A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at the cities of Paris, Lyon, Brussels and Rome, each enjoying a richly-deserved reputation as some of Europe’s most prominent culinary capitals. This week, we focus on a further four cities renowned for their gastronomic prowess: Barcelona, Istanbul, Copenhagen and Bologna.
Without doubt, Barcelona reigns supreme as one of Europe’s most prominent hotspots for food buffs and the Catalan capital excels in all things epicurean whether it be gourmet fine dining or a more simple yet thoroughly appetising array of tapas for which the city is particularly famous. Playing host to some 10,000 restaurants of which 18 feature in the 2013 Michelin guide, it’s a fairly safe assumption that you won’t go far wrong on the dining front on a Barcelona city break. Just a visit to La Boqueria food market, situated just off the Ramblas, will show you the diversity of edible delicacies available. Of course, given the size and contemporary dynamism of the city, there’s an international influence filtering through many of its restaurants, yet the traditional Catalan dishes and Mediterranean-infused menus are perhaps where Barcelona really comes into its own. Delicacies include fideua (paella served with noodles instead of rice), zarzuela (seafood stew), oh and did we mention the tapas?
Situated at the crossroads between Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Turkey’s melting pot of cultures has indelibly and distinctively influenced its cuisine, and excitingly so. And as you’d expect, Istanbul’s eateries provide a colourful and riotous blend of exotic flavours and taste sensations, much like its cultural and architectural heritage in fact. Inspired by the Ottoman Empire with influences from the Greeks, the Turks offer a menu rich in seafood and lamb kebabs, accompanied by bulgur rice or wheat and aubergine or more simple, tapas-style mezes. For the sweet-toothed amongst you, baklava pastries and pistachio-based kerebic are an absolute essential whilst a glass of raki is the quintessential aperitif. Istanbul is fast becoming one of hippest cities on Europe’s social scene therefore expect the culinary experience to match.
Birthplace of the ubiquitous spaghetti bolognaise, you’d expect Bologna to be at the forefront of all things foodie in Italy. Nicknamed La Grassa, neatly translated as ‘The Fat One’, Emilia Romagna’s capital is quite simply a food haven and whether you choose a hearty meal in a traditional trattoria tucked away down a hidden side street or a more refined dining experience, you will fail to be disappointed. Home of ragu, mortadella and tortellini, Bologna offers a gastronomic short break experience to remember. Its Mercato di Mezzo and Mercato delle Erbe are amongst the city’s biggest food markets whilst the streets to the east of Piazza Maggiore – Via Clavature, Via Pescherie Vecchio and Via dei Orefici in particular – provide an absolute feast for all the senses.
Copenhagen has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other Scandinavian city (15 to be exact) and is home to noma, ranked the world’s best restaurant in 2010, 2011 and 2012 (it slipped to a lowly 2nd place this year). Heavily influenced by traditional Nordic flavours – seasonal vegetables, locally-sourced fish and cured and smoked fish and meats – noma has put Nordic gastronomy firmly back on the map. And yet, the simple hot dog remains a staple favourite for the Danes, along with the traditional smørrebrød, an open sandwich. Why not experience the best of Copenhagen’s cuisine, tying in a city break to the Danish capital with the Copenhagen Cooking Festival, taking place from 23rd August to 1st September? Northern Europe’s largest food festival, choose from some 150 different events from cooking schools and experimental food events to Michelin-starred restaurants to street kitchens.