Some people travel for scenery, taking in the vast magnificence of the great outdoors. Others travel for culture, seeking out ancient art and modern architecture in the cities of the world. Some people even journey the world for nightlife, chasing the buzz and boom of nightclubs and bars. Those are fine ways to travel, don’t get us wrong – but perhaps the most elemental and indulgent way to travel is with your stomach.
For the foodies, gourmands, expert eaters and appreciators of all things culinary, this is the best way to travel. A plane ticket, to people like this, is like booking a reservation to the best restaurant in the world, one with a menu as long as an encyclopaedia set.
But the world holds so many surprises and treats that it would take an entire lifetime just to scratch the surface. To make the most out of your global gustatory experience, you need to be selective, which is exactly what we’ve tried to do in this article. Of course there are omissions here, and of course this isn’t a complete list, but we promise: head to one of these cities and you will not be disappointed by the food.
And before you take off on your culinary adventure, be sure to visit our homepage to learn more about how packing merino wool clothing makes your trip easier and lighter, and read a few of our tips to help you on those long flights to flavourtown.
It was incredibly difficult picking just one Italian city, when, in truth, there is great food all over the country (honourable mentions to Rome, Naples, Palermo and Genoa). But after some deliberation, we have to give it to Bologna, capital of the powerhouse culinary region of Emilia Romagna, and famous for its Ragu Bolognese, the classic long-stewing meat sauce served with fresh tagliatelle pasta. Nearby Parma is also where the world gets its (authentic) Parmesan cheese and Prosciutto di Parma, two ingredients that feature heavily in Bolognese cooking.
Must Try Dish: Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Spain is a juggernaut in the world of fine dining, and San Sebastián is the driving force, with more Michelin stars per square meter than anywhere else in the world. Of course, it has led some food pundits to crown it the best food city in the world. Agree with this designation or not, you have to give it up for the ultra fresh seafood, stunning wine and rich culinary history.
Must-Try Dish: Classic Basque Pintxos, little skewered tapas on bread
You know its wine, but are you familiar with its food? That’s right, our pick for France is not that other city (arguably the most famous food city in the world), but Bordeaux, in the south-west of the country. Wine lovers the world round take their pilgrimage to Bordeaux, but one can’t subsist on wine alone. Good thing there’s entrecote à la bordelaise, croque monsieur, crepes and – one of the best desserts in the world – canelé.
Must-Try Dish: Canelés, with plenty of wine to accompany
Buttressed on either side by the Adriatic Sea and the Balkans, Dubrovnik makes for a seriously interesting culinary experience. It is a mix of Balkan fare with what you might consider Italian food – risottos, pastas and olive oil are eaten in abundance. And its seafood is ridiculously good. The best part is, in order to work up an appetite, you get to swim in some of the most pristine, azure waters the world has to offer.
Must-Try Dish: Crni Rižot, or squid ink risotto
This French Canadian city is a little slice of Europe with an unmistakably Canadian twist. French classics share space with local ingredients like maple syrup, fiddleheads and cheese curds. The Jewish diaspora has made a particularly significant mark on the city’s culinary identity, with smoked meat sandwiches, classic Montreal hot dogs and bagels. And no trip to Quebec is complete without a giant, sloppy dish of poutine, French fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy – just be sure to pack some travel clothing made from merino wool that’s easy to wash.
Must Try Dish: The smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s Deli
After some thought, New Orleans beat out the likes of Portland, San Francisco, New York and LA for the top spot on this list’s USA entry. Why? Take one bite of the vibrant, eclectic, spicy and in-your-face food here and you will understand why. Jambalaya, Po’ Boys, Muffuletta and gumbo are just a few of the must-try dishes here. Don’t just stick to Bourbon Street, though; there are plenty of great restaurants in the French Quarter, Uptown and Central City.
Must-Try Dish: The beignets at Café Du Monde
If you like tacos, you are in for a world of pleasure. If you don’t like tacos (who are you?), there are still a million amazing things to eat here. The Roma and La Condesa districts are hip, happening places to start your culinary journey, and are home to countless cafes, taquerias, traditional restaurants and mezcal bars. As with most countries that have a rich culinary history, don’t be afraid to try the street food – it can be some of the most delicious stuff around.
Must-Try Dish: Tacos al pastor
Port of Spain
The capital city of Trinidad and Tobago is where you want to be for a taste of Trinidadian fare. A mix of all things good and tasty – West African, South Asian and Amerindian cuisine, mostly – Trinidadian food is one of the great, under appreciated cuisines of the world. As evidence, we submit the fiery curry roti wraps you find street side all over the city, and the wafting aroma of oxtail stew and macaroni pie being prepared
Must-Try Dish: Roti wrap
The Chilean capital happens to be our sole South American pick – honestly, though, there are a handful of other cities that could easily be on this list, like Cusco, Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires, to name just a few. Ultimately, we’re giving it to Santiago, a city that takes its food very seriously. It’s a pretty meat-forward town traditionally, with the grill being its main manner of approach, but the culinary renaissance currently gripping the city has meant that there are multitudes of options available.
Must-Try Dish: The empanadas at Emporio Zunino
Georgian food doesn’t get the love it deserves. It’s geographical position, poised between Europe and Asia, draws on Near Eastern, Middle Eastern and Eastern European influences (among many others) to create a truly idiosyncratic and delicious pastiche. If you really want to make yourself hungry, check out this Serious Eats article on Georgian food, complete with pictures that may make you try and eat your screen.
Must Try Dish: Khinkali, Georgian soup dumplings
The street food stalls of Mumbai should be recognized by UNESCO, that’s how culturally important they are. There is always something that smells good in Mumbai, and those smells are inescapable as you wind through back alleys and squares. Dosas, kebabs, curries, puffed rice snacks, fries, even Chinese stir-fries – there is seemingly no end to the variety. It’s also a great option for vegetarians and vegans, given the city’s veg-forward cuisine.
Must-Try Dish: The Mumbai sandwich, the tastiest veggie sandwich anywhere in the world
Few cities are as food obsessed as Hong Kong, and it shows. From the glitzy upscale dining options of the financial elite, to the humble street vendors serving steaming plates of garlicky crab to patrons on little plastic stools, Hong Kong has culinary gems everywhere. And if you ever get tired of the Cantonese food (you won’t though) there are a thousand other global cuisines represented. Dress cool for the muggy summers with our v neck travel shirts for women and men.
Must-Try Dish: Dim sum, while not a single dish, is the must-try Hong Kong eating experience.
The largest metropolitan city in the world also has the most Michelin stars (having surpassed Paris a while back) at an impressive 314 in 2018. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is only a fine-dining town. Head to the unfortunately named “Piss Alley” and you’ll find a whole other side of the city, a time capsule serving up piping hot sticks of Yakitori and cold beer.
Must-Try Dish: Tokyo Style Shoyu ramen.
With apologies to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh city, this takes top spot in Southeast Asia. It’s all about the hawker centers in this foodie city, conveniently assembled rows of hawkers selling a wide range of delicious dishes, all under one roof (or no roof at all). There are far too many dishes to name, but some highlights are laksa, chilli crab, satay, chicken rice, kaya toast and wanton mee. For an unbelievable hawker center experience, head to Old Airport Road Food Centre, and thank us later.
Must-Try Dish: Everything. But, more specifically, Laksa.
The smell of something cooking over charcoal, of ras el hanout spices and freshly baked bread – that’s what Marrakesh smells like all the time. The abundant cafes are a great place to relax with some food and tea, but if you really want to roll up your sleeves and eat, head to the Jemaa El-Fna Square, where open-air stalls abound. Just use your intuition; if it seems less than fresh, pass on it.
Must Try Dish: Tagine and couscous, all the way
Be sure to pack an appetite (and a super comfortable boxer brief of course) when you head to Ethiopia, because the portions are big. Ethiopian food is starting to catch the attention it deserves. This utterly delicious, mostly vegetarian cuisine centres on injera, the staple sourdough teff-flour bread with a pleasant, sponge-y texture. Atop it, you will normally find an assortment of wat, spiced vegetable and meat stews. There’s no shortage of amazing wat restaurant in Addis Ababa, the capital.
Must-Try Dish: Injera and wat
Nairobi is the perfect place to enjoy the rich, varied world of Kenyan cuisine. Staple grains like corn, millet and sorghum are served alongside rich bean stews, grilled meats, vegetables and collard greens. This Eater list of the best restaurants in Nairobi should get you started on the right path.
Must-Try Dish: Ugali, Kenya’s answer to polenta, served with a tomato-based stew.
Because of its advantageous position on the Gulf of Guinea, part of the Atlantic, the seafood in Accra is fresh and plentiful. It is also lovingly prepared, grilled and served with corn and cassava, or fried and served with hot chilli sauce. Jollof rice, a spicy rice dish sautéed with tomatoes, onions and chillies is another incredibly popular dish that you can’t pass on.
Must-Try Dish: Banku (fermented corn and cassava cake) with grilled fish.
Heston Blumenthal, owner of the one-time best restaurant in the world, raves about Melbourne’s dining scene, and if it’s good enough for one of the best chefs in the world, it’s good enough for us. Unlike other entries on this list, which are here because of millennia old traditions, Melbourne is here because of precisely the opposite: it’s trendy and new, always willing to innovate food. If you can swing it, head there during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which showcases the best of what the city has to offer.
Must Try Dish: Brunch at Top Paddock
Fijian food is healthy, bright, tropical and well balanced. It’s pretty much sunshine on a plate. And the best place to find it is in the capital city of Suva. Coconuts feature heavily in the cuisine, as does fish, which is pretty much what you’d expect from a tropical island. There are some restaurants (read: lots) that cater to sunshine-chasing tourists, but they are perhaps some of the blander options available; instead, head to the food stalls at the Municipal Market, where you’ll find an array of fresh, traditional foods.
Must-Try Dish: Lovo, marinated chicken cooked underground
Of course, there are at least 21 more cities we would have liked to see on this list (ahem, Tel Aviv, ahem, Chiang Mai), but these are the ones that ultimately made the cut. Remember, when you’re packing for a trip spent eating, you want comfortable, non-constricting clothes that wash and dry easily – for that, Unbound Merino has your back.