trinxat, pan-fried patties made of cabbage, potatoes and bacon fat, which can be enjoyed on their own or as a topping for an Andorran burger.
If you have an ear for classical music and an insatiable sweet tooth, Austria is the place to be! Skip dinner and head straight for the Apfelstrudel. A lighter version of American apple pie, its uber-fresh dough is filled with apple, cinnamon and raisins, then topped with nuts and powdered sugar.
Prefer something with chocolate? Sachertorte is a sponge cake made with apricot jam and chocolate frosting. And don’t forget the coffee. Austria’s several varieties include the Viennese melange, which is like a cappuccino but made with cocoa powder, the Franziskaner, topped with whipped cream instead of milk and, of course, the Mozart, a double espresso served with whipped cream and a glass of sherry.
It’s likely that your meal in this Eastern European nation will involve a potato or two. More than 300 local recipes include them, and Draniki is among the most popular. A style of pancake, it consists of green onions and potatoes fried in oil. Some are also served with cream, carrots and sausage. The best part: You can enjoy them at breakfast, lunch or dinner.
For something sweeter, try zefir, a cross between a marshmallow and a meringue. The traditional chocolate-coated version is a fan favorite, but if you’re seeking something zestier, try a zefir flavored with black currant.
Of course, you’ll need something to wash down your food, and Belarus loves its vodka. Zubrovka, one of the most-loved varietals, is crafted from bison grass grown in Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park.
Often associated with food from France and the Netherlands, many Belgium dishes remain in a world of their own. Fries with ketchup may be the preferred way to eat them in some countries, but Belgians love their frites with mayonnaise and a variety of other sauces such as andalouse, a blend of mayo, tomato paste and peppers. Interested in spicy sauces? Pili-pili is said to be super intense. Thankfully, there are frites stands almost everywhere, so you can try different sauces to your heart’s content.
Perhaps an even better pairing than frites and dipping sauces are mussels and frites, one of the most popular dishes in Belgium. You definitely won’t want to miss this scrumptious seafood glazed with yet more delicious sauces. Favorites include white wine and vegetable broth and Belgian beer.
And, of course, there are Belgianwaffles. Thicker and with deeper grooves than their American counterpart, yet somehow crispier, Belgian waffles go great with chocolate, whipped cream and Nutella. Or, you can be like the Belgian royal family and order Liège waffles, made with pearl sugar mixed into the batter for an especially sweet taste.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina formed an identity of its own, especially when it comes to food. Cevapi, or grilled sausage made from minced meat, is so good that it’s become one of Bosnia’s national dishes. You’ll find it on the menu in most cafes and restaurants, served with onions, sour cream and somun.
Want something delicious and festive? Come December, many look forward to chestnuts on an open fire. During the holidays, the streets are filled with vendors selling these savory treats. To enjoy them while taking in the wintry sights is truly a gift in itself.
Like many other countries, this one maintains a strong coffee culture. We mean that literally. A cup of joe here is super potent and typically served black with only a cube of sugar to sweeten things up. While locals pass the time by enjoying coffee in cafes with their friends, one dose of this stuff, and you may not be able to sit still. At least you’ll have tons of energy for sightseeing!
Bulgarians have a lot of pride in their food and drinks, especially rakia. This self-made, strong alcohol is distilled from fruit like grapes, plums and apricots. Enjoy it as an apéritif, with cured meat and cheese — or served hot with honey. As an added benefit, warm rakia is said to cure colds! You can also drink it with the meat-heavy meshana skara, a mixed grill that includes kepache, meatballs and pork steak.
You definitely cannot leave Bulgaria without trying gyuvech. This slow-cooked stew, named after the pot it is cooked in, delights the senses with beef, cheese, eggs and a ton of paprika. A sentimental favorite, gyuvech pots are passed down in families for generations and often given as wedding presents.
If you love seafood, Croatia won’t disappoint. The blissful brudet is a slow-cooked casserole of fish, tomato, onion and tomato that is seasoned with fresh herbs and served with polenta, while black risotto combines rice, cuttlefish, red wine and olive oil. Fun fact: It gets its distinct color from cuttlefish ink.
If you’re looking for a nice lunch on a hot summer day, try the salata od hobotnica, or octopus salad. This sumptuous dish is made of boiled and tender octopus, onion, parsley, olive oil and vinegar — simple yet satisfying.
The Czech Republic is known for rich, heavy meals, and nothing fills you up like sausages in dark beer. There’s no mystery to this dish: Sausage is boiled in beer and served with mustard. But be prepared for a surprise once you take a bite, as the sausages are known to have a decent snap.
This dish also might leave you craving more beer, and the Czech Republic certainly delivers in that area. Pilsner fans must try the famous Urquell. But if that’s not your thing, breweries and pubs offer a selection of pale, dark and wheat beers. Can’t decide? Try asking a local. With the highest beer consumption per capita, you’re bound to find lots of opinions here.
Another quintessential dish is roasted koleno, or pork knuckle. Slow roasted and served with cabbage, it’s juicy, crispy and falls right off the bone. Be sure to be really hungry or ready to share, as the dish typically serves two.
Odds are you’ll have more than one smørrebrød, or open-faced sandwich, when visiting Denmark. This local favorite typically consists of rye bread with fish, meat, vegetables and a special sauce, and can be ordered in almost any restaurant.
Fiskefrikadeller, or fish cakes, are also widely popular. Even if you don’t love seafood, you’ll want to try this battered blend of cod, dill, lemon and pepper. Despite being pan-fried with butter, they are surprisingly nutritious and are typically served with boiled potatoes, lemon wedges and dipping sauces.
Akvavit, a local liquor, is another must-try. Made from potatoes and grains and flavored with dill and caraway, it has been part of Denmark’s culture for centuries. Talk about drunk history!
Filled with unique dishes rarely found anywhere else, Estonia is known for culinary creations such as kama, an iconic mixture made of barley, rye, oat and pea flour that is part of a traditional breakfast. Locals love mixing kama with buttermilk or kefir for a delicious start to the morning.
Mulgipuder is another popular dish that is simple yet satisfying. It consists of mashed potatoes mixed with groat and topped with a zesty bacon sauce. Aspic, popular around the holidays, won’t win points for presentation, but this pork jelly filled with vegetables, fruit and meat is a festive dish worth trying.
Like the country itself, Finnish cuisine is tasteful, inventive and adventurous. Reindeer is commonly served here as stew, steak and pasta sauce. This lean meat is both tasty and healthy, containing high amounts of B-12, omega-3 and omega-6.
Don’t count out cows, though, whose milk is the main ingredient in leipajuusto, which translates to “squeaky cheese.” This golden-brown grilled cheese is often enjoyed with coffee. For a real local experience, we suggest you pour the coffee directly on top. Another local favorite is kalilaatikko (cabbage casserole) that contains meat, cabbage and, for an added burst of flavor, redberry jam.
A foodie’s nirvana, France has so many good foods that it’s hard to pick what to eat, so let’s start by discussing the wine. If you like reds, try something from Bordeaux, Burgundy or Rhone. For white wine lovers, the Loire Valley and Alsace are the places to go. And if you’re a fan of Champagne … well, that one should be obvious.
Now that we’ve quenched our thirst, let’s pick out what we’re going to eat. Going with the wine theme, coq au vin is a must-try. This famous dish is chicken braised with wine, mushrooms, lardons, onions and garlic, and sometimes a drop of brandy.
Of course, now we need dessert, and there’s only one choice: soufflé. Derived from the French verb “to blow out,” is there anything better than a warm chocolate cake with a creamy center?
More than just beer and pretzels (though both are worth getting), Germany’s food scene is the wurst. With more than 40 cured and smoked varieties of bratwurst (fried sausages), you’ll be spoilt for choice. One of the most popular styles is currywurst, which has dominated Germany’s street food scene since the 1940s.
But don’t fill up on all those sausages before trying schnitzel with spaetzle. While technically Austrian (though some argue it’s Italian), a veal or pork version of this tenderized meat can be found in most German restaurants alongside a heaping portion of the country’s famed egg and flour noodles.
And while it’s easy to envision hordes of beer guzzlers at Oktoberfest, Germany has some great wines. Fans of white wine will want to sample the sweet Gewürztraminer and drier Riesling, while Eiswein (ice wine) is great for desserts. Glühwein is the classic spiced wine that warms up even the coldest winter nights.
Odds are you’ve already had Greek food, but there’s nothing like having your moussaka while enjoying a cool Mediterranean breeze. A casserole-like dish that combines eggplant and ground meat with a creamy layer of bechamel sauce, moussaka is the thing to eat at lunchtime. But we won’t judge if you want to have it again for dinner.
Of course, you can’t visit Greece without having a gyro, a pita sandwich packed with beef, lamb or chicken and topped with a tangy tzatziki sauce. Though often served with french fries, we recommend ditching those in favor of a Greek salad, a light and refreshing side dish made with tomato, cucumber, green pepper, red onion, Kalamata olives, grape leaves and, if you’re lucky, a brick-sized serving of feta cheese.
Don’t worry, we’ll resist the urge to tell you the food here will make you hungry. Pure comfort food, guylas (better known as goulash) makes for a great meal after a long day of sightseeing or before soaking in one of Hungary’s hot springs. This classic dish is made of chunks of beef, potatoes and vegetables, and flavored with paprika and Hungarian spices for some extra kick.
It may sound like a classic dessert, but sour cherry soup can certainly be a meal on its own. Meggyleves, as locals call it, is a chilled soup made of, you guessed it, cherries, plus sour cream and sugar. With the right amount of sweet and tart, this makes a great option when you grow tired of meat and potatoes.
If you’re in the mood for a very strong drink, try a glass of pálinka, a fruit brandy that’s about 40 percent alcohol. Common flavors include apple, pear and blueberry. Locals love pounding this drink before a big meal or in celebration of a special event.
Most people visit Iceland for its dramatic landscape, but you’ll be happy to know that Icelandic food is as pure as the surroundings it draws from. If you’re in Reykjavik, make a beeline for the hot dog line. A blend of beef, lamb and pork, this crowd-pleaser will leave you wanting more. Try one eina með öllu (with everything) to get fried onions, brown mustard and a creamy remoulade.
While you may have sampled a taste in your hot dog, it’s worth ordering a lamb dish in Iceland. Free from barriers, these creatures roam around the countryside eating plants and berries and drinking glacier water. It may sound as suspicious or outlandish as Icelandic trolls patrolling the seas, but this diet makes them taste better. Most people enjoy a hearty lamb stew or have it grilled with fresh vegetables and gravy.
If you’re feeling brave, try the much-rarer fermented shark. Historically, the shark was saturated in urine and put underground. Thankfully, that practice is outdated, and sharks are now fermented with vinegar. The sour taste is aided by a shot of black death, unsweetened schnapps that locals love with or without the shark.
Is there anything more Irish than soda bread? For generations, families have lovingly crafted hand-made loaves, which are best eaten sliced with butter. While recipes remain a secret, the basic ingredients include soda, buttermilk and flour. If you’re not into butter, soda bread also goes great with dried fruit, honey and, of course, a pint of Guinness.
If you’ve been to a diner, chances are you’ve seen Irish coffee on the menu. Maybe it’s the leprechauns and rainbows (or the abundance of whiskey in Ireland), but for some reason, the drink tastes a bit stronger and sweeter here. Made from a simple recipe of black coffee, Irish whiskey, a spoonful of sugar and cream, this warm beverage makes for the perfect nightcap or morning boost.
Yes, Ireland’s potatoes are famous, and you’re bound to have lots of them while visiting. For a unique take, try a boxty, or potato pancake. This treat originated in the early 1900s during the Irish Potato Famine and has remained popular ever since.
Italian food is common around the world. But in Italy, you’ll find more than just pasta. Meat lovers won’t want to miss bistecca fiorentina, a traditional Tuscan dish that’s a “molto grande” piece of T-bone steak made from cows raised in the region. Don’t even think about trying to order this thing medium-well, as the meat is about 5-centimeters thick!
You may not feel like eating for days after the bistecca, but that’ll change once you smell the internationally renowned ossobuco alla milanese, a bone-in veal shank. Who needs a knife when this mixture of meat stock, white wine, veggies and slow-cooked meat falls right off your fork and melts in your mouth? Fun fact: Ossobuco actually means “hollow bone,” and with a dish so tasty, we can attest that bones will be the only thing left on your plate.
Craving dessert? Italians love their gelato, and so will you! Creamier and made with less fat than ice cream, gelato is a sweet, flavorful treat that’s hard to resist. For the most authentic scoops, avoid brightly colored options (it means vendors have added food coloring, which lessens the natural velvety flavor), and go with the classics.
Filled with creative and unforgettable dishes, Latvia is a gastronomic paradise. Start with the uniquely Latvian beetroot soup. Beetroots, cucumbers, kefir and herbs blend to form a magenta-hued soup that is a delight for your eyes and taste buds.
At American barbecues, potato salad and sauerkraut are considered a side dish and topping, but in Latvia they take center stage. Rasol is a rich version of potato salad that includes layers of meat and/or fish, hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, mayonnaise and sour cream, while sauerkraut is a top-seller at food markets (along with pickles) and can be found in many dishes, including soups and dumplings.
To truly get in the Lativian spirit, have a shot of black balsam. This vodka-based liqueur is both bitter and sweet, which isn’t surprising considering its ingredients of pepper, ginger, linden flower, raspberry and bilberry. An added bonus, it's believed to help with digestion.
Like the mountain air, food in Liechtenstein is fresh and crisp. This is also true of the beers crafted at the Liechtensteiner Brauhaus, which go through a rigorous inspection process before being served. Choose from a traditional lager, malt and wheat beer, or go with one of the seasonal specials.
Liechtenstein's national dish, käsknöpfle, is a simple dough made of flour, eggs and water, and pepper that has a surprisingly robust flavor, especially when paired with local cheese, onions and apple puree.
Before enjoying a dinner of local meats and produce, sample Liechtenstein’s famed asparagus appetizer. Since the vegetable grows in abundance along the Rhone Valley, it remains a popular menu item, especially when served as a canape with rye bread, dill and lemon or wrapped in smoked salmon.
Calorie counters take note: Lithuanian cooking is worth cheating on any diet. The national dish, cepelinai are large potato dumplings stuffed with pork, which serve as the base for a heaping of sour cream and bacon. Some restaurants offer vegetarian options, too. Interestingly, cepelinai are named for their resemblance to zeppelin airships.
Next, try kugelis, a potato lasagna that is made with or without meat, depending on the chef, and served with lingonberry jam, bacon and sour cream. This “layered” dish varies so much from restaurant to restaurant that you may want to try it more than once.
For dessert, don’t miss varškesapkepas (fried curd cheesecakes), served with fresh berries and jam. You wouldn’t think something that’s basically cheese curd mixed with flour, egg and sugar and fried in oil, would create such a unique dessert, but it remains a sentimental favorite throughout Lithuania.
A mix of Latin and Germanic culture, Luxembourg cuisine puts the best of many worlds on your plate. Or, in the case of its hearty soups, in your bowl. Bouneschlupp, a thick soup made from green beans and potatoes will make you forget all about soup from a can, while the equally popular (and creamy) gromperenzopp has beef broth, potatoes and leeks.
Many people enjoy their soup with gromperekichelcher, crispy potato cakes that are one of the country’s most popular snacks. They are made with grated potatoes, chopped onions, parsley, egg, flour and salt, then flattened into patties and fried. In addition to soup, you can enjoy them with ketchup or apple sauce.
Judd mat gaardebounen, the national dish, combines smoked and salted pork with beans and potatoes. To make it tender, the pork is soaked in water overnight, then cooked at a low temperature with vegetables and spices. Served in thick slices meant to be savored, this is a meal worth taking your time to enjoy.
A small country that was once part of the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia is a hidden gem. Its food, however, is widely known for delighting visitors, and you can’t visit Macedonia without trying sarma. These cabbage rolls combine minced meat, chopped vegetables and paprika, and are served with a healthy portion of yogurt. If you’re not into eating cabbage, you can substitute grape leaves.
Another food known for its filling is zelnik, a yummy pastry with layers of phyllo and several combinations, including feta cheese, egg and spinach or minced meat, pepper and onions. Eat one as a snack or try a bunch for dinner. If you’re craving something a bit sweeter, try pastrmajlija, fried pie dough that’s often topped with minced meat, so you get something savory at the same time.
Inspired by the sea and the seasons, Maltese cuisine is guaranteed fresh and delicious. The island loves simple pleasures like hobz biz-zejt. While it simply means “bread with oil,” it also includes fresh tomatoes, capers, onions, olives, sea salt and pepper. A delicious snack, hobz biz-zejt is especially loved in the summer.
Don’t split hares over choosing to eat stuffat tal-fenek, or rabbit stew. Tomato-based with onions, garlic, fresh vegetables and meat, this dish is so popular that Maltese citizens have “rabbit nights.” If you’re lucky enough to attend a fenkata, your night will begin with water biscuits and mashed beans, followed by a plate of spaghetti with rabbit sauce. For the main course, rabbit meat cooked with white wine and garlic is served with fried potatoes.
The Maltese make great use of the sea, and one of its best seafood dishes is lampuki pie. Made from mahi-mahi, which migrates through the Maltese islands between August and November, the oh-so-fresh fish is mixed with tomatoes, onions, olives and spinach and baked in a puff pastry. You’ll be stuffed to the gills in the best possible way.
Moldova loves comfort food and does it really well. A cross between cornbread and polenta, mamaliga sticks to your fork, and that’s a good thing because you won’t want to lose a single crumb of this deliciousness. Formerly a dish for peasants, it’s become popular as an appetizer in restaurants and at home. Some make it thick, so it can be sliced like bread, while others create something with the consistency of oatmeal. Fun fact: Since it will stick to knives, it’s typically cut with sewing thread. Enjoy it with cheese, meat, fish, sour cream or crushed in a bowl of milk.
After scraping mamaliga from your fork, grab a spoon, and try the classic Moldovan soup, zeama. It’s like American chicken soup but uses the entire chicken. The broth is light and filled with flavor, thanks to an abundance of vegetables, onions, parsley and pepper. And did we mention the whole chicken? It’s served with a side of bread and salt and often topped with sour cream.
Placinta, fried bread, is both a cheap takeaway snack and staple at home during celebratory meals. It’s usually filled with cheese, cabbage or potatoes, but seasonal offerings can include pumpkin in the fall and cherries in the summer. They vary in shapes and sizes, but we recommend the heftier, deep-fried versions for maximum flavor.
Known for the Grand Prix, glitzy casinos and over-the-top luxury, Monaco also boasts world-class cuisine inspired by French and Italian cooking. The gnocchi here is especially good. Light and fluffy, the potato pasta is served with melted butter or in a creamy red wine and tomato sauce. Some restaurants also add fresh shellfish or truffles.
Beneath the yachts floating on the coastline are some of the freshest fish around. Monaco chefs capitalize on their resources with stocafi, a traditional fish stew featuring dried cod, red wine, tomato sauce, garlic and black olives. Paired with fresh bread, it’s comfort food with an elegant twist.
Sipping champagne may seem like the thing to do while rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, but those in the know drink Monaco-brewed craft beer. At the Brasserie de Monaco, an entirely automated brewery system produces organic malts that locals love.
Many travelers overlook Montenegro, but once you’re there, it’s pretty hard to ignore breathtakingly gorgeous beaches and mountains, incredibly friendly locals and exquisite meals. The prosciutto here, made fresh in Njegusi Village, is out of this world. It’s so good that tourists and locals drive a twisty road filled with hairpin turns to have a taste of the cured meat. What makes it so special? The meat is packed in salt for three weeks and hung to dry for another three. Then, it’s smoked for four months, during which the fire is always burning and tended to by dedicated villagers.
Thankfully, you don’t have to endure hairpin turns to enjoy buzara. A local favorite, it is comprised of shellfish and prawns cooked in either a red or white sauce. In the summer, Montenegrins love making a huge pot and enjoying it at home with their friends and family.
No trip here would be complete without sampling brandy loza. Created from domestic grapes, it is served as an aperitif with smoked meat (maybe the aforementioned prosciutto if you’re lucky) and cheese. With a pleasant aroma and smooth flavor, it complements the beginning or end of any meal.
Charming, whimsical and a little weird, Dutch cooking is all-around delicious, but there’s nothing like a fresh stroopwafel. Arguably the country’s most famous sweet, a stroopwafel is part cookie, part waffle that’s held together with sticky syrup (the stroop). Just embrace the sweetness, as the sugar high will give you a boost of energy to explore the Netherlands’ many museums and canals.
A favorite Dutch snack, bitterballen are savory meatballs with a bit of a kick. The outside is coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, while the inside contains beef, broth, butter and spices. They are traditionally served with mustard, but other sauces are allowed. You can grab an order at a bar while enjoying your Amstel or Heineken, or join the locals in the Febo line.
Even though beer is clearly popular in the Netherlands, genever (pronounced yen-ae-ver) is a must-try Dutch spirit. A precursor to gin, the best way to drink it is straight-up (sipped, not as a shot) followed by a beer. Given its overpowering flavor and high-alcohol content, you may also want to drink it with seltzer or tonic.
A land of spectacular natural beauty and laid-back attitudes, Norway also features cuisine that is unlike anything at home. Kjøttkake, one of the country’s most popular dishes, is minced meat kneaded with onions or rusk, made into small cakes, pan-fried and simmered in gravy. To make them into a meal, they are often served with creamed cabbage or mashed potatoes.
For a real head-scratcher, try brown cheese, or brunost. With a caramel color, sticky texture and sweet taste, it doesn't actually look or taste like what you’d expect from cheese. In fact, you need a special utensil to slice through it. Brown cheese, which is made from boiled whey, is most commonly used as a topping for bread, though it’s flavorful enough to eat on its own.
You can balance your brown cheese with a taste of punsch. The beverage gets its name from the Hindu word for five, a reference to the number of its ingredients (alcohol, water, sugar, fruit and spices). For added flavor, some people mix in notes of almonds, chocolate or bananas. Punsch is served hot and is very popular in the winter, so you can also use it to warm up while outside searching for the Northern Lights.
You simply can’t visit Poland without having pierogies. These dumplings are either steamed or fried and served piping hot. Traditional fillings include meat, cheese and cabbage, but many eateries will let you customize your fillings — a great excuse to order more than one serving.
For something a bit sweeter, try paczki. This deep-fried dough, often compared to a flat donut, is filled with custard or jams and either glazed or covered with sugar. They are traditionally served during Lent, but they are pretty easy to find the rest of the year. If you can’t get to Poland, you can find paczki in Polish bakeries across the U.S. Popular spots include Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Detroit, which has an annual Packzi Day.
Whether you want to call it wódka or vodka, a shot of this grain alcohol is practically required in Poland. As one of its birthplaces (along with Russia and Ukraine), Poland prides itself on serving high-quality (and high-proof) wódka.
Move over potato chips. In Portugal, grilled sardines (sardinhas) are the preferred comfort snack. In the summer months, people line up to buy them roasted over open-fire grills. They are served as they are caught (heads and bones still intact), but don’t worry if you can’t quite figure out how to eat them without breaking a tooth. Just follow the locals and bite the sardines from side to side, avoiding the head and tail areas. Grilled sardines are extremely popular in Lisbon, where the Feast of St. Anthony is also known as the Sardine Festival, thanks to an abundance of cooks grilling them every which way for the masses.
What’s the best food to follow a salty sardine? Try the bite-sized pastéis de nata, Portugal’s famed egg custard tart. The long lines are worth it to taste this puff pastry filled with a lemony custard and topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon. They’re great with breakfast, as a snack or for dessert.
Many wine enthusiasts come to Portugal for, well, Port. There’s no arguing that this sweet dessert wine goes down smooth, but there are many other different kinds of wines worth trying. Vinho Verde (named after the wine region it comes from) is a light white wine with a little fizz, while the area of Douro produces the country’s best reds.
There’s a saying that Romania’s favorite vegetable is pork, but there’s quite a lot of inventive cuisine to be found here. Sarmale (cabbage rolls) come from Turkish origins, but Romanians have made the dish their own. Modified over time and to local tastes, Romanian sarmales are made with a mixture of rice, minced meat, vegetables and herbs. Some people like to add bacon for a nice smoked flavor, while others like to eat them with sour cream and polenta.
If you get tired of pork, try the lamb. Drob de miel (lamb drops) is a tasty appetizer. The ingredients (the inside of the lamb, including its liver, lungs, spleen, heart and kidneys) may sound off-putting, but when mixed with bread dipped in milk, dill and parsley, it becomes a dish Romanians just love. Drop de miel is usually served cold with a boiled egg.
For a great vegetarian option, try the salata de vinete (eggplant salad). Often served as a starter, especially at Christmas dinners, it combines grilled or roasted eggplant marinated in sunflower oil with tomatoes and feta cheese. Order yours with extra garlic for some added flavor — and to help keep Dracula away. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist!)
Russia may not scream haute cuisine, but there is plenty of delicious food to try after browsing the Hermitage and drinking several varieties of vodka. Its national dish, pelmeni, is a thin dumpling filled with minced meat. Don’t be shy about slathering on the butter or sour cream! Some people also like to eat them soaked in broth.
Solyanka, a sour and spicy soup, is jam-packed with flavor and hearty enough to be a whole meal. While heavy on meat — yes, it includes sausage, bacon, ham and beef — the soup’s real flavor comes from chopped pickles and sliced lemon.
Russia’s version of the crepes, blini is often filled with jam, cheese, sour cream or chocolate. You can even order them with caviar. Blini have become so special in the Russian culture that they get their own festival called Maslenitsa, where they are served in conjunction with celebrating the beginning of spring.
Often mistaken to be part of Italy, the world’s second-smallest country shares similarities to Italian cooking but has signature dishes of its own. Embrace the piadina, a locally made flatbread that goes well with meats, cheese or whatever else you like in between your bread. On special occasions, locals are known to top it with pork lard.
Don’t miss the unique nidi di rondine, or swallow’s nest, in which fresh pasta is curled together in the shape of a bun and layered with tomato sauce, bechamel, parmesan and prosciutto. This hybrid of lasagna and casserole may very well come apart on your plate, but that’s OK. The gooier and messier the better!
Popular around the holidays, a San Marino classic is rabbit roasted with fennel and fagioli con le cotiche, a bean and bacon soup. The combination of the tender rabbit and flavorful soup is like a present in itself!
Serbia is known for its gastronomy. Pljeskavica is commonly described as a Serbian hamburger. Like its American counterpart, it is considered a fast-food dish and is served at many restaurants and food stands, but there are some key differences. Pljeskavic carries a bit more spice and is usually created from some combination of pork, beef and lamb. Instead of a bun, it’s served in lepinja, a type of flatbread, and favorite toppings include ajvar, onions and kajmak. Serbs love to eat this dish multiple times a week, particularly for dinner or after a night out.
Another common dish is prebranac, a casserole of caramelized onions and white beans made in a sauce flavored with bay leaves and paprika. Nutritious and inexpensive, you can enjoy it as a side dish or as a whole meal.
Drinking water may not sound like the most exciting thing to do while on vacation, but Serbia is nicknamed the “land of waters” for a good reason. It has a wealth of natural springs that produce refreshing and, some say, healing mineral water. For some added bliss, enjoy this fresh H2O while soaking in one of Serbia’s many thermal baths.
With a prime location in Central Europe, Slovakia has several foods that are influenced by the surrounding countries, while also managing to have their own uniqueness. Case in point: You can get dumplings in many forms throughout Europe, but Slovakia is the only place that serves them with sheep cheese. Bryndzové halušky, the country’s national dish, features a potato dumpling topped with ridiculously soft and creamy cheese only found in Slovakia. Locals are very proud of their dish, which sometimes includes smoked bacon or sausage sprinkled on top.
Trdelnik is Slovakia’s answer to funnel cake. Topped with cinnamon and sugar and served warm, this is a favorite at Christmas markets and other winter events. But don’t discount eating it in the summer. Recently, Slovaks created a trdelnik specifically for the hot weather — by stuffing it with vanilla ice cream! It’s “Slo” good!
Also unique to the country is borovicka, its national drink. While it’s filled with alcohol, it is also made from fruit and has the taste and smell of juniper. It may impair your motor skills, but it’s said to enhance your metabolism — a lot better than drinking fattening beer.
Slovenian dishes are heavy on the pork. One of the best examples of this is kranjska klobasa, a sausage made from ground pork meat, bacon and light seasonings. The klobasa is so treasured that it’s highly protected and regulated by the Slovenian government. It usually shares a plate with sauerkraut, bread, mustard and horseradish.
If you like pastries, prekmurska gibanica is totally gluttonous but worth every calorie. Made from layers of apple, walnut, cottage cheese and a poppy seed filling, it’s available in cafes across the country, but don’t expect a variety. Like kranjska klobasa, the pastry is a protected dish, and everyone who makes it must follow the same recipe.
Filled with beautiful emerald waters, the River Soca is a great place for kayaking and rafting, but it’s also where you will find some of the world’s tastiest trout. You can try and reel in your dinner if you get a permit, or just go to a nearby restaurant. Popular ways to eat trout include grilled or fried in buckwheat or cornflower.
Romance abounds in Spain, and the food is no exception. Start with paella, the well-known comfort food. If you've never tried it, paella is a heaping portion of rice piled high with seafood. Interestingly, the dish is said to have originated in Valencia, which prepares its paella with rabbit. In addition to rice and meat or fish, you’ll find beans and hints of saffron on your plate. Don’t worry if you can’t finish a serving in one sitting —odds are you’ll be ordering paella more than once!
Why eat one big thing when you can make an entire meal out of small bites? As the birthplace of tapas, Spain does plate-sharing like no one else. Favorites include jamón ibérico, a tender cured meat made from free-roaming black Iberian pigs, and patatas bravas, chunks of fried potatoes typically topped with tomato sauce, paprika, garlic and chili powder.
For an authentic local drink, have tinto de verano. It’s basically sangria (minus the fruit) in which red wine is mixed with fizzy lemonade. It’s the drink of choice in the summer (the literal translation is summer wine) and pairs well with your favorite tapas.
It’s hard to think of Sweden without imagining its special style of meatballs. Go north, where they use less fat, for the best version. Many people like to mix them with macaroni and cheese and another Swedish staple, lingonberries.
Fresh from the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, herring is a must-try. You can have it breaded, fried, smoked, pickled or perhaps your favorite combination of these, served with sour cream, mustard and other sauces.
Or, go buffet style with a smörgåsbord, and enjoy pickled herring, meatballs, sausages and cured salmon all at once!
Avoid looking at one of those famous Swiss watches while dining in Switzerland because meals here are meant to last for hours. This is especially the case with its most iconic dish, fondue. Meaning “melted” in French (one of four languages spoken in Switzerland), fondue is great for groups, but we won’t judge if you want a pot of bubbling cheese (typically infused with wine and garlic) or chocolate all to yourself. Most people use bread to dip into it, but fruit, olives and pickles are also popular here.
Rostis is another national treasure. It’s hard not to love crispy, golden potatoes (basically Swiss hash browns), but it’s the extra ingredients that make this dish so popular. Try it with apples, goat cheese, fried egg, melted cheese, gherkins and onions, or simply as a cake with sage leaves.
Swiss liqueurs are also worth a try. Super sweet (as well as strong), Pflümli is made from plums. Williamine is produced from juicy Williams pears, while Kirsch comes from the juice of cherry pits. Enjoy them on their own or pair them with a piece of chocolate or cheese.
With generous portions and several different flavor combinations, Ukranian cuisine is a hot topic among locals. Start with the flavor explosion that is borsch. There’s said to be more than 300 types of borsch here, but key ingredients include cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, parsley and tons of beets. Depending on the broth, both meat-eaters and vegetarians can enjoy this deep-red soup, which can also be flavored with sour cream or yogurt. Many enjoy eating it with garlic doughnuts.
The dish that made the country famous, Chicken Kiev, lives up to the hype. While it’s a simple combo of chicken filet and butter, Ukranian chefs somehow manage to find a way to fry up a dish that isn’t greasy. You’ll find Chicken Kiev on menus around the world, but nothing beats trying it home-cooked in Ukraine.
For something totally different and to embrace your inner kid, try kysil. A favorite drink among Ukranian children, kysil is a jelly-like beverage made from fruit and milk. You might need a spoon to actually drink it, but that’s part of the fun.
It goes without saying that you should try fish and chips when visiting the United Kingdom. The best way to try it is in one of the country’s many seaside towns where the fish is fresh off the boat and fried to perfection.
For a quick bite, though, try a steak and kidney pie. The delicious meal in a pastry pocket is thought to be more popular than its chicken and leek pie rival. Wash it down with a quick pint for a quintessentially British meal.
Lastly, the tea! You can go for tea time just about anywhere in the U.K., but when visiting the south of England, you’ll want to stop somewhere for some cream tea and scones topped with jam and clotted cream.
So, this city-state in Italy has very few food options. In fact, eating is not permitted in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museums and its gardens. That said, if you want to fuel up before making your way into the Sistine Chapel, there’s a cafeteria that offers some quick, pizza options.
Of course, there’s better fare around St. Peter’s Square. Stop in one of the many cafes for an espresso pick-me-up and a side of tiramisu, the coffee-flavored Italian dessert that makes the perfect post-sightseeing snack.