Spending four months traveling across Europe is an immense opportunity to learn about new languages, places, and cultures. My favorite way of experiencing each new place, though? Through food. In all honesty, many of my travel meals consisted of Oreos and Bounty bars from Coop Market or sad sandwiches from airports and tavole calde. Luckily, however, I also had the pleasure of eating many of the best meals of my life while abroad. I figured I’d compile them into one mega food post, in hopes that others can enjoy these eats, too. Some are taken from past (and future) posts, many are not, but trust that they are all amazing.
Italy – Rome, Florence, Taormina, and Bologna
Easily the best gelato I’ve ever had. I waited in a line down the block for 30 minutes two days in a row – it was that good. They have interesting flavors like pink grapefruit, pine nut cream with toasted pine nuts, and Sicilian cassata, as well as the classics.
I got white chocolate with crispy puffed rice, chocolate cake, and marscarpone with nutella. The chocolate cake gelato tasted like liquid brownie batter, and I’m still thinking about it. The day before, I got an affogato (espresso shot poured over gelato), which was a treat since they are usually hard to come by.
Trattoria Il Rosso
According to my Airbnb host Marcello, all of the food in Bologna is good. This is of little surprise, as it is the capital of Emilia Romagna, one of Italy’s top food regions.
The best Italian food is usually the simplest and the most traditional, and the tortellini al ragù and roasted potatoes from Trattoria Il Rosso were no exception. There were so few ingredients that I still have a hard time understanding why it was so incredible, but it was still one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
No trip to Florence is complete without a visit to this famous panino shop. There are only four or five options on the menu, each only 5 euro. I got the panino with prosciutto, pecorino, and truffle spread. I ate it standing in a nearby alley as pigeons munched on the crumbs, but it was incredible nonetheless.
What could be better than organic gelato right next to the Doumo? I got zabaione and cinnamon, two flavors that are often a hit or miss. Here, both were a hit! The zabaione had just the right amount of wine flavor to it, and both of the flavors were perfectly creamy.
Located among the tourist shops and coastal views of Taormina is a bakery that is infamous among the JFRC community. Cannoli were invented in Sicily, and the line out the door was a good indicator of this particular shop. My cannolo was filled with cream that was dotted with chocolate and candied orange. If you’re sensing a trend, Italian food is some of the best in the world, and the food in Sicily is no exception.
Blue Ice Gelato
If you’re looking for real, fresh gelato just steps from the Vatican, this is your place. While there are many locations across Rome, I frequented the location at Piazza Risorgimento most often because it was close to my other fave haunts (read: Trapizzino).
Blue Ice is great for classic flavors, a wonderfully creamy consistency, and a cute little wafer on top. Try their dark chocolate and their kiwi flavors!
Gelateria del Teatro
This gelateria is perfect if you’re looking for flavors that you won’t find anywhere else. There are two locations in Rome – one just across the river from Trastevere, and another not far from Piazza Navona. Their zabaione was delicious, but my most favorite was the raspberry sage. Other flavors include pumpkin with chocolate and almond, as well as cherry cheese.
Nel Buco del Mulo / Donkey Punch
Just steps from the John Cabot campus in Trastevere is a tiny panino shop where the sandwiches are named after American rock bands. Admire the full-wall mural of KISS members, David Bowie, and the like while the owner slices your chosen meats and cheeses to order.
Any panino with sun-dried tomatoes is always a hit, if you’re looking for a way to narrow down the long list of options.
This place is my absolute love. The guys working here are adorable, the food is cheap, and one of the locations in Rome is easy to reach from campus. The name is a mix between tramezzino and pizza, so it basically translates to “pizza sandwich.” What you get is a hot and doughy triangle of bread stuffed with anything from meatballs to chicken and peppers to eggplant parmesan.
A location just opened in New York, as well, so I’m praying that it’ll spread to Chicago eventually.
Duocento Gradi is another gem near the Vatican. While it is just steps away, there are seldom tourists inside and always a long line of Italians waiting for their panini.
Each sandwich is named after areas of Rome, and some favorites include the Monti (prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, mozz, and basil cream) and the Cavour (prosciutto, mushrooms, smoked cheese, arugula, and spicy sauce).
A restaurant dedicated to supplì is everything my heart has ever wanted. Supplì are beloved by Romans and are a popular snack or addition to a pizza delivery order.
Fried rice balls filled with red sauce and cheese are the classic style, but Supplizio gets creative with their supplì. The one pictured is cacio e pepe, made with pecorino cheese and freshly cracked black pepper. They also offer carbonara and arrabbiata supplì. Turning popular pasta sauces into fried rice balls is pure genius, and the result is magical.
While it might seem counter intuitive, the largest Eataly in the world is located in Rome. It is also where I had some of the best pasta I’ve ever had. Their prices are much more reasonable than in the states, since they aren’t shipped very far to wind up on the shelves.
I was pleasantly surprised to notice that Eataly seemed to be a popular spot for Italians, as well, and the food was truly incredible.
This restaurant is so beloved by the JFRC community that they offer a 20% discount for students. When I made a reservation, all of the staff were notified that I was from Loyola, and they chose the best table for my group.
The goat cheese stuffed tomato and the pasta stuffed with pear are truly legendary. If you’ve ever had a meal that truly shocked you with its flavor, this is better. I promise. Like much of Italian food, the food here makes you question how it could possibly be as good as it is – a question I am happy to ponder, again and again.
Ireland – Dublin and Doolin
Offbeat Donut Co.
Cheap, fresh donuts along the river in a multitude of flavors and shapes. When I visited, we were the first customers inside at 11 am, and this was the perfect breakfast to start a day of sight seeing and exploring.
Gus O’Connor’s Pub
Ireland is famously known for it’s beef and Guinness stew, and it’s not hard to see why. During a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher, our group stopped in the small town of Doolin to taste the famous dish. Considering the line of coach buses on the street, this pub serves big groups all day, every day.
The result is fast, hot, and fresh stew that they’ve gotten down to a science. It’s exactly what you need on a day spent wandering across windy cliffs.
Patmos Book & Cafe
A quick recommendation from a free tour guide led us to Patmos Book & Cafe, a clean and bright place where I ate a truly incredible chicken sandwich.
The people of Hungary adore paprika, so much that it’s even sold in tiny bottles in tourist shops. Paprika was the star of this sandwich, and the passion fruit lemonade that went along with it was a treat.
What I loved about Budapest was that I could get a meal that would easily cost $20 at home for under €10. Quick meals could cost less than €5, as well, so eating around in this trendy city was a blast. I was craving fries in a bad way after a few months of living in Italy, so I was delighted to find them on the menu.
Spíler is located in the covered block of restaurants and patios called Gozsdu Udvar. The atmosphere was magical, and the food was fresh and inventive.
If you’re looking for a fancy paella experience in Barcelona for under 20 euro a person, Elche is the place. It’s still brought out in that huge metal pan you’d expect, but then it is served by the waiter for a more “fine dining” experience.
The chicken was juicy and the shrimp were some of the best I’ve ever had. I’d recommend it fully!
Mercat de la Boqueria
This outdoor market along Las Ramblas was overflowing with fresh fruit and juices. Meat and produce markets are often lacking options for shoppers looking to snack around, but Mercat de la Boqueria was quite the opposite.
Fresh juices in every combination from mango and coconut to passion fruit and kiwi are around every corner, and they even sell halves of dragon fruit with spoons for those that want to eat while wandering the stalls. There are restaurants as well, and the meat counters even sell cones of dried meats and cheeses.
Los Churros & Waffle
The city center in Brussels is dominated by the smell of waffles and frites. While you can get waffles with dozens of topping combinations most anywhere, make your way to Los Churros and Waffle, instead. While the name might be misleading, the waffles are always hot, fresh, and doughy.
I recommend skipping the toppings, so you can truly enjoy the sugary goodness of the waffle on its own. Also, a plain waffle will only cost you €1!
Affordable eats in Brussels are hard to come by. Bia Mara, on the other hand, is an exception. For about €12, they serve up sustainable fish and chips with flavored batters and a wide array of dipping sauces.
Fish types vary by day, depending on what the fishermen catch. The result is incredibly fresh, flaky fish that is worth well more than the price tag. Try the garlic truffle sauce or the pineapple ketchup!
Just a few steps from Les Halles is an unassuming, tiny burger joint that you don’t want to miss. Mix and match between a beef burger, veggie burger, or bacon burger, then choose from an array of cheeses, sauces, and toppings.
I got a beef burger with goat cheese and a lemon herb spread. It paired perfectly with the brioche bun, and was a steal for €11 with fries and a water.
Bistrot Chez Remy (Disney Studios Park)
Disneyland Paris is a truly magical place, and the Ratatouille-themed section of the Disney Studios Park is everything you’d imagine. Next to the adorable ride where you skitter through the kitchen in Remy’s point of view, dine at his restaurant, Bistrot Chez Remy.
I had the roasted cod with mashed potatoes and ratatouille, and a salad with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and beets. While the prices were steep, the food was great, and you just can’t beat the adorable atmosphere.
A friend told me to skip Laudrée’s famous macarons during my trip to Paris, which was an easy decision, considering that 10 macarons costs €17. She recommended that I opt for Paul, instead, and I was far from disappointed.
A giant chocolate macaron cost me about €3, and I was completely blown away by the palmiers. The flaky elephant-ear pastries were completely encased in a crunchy, sugary shell, and the smell filled the room as soon as I took them out of the bag. There are locations all around Paris, Europe, and even some in the states. Unfortunately, there aren’t any in Illinois just yet.
The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club has both American and English breakfast, so you can wait to decide if you’re up for black pudding or not until you get there. There are locations all around London, and the Soho location was adorable and inviting.
Notes from customers from all over the world paper the walls, 80’s music plays in the background, and the food is as fresh as can be. The Breakfast Club also offers unique lunch and dinner options, like chicken and waffles with sage and grilled lemon.
Poppie’s Fish and Chips
While London may not have always been known for its food, fish and chips are a classic dish that are more than worth a try. If you’re looking for a fun, 50’s themed place with huge portions and friendly staff, Poppie’s is the place.
There are locations all over London, some of which also offer takeaway. They have both regular and large sized portions, cream sodas, and ketchup and tartar sauce that comes in cute, tiny jars. Put it on your list if you visit London!
Camden Market is well-known for its unique eats. On the day I visited, I made it over to the food area as the majority of the restaurants and stands were closing. A woman flipping burgers and laughing with a group of customers invited me over, generously offering to make a few more burgers before she closed up shop for the day.
What I got was much more than a burger – instead, it was a pile of beef bourgignon, a slice of raclette that had been on the griddle for a few minutes, lettuce, and spicy mayo. French beef stew turned into a burger was far from what I was expecting, and it was mind-blowingly good. I was eternally grateful for the owner’s generosity, and for her food.
Hot, fresh, sourdough pizza made by real Italians in London, England. This is ideal, and the pizza is even better because it’s under £8 a pie.
In true Italian fashion, they have just a few pizza options, from classic margarita to a white pizza with ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, and zucchini. Don’t be fooled by the cute decor in the dozens of Pizza Express restaurants around London – save yourself a few pounds and opt for a pizza that is light-years better from Franco Manca, instead.
Prague, Czech Republic
Chimney cakes (known as trdelník in Czech) are the tourist snack of Prague. They’re truly everywhere, and the smell of the dough being spun around on the grill wafts through the streets.
Like any popular tourist treat, there are good and bad chimney cakes. For instance, if you buy one in Old Town Square, you’ll get a tiny cup of ice cream pulled from a freezer, rather than soft serve. The prices will also increase as you get closer and closer to main tourist spots, so walk a few blocks to avoid paying €5 for one.
My advice? Don’t buy the first one you see! Walk around a bit until you find a place where the prices are better and there is a long line of people. Then, you’re more likely to get a fresh one. Irregardless of their authenticity, a crunchy trdelník topped with ice cream is the perfect treat to tote around as you wander the magical streets of Prague.