The Ten Best Food Destinations in the World

world map

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~ Jawaharal Nehru

The experience around food is what makes a particular meal, dish, or destination unique and able to stand out above all others.  It’s about the place, the time, and the people and “the best meal” can be found in a fine dining restaurant or in a crowded street market.  If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Food doesn’t travel well,” it’s true.  How can you recreate that special moment influenced by place and time and have it be as memorable for someone else as it was for you?

With our current food obsessed culture, culinary travel is becoming the most popular reason to visit many places around the world.  While we travel great distances to enjoy unique food, wine, and spirits, it is also important to be educated about the region and its people, learn about the history and architecture, and have time to take in the scenery and the surroundings.  Those things have as much impact on the food experience as does the food itself.

With that in mind, here are the ten places that consistently excite the senses and the palate.

South of France

South of France

Gourdon in the South of France

A food lover’s destination for many years and a favorite place to visit of Julia Child and James Beard, the South of France combines the most incredible sensory inspiration possible with some of the best local ingredients available anywhere in the world.  Markets with fresh fruits and vegetables, butcher shops, fishmongers, and cheese purveyors are abundant.  Regional wines are excellent and freshly baked French bread with French butter is the stuff that memories are made of.  Grab a seat high above the rocky cliffs along the Mediterranean or a chair in a medieval walled city for a meal with a view that you will never forget.

Barcelona

Mercat

Mercat de la Boqueira in Barcelona

This bustling city filled with unique buildings and the stunning cathedral, Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudí, is a city for passionate lovers of history, architecture, and food.  The Mercat de la Boqueria is a feast for the eyes and senses with meats, cheeses, spices, seafood, and fresh produce as far as the eye can see.  Kiosko Universal, a counter restaurant at one corner of the market, prepares some of the simplest and best food we’ve ever had: razor clams sautéed with a mixture of olive oil, garlic and parsley along with generous platters piled high with exotic mushrooms prepared in much the same way.  Fabulous tapas restaurants abound in this gorgeous city.  Give yourself a week to explore and see everything the city offers.  Barcelona is not to be missed.

Italy

Venice

Trattoria alla Rivetta in Venice

It’s hard to chose one place or city in Italy to visit or dine.  Depending on the terroir and the regional specialties of wine, aged meats, cheeses, olive oil, seafood, and pasta, you can visit almost any town in Italy and have a great and often, unforgettable meal.  Some of our favorite places include: the coastal regions on the Adriatic where the wines are crisp and dry and compliment the brininess of the fresh seafood; and Tuscany, where the bold, red wines are perfect with the heavier pasta dishes and the views of the vineyards and rolling hills are breathtaking.  Friuli stole our hearts last year with its many unique wines, small artisan food producers, and influences from neighboring countries like Austria and Germany.  Who knew grilled meats so simply prepared could be so incredibly good?  Only in a small trattoria in Friuli.  You can’t replicate that.

Mexico City

Mexico City

Mexico City (Photo Credit – Internet)

Up and coming on the culinary scene, Mexico City gives us a great reason to venture South of the Border.  From incredible food markets and casual street stands, to posh restaurants serving globally inspired cuisine, Mexico City has become the place to travel for the culinarily minded.  If you want to eat locally, order a Hurache, a street food specialty.  Made from fried masa dough and topped with meat and other accompaniments, all you will need is a local microbrew or Mezcal to wash it down.

Taipei 

Street vendors

Street food vendor in Taipei (Photo Credit – Internet)

Speaking of street food, Taipei has some of the world’s best with it’s rich noodle soups, steamed buns, and dumplings. With influences from China and Taiwan, seasonings include taste bud tantalizing Taiwanese basil, white pepper, cilantro, pickled vegetables, and star anise.  Gua Bao is one of the most popular street foods in Taipei that has made its way to the United States via many well-known chefs.  If you think this braised pork belly on a steamed bun with pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and chopped peanuts is tasty here, just wait until you try it late night on the streets of Taipei.

Morocco

Moroccan

Moroccan Beef prepared in a tagine

Head to Morocco for one of the most diverse food cultures in the world.  With Arab, European, and Berber influences, the sights, sounds, and aromas of the street vendors in Fes are intoxicating.  While steamed sheep’s head and stuffed camel spleen may not be on your food bucket list, there are plenty of other dishes to try in the souks.  Chicken brochettes rubbed with a mixed of spices, like cumin and paprika, are cooked over hot coals and served on large rounds of pan fried bread.  Moroccans like their desserts extra sweet, so be prepared when trying a pastry called Briwat (a fried triangle of filo pastry with almonds) and don’t expect to find a cold beer to enjoy with your meal in this destination.  The national drink is sweet mint tea, which is consumed by the gallons.

London

A view of London and the Thames River at night

A view of London and the Thames River at night (Photo Credit – Tumblr.com)

The city that many years ago was known for Fish and Chips, Peking Duck, Indian curries, and pubs with warm beer, is now quite the culinary hub.  With many star chefs and hip new restaurants and bars, there is much more to see and do in London now besides watching the changing of the palace guard, visiting the Queen, or ogling Prince George.  Neal’s Yard Dairy sells their artisan cheeses from the British Isles in two local stores and there is a plethera of bakeries with beautiful artisinal breads and pastries.  One of the newer and notable hot spots is Momo, a North African inspired restaurant.  Since the owner is rumored to be a friend of Madonna’s, you might have a chance to see her dining out in town right after your trip to Buckingham Palace and audience with the Queen.

New Orleans

Bourbon Street in New Orleans

Bourbon Street in New Orleans

There is no other city like it with its unusual food culture, architecture, interesting people watching, and resilience.  Influences on the cuisine of this city originally came from Europe, the Caribbean, Haiti, and Africa, however, with the city’s  new and large Vietnamese population, the food is evolving and there is a generation of chefs coming up with their own unique style and sense of place.  Old favorites always include classic Creole dishes like gumbo or Crawfish Étouffée, beignets at Café du Mode, a mufaletta at Central Grocery, or a Sazerac at the famous Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel.  For an elegant night out, John Besh’s Restaurant August will not disappoint and Donald Link’s famed charcuterie at Cochon Butcher is not to be missed while in town.

New York City

Eataly in New York City

Eataly in New York City

With so many excellent ethnic restaurants and fine dining establishments, many will argue that New York City is not only the culinary hub of the United States, but of the world.  The list of extraordinarily talented and award-winning chefs and restaurants in the city is endless.  A favorite way to spend a day in New York is to wander through Eataly, the 50,000 square foot artisanal food market created by Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and her son, Joe Bastianich.  With impeccable imported and specialty foods, casual eateries, and more formal dining options, it’s a food lover’s dream come true.  Don’t eat before you go and bring a rolling suitcase to haul your goodies home.

Charleston

Sunrise in Charleston

Sunrise in Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina is now the No. 1 travel destination in the world and much of that success is due to its booming food culture and the region’s Lowcountry cuisine.  This charming coastal town with its stunning architecture has a restaurant nearly every few feet.  There is an abundance of incredibly talented chefs, fabulous local produce, and access to some of the freshest seafood on the East Coast.  It’s a winning combination.  While classic Southern dishes, like Shrimp and Grits and a multitude of versions of Fried Chicken, appear on many menus, don’t overlook the new generation of chefs making their mark reviving heirloom ingredients, ,making world class charcuterie, and using the whole animal (from snout to tail) on their menus.

A version of this article was used for an interview on our culinary travels for SheKnows.com.  Here is her article based on my responses to her questions.

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51 Responses to “The Ten Best Food Destinations in the World”

  1. 1

    Susan Williams — July 29, 2013 @ 10:11 am

    What a gorgeous post!
    I have been to many of these places, and hope to visit the rest.
    In a perfect world, I’d visit them all with the budget to enjoy any meal I might choose.

    • Gwen replied: — July 30th, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you. I hope you are able to visit every destination you have yet to see on this list! BTW, the good news is that so much fabulous food is budget friendly.

      Gwen

  2. 2

    JulieD — July 29, 2013 @ 11:49 am

    I want to visit them all! I love your photos too!!

    • Gwen replied: — July 30th, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

      Hi Julie,

      There are so many bucket list places to visit, but I bet you make it to many of them in the coming years. :-)

      Gwen

  3. 3

    Stacey — July 30, 2013 @ 10:14 am

    Fantastic post!

  4. 4

    Joshua Hampton (Cooking Classes San Diego) — July 30, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    A lot of these places are on my bucket list. I wish I could just hop on a plane and go.

    • Gwen replied: — July 30th, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

      Hi Joshua,

      There are so many great food cities in the U.S. and the world. I hope you get to many of your bucket list stops in the coming years.

      Gwen

  5. 5

    JOE UNEO — July 31, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

    I rather give HONG KONG a LIKE.too in Asia Cities .

    JOEUNEO

    • Gwen replied: — August 1st, 2013 @ 8:07 am

      Hi Joe,

      Yes, that is another great food destination.

      Gwen

  6. 6

    Winnie Ha — July 31, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

    TAIPEI all the way!!
    I m from Taipei, and it is so far the best city-of-night-life I have ever been to.
    The street food might look yucky in the pic to you, but it taste way better.

    come! n let the asian street food blow your mind!

    • Gwen replied: — August 1st, 2013 @ 8:08 am

      Hi Winnie,

      Yes, it is a great city and the street food is definitely some of the best in the world.

      Gwen

  7. 7

    Taipei Mom — July 31, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

    Taipei all the way for me too.

    Must visit various food stands in the night market, and be amazed with the creativity and the taste that these food hawkers deliver at a super friendly price. You can sit on a bench with your food and watch passers by. Or better yet, walk along the night market while you eat and explore. The whole city is a carnival with 24h convenient stores at every street corner that you will never be alone (someone should do a piece how convenient a Taiwan convenient store can be).

    • Gwen replied: — August 1st, 2013 @ 8:10 am

      Hi,

      Thank you for your comment. That is one of the best parts of street food in Taipei – amazing food at a reasonable price.

      Gwen

  8. 8

    tommy — July 31, 2013 @ 11:42 pm

    Taipei city is a best place to reach out to Asian culture,and the unique food culture is also worth to experience,especially the traditional night market,gathering a lot of tasty food around Taiwan even from abroad.

    • Gwen replied: — August 1st, 2013 @ 8:11 am

      Thank you for your comment, Tommy. I would have to agree. :-)

  9. 9

    June — August 1, 2013 @ 1:25 am

    In Taipei, you can eat various kinds of food from the whole world. Super friendly people there. I love it.

  10. 10

    Kent — August 1, 2013 @ 3:24 am

    I can’t live without the food from night markets of Taipei!!!And actually in Taipei you could always find some surprising food which could delight your imagination!

  11. 11

    spencer@tokyo — August 1, 2013 @ 3:28 am

    my vote to Taipei! oh yeah ~

  12. 12

    YO — August 1, 2013 @ 3:38 am

    Vote for Taipei, one the best cities in Asia, oh, maybe in the world.

  13. 13

    Trick Daddy — August 1, 2013 @ 5:27 am

    Surprised by Charleston, will have to check that out.

    Taipei is great for uniqueness and variety, disappointed to see Montreal miss out, but I guess with so many places, choosing only ten is a challenge. Would also like to have seen Singapore or Bangkok make the list, not having SE Asian representation is an affront to my taste buds.

    • Gwen replied: — August 1st, 2013 @ 8:14 am

      Hi,

      Yes, Charleston is a great food city. You should travel there if you have the chance.

      I do agree that choosing ten is a difficult task and that there are many incredible food cities in the world. Montreal would be another great choice as Singapore and Bangkok. We do love the SE Asian flavors as well.

      Gwen

  14. 14

    Food Addict — August 1, 2013 @ 6:09 am

    I’m salivating like a dog just thinking about all the food in Taipei and the rest of Taiwan. Hubby and I suffer about three weeks of clinical depression every time we return to the US from Taiwan, missing all the good food there.

  15. 15

    Gwen — August 1, 2013 @ 8:16 am

    Hi Food Addict,

    It is depressing coming home from many places we travel to, especially when they are overseas; the culture and food is so different from what we experience in the U.S.

    It sounds like you need to travel to Taiwan more often. ;-)

    Gwen

  16. 16

    Spencer — August 1, 2013 @ 11:53 am

    Taipei is by far my favorite city in Asia, food-wise and culturally as a whole.. surprises me why more people don’t visit! Nice article!

  17. 17

    Val — August 1, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

    What about the north of France (Paris) and Tokyo…?
    London in the top 10 made me laugh as well. English food is the worst.

    • Gwen replied: — August 1st, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

      Hi Val,

      Yes, of course, Paris is always one of the best food destinations. Limiting the list to ten is nearly impossible and I wanted to mention some places that have amazing food that are often not considered for the “Ten Best” lists. BTW, I would have put Hong Kong in the list before Tokyo. Also, London has a very different food scene now than what it used to have. As I mentioned, it’s not just Fish & Chips anymore.

      Gwen

  18. 18

    Jason — August 1, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

    very decent article, good job.

    For me personally, Taipei will be at the first place for me.

    The food in Taipei is so diverse and tasty. Inexpensive price is also another reason. On top of this,Taipei is very good place for tourists as locals are so friendly and willing to help foreigners. Although not all locals can speak excellent english, body language is more than enough surviving there:)

    I wish I can visit all the place you recommended one day!!

  19. 19

    Kade — August 1, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

    Italy and Taipei is at the top of my list for sure.

  20. 20

    Scott — August 1, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

    One Asian city on the list… and it is Taipei? Give me a break. How about the Michelin stars of Tokyo or the street food of Bangkok. Taipei doesn’t hold a candle to either of them. Many of the top end Chinese restaurants are indeed great but nowhere near as worthy as other major Asian cities.

  21. 21

    JO — August 1, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    I have lived both in Taipei and New Orleans for more than 10 years. Love the food in both city. Do not judge food by how many Michelin rated restaurants the city has. The food that normal people love to eat is not usually what Michelin or food critics would love. New Orleans’s unique cuisine is unforgettable. I still could dream of the boiled blue crabs…before the BP oil spill.

  22. 22

    KM — August 2, 2013 @ 1:51 am

    Hong Kong food must have a place among the best. It gathers the best of China and coastal Asia.
    Bacelona offers the best paella, sangria and tapas.
    Lisbon keeps the authentic Portuguese food which is different, special and ingenious but inexpensive.
    Don’t miss the Croatian food which is always delicious and large portion for the hungry.
    There was no good food in London 30 years ago, except fish and chips. Selecting kidney pie is a matter of luck. Last year I was lucky to have tried some very fresh roasted sallmon steak with geen salad unforgettably from a country roadside pub. I heard that there are some modern and creative foods in London which are definitely for the very few and rich.
    Australia offers the best freshlly roasted lamb most dellicious without seasoning.
    I must also mention that a motel near Washington DC offers the most unforgetable breakfast served with freshly picked strawberry, fresh creme and fresh pancake. Also, a suburb restaurant Oscar offers fantastic dinner at very reasonable price 27 years ago. They all reside in my memmory.

  23. 23

    Jason Hung — August 2, 2013 @ 8:17 am

    I am a Taiwan person,I saw this new I was extremely(very)Surprised.But Taipei have a lot of food, like:擔仔麵 ….more , I could said:Taiwan is a good place.But
    Taipei(Songshan International ) Airport,just a few was come form U.S.A ,You can took airplane to Taoyuan International Airport , than take High Speed Rail.If you do not want , you could took airplane to Kaohsiung International Airport,
    than eat at Kaosiung , it is second best.

  24. 24

    佳蓉吳 — August 2, 2013 @ 8:37 am

    喔~我必需說,作為一個臺灣人看到自己國家上榜是多麼令人興奮
    不只台北,台灣還有許多更棒、更有人情味的地方
    FORMOSA可不是浪得虛名

  25. 25

    Roger — August 2, 2013 @ 8:50 am

    I’ll do my best to translate the above comment.

    “Oh I must say, Taiwanese see themselves and are very exciting to make the country list. Not only in Taipei, but all of Taiwan, there are many very good places.
    LangDe Xuming from Formosa (Taiwan)”

  26. 26

    Roger — August 2, 2013 @ 9:04 am

    I know some people are surprised that Taipei made the list. When I think of Taipei I think of the street food, the lights, the excitement of the moment. Street vendors create very flavorful creations. The flavors, combined with the location affords a unique culinary experience that is quite memorable. But, as Gwen said in the article, that experience doesn’t travel well. Creating the same food in Brooklyn won’t have the same impact, just like eating a beignet in Des Moines is not going to be the same as at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.

  27. 27

    Patty Sato — August 2, 2013 @ 9:54 am

    やった!故郷・台北は世界10大グルメスポットに選ばれました☆超~~嬉しい&大感激です☆百聞不如一見, 歡迎大家到台北一遊, 品嚐夜市小吃,體驗台灣的人情味☆

  28. 28

    Roger — August 2, 2013 @ 10:09 am

    I found the translation of the above comment more difficult but here’s my best shot.

    “seeing is believing, take a Taipei tour. Taste the night market snacks, experience Taiwan’s personality. ☆

  29. 29

    Jeff London — August 2, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

    I am going to Taiwan in September. I am sooo excited!

    All my friends told me good things about the people and of course the food!

  30. 30

    Tiffany — August 2, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

    Next time, you may like to write an entire post dedicated to Taiwan night markets.

    My brother owns a franchise restaurant that specialized in “Hot Pot” 火鍋料理, I can’t describe to you how terrific the gathering around a hot pot with friends and families to enjoy a hot meal unless you do it the Taiwan way:-)

    There are many business models for restaurant business in Taiwan – if you ever go there, try ANYTHING and EVERYTHING food-wide. Just talking about it makes me homesick!!

  31. 31

    Mat Thompson — August 2, 2013 @ 11:46 pm

    Finally a list that shows why I have lived and stayed in Taipei for seven years now. I have traveled all over Southeast Asia and returned to Canada a few times in that time and I get homesick and hungry for the food here. I try to get people to come and visit just so I can take them to the stands that I know are the best. Every market, street corner, stand and shop has something delicious for you to try. Taiwan’s mix of all different styles has created something magical that can only be described as Taiwanese, and until you’ve tried it, you just don’t know what you are missing. Thank you for putting Taipei/Taiwan right where it should be on a food list, right near the top!!!

  32. 32

    Andrés Guo — August 3, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    Bienvenido a Taipei el mercado nocturno y la comida de la calle es el uno de los mejores del mundo !!

  33. 33

    Roger — August 3, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

    Translation of the above comment

    Welcome to Taipei. The night market and street food is one of the best in the world

  34. 34

    Anthony — August 5, 2013 @ 4:56 am

    “Charleston, South Carolina is now the No. 1 travel destination in the world” ?????

    In whose reality? That of the mainly US readers of a US magazine? Quite frankly, that is ridiculous, as is having 3 US cities in this list. What about Sydney? San Sebastian? Shanghai? Hong Kong? Copenhagan? You can’t place New Orleans above any of those based simply on the fact it has a unique cuisine within the USA.

    And Italy is, quite frankly, overrated and past its sell-by-date, food-wise. It has comfort factor but lacks flavour and innovation.

    • Gwen replied: — August 5th, 2013 @ 8:09 am

      Hi Anthony,

      Charleston has been consistently voted either No. 1 or at least in the Top Ten (No. 7) for travel destinations by both Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast for several years and while you may not agree, obviously, other people think Charleston is worthy of the ranking.

      This list was my choice as are most Top Ten lists based on personal experience and research. In addition, I wanted to include some places that were unexpected since so many cities get press all the time. Certainly, there are more than ten places in the world that have amazing food, including many more U.S. cities. The world is a big place, but the article was limited to ten.

      Incidentally, I would have to argue with you about Italy. To say that Italy is past it’s prime is an awfully broad generalization about a country that still has some of the best food and wine available anywhere in the world. Modernistic cuisine is not always the best food and we have found many chefs in the U.S. returning to more simplistic preparations. Maybe Italy knows what it’s doing after all.

      Gwen

  35. 35

    Travel Pilllow — August 6, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

    Great post about some travel destinations known for their cuisine. I wonder how many people know how popular Charleston, South Carolina has become.

  36. 36

    YC Hsieh — August 13, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

    Excluding tasty food and friendly people, if you are interested in Chinese culture and arts, I strongly recommend you visit National Taiwan University of Arts (NTUA)located in New Taipei City. Oscar winning director Ang Lee is one of NTUA’s graduate.

  37. 37

    Miguel — August 23, 2013 @ 11:29 am

    South American food was left aside in this list, certainly perhaps one of the best cuisines in the world is in Peru perhaps not as popular but there is no doubt its variety and exquisites make the peruvian food one of the best in the world.

  38. 38

    Jaclyn — September 3, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    Taiwan street foods is nice but not all of the foods. Eventually should include Thailand and Malaysia. Especially Malaysia because of their multi-cultural makes their foods special. They have multi ethnicity therefore their foods are combination of Chinese p, Malays, India and much more. Highly recommend!

  39. 39

    Xxx — September 8, 2013 @ 2:44 am

    How about Penang, Malaysia?

  40. 40

    yenes — December 4, 2013 @ 4:06 am

    all of you have to find a peruvian food restaurant….peruvian food is the best of the world…

  41. 41

    yenes — December 4, 2013 @ 4:16 am

    YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT DELICIOUS IS PERUVIAN FOOD. IN RECENT YEARS THE PERUVIAN FOOD IS MUCH protruding WORLDWIDE BUT ONLY SPANISH LEVEL.
    I was LOOKING PAGES IN ENGLISH ABOUT PERUVIAN FOOD, BUT NOT FOUND ANY EH.
    I INVITE YOU TO ENJOY OUR FOOD.
    I AM SURE THAT IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD.

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