There’s more to traveling than just seeing the sights. An authentic experience in any city requires you to immerse yourself in its culture as much as possible, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to eat.
It’s probably not a surprise that foodie-inspired travel is even on our radar, considering more and more people are spending their money on trips across the world. In fact, millenials are foregoing traditional spending on mortgages and paying down debts in favor of seeing exotic places and undoubtedly sampling the local cuisine.
If you’re looking to let food inspire your next getaway, look no further than the following seven cities known for their incredible cuisine. Some may be obvious, but others will surprise you when you see them on our list and when you arrive, try the food and realize just how right we are.
1. Bologna, Italy
Let’s start with a classic: you can’t be a foodie traveler without even considering Italy as a destination. Italian food straight from the source is something out of a culinary fairytale, and one of the best places to try it all is in Bologna. There, you can sample it all: fresh mortadella cheese, handmade pasta and even sweet gelato that you might find yourself eating more than once each day. No need to justify that choice: you’re a foodie on vacation, after all.
2. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh used to be called Saigon, and its history of French colonialism still lingers, even in the food. In fact, the country’s signature sandwich, bahn mi, comes from a mix of Vietnamese flavors and French influence — that puffy baguette didn’t just appear out of thin air, after all. It’s not all about sandwiches in this city, which is home to more than 8 million people. You’ll also have to try soft-shell crab, pho and broken rice, among many other lauded dishes.
3. Madrid, Spain
Spain’s capital may not be as popular with tourists as beachside Barcelona, but it has all of the tapas you could ever want to try. Small-plate dining allows you to try a little bit of everything, which is great considering just how much Spain’s cuisine has to offer. Start with a classic slice of tortilla española, an omelet made of egg and fried potato and sometimes caramelized onion, depending on where you buy it.
Other highlights include the country’s famous jamón Serrano, thinly sliced ham that comes straight from the pig’s leg — you’ll even see them hanging from shop and restaurant windows to entice customers. Wash it all down with a glass of cheap red wine, and don’t be fooled by the price tag: it’s probably sourced from within the country, so it’s much easier on the wallet and still incredibly tasty.
4. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
This may seem like a complete curveball, but hear us out: Lancaster has Pennsylvania Dutch roots, and with those come a hearty, tasty cuisine that everyone has to try at least once. Amongst the rolling farming hills of Amish country, you’ll dig forks into steaming potpie, browned butter noodles and even some apple pies baked to perfection. If you need to switch things up, the local restaurants have mastered American fare, from wings, to grilled cheese to big, juicy burgers.
5. Istanbul, Turkey
Walking around Istanbul feels like something out of a movie: markets full of spices, tapestries, jewelry and juicy cubes of Turkish delight look exactly as they do in your dreams. All of this choice may make Istanbul a bit overwhelming for a foodie, but don’t be discouraged: it’s worth the initial sense of shock.
Start your day with borek, a flaky pastry filled with such savory ingredients as spinach, cheese or both. Then, work your way up to an incredibly tasty serving of doner kebab or switch to sweet baklava. No trip to Turkey would be complete without sampling the extra-strong Turkish coffee, either.
6. Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you know anything about argentine cuisine, you know what the first order of business will be when you arrive in Buenos Aires: steak. The country is known for its perfectly grilled fare, which will probably build the basis of your menu while you’re on vacation. However, don’t stop with the asado, no matter how hard it may seem. Be sure to try empanadas, as well as a dessert slathered in sweet dulce de leche, another signature creation.
7. Melbourne, Australia
Finally, let’s head to the Land Down Under to Australia’s brightest foodie star: Melbourne. While Sydney is studded with restaurants run by star chefs from around the world, Melbourne has built its own food scene from the ground up. That means you’ll get to sample inventive fare from local chefs who churn out such highlights as chili-baked mussels and beef tartare made of the finest Wagyu.
Of course, these are only seven of the many, many cities making a name for themselves with inventive, flavorful fare. Where will you travel next? Let this list and your taste buds guide you to the perfect destination. Bon apetit!