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Yummy Europe: 5 cities that should be on a menu

Published December 12th, 2017

Picking a holiday purely based on what you want to eat there isn’t anything new. Now there’s just more people blogging about it and taking photos of it. Student Flights want to ensure your edible education goes beyond the golden arches on your next European adventure, and if you follow our lead, we’ll guarantee you get straight As.

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The appetiser: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Adventures in Amsterdam are appetising-inducing in more ways than one, with no shortage of snackable stops to satisfy ‘hanger’ or ‘hanxiety’ while strolling or cycling its pretty canals. While Amsterdam hasn’t quite yet reached the foodie fanfare of places like Belgium with its waffles or Istanbul with its kebabs, the city has plenty to offer in the street food department, a continental ‘best of’, if you will.

Foodhallen in the Oud-West neighbourhood is a one-stop shop of local and international street eats from some of the city’s most respected kitchens – in a setting complete with live music, breweries and bars. You can also stroll Albert Cuyp Market in the cool-kid suburb of De Pijp with a freshly pressed stroopwafel in hand, tasting local fruit and cheese as you wander. In between, you’ll find frites pop-ups, bakeries, cheesemongers, sandwich shops and a vending machine wonderland of deep-fried goodness (Febo).

Entree: Barcelona, Spain

Once you’ve ticked off all that Gaudi goodness in balmy Barcelona, hit the town and follow your nose to hole-in-the-wall haunts serving tapas to hungry hoards by the plateful. The Spaniards have been doing share plates long before share plates were a ‘thing’, and these tiny yet lively tapas bars do a roaring trade in bar snacks, sometimes even for free, all for just ordering a drink!

While you’re knocking back your cava and ciders, try slivers of cured meat; toasted bread topped with tomato and olive oil (pan con tomate); crispy cubes of potato drizzled with garlicky aioli and spicy tomato sauce (patatas bravas); deep-fried crumbed potato with oozy béchamel sauce (croquetas); and more. But you don’t have to seek these out all on your own. Join one of Contiki’s Munch tours and you’ll travel with equally food-obsessed travellers who likely won’t mind sharing – all under the guidance of an in-the-know culinary overlord, aka Contiki guide.

The first course: Lyon, France

While textbook Paris hogs the limelight (Romance! Bakeries! Cheese! Disneyland!), quaint little Lyon is busy winning over its visitors in a more subtle way: with simple, unfussy food. Vegans and vegetarians, avert your eyes. Many chefs around these parts specialise solely in swine and you can expect pork, pork and more pork on menus, and in every variation.

Nose-to-tail dining isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the real deal here. If you’re not so daring, you’ll be in better company with other Lyonnais specialities like coq au vin (braised chicken with wine) and Lyonnais potatoes (pan-fried spuds smothered in butter). Not just the gastronomic capital of France, but the world, the simplest and most delightful culinary pleasure in Lyon comes in the form of lunch – long and leisurely with wine, lots of wine, oh so much wine. And it won’t cost you your entire day’s travel budget, no matter which bouchon you choose.

Main course: Florence, Italy

Sure it’s the birthplace of the Renaissance, leather and jewellery hotspot, setting of Jersey Shore season four and heart of Tuscany, but Florence is also a glutton’s dream. There’s a saying: ‘piatto ricco, mi ci ficco’, or, ‘rich plate, I dive in it’, which is an apt description for any visitor to Florence, such is the rich dining scene.

Eating well here is easy, whether you plan it to the meal or leave it to fate and see what kind of tasty gems you stumble upon. Though, there are a few dishes that should be at the top of your ‘to eat’ list, including miss wild boar ragu, mushroom-studded pici pasta or a simple steak. But not just any steak. Bistecca alla Fiorentina will put any Aussie steakhouse to shame. This Florentine speciality is a hefty 1kg-minimum T-bone steak cooked on the fire and served simply with lemon and salt. Sharing is optional in our books. Travel with Topdeck through Italy and beyond, and they’ll ensure your belly is as full as your passport.

Dessert: Copenhagen, Denmark

Inherently hip Copenhagen’s culinary landscape isn’t all Michelin stars. If you’re a pastry lover looking for your next flaky fix, you’ve come to the right place – you just need to know what to ask for.

Spoiler alert: danishes aren’t Danish. At least, technically speaking. Wienerbrød is what ‘danishes’ can be likened to – a pretzel-shaped pastry with a croissant-liked texture filled with creamed butter (!!) and sugar. A visit to Conditori La Glace, Copenhagen’s oldest confectionary, is a must too. Beautiful rooms create a cosy space to gorge on baked goods and their legendary ice-cream and Sport’s Cake.

If you’ve still got room for more, do a pastry crawl and try spandauer (puff pastry with marzipan and custard), snegl (a snail-shaped treat with cinnamon or chocolate), cinnamon scrolls and Christianshavner tærte (a hazelnut and strawberry tart). Luckily holiday calories don’t count, right?

Anna Howard

I thrive on discovering hidden gems and local haunts wherever I travel, from hole-in-the-wall cafes and dive bars, to antique stores and eclectic markets. I feel just as content in a cosy cabin in the wilderness as I do lost in the crowd of a buzzing city.