Little-Known European Destinations That Are Ideal For Food Lovers

Europe, a continent renowned for its rich culinary traditions and diverse gastronomic delights, is not just about the famed food capitals like Paris, Rome, or Barcelona. Beyond these well-trodden paths lies an abundance of little-known destinations, each offering a unique and memorable food experience. From the Mediterranean flavors of Malta to the historic canals of Belgium, these hidden gems invite travelers to embark on a journey of cultural discovery with every bite they take.


In the idyllic streets of Slovenia's quaint villages, the culinary scene is as vibrant as its heritage. Northern Spain's lesser-known regions are home to mouth-watering seafood, while the Eastern European delights of Turkey reveal a rich culinary landscape bursting with diverse flavors. Each destination, with its ancient traditional recipes and fusion of cultural influences, has crafted a distinct cuisine that locals are proud to share with visitors. This list of European destinations is ideal for foodies looking to venture off the beaten path.

Maribor, Slovenia

Bordered by the countries of Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia as well as a small stretch of coastline along the Adriatic Sea is the southern, Central European country of Slovenia. In 2021, this small, low-key destination was awarded the European Region of Gastronomy by IGCAT. As a result, Slovenia quickly rose to the top of foodie bucket lists across the globe. If you're interested in exploring a unique blend of traditional Slovenian cuisine and modern culinary innovation, head to the city of Maribor.


Situated in the lush wine region of Podravska, Maribor is Slovenia's second-largest city. Maribor's food scene is characterized by fresh, locally sourced ingredients, a rich cultural tradition, and contemporary culinary techniques. Four of the city's restaurants have been listed on the Michelin Guide. Be sure to try famous Slovenian dishes like delicious sweet pastries potica and prekmurska gibanica or savory comfort dishes like Kranjska Klobasa and Žganci.

If you enjoy wine, Maribor is just the place for you. For starters,Maribor is home to the oldest productive grapevine in the world. Be sure to visit this 400-year-old attraction at The Old Vine House and browse its museum for a history lesson on Slovenian winemaking. Afterward, head to the historic underground wine cellar, Glavni Trg is Vinag for a candlelit wine tasting.


Gaziantep, Turkey

Gaziantep, Turkey, often referred to as 'Antep,' is a culinary paradise situated on the border of Syria nearby to the city of Aleppo. Having witnessed multiple civilizations and acted as a significant trading center along the ancient Silk Road, this city has developed a diverse and delicious gastronomic scene throughout its millenniums of existence. Because of this, Gaziantep has been listed by UNESCO as a Creative City of Gastronomy since 2015.


The climate of the region is particularly favorable for growing sweet, crisp pistachios. And so, the city is renowned for producing some of the world's best quality pistachios, a key ingredient in many local recipes including the famous Baklava and Katmer. Dishes are imbued with distinct flavors including those of fresh cumin, sumac, fennel, mint, saffron, and cinnamon. Another ingredient credited to Gaziantep's exquisite culinary creations is the Nizip olive oil. With a 35-37% higher oil rate than the typical olive, this olive oil is unique to Gaziantep.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

For those seeking a deeper exploration of Spain's infamous Galician cuisine, Santiago de Compostela is the perfect destination for doing so. The city's cuisine is deeply rooted in the rich Galician culture, providing a wide array of delicious dishes. Some that are a must-try include Pulpo a la Gallega (boiled octopus, seasoned with fresh paprika and sea salt), Pimientos de Padrón (roasted small green peppers with a sprinkle of sea salt), and Tarta de Santiago (a moist almond cake covered with powdered sugar).


Mercado de Abastos is the vibrant food market in the city's Old Town where many local chefs source their fresh ingredients. Here, visitors can also try authentic Galician food. Since 1873, locals have walked these stalls shopping for salted cod, gooseneck barnacles, empanadas, and more. These dining experiences, combined with the city's charming historical architecture, make Santiago de Compostela the perfect getaway for foodies to indulge in traditional Spanish and Galician flavors.

Saimaa, Finland

Saimaa, Finland, is an enchanting and under-the-radar European destination for food lovers. Centered around Finland's largest lake, Lake Saimaa, the region is renowned for its pristine natural beauty, which plays a significant role in its food culture. The region's vast and clean freshwater lakes are teeming with fish, making it a paradise for those who savor fresh seafood.


Local specialties include vendace, a small, delicately flavored fish often served smoked or in soup, and Särä, a lamb dish meticulously prepared alongside potatoes and flatbread. As is common in colder landscapes, you'll also find exquisite fresh-baked, savory pastries and pies like Lörtsy and Atomi. Freshly foraged ingredients from the surrounding forests, such as berries, mushrooms, and herbs. This abundance of fresh, local produce is what makes the food in Saimaa not just good but exceptional. Rooted in the landscape's natural bounty and the centuries of cultural tradition, the meals you have in Saimaa will be unlike anything you can get anywhere else.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium is a haven for food aficionados. Often overshadowed by larger Belgian cities like Brussels, Bruges offers a quaint yet vibrant culinary scene with both traditional Belgian fare and innovative cuisine. This charming city sometimes referred to as the "Venice of the North", is celebrated for crafting some of the world's most delectable chocolates. Strolling through the cobbled streets, visitors are enticed by the aroma of freshly made Belgian waffles and the sight of powdered sugar dusting their crispy, golden crust.


Bruges is also a paradise for seafood lovers, thanks to its proximity to the North Sea. A local favorite is the 'Moules-frites' (mussels served with fries), which can be enjoyed in Bruges' plethora of cozy bistros. In addition to its culinary dishes, Bruges is renowned for its beer culture. The city is home to a variety of historic breweries where visitors can savor a wide range of Belgian beers, from robust ales to the city's own brew, Brugse Zot.