Five Foods You Must Eat in Europe

One of the best aspects of traveling in Europe is the food. From the best pastries in the world to savory dishes created with care and perfection. There are a lot of great foods from which to choose, but these are my favorite go-to foods for whenever I’m in Europe.

 

1. Chocolate Croissant – I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the classic chocolate croissant. I’m not sure why, but it’s become a must have snack on every trip to Europe. Universally found at cafes and pastry shops for breakfast, it can also make for a fantastic afternoon snack. The pain au chocolat, which is pure Franglais, is a cube-shaped piece of dough similar to puff pastry with one or two pieces of chocolate in the center. This delicious snack food isn’t limited to France, you can find it all around the world, but the best are almost always found in Paris. I don’t have a preferred location for my favorite breakfast food, but what I love most about it is how easy it is to find in the city. They’re everywhere, from train station cafes to the best bakeries in the city. For the ultimate in European experiences, grab a fresh croissant and a coffee and watch the world walk by from a quiet café as you enjoy your perfect snack.

 Doner kebab

2. Doner kebab – I’m not sure where I first discovered these savory concoctions of meat and bread, it may have been Turkey or it could just as easily have been New York. Yes, you can find doner kebabs in the US but it can be a challenge and in comparison it seems like they’re on every street corner throughout Europe. I’m sure many of you have seen them cooking, doner kebabs are the meat mixtures that spin around upright on a spit and from which the purveyor of the meaty goodness shaves off some succulent slices for all to enjoy. At one time this was a regional dish but immigration has spread it throughout the Middle East, Europe and beyond. The meat is sliced off into a pita and then topped with any number of items, from lettuce to olives and tomatoes. It makes for a great quick bite on the go and is something I look forward to enjoying whenever I travel.

 Liege Waffle

3. Anything with Nutella – I may once or twice have espoused my love of Nutella. I may have even written and recorded a song about it. But I’m not alone in my love for this chocolate hazelnut spread and one of the things I love most about it is its versatility. For many of us Nutella IS Europe. It was our earliest culinary memory of the continent and even though it has made inroads into overseas markets, it will always remind me of great visits to Europe. One of the most common preparations is a Nutella crepe, especially in France. This large snack or dessert is best made fresh, on the spot and only when lathered with copious amounts of the chocolate spread. The result is a hot, dripping mess of dough and chocolate that seems to make everyone smile. In Belgium I discovered a new use for Nutella on those famous Belgian waffles. A hot waffle out of the press covered with Nutella is similar to the crepe preparation, but with the special taste of a Belgian waffle. Around the continent you’ll see Nutella in everything, from gelato to breakfast condiments but nothing beats the classic crepe preparation for me personally.

4. Gelato – Ice cream and gelato are not the same thing, that fact must first be made clear. Gelato has more sugar, is creamier, softer and contains less air. It’s also absofreakinglutely delicious. Like most, the first time I had ‘real’ gelato was in Italy, which is appropriate enough since they invented it. I remember standing outside a hugely popular gelateria not far from our hotel next to the Pantheon and just thinking how great the experience was. The food, the Roman streets, the people – it all coalesced into an evening that defines food in Europe for me. But, you have to be careful. As Jessica described in a guest post for me not all gelato is made the same and it is important to avoid at all costs mass produced gelato. As she describes, it is important to look at color and texture. The color should be natural, not neon or too brightly colored. The texture shouldn’t be over-fluffy either; if there are piles of fluffy gelato laying about then it’s not made fresh every day. But once you do identify the real thing, there’s no way you’ll be able to go back to hard, icy ice cream.

 

5. Anything from a market – It took me a while to really understand the value of this one and I think other people, my fellow Americans especially, may have over looked it as well. Earlier this year I spent a couple of weeks traveling through France and Spain. As one is likely to do in these areas, I enjoyed a lot of good food and I enjoyed it often. I worried that I would return home requiring a Medevac due to the extra weight gained, but in actuality I lost weight and never felt better. Sure, I walked, hiked and biked a lot, but I don’t think that’s the only reason for the odd health benefits. I am certain it’s because almost all of the food I enjoyed was fresh. By fresh I don’t mean picked up at the local Piggly Wiggly, I mean fresh. Most people in Europe use food they buy from markets and as such there aren’t unnatural ingredients like preservatives and the like. That combined with moderate wine consumption truly does equate to a healthier way of living. Some call it the French effect, but it really is true for most of Western Europe. So when you’re there, stop by the many markets and see for yourself what deliciously fresh foods you’re enjoying. Better yet, make a meal of it and buy all the ingredients you need for the best picnic lunch you’ll ever have.

These are just some of the many European foods I love – what are yours?

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

39 Responses

  1. Miruna

    Unfortunately, eating is one of my passions. My favorite European dishes are paella, pasta, pizza and of course, almost all Turkish and Romanian delicacies:).

    Reply
  2. A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer)

    I looove pain au chocolat. I’ve been living in France for almost two years now and I’m not sick of it – when I get a good one, that is.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      I think it may be my very favorite thing :)

      Reply
      • pim

        Hi Matt,

        should you ever be in France, than ask for an “eclair”.
        It’s a sort of puff pastry, stuffed with a vanilla creme, covered with chocolate.
        Don’t forget to lick your fingers after eating one (two ??).

        Now about that name “Landlopers”, because as far as I know it’s a typical Dutch word.
        What’s the connection ?

        And besides, I started a second blog, still a baby, but the plan is to fill it slowly with pictures of stunning locations around Svinisce.
        Not much text, only simple lines in both English (of course) and Dutch (my native tongue).
        Cheers, Pim.

  3. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    You’re right, Nutella is Europe! My new found love is the wonderful Cafe und Kuchen every afternoon in Germany.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Ohh, I’m going to have to try that one!

      Reply
  4. Edna

    Cheese, sausage and bread. Different varieties in every country and always special.

    Reply
  5. Justin and Sasha

    Un pain ua raisin!

    Reply
  6. Boris Mellor

    No fish and chips? No Bratwurst. I always found plenty of Donor in states it is called Gyros

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Well I don’t eat fish and bratwurst would definitely be on a top ten list :)

      Reply
  7. Expat Explore

    Some great and classic foods here Matt!

    Kebabs are absolutely divine, especially shish kebabs, which have chunks of meat instead of strips. Go to Belgium and you’ll also be able to find vendors selling brain kebabs, as well as lamb and chicken – yep, that’s right, brain! LOL!

    Fish and chips,or saveloy and chips are an English classic – a saveloy is a garlicy, frankfurter-like sausage.

    But you certainly need to try jellied eels – these are a traditional favourite from London’s East End. Literally, it is boiled eel, chopped and put into fishy, salty jelly (or jello as you say in the US)

    Looking forward to seeing more entries – thx.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Thanks but I don’t see myself eating jellied eels anytime soon :)

      Reply
  8. Michael W Travels

    One of my favorite all time food finds in Europe was Langos with cheese & sour cream in Hungary. Another would be Tredlink (not sure if I spelled it correctly) in Prague. Tredlink is a street snack that is baked on spinning rods and served warm and covered in sugar and cinnamon from what I remember.

    Reply
    • Michael W Travels

      One more thing that stood out were fries with cheese in Scotland. They put vinegar on the fries and drop shredded cheese directly onto the hot fries so it melts immediately. Yum!

      Reply
    • Matt Long

      Wow that sounds good!

      Reply
    • Marco

      The ‘Tredlink’ Michael describes originates from Transilvania region, and its name is ‘Kürtös Kalács’. Its a delicious and popular food in wine or winter markets, all around Hungary, although I too have seen them in Prague. Crispy and glazed in the outside, and soft and warm in the inside! :P

      The Lángos is also very good

      Reply
  9. Andi

    Agree with all except Nutella which I don’t like! I would also say tartare since the quality of the beef, in terms of nonGMO/antibiotics is better.

    Reply
  10. DoreenB.Nelson

    Donor kebab and gelato are my all time favourite.share some cocktales of Europe as well.

    Reply
  11. DoreenB.Nelson

    i cant forget the wines of Rome. their taste is the best in Europe. yes ,Paris also rocks in wines.

    Reply
  12. Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb

    ok the first Pain au chocolat is an essential breakfast item but only in France and french speaking countries in Europe. I d throw in Cheese and Sausages as the must have when visiting Europe! I wouldn’t add nutella, mayo is more popular then nutella. Chocolate is an essential! Gelato for sure is a must have but only the proper Italian gelato. Of course the list can be long.. Sauerkraut, Knodel, wild game meat, dishes with forest mushrooms are local European foods, so as a Visitor I d try to hunt them down and order them because you won’t experience this food anywhere else in the world.

    nice little list and it was fun seeing Europe from an other point of view. thank you for sharing!

    cheers!

    Reply
  13. Mónica

    I think I couldn’t live without the “pata negra” spanish cured ham… specially if it the slice is just been cut from the “leg” and the pig has been acorn fed… it simply melts in your mouth…!! Very few things beat this taste… believe me!!

    Reply
  14. Nicole

    You forgot Hungarian langos…absolutely required after a night out enjoying the palinka. A big round of deep-fried dough slathered in sour cream, cheese, and garlic. NOM. Nagyon finom!

    Reply
  15. transvectio

    I’ve just mentioned kebab being a great lunch option on your other post. And here they are :)
    Surprisingly. it’s one of the best meals I’ve had during my time in Florence.

    Reply
  16. Explorista

    Ok, I absolutely love your blog and will tweet this post (I luv it) but have to disappoint you in one aspect: not ‘most people in Europe’ buy their food at markets. We do, sometimes. And some people do it often. But almost all of the hardworking people I know buy their food from the supermarkets almost ALL the time. That being said, I’m pretty sure in general we tend to not chose the most processed foods there and end up being plenty of ‘fresh’ vegetables there. So, there you have it haha. ;-)

    And yep, food in Europe is awesome. <3

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Ok, well in my head you all wear bonnets and skip to the market every morning. :)

      And thank you for the kind words!

      Reply
  17. Karleen

    Great post! I have to add- anything from a German Christmas market, Croque Madame and French Onion Soup in Paris, and if you’re by the sea mussels or paella. Yummm!!!!!

    Reply
    • toni

      Absolutely agree with you Karleen and drinking lots of Gluhwein! I also love Jaegerschnitzel with all the yummy mushroom sauce on top.

      Reply
      • Matt Long

        Hmmm, schnitzel….

  18. Darcy

    Is it bad that I think I’ve had all 5 of these in one day? Hmm might be time to leave Europe.

    Reply
    • Charles McCool

      Hilarious, Darcy. I am not a Nutella fan but I feel like I experience the other 4 too much, often multiple times a day.

      Reply
  19. Majida/Hanel Travels

    Good choice :)! You could have left out the Döner Kebab though and add any Austrian bakery good /Sweets or a cheese based dish from Switzerland e..g Raclette or Fondue :) ! Anyway, this leaves something for me to say, in that case :)

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      LOL, thanks for the ideas! I haven’t been to Austria in a very long time and have only spent 1 night in Switzerland, so I can’t really speak to the food options there.

      Reply
  20. Stan S

    You should also try Langos in Hungary.

    Reply
  21. Charles McCool

    These are 5 wonderful foods to steer novice travelers to. I was wondering if currywurst would be on this list. Kind of glad is is not. :)

    Reply
  22. PFR

    I’ve been living in Australia for 5 years, so reading this makes me long for Blighty and Co.

    Belgium Waffles, especially from Brussels Sq – nutella + strawberries + cream ooh baby.

    I feel the need to add Escargo and Frogs Legs to your list, as you can’t get better than that – honestly!!!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Seriously? LOL I don’t care for them personally, but glad you do!

      Reply
  23. Tim

    Two more for the list… CurryWurst in Berlin… Pici Pasta in Florence

    Reply

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