No holiday or trip is complete without trying some of the local culinary offerings. For some travelers, the gourmet food that is found in certain cities or countries could be the highlight of a stay, or even the reason to take a trip in the first place. While many cities around the world offer endless culinary discoveries and exclusive restaurants, there are a few cities that stand out because they offer some of the best and most exclusive cuisine. From high-end, expensive establishments run by famous and esteemed chefs, to delicacies that can be found in humble cafes or even on street corners, the following cities are some of the most gourmet (and most expensive) food destinations.
Peru is a standout city in South America thanks to its nouveau cuisine. Chef Gaston Acurio was a revolutionary in this country, and has made Peruvian cuisine internationally renowned. His restaurant, Astrid y Gastón, located in Lima, is now considered one of the best in the world. The city’s restaurants feature fresh flavors, incorporating multicultural influences but making use of the country’s local products. Peruvian food is a blend of influences from a variety of cultures, including European, Asian and of course more local Andean cuisine, a reflection of its multicultural heritage. Classic dishes include ceviche (seafood “cooked” in a citrus marinade), seafood stews, chocolate desserts and fresh, citrusy cocktails. The city is also known for its Mistura food festival, one of the city’s largest annual events that now receives international attention.
The city of Fes offers gourmet options that are a combination of Mediterranean, Berber and Andalusian culinary influences. Its cafes offer foodies some of the country’s most gourmet treasures at affordable prices. Naturally, spices are a highlight of the cuisine here, and fresh products such as saffron, mint, olives, oranges and lemons (all locally grown) are highlighted in the dishes. Main courses include lamb, fish, vegetables, served with, of course, tea, all feature prominently in Moroccan cuisine. One of its most expensive restaurants, which is about 100 years old, is La Maison Bleue, and serves some of the finest food from the region.
Hong Kong is one of the best destinations in Asia for gourmet food. This independent city-state in China is home to top Michelin-starred restaurants alongside little-known tiny restaurants just waiting to be discovered that also provide amazing options for foodies. Although Hong Kong is home to authentic dim sum and wonton noodles that can be found around the city and are actually very affordable, the city’s multicultural history has also made it a top destination for many other types of cuisine, including French (which can be enjoyed at Caprice Hong Kong or Liberty Private Works that looks over the Hong Kong skyline), or even Argentinian (at Tango).
Brazilian cuisine is particularly unique because of its European, African and native Amerindian influences. It is also a large country, and its culinary traditions vary widely from one region to another. Many of its unique culinary influences come together in the restaurants in its largest city, Sao Paulo. From the native flavors of native produce including cassava, guarana, açai and more, along with the ingredients and culinary styles imported by its immigrants from Portugal, Italy, Spain and Germany, today Brazilian food is a fusion of ingredients and influences. From its famous steakhouses to coffee that grows on its many plantations to cocktails like the caipirinha, Brazil is filled with endless culinary delights.
Mumbai is home to roadside food stalls that offer some of the city’s best foods. In addition, Mumbai offers some of the oldest, most tried-and-true restaurants in India, including Delhi Darbar, Highway Gomantak, Samrat and more. Mumbai has a legacy of welcoming foods from other parts of the world, and some of its strongest influences include Lebanese, Korean, Thai and Chinese cuisine thanks to its migrant populations. Nowadays, Mumbai is home to the Bollywood elite and is the richest city in India, so popular restaurants like Cream Centre offer the finest cuisine to the country’s elites.
Istanbul is a city of endless restaurants and even more street stalls. Istanbul’s finest foods can be found everywhere, even at humble street vendors and snack shops that offer everything from light snacks to full meals including skewers to stuffed mussels, grilled sheep intestines to savory doughnuts and much more. Turkish cuisine is also diverse thanks to its many regional influences over the centuries, and some of its other specialities include lamb, a traditional cheese pastry called Kunefe, its famous kebabs and of course the sweet dessert, Baklava.
Every gourmet food lover should make New Orleans a destination of choice. Not only is this city home to some of the oldest restaurants in the United States, it also is home to some of the most gourmet restaurants. Its cuisine is also very unique thanks to its American, French, Spanish and Creole influences. Its fine restaurants are home to the most amazing Creole food in the world, including dishes like crawfish bisque, creole gumbo, oysters, and more. The recipes are often centuries-old and are a fusion of everything from French-influenced treats such as crab and caviar and foie gras to decidedly Louisiana offerings such as alligator. Its local celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse, owns several exclusive restaurants in the city, including Delmonico and Emeril’s, which highlight the finest of the region’s cuisine.
Copenhagen, Denmark has been put on the list of world-class food cities thanks to its restaurant Noma, which has been called the best restaurant in the world. Michelin has awarded 15 of Copenhagen’s restaurants with Michelin stars. Some top picks in the city include Formel B Restaurant, Kadeau, and Restaurant Era Ora. Since the middle ages, Danish cuisine has been inspired by both European and more international flavors. In more recent years, Danish chefs have developed a new type of cuisine called new Danish cuisine, which is based on reinventing traditional recipes using fresh, high-quality local produce and meats.
A favorite of foodies is Thai food, and of course some of the best offerings can be found in Bangkok. The cuisine found in Bangkok is also more accessible than most: some of the country’s finest foods are sold by city street vendors. For travelers who are a little wary about procuring dinner from street side vendors, there are many fine restaurants in the city that offer traditional fare in more exclusive environments, including The Oriental Bangkok and Spice Market at The Four Seasons.
As a result of British colonization, London has become a world-class center of cuisine from around the world. Many of its culinary influences were imported from abroad, and some of its finest restaurants feature flavors from China, Africa and the Middle East. With that said, London is also home to restaurants that are run by the country’s most famous celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, and plenty of the country’s own traditional dishes can also be found throughout the city, including steak and kidney pie and fish and chips. If a visitor can afford upwards of 100 pounds per person, some of the most gourmet choices in the city include Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, and the restaurant simply known as Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, which has three Michelin stars and is impossible to get a table at.
Foodies everywhere know that Paris is one of the most gourmet cities in the world. For centuries, the city has been famous for its culinary offerings, which include wine and cheeses, creams and mushrooms, meats such as chicken, beef, oysters and shrimp. Of course, delicacies such as foie gras, escargot and caviar are also all famous in this city as well. Plenty of Parisian restaurants are well-known for their haute cuisine and are home to renowned chefs such as Alain Ducasse or Joel Robuchon. It’s impossible to narrow down a few of the city’s best and most gourmet restaurants, so foodies and travelers need to discover a few favorites for themselves. With that said, what stands out in Paris are sometimes the simplest things: for instance, Paris is home to endless pastry shops, where the best breads, crepes and pastries in the world can be found.
While world-class cuisine can, naturally, be found all over Italy, the country’s Emilia-Romagna region is known for being one of the finest foodie destinations in the world. At the heart of this region is the city of Bologna, Italy, which is home to restaurants that date back to medieval times. Its most famous offerings include meats (like fresh parma ham), and fresh handmade pastas, cheeses including parmesan, balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, and of course, the many wines from the region.
Tokyo is naturally at the center of Japan’s cuisine. Tokyo has affordable lunches (many office workers prefer to eat out rather than bring a lunch from home), and 160,000 restaurants, including hundreds of Michelin-star awarded restaurants, so it’s easy of find great food. Most of the food in the city offers traditional Japanese fare (Tokyo isn’t as heavily influenced by other cuisines as many of the world’s other gourmet cities are), and naturally many dining establishments feature sushi and tempura, as well as soba, udon, and more. All foodies must visit Tsukiji Fish Market for the best seafood in the world. Some of the city’s finest dining options include Kozue, located at the Hyatt, or Mikawa Zezankyo, known for its tempura and seafood.
Spain is filled with some of the finest food in the world, and the city of Barcelona is a highlight of the country’s culinary offerings. Located between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe, Barcelona Catalan cuisine incorporates a lot of influences from other cultures, including French and Sicilian. Barcelona also happens to be a city that attracts some of the best chefs from around the country (and around the world). Barcelona is home to endless bars and cafes. Classic dishes include Butifarra, which is one of the most important dishes in Barcelona, to be sipped with a glass of Cava, which is the Catalan version of champagne. Barcelona’s local celebrity chef is Ferran Adria, considered one of the best chefs in the world, and he and his brother conceptualized a culinary “amusement park” consisting of five elite restaurants in the center of the city.
New York is one of the best food cities in the world because it has always been a melting pot of immigrants and hence cultures and influences from around the world for centuries. The city has somewhere around 20,000 restaurants, so there is something for everyone (and for every budget). Some of the classic dishes in New York are clam chowder, bagels, hot dogs, deli sandwiches, cheesecake and of course pizza. Great food can be found at affordable restaurants like The Carnegie Deli or Lombardi’s, but then there are plenty of exclusive dining options as well, such as Masa (which only has 26 seats), Daniel ($220 per person for the chef’s tasting menu), or the famous Nobu or Le Cirque. For those who would rather eat in (yet still have deep pockets), the city is also home to endless gourmet grocery stores including Dean & DeLuca and Balducci.