American food writer MFK Fisher once said, “First we eat; then we do everything else.” Like Fisher, when many of us first step off a plane in a new city we often go in search of good food to set the stage for the travel adventure to come. But knowing which country has the best food cities and where to eat around the world is a lengthy (albeit tasty) challenge for one traveller to undertake.
So I reached out to a few fellow International Food Wine and Travel Writer Association colleagues and asked them to answer the question: What’s your favourite food city?
1. Athens, Greece: The Crossroad of World Cuisine
Abstract from: Discover a way of life wandering Athens markets
Monastiraki is the traditional heart of the Athens market district. The ruins of the ancient Greek and Roman agoras sandwich present day trendy food shops, produce stalls, vaulted markets and a myriad of cafés.
On a hosted Context Travel food tour I met the shy owner of a small general store with exquisite cheese and the young smiling proprietor of a trendy new shop featuring food products from the legendary island of Lesbos. I wandered into a bakery that never sleeps, munched on pastries drenched in honey syrup and discovered Greek fast food. I drank a submarine in a café as ancient as the building and chewed on pine gum.
In a meat market famous throughout Europe, I discovered an Ottoman Empire delicacy. The gregarious Nicole explained in detail the many varieties of Greek cheeses and I marvelled at unknown medicinal herbs. I was transfixed by the vast Varvakios Agora and accepted Greece’s status as the centre of the Western culinary world. At lunch in a small 150-year-old basement wine shop, which attracts Hollywood royalty, Athenian business and political elites, I understood completely when my host said, “In Greece, food is an excuse to meet friends.”
Marc d’Entremont is a chef and travel writer discovering the Earth’s cultures and food, Membership Chair/Board of Directors IFWTWA and professional member American Culinary Federation.
2. Brisbane, Australia: City of Craft Beer
Author: Jacqui Gibson
Aussie’s third largest city has most definitely found its mojo. Blessed with a subtropical climate, a sinuous river that stretches for miles and a riverbank chock full of cool heritage buildings, the city once dubbed (not so kindly) as Brisvegas is trading tacky for top-notch. If it’s great food and drink you want, then Brisbane, Queensland capital city, is the place to go.
Did I say drink? I mean beer. Craft beer. And plenty of it. When I visit Brisbane for the weekend, my Saturday morning begins by jumping on the ferry at Bulimba station and taking the three-minute ride to Teneriffe. It’s not quite 11 am, but I’m off to the Green Beacon Brewing Company for my first handmade brew. Delish. By lunchtime, I’m taking the short walk to Newstead Brewing Company, followed by stops at the Woolly Mammoth Alehouse, Archive Beer Boutique and finally, Saccharomyces Beer Café. That’s pretty much a lap of the city – most of it on foot; all of it with a smile on my face.
Read more about Where to get your craft beer fix in Brisbane.
Jacqui Gibson is a New Zealand-based travel writer based and blog manager for the FWT blog.
3. Hong Kong: Fragrant Harbour
Hong Kong is full of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but it’s also full of the most amazing aroma of food! The English translation of the Chinese characters for the city of Hong Kong means Fragrant Harbour after all.
In Hong Kong, walk down any street and you’ll smell the amazing scent of freshly baked egg tarts and coconut buns wafting out of the corner bakery tempting your resolve. Salivate at the glistening roasted duck and roasted suckling pig hanging in the window of the BBQ begging the question, ‘1 pound of BBQ pork or 2?’ and wrinkle your nose at the approaching pungent smell of ‘stinky tofu’.
Be it drinking sharks fin soup in an upscale restaurant, to nibbling on chicken feet and other assorted Dim Sum delicacies in a teahouse, to eating with the locals at a roadside street vendor Dai Pai Dong, Hong Kong has it all and slurping of your noodle soup is definitely allowed!
Mary Chong is a travel writer, world cruiser, social media influencer and founder of Calculated Traveller Magazine based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
4. Norwich, England: The Quintessential British Town
For a New Yorker like me, the friendly locals in Norwich are a welcome change from the anonymity of the Big Apple. Near the eastern coast of England, the city has a population of just over 200,000. So, it’s large enough that residents don’t get bored but small enough that it feels like a small town and has a low crime rate.
What’s more, Norwich looks like the quintessential British town. It has its own 11th-century castle built by the Normans, a 900-year-old Romanesque cathedral and its own 13th-century pub called Adam and Eve. Due to its literary history, it’s one of only six UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world. It’s also a college town, so there is a youthful feeling and lots of great restaurants. I love the Belgian Monk with its three-page beer menu. Then, there’s Benedict’s, run by Chef Richard Bainbridge, a winner of the BBC’s competition TV show, Great British Menu.
Norwich is just a two-hour train ride from London and near other sites in Norfolk, including the famous Broads – 125 miles of man-made, lock-free waterways. It has become my favourite getaway from London’s hustle and bustle.
Melanie Votaw, freelance travel writer and book author, writes for a variety of publications and maintains her own blog at TripOutonTravel.com.
5. Petra’s Other Secret Treasure
Petra, Jordan’s most popular archaeological treasure is not visited for its food. Perhaps it should be. True, there’s nothing more stunning than the Treasury viewed from between the canyon walls of the Sig. The Treasury is the best preserved of the 800 monuments due to its surrounding mountain walls, but it’s only one of the treasures of Petra. There are more secrets lying beneath the desert sands.
A less well-known secret is Petra’s food. It’s an unexpected treat when you find excellent food at an attraction such as this, but just past the Great Temple, there’s a full-service restaurant with a buffet filled with delicious Jordanian dishes.
The Movenpick, a five-star hotel just across from the site, houses four restaurants not counting its multiple bars and snacks shop. Naturally food, wine and cocktails are top-drawer.
The most fun foodie thing about Petra is the chance to cook you own scrumptious Baba Ganue, Salatat Kyhyar, and mezzas or what we consider salads and appetisers like Fatoosh, a cucumber and tomato salad and Bedouin Pizza called Araies Iahma made between layers of Pita bread at Petra Kitchen. All coached by an award-winning chef and his local helpers.
Kathleen Walls is the publisher of American Roads and Global Highways and has written for many publications on the subject of both food and travel.