If you tried to think of all the reasons people travel, you’d probably run out of fingers to count with. While some travelers voyage to new destinations to admire gorgeous landscapes, discover historic landmarks, or explore bustling marketplaces, a proper tour is never complete without a taste of the native cuisine. From food tours to farmers’ markets, these immersive culinary adventures are luring tourists to try the delicious and the unexpected.
Food tourism is taking over and sending serious foodies to the most famous food hub of the world: Europe. But while major cities and capitals like Paris, Rome, or Berlin are the obvious destinations tourists target to sample the eclectic local cuisine, there are other under-the-radar destinations that serve up some of the tastiest food you will ever try.
We did some serious research and found the best little-known places to eat on the Old Continent that tourists usually pass by. Food reveals a lot about a country’s culture, and while foreign cuisines may seem exotic, to the locals it’s their daily fare. So if you’re looking for the ultimate food tour of Europe, you can’t miss out on these five must-visit hidden gems.
Tom / Flickr
While in Poland, most tourists flock to well-known cities like Warsaw and Krakow to try their potato-filled pierogies and kielbasa. However, the medieval city of Toruń is one you must stop by.
Toruń is a historic trading hub home full of ancient architecture and specialty museums. However, it is also famous for their Pierniki Toruńskie, or as English speakers might call it, gingerbread!
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First dated back to the 14th century, Toruń gingerbread consists of flour, honey, and spices, and is a snacking staple for the city. The spice-filled cookie was so iconic that it would be presented to notable Polish figures and royalty on special occasions.
If you want to learn more about the history and culture surrounding Toruń gingerbread, you can visit an entire museum dedicated to the treat, and even try baking some yourself!
Where to find it: You can find Toruń gingerbread at any one of the many company stores of Kopernik SA., the main producer of the Polish snack, all over the city.
How to get there: Book your cheap bus or train ticket to Toruń, Poland.
Arrange your stay: If you can’t get enough of historic Toruń in just a day, no problem! You can find some cheap hotel deals to extend your food tour.
If you’re a foodie, you know that the best meals are the ones that are the most authentic. And if you’re traveling to the South of France, you’ll probably see cassoulet on every menu. What you might not know is that this slow-cooked casserole of pork, sausage, duck confit and white beans in a clay pot has been said to originate in the little town of Castelnaudary during the 14th century.
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For a genuine cassoulet food tour, you can take the Cassoulet Route of Castelnaudary, a 180-km circuit that takes you to various areas where you can find the ingredients that make up this famous dish.
The tour will take you to duck and pig farms, bean harvesters, pottery workshops, cooking classes, and most importantly, tastings! Immerse yourself in this culinary experience by learning how the dish is created from start to finish.
How to get there: You can travel to Toulouse and take a short ride into the town of Castelnaudary.
Arrange your stay: After filling up on some hearty cassoulet, you may need some time to wind down. You can find some cheap hotel deals to fully relax and see the most of what Castelnaudary has to offer.
In eastern Germany lies Lübbenau, a quaint town of castles, canals, gorgeous parks and bicycle trails in Spreewald. Filled with lush greenery and forests, Lübbenau is also appropriately known as the city of pickles!
In an effort to conserve food in the 16th century, the people of Lübbenau started to pickle their cucumbers in salt and water, thus creating the “Lübbenaur Saure Gurken.”
For the ultimate pickle tour of Spreewald, check out the Gurkenradweg, a bicycle trail dedicated to pickles. This 260 km trail will take you through the forests of Spreewald and Lübbenau to cucumber farms and processing plants, with pickle samples along the way.
If you’re interested to learn more about the rich history of the pickle, visit the Gurkenmuseum, just 15 minutes away in the town of Lehde.
Where to find it: The question is – where can’t you find pickles in Lübbenau? Spreewald pickles are sold in every grocery store and you can find samples virtually everywhere you go due to the abundance of pickle farms, shops, and tours.
How to get there: Book your cheap bus or train trip to Lübbenau.
Arrange your stay: If you’ve got a penchant for pickles and one day isn’t enough to satisfy your cravings, check out these cheap hotel deals in Lübbenau to turn your day trip into a whole week adventure!
Gouda, The Netherlands
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If you’re a part-time traveler but a full-time cheese connoisseur, the first stop on your list of places to visit may lie somewhere in France. While France is famous around the world for its fine cheese selection, the real cheese experience lies in the humble city of Gouda in the Netherlands.
To fully immerse yourself in the delicious cheeses Gouda has to offer, be sure to check out the Gouda Cheese Market from April until August. Initiated in the 14th century, the Gouda Cheese Market allows you to experience the production, trade and tastings of the various cheeses bought and sold in the Gouda Centre.
After getting a taste of the culture of this bustling market hub, you’ll understand why Gouda cheese has become a household name!
Where to find it: If you’re unable to visit the market and want to explore some authentic Dutch cheese shops, stop in ‘t Kaaswinkeltje and check out the abundance of products that they offer. They’ll even let you try samples of every kind of cheese they sell!
How to get there: Book your cheap bus or train ticket to Gouda, Netherlands
Arrange your stay: From medieval churches to markets and even a cheese museum, Gouda is filled with some exciting and delicious things to do. To make the most of your stay, check out these cheap hotel deals and extend your trip!
San Miniato, Italy
Fabrizio Angius / Flickr
For foodies who allow their taste buds to truly indulge in some delectable cuisines, San Miniato is the destination for you. Escape the crowds and travel to this picturesque hillside town in Tuscany that boasts exquisite vineyards for wine and food tastings and tours, farmers markets, and cooking classes.
Above all else, though, the main attraction lies in the famous Truffle in Tuscany tour, not to be mistaken with the chocolate treat.
The truffle is a type of fungi with an intense earthy taste and is highly regarded and quite valuable in the culinary world. With truffles abundantly hidden around San Miniato, you can privately tour with an experienced truffle hunter and their search dog to learn about the history and cuisine of truffles all while searching for the prized delicacy.
Where to find it: Since this luxury ingredient is not commonly sold in stores, the best way to experience truffles in San Miniato is through the many mouth-watering tours offered around town, including truffle and wine tastings, lunches, and cooking classes!
How to get there: You can travel to Empoli and take a taxi ride to San Miniato, just 15 minutes outside of Empoli!
Arrange your stay: If you’re looking to experience more than one captivating food tour that San Miniato has to offer, check out these cheap hotel deals and spend a few more days exploring this gorgeous destination.
When it comes to food, feasts and fine dining, Europe offers some of the best. However, if you’re looking for an all-encompassing food tour of the Old Continent, you really can’t skip out on the lesser-known destinations that serve up some of the most authentic eats you will try.