Food is a universal language and one that is often used to show hospitality, tradition, and cultural pride. Perhaps more than any other aspect of traveling, food offers a unique glimpse into the life and heritage of local populations, particularly for travelers open to trying new cuisines and local favorites. We put together a list of some of the best culinary destinations around the world for our wanderers to relish.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hop in a tuk-tuk, the preferred method of transportation in Cambodia, and take a trip to a busy food market in Siem Reap, an area comprised of small villages located along the Siem Reap River. There you will find vendors selling fresh fruits, grilled meats, rice and noodle dishes, and the national dish Amok – a fish curry made with coconut milk, curry paste, topped with coconut cream and steamed in banana leaf cups. Fresh fish and seafood such as prawns and squid, along with beef, duck and pork are the most sought-after proteins. For the more adventurous diners there are also many dishes that include insects such as crickets and even tarantulas! Current food trends in Cambodia have Thai and Vietnamese influences with locals preferring to serve vegetables fresh or in curries and stews with turmeric, ginger, and lemongrass as common flavor profiles.
Lyon, France has much to offer discerning diners. It has a staggering 20 restaurants that hold Michelin stars, but that is only one aspect of its bustling culinary scene. As the third largest French city, it is a place to wander the traboules (passageways that were created for merchants to move their wares about the city unseen) and discover small Lyonnaise eateries that serve quenelles (fish dumplings), pâtés, pastries and the most requested French beverage…wine. One of the best ways to be immersed in the local cuisine is to take a cooking class at the Institute Paul Bocuse and learn about the methods used by French chefs or to visit the Cite Internationale de la Gastronomie which highlights Lyon’s extensive culinary history.
Bologna, Italy Imagine sitting at an outdoor Italian café with a plate of Tagliatelle al ragù, wine and thoughts of a creamy gelato for dessert. This could be a reality if you plan a getaway to Bologna, Italy. Labeled by many as the “culinary capital of Italy,” Bolognese cuisine is categorized as rich and hearty with its sauces, cured meats, and stuffed pastas. Wanderers can enjoy some of the most mouth-watering food in Italy while walking around a city rich in history and architectural beauty. Known for miles of porticoes, many of which date back to the Middle Ages, and striking medieval Towers, Bologna offers visitors a unique glimpse into medieval Europe. While there, you can also check out the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe, while looking for must-try foods like Mortadella (cured pork sausage), Tortellini in Brodo (a meat or cheese stuffed pasta in a meat broth), Zuppa Inglese (a trifle-like dessert) and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Japanese culinary influences and fusions have been rising trends in the U.S. for many years. Travelers who want to get a diverse experience with Japanese cuisine should head to Tokyo. In 2023 Tokyo was the city with the most Michelin stars awarded – 263 - across 200 restaurants throughout the city which is more than Paris and New York City combined.
In addition to Michelin rated restaurants, Tokyo offers countless small restaurants and an amazing array of street food. No matter the location, Japanese food emphasizes quality. Visitors should try traditional dishes like fresh sushi, delectable ramen, and tempting tempura – as well as modern favorites such as katsu-kare (curry with fried, breaded pork cutlet), Wagyu beef, yakitori (soy and mirin-glazed BBQ chicken skewers), and the chewy textured Soba noodles with a delicious nutty flavor. The pride in presentation and quality of food, the diversity of food offerings, and the deep-rooted reverence for ingredients and process all provide insight into the beauty of Japanese culture.
Simply taking a walk through a market filled with dried spices, fresh fruits, and crisp vegetables in Marrakech offer a tease of all of the traditional culinary delights that are possible in this vibrant city. Your senses come alive with the colorful baskets of produce and spices, intricate tiling of the architecture, and the scents of raw spices as well as cooked dishes from the street vendors. Influenced by Arab, Andalusia, and Mediterranean cuisines, the food in Marrakech is a delightful reason to plan a trip there. Tagine, couscous, and the sweet mint tea are among the commonly known foods to try, but others to search for include chicken b’stilla (a slightly sweet and savory pie with a filo-like crust), chebakia (a fried cookie-like treat that is coated in honey), snail soup, and beghrir (Moroccan pancakes). Characterized by a blend of influences and traditions, the richness of Moroccan food as a cultural experience will delight the most curious of travelers.
San Sebastian, Spain The culinary gems found in San Sebastian are reason alone to make the journey. Located on the southern coast of the Bay of Biscay in the northern part of Basque Country, it is a seaside home to some of the best food in Spain. One of the more common ways to delve into the cuisine is to visit a restaurant or bar that specializes in tapas-style small bites called Pinxtos, and in some places they circulate like hors d’oeuvres so diners can choose those they wish to sample. San Sebastian also offers a high concentration of Michelin star restaurants. Along with Pinxtos, San Sebastian is also famous for baked spider crab, Idiazabel cheese (made from sheep’s milk), dishes made with squid that also utilize the squid ink, locally made ciders, and aged steak called Txuleta which is from cows at least 8 years of age. Visitors will find that the beauty of this coastal destination is matched only by its enthusiasm for superb culinary experiences. We hope this inspires you to plan an international culinary adventure! If you have any culinary experiences to share, please reach out to WinniWanderer@winni.com. Hearing from you will make our day!
By a culinary adventurous Staff Contributor