The Mediterranean region is renowned for its incredible (and healthy) cuisine. Across the region you can combine beach vacations or city breaks with fresh seafood, world-class cheeses and wine, moreish meze, tantalising tapas and decadent desserts.
But with such a bewildering variety of destinations, how do you narrow it down? Easy – ask a group of travel bloggers to pick their favourite foodie memories and delicious destinations.
Keep reading for some classic foodie cities, as well as some low key regions with an underrated food heritage.
If you want to experience a unique and delicious cuisine while enjoying the warmest average temperatures in Europe, then look no further than the beautiful Mediterranean island nation of Malta. Maltese cuisine draws from a number of culinary traditions that have influenced them throughout their history. Here you can find dishes that mix English, French, Italian, and North African styles and flavours into dishes that are uniquely Maltese.
One of the most popular Maltese foods to try is pastizzi, a small filo pastry that is filled with either cheese, chicken or mushy peas. Maltese seafood is top-notch as well, due to the plentiful array of fish swimming in the Mediterranean – traditional dishes include octopus in garlic and lampuki pie. If fish is not your scene, Malta is also famous for their many ways of cooking rabbit, the most common of which is rabbit stew, which you will find on almost every traditional Maltese restaurant menu.
Italian influences also run deep in Malta, due to its proximity to Sicily. Hearty pasta dishes fill menus as well and kannoli (a Maltese take on the Sicilian favourite) line the display cases in bakeries. Portion sizes in this nation are also massive, making it a great value to eat out, especially if you’re visiting Malta on a budget.
All in all, Maltese cuisine is one of the most unique in Mediterranean Europe and there are a number of fantastic dishes to try while learning about this fascinating culture.
Contributed by: Maggie of The World Was Here First
Barcelona is the capital of mouthwatering Catalan cuisine in Spain. And because the city is snugged up to the Mediterranean coast, it features the freshest of fish and seafood…everything from delicate anchovies in vinegar to generous plates of tomato with tuna, bright flavours like you’ve never experienced before.
Can’t-miss tastes include: La Bomba (potato croquettes sandwiched between an aioli and a citrusy tomato sauce. . . the only tapas originating in Barcelona), sausage drizzled with honey, and Iberico ham.
When it comes to drinks, Cava – Spain’s famous sparkling wine – flows liberally here. You can’t go wrong with wine. . . a few euros in an unremarkable mini market yields a beautiful Roja and other lovely red table wines. While tourists love the Sangria, locals prefer tinto de verano which is less sweet and skips the fruit. Nip into a vermouth bar and order something salty to complement the sweet wine. Or sign up for a Barcelona Food Tour for an insider’s tour of this remarkable city.
Contributed by: Chris of Explore Now or Never
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
Contributed by: Claudia of My Adventures Around the World
When it comes to food, our favourite destination in the Mediterranean is definitely Crete. Did you know that Cretan Diet is not only famous for being healthy and nutritious but also renowned for being miraculous? Yep! Apparently, it’s been proven that Cretan Diet prolongs life by reducing diseases.
Last year, instead of travelling to faraway foodie destinations, we decided to eat our way through Crete during a 3-week long road trip from Chania to Itanos. There, we found out that the secret formula of the Cretan longevity is in fact attributed to their daily dietary habits. Of course, people in Crete also eat processed food, but they all try to consume as much fresh food produced locally as possible.
So when we were in Crete, we did like the Cretans do and ate food that grow wild, such as artichokes, grapes or apricots, as well as fresh fishes and shrimps caught the same day especially when we were staying somewhere close to the sea. However, when we went to the Lasithi Plateau, we didn’t eat fish or seafood there, but went for their local fresh tomatoes and salads prepared with various types of local herbs, as well as eggplants, grilled lamb and lots of goat cheese!
Since Kerstin is a wine lover, she tasted various types of Cretan wine, and loved the organic one produced in the region of Sitia. After every meal, we always got a free glass raki, but of all the drinks we had in Crete, the best ones are still their fresh watermelon and orange juices served at breakfast!
Contributed by: Mei of Travel with Mei & Kerstin
I went to Alicante for two things – castles and tapas. I chose the easy way and took the elevator up to the Castillo Santa Barbara but I walked miles out of my way to try specific tapas bars – this should show you where my priorities lay! Alicante has the Mediterranean as well as the mountain regions behind it to inform their culinary culture and, as a result, the best of both worlds are available.
You can devour incredibly fresh fish, gorgeous paella that has bubbled away for hours, or world-famous smoked meat that just melts in your mouth. They have impressive wine regions to boot, so you’re never without something delicious to sip – I wanted to try it all. I went to many of the bars and restaurants listed on advice sites and they were great, amazing even, but one place exceeded all of my expectations: Cerveceria Sento Rambla.
This tapas bar stood out to me because of the atmosphere – chefs joke with you, dole up what they think you’d like (after checking with you for allergies and preferences), and turn up the music to dance while they cook. I was presented with the signature dish, a Piruleta: a roulette of jambon, chicken, and bechamel sliced and presented like a carnival lollipop with a bite-sized piece of delicious pork belly covered with the most moreish peanut sauce I’ve ever had. I had a glass of local wine and 5 tapas dishes – for less than 23 euros. Alicante is an amazing town, compact and walkable, with a vast array of amazing eats and views – perfect for visiting foodies.
Contributed by: Sam from Travel With The Muses
Often overshadowed by the more popular (and more touristy) Dubrovnik, Zadar is also located along the Dalmatian coast and is home to some of the most delicious eats in the country. Just a foodie weekend in Zadar will give you the opportunity to sample some of the region’s best Croatian dishes.
The city of Zadar has a long and rich history — it was once part of the Roman Empire, as well as the Republic of Venice, and it was also a part of the insanely large Ottoman Empire. You can see all of these influences in the Croatian cuisine, especially in Zadar.
Taste Italian with a Croatian twist with delicious squid ink risotto, gnocchi, pizza, pasta, and gelato. Keep in mind that the gelato isn’t exactly the same as the Italian version, it’s a bit less creamy but still yummy and refreshing during the warm summers. For a sample of the Ottomans, definitely try cevapi, the grilled minced meat dish commonly found in the Balkans is similar to the Turkish kofte kebab and is super delicious.
Like much of Europe, you can find delicious charcuteries in Zadar made with local ingredients, including their take on prosciutto as well as Pag cheese. Pag cheese is from the nearby island of Pag and has a unique salty and aromatic flavour. This is because sheep on Pag Island consume grass topped with dried salt from the sea air.
Zadar is also located off of the Adriatic Sea, so don’t forget to try the seafood! We found the food in Zadar to be much tastier and more affordable than Dubrovnik, you won’t want to sleep on this foodie destination!
Contributed by: Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear
Italy is known as one of the culinary capitals of the world… and Bologna is known as one of the culinary capitals of Italy. With a reputation like that, it should come as no surprise that Bologna’s cuisine is varied and delicious!
As the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Bologna is a fantastic place to find delicacies like traditional balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parma ham, and truffles, all of which hail from the region.
A few exported world favourites can also be found in their original (and far superior) form in Bologna: mortadella (known worldwide as bologna) and tagliatelle al ragu (known worldwide as spaghetti bolognese).
While in Bologna, be sure to try all of the above – if you’re a fan of food tours, this is definitely the place to take one – along with local favourites like tortellini en brodo, gramigna alla salsiccia, and zuppa inglese!
If your love of food drives you to want to see where it comes from, food-focused day trips from Bologna to the nearby towns of Modena (home of traditional balsamic vinegar) and Parma (home of traditional Parmigiano-Reggiano) are popular and delightful.
Contributed by: Kate of Our Escape Clause
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
San Sebastian is known for food and the beach. The beach is best in summer, but foodies are in luck year-round. Basque Country (País Vasco), and San Sebastian especially is famous for pintxos, which are similar to tapas in that they are small plates of food you eat at night with a glass of wine. Order one or two to share and a glass of wine at a pintxo bar, then move on to the next bar for another pintxo and glass of wine.
Repeat until your belly is full with all sorts of delicious seafoods and meats. It’s a wonderful way to spend a dark winter evening with friends and family. Before visiting Spain for a 6-week road trip of food, hiking, and culture, I asked everyone I knew for advice on great food. The overall consensus from tourists, expats, and Spaniards alike was that I must visit San Sebastian.
For non-eating activities, San Sebastian has beautiful old churches, very good museums, and you will likely see people walking the pilgrimage route, Camino de Santiago, through town. The aforementioned beach is long and wide and completely empty on a wintry day, but stop by anyway for the funicular up the hillside to a small theme park and for beautiful views of the land and ocean below.
General Tips: Due to the expense of parking (and that it’s a bit confusing with the various colour zones), I would recommend taking public transportation around town whenever possible. There are always a few vegetarian options at pintxo bars with many types of pintxos, but some of the specialized bars have only seafood.
Contributed by: Jess of Longest Bus Rides
EMILIA ROMAGNA, ITALY
Italy has plenty of delicious food, but one region that stands out even amongst Italians (though they might not admit it!) is Emilia Romagna. It is the birthplace of some of Italy’s most delicious meats and cheeses, along with delicate pasta, great wine and the best balsamic vinegar in the world.
The provinces of Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia (and parts of Bologna and Mantova) are home to Parmigiano Reggiano. In fact, cheese cannot be labelled which the prestigious DOP status and be called Parmigiano Reggiano unless it is made in this region, using strict traditional production methods. Head to a factory to sample the delicious cheese and watch the cheese masters at work.
Equally famous is Parma di Prosciutto – another DOP product – delicate cured ham produced in and around the city of Parma. Something equally as tasty, though much less known is Erbazzone. This savoury pastry is found in the town of Reggio Emilio and is a mouth-watering combination of chard, spinach, onions, cured lard, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano, best enjoyed at a café one of the towns leafy piazzas.
Finally, no trip to Italy would be complete without pasta, and in Emilia Romagna the filled pasta is a must try. Tortellini, Tortelli, Cappelletti and more are stuffed with cheese, vegetables, eggs and meat in a variety of combinations. These can be served with a sauce or in a broth. And if you still have room, head to Bologna for lasagna and Tagliatelle Ragu, washed down with a glass of Fortana.
Contributed by: Hayley of A Lovely Planet
Named Europe’s best travel destination twice and conjoining the traditional and modern food Porto is quickly becoming a good spot for foodies.
Right now, everyone knows one of the delicious pastry, the pastel de nata or even the Porto wine, recognized worldwide. But, Porto is much more than that. Some of the traditional dishes included tripas à moda do Porto; ameijoas à bulhão pato and bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. Of course, the list wasn’t complete if I didn’t talk about francesinha. The most famous dish that even Antony Bourdain couldn’t resist when filming for his TV show ‘Parts Unknown’.
‘O Afonso’ was the place chosen for the unusually tall sandwich with juicy steak and covered in melted cheese. Tuesday is the day to eat tripas à moda do Porto in one of the most traditional restaurants ‘A Cozinha do Manel’. For ameijoas à bulhão pato I totally recommended ‘Ostras & Coisas’ restaurant. José Luís Gomes de Sá was the men who gave the recipe the name. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is one of my favourite dishes, the salt cod is so tender; ‘Abadia do Porto’ restaurant is a great place to enjoy this.
Porto has it all: nice fine dining, the tascas (little shops were you can taste light snacks, local gastronomy, international cuisine; even the breakfast & brunch scene are emerging. Here everything is 100% traditional Portuguese cuisine and this is what makes Porto food scene the best.
Contributed by: Sandrina of The Wise Travellers
Contributed by: Claudia of My Adventures Around the World
Contributed by: Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey
The Algarve is undoubtedly one of the best foodie destinations in the Mediterranean, with a cuisine centred upon fish and seafood freshly caught from the bright turquoise waters that surround the picturesque Algarvian coastline.
As well as dishes popular within traditional Portuguese cuisine, from peri-peri to pastel de natas, the Algarve boasts a number of its very own classic dishes, like Algarvian tuna steak, cooked in white wine and lemon juice with garlic and onions.
When in the Algarve, I take advantage of the fresh fish and seafood and swapped my usual chicken or steak for fresh fish, prawns or lobster. I loved this salmon and swordfish duo I had on Christmas day 2016 while eating out in Lagos, Algarve for Christmas dinner – now that was a meal to remember!
Contributed by: Kacie of The Rare Welsh Bit
COSTA BLANCA, SPAIN
I love Spain and Spanish cuisine. One of the best foodie destinations in the Mediterranean is the Costa Blanca. Especially the beach town Javea which has numerous terrific restaurants.
My favourite is restaurant BonAmb, that opened its doors in 2011. Today they are awarded 2 Michelin stars. Chef Alberto Ferruz is a rising star in Spanish gastronomy.
We ordered a 14-course meal and enjoyed every dish. Every dish is a piece of art and it all tasted amazing. The accompanying wines where a surprise too. We drank Spanish Sake and a Chilean wine with hops (a mix between wine and beer). We were a bit sceptical at first but had to admit that the combinations were perfect.
So if you pass by the Costa Blanca, you have to make a stop and visit Restaurant BonAmb.
Contributed by: Wendy of World Wide Wendy
The Greek island of Milos is not only extraordinary due to its unique geographical and geological composition but it is also home to some of the best Greek food we have come across. And as my husband is Greek – that’s saying something!
The Cyclades islands are known for their strong summer winds ( the Meltemi) and warm salty haze which are great growing conditions for the local produce including grapes, figs, tomatoes and olives all of which you can find growing wild by the side of the road.
On top of this Milos is home to several excellent restaurants and probably the stand out of them all is O’Hamos, a family run enterprise that grows all their own meat and produce including pigs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables.
The huge menu is handwritten in 6 languages and includes favourites like avga matia me allo mati – french fries and fried eggs, Keftedakia meatballs and zucchini with Milos cheese. My favourite is the eggs and artichokes and the pork baked in molasses and paper. Truly this food is unbelievable!
If you still have room there is an equally amazing dessert shop at the entrance to the town of Pollonia that is renowned as one of the best in Greece. Kivotos ton Gefseon has the most amazing pastries, drinks, local produce like oils and soaps and is especially known for its chocolate pie. I can personally vouch for the pie and may have visited more than once!
Contributed by: Sandy of Tray Tables Away
Seville, the Andalusian capital city in southern Spain, offers a ton of things to do. Food, of course, features high on the list of Seville’s attractions. You can’t think of Seville without thinking ‘tapas’!
Seville’s tapas bars and restaurants have a gamut of mouthwatering small plates to try. Iberico ham, the region’s speciality, is served in many different ways. Try it wrapped in manchego cheese. Pan con tomate is a flavorful combination of bread, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil that’s good any time of the day. Spinach and chickpea stew, fried fish or prawns, small sandwiches, patatas bravas…you’ll find a variety of dishes to please any palate. My absolute favorite is berenjenas con miel – crunchy eggplant fries drizzled thinly with honey. You take a bite and there is an explosion of sweet and salty in your mouth. You can’t stop eating them!
For the ultimate tapas experience in Seville, I’d suggest a quality tour, where you will sample tasty small bites in a variety of settings, from trendy bars to hole-in-the-wall places jam-packed with locals, and everything in between. Enjoy!
Contributed by: Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
If you are looking for the best foodie destination in the Mediterranean, you’d be crazy if you missed out on Cefalu. Cefalu is a historic city located on the northern coast of Sicily. Apart from the breathtaking views of the city’s Byzantine architecture as well as enjoying the stunning beaches and natural surroundings, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore authentic Sicilian cuisine.
Sicilian cuisine is all about fresh seasonal produce and using the best of ingredients delivering a rich taste with every bite. Moreover, Sicilian cuisine is all about authenticity and simplicity – making the food speak for itself. Once you’ve had the opportunity to try Sicilian food, you will have a hard time eating Italian or Sicilian outside of this charming city. That’s why, if you ever visit Cefalu in Sicily, you’ll know immediately that this is one of the best foodie destinations not only in the Mediterranean but also in the whole world!
Get ready for vibrant antipasti dishes with freshly cut salami, an oozing plate of arancini (deep-fried rice balls stuffed with meat and parmesan) as well as a selection of frittura di paranza (deep-fried fresh seafood). Not to mention the best pizza of your life coming straight out of a wood-fired oven, caponata (traditional aubergine Sicilian starter) and of course the ever so creamy and luscious gelato! When you visit Sicily, there is no doubt that you will indulge yourself in these Sicilian favourites!
The best part is that you can visit Cefalu any time of the year. So, you needn’t worry about the food. Whatever is in season will be cooked and served fresh on a daily basis.
Contributed by: Michelle of Greedy Gourmet
Izmir – with its coastal location on the Aegean Sea – has a lively food scene that is worth checking out. It’s one of the largest cities in Turkey, and has a dizzying array of excellent restaurants, seaside cafes, and take-away kebab stands.
Breakfast is a must in Izmir, where you can get a full Turkish breakfast spread of cheese, olives, tomatoes, jam/honey, egg dishes, and plenty of fresh bread. If you want to get a quick breakfast to go, you can just grab a freshly baked simit (a circular bagel-like item) from a vendor on the street.
For a leisurely night out, head to a meyhane, where you can eat cold and hot meze (small dishes), fish, and drink raki (the national drink of Turkey). For late night eats, casual kebab houses in Bostanli are great for grabbing a bite after a long night out in the nearby cafes and bars. Whatever you do, make sure to try the boyoz, which are Izmir-specific pastries that are flaky perfection.
Contributed by: Julia of Small World This Is
The region around Agia Napa in East Cyprus is famous for having some of the best tavernas and food on the island.
The proximity to the sea means that fish is always fresh. This region of Cyprus is known as ‘the red villages’ in Greek because of the colour of the rich soil. As such potatoes, fruit and vegetables are some of the best we’ve tried. We love looking out for morning farmer’s markets which sell the best products depending on the season. For example, white/pink juicy pomegranates in the Autumn and large dark ‘hass’ avocados in the spring/summer.
One of the most famous tavernas is called ‘Mousikos’ located in Sotira village just outside Agia Napa. They serve one of the best meze we’ve tried on the island, particularly their halloumi cheese, which is freshly made, and their ‘kleftico’ (slowly cooked lamb).
Contributed by: Stefan and Sebastian of Nomadic Boys
Girona is the capital of the Costa Brava in Spain and is a perfect destination for serious foodies. There is a plethora of both traditional Catalan and contemporary cuisine that makes Girona a perfect foodie destination. The influence of Ferran Adria is strong. His restaurant, elBulli, was located just up the road and stands as an inspiration for chefs throughout the city and the region. For years, Ferran was credited as the best chef in the world. Now, any discussion of the top restaurants in Spain has to include a discussion of Michelin Star restaurants, and Girona, because of El Celler de Can Roca Girona. Can Roca is not only the best restaurant in Girona but also perennially ranks as one of the top 50 best restaurants in the world.
We’ve been living in Girona for over a year, and have only scratched the surface of all of the Girona restaurants. In a city of less than 100,000 people, we have plenty of options. Not just top-notch Michelin Star restaurants, but local restaurants with typical Catalan dishes, including arroz and suquet, a traditional seafood stew. Even if Can Roca is out of your price range, there are amazing restaurants in Girona for every budget, many of them with a passion for keeping the Catalan traditions alive.
Contributed by: Amber from Only In Costa Brava
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