Top Culinary Tourism Destinations in the World

Food is an integral part of travel, allowing you to delve into a region’s culture and culinary history through authentic local dishes that may be hard to find back home.

Culinary travel is on the rise, with an increasing number of travelers eager to savor local flavors when they venture to new places. According to a recent report from American Express, a whopping 81% of travelers are most excited about trying local food when they travel, and 77% are keen on dining at local restaurants during their trips. In fact, some travelers are so dedicated to the art of eating that 37% of them have planned entire trips around dining at a specific restaurant.

As you plan your next culinary adventure, try to challenge your taste buds and embark on an exciting journey into the world of new and vibrant flavors. Dive into these amazing countries for food, and turn your foodie dreams into a reality!


classic Thai food dishes

If you’re seeking the ultimate food tourism experience, Thailand is a top destination known for its delectable street food and lively night markets. The country’s diverse array of flavors and spices will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more. The best part is that you can savor delicious meals without emptying your wallet. From the bustling street food markets to gourmet delights, Thailand’s culinary scene has something for every budget.

In the world of Thai cuisine, simplicity meets an explosion of flavors. Thai dishes fall into four categories: tom (boiled dishes), yam (spicy salads), tam (pounded foods), and gaeng (curries). When you delve into these four types of foods, you’ll discover why Thailand is hailed as one of the world’s best food destinations. Thai food is a sensory experience, blending spicy and sour notes with refreshing herbs like basil and coriander.

For an authentic Thai food adventure, Bangkok and Chiang Mai stand out as top culinary hotspots in Thailand. These cities offer a delightful fusion of gourmet Thai restaurants and international flavors. Bangkok is the street food capital of the world, where you can find a huge array of delectable options. Market visits offer the chance to explore diverse cuisines and unique ingredients. To make the most of your culinary adventure, consider joining a food tour with a local guide.

Here’s a taste of the must-try dishes and beverages in Thailand:

Top Dishes:

  • Pad Thai
  • Thai green curry
  • Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup)
  • Khao Niew Mamuang (mango sticky rice)
  • Pad Kra Pao Moo (spicy basil pork)
  • Pad See Ew (stir-fried noodles)
  • Som Tam (green papaya salad)
  • Pla Kapung Nueng Manao (steamed fish with lime)
  • Tod Mun Pla (fish cakes)
  • Kuay Teow Reua (boat noodles)
  • Khao Man Gai (chicken rice)

Top Beverages:

  • Cha Manao (lime tea)
  • Nam Oy (sugar cane juice)
  • Nam Thabathim (rose syrup drink)
  • Coco Yen (coconut juice)
  • Nam Matoom (tamarind juice)
  • Nam Bai Toey (pandan leaf water)
  • Cha Yen (Thai iced tea)


people dining in a Japanese restaurant

Japan’s culinary heritage is celebrated worldwide, much like China’s. What sets Japanese cuisine apart is its focus on elevating natural flavors with minimal seasoning. This emphasis on balance and simplicity has been linked to the country’s reputation for good health and long life expectancy. A traditional Japanese meal typically includes rice, a soothing bowl of miso soup, and pickled vegetables known as tsukemono. Seafood and noodles, such as soba or udon, are a staple, making Japanese meals comforting, healthy, and bursting with umami goodness!

When embarking on a gastronomic journey in Japan, you’ll find some of the finest food experiences in cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya. In these cities, you can enjoy a multitude of eateries offering famous dishes such as ramen, sushi, gyoza, and tempura. Your culinary journey in Tokyo can also include traditional tea ceremonies, pub crawls, and visits to izakaya, which are cozy backstreet eateries frequented by locals. Here are some must-try dishes and beverages:

Top Dishes:

  • Omurice
  • Shoyu/miso/tonkotsu ramen
  • Sushi/Sashimi
  • Unagi (grilled eel)
  • Vegetable/seafood tempura
  • Yakitori (grilled skewers)
  • Sukiyaki
  • Natto (fermented soybeans)
  • Gyoza (dumplings)
  • Takoyaki (octopus balls)
  • Japanese curry rice
  • Gyudon (beef bowl)

Top Beverages:

  • Amazake (sweet fermented rice drink)
  • Genmaicha (green tea with roasted rice)
  • Matcha (green tea powder)
  • Mugicha (barley tea)
  • Sake (rice wine)
  • Ramune (Japanese soda)


dim sum in bamboo containers

China has earned its place among the world’s top food destinations, capturing hearts and taste buds across the globe. Chinese cuisine is celebrated and cherished, irrespective of your location. Its influence can be found in many Asian cuisines, and it continually shapes global food trends. Chinese food offers a symphony of flavors, effortlessly combining the five key taste elements: spicy, salty, bitter, sweet, and sour.

Some of the most tantalizing culinary experiences await in cities like Shanghai, Sichuan, Chengdu, and Beijing. Here’s a taste of the must-try dishes and beverages that define China’s culinary landscape:

Top Dishes:

  • Sweet and sour pork
  • Dim sum
  • Hot pot
  • Dumplings/Wonton
  • Peking roasted duck
  • Kung Pao Chicken
  • Mapo tofu
  • Scallion pancakes
  • Dandan noodles
  • Mala xiang guo (spicy stir-fry)

Top Beverages:

  • Tsingtao beer
  • Yunnan coffee
  • Soybean milk
  • Baijiu (Chinese liquor)
  • Black tea, Oolong tea, Chrysanthemum tea, and Pu Er tea

South Korea

a Korean barbeque grill with meat and side dishes

After a binge-watch of K-dramas, you’re likely to find yourself yearning for the flavors of South Korea. It’s fascinating to note that South Korea and Japan share a culinary kinship with their staple ingredients: rice or noodles, meats, seafood, and an array of vegetables. Every meal comes with a delightful array of side dishes known as banchan, featuring the famous kimchi – a fiery, fermented cabbage delight.

When it comes to South Korean culinary explorations, Jeonju stands out as the nation’s food capital, making it an excellent starting point. From there, you can venture to Busan for an enchanting seafood experience and to Seoul, a city that offers an eclectic mix of cafes, Korean BBQ, and even fine dining. Street food in places like Myeongdong is a must-try.

Here are some of the must-try dishes and beverages in South Korea:

Top Dishes:

  • Japchae (stir-fried glass noodles)
  • Jajangmyeon (black bean noodles)
  • Bibimbap (mixed rice)
  • Hae-mul/Kimchi Pajeon (seafood or kimchi pancake)
  • Korean fried chicken
  • Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes)
  • Gimbap (rice rolls)
  • Bulgogi (marinated and grilled beef)
  • Sundubu/Doenjang/Budae Jjigae (soft tofu stew/soybean paste stew/army stew)
  • Samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly)

Top Beverages:

  • Soju (Korean distilled spirit)
  • Makgeolli (rice wine)
  • Banana milk
  • Citron/Corn/Barley tea
  • Sikhye (sweet rice drink)
  • Baekseju (traditional herbal wine)


assorted Indian food on a table 

India’s cuisine is a captivating journey through diverse flavors, enriched with a tapestry of spices and aromas that make it one of the world’s most popular exotic culinary destinations. Indian food reflects the cultural diversity of the nation, and two defining factors shape its dishes: religion and region. Hindus predominantly favor vegetarian options, while Muslims abstain from pork in meat-based dishes. Southern India’s palate gravitates toward rice and coconut, whereas the North embraces flatbreads. Yet, what unites India’s culinary landscape is the infusion of intricate spice blends, known as masala, that vary according to each dish.

When embarking on a culinary adventure in India, explore these vibrant cities to sample the best of Indian cuisine: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Jaipur.

Here’s a delightful taste of must-try dishes and beverages in India:

Top Dishes:

  • Pani puri (a popular street food)
  • Mutton/Chicken Biryani (fragrant rice dishes)
  • Tandoori chicken (oven-roasted chicken)
  • Naan/Rotis (bread varieties)
  • Vada pav (deep-fried mashed potato in a bun)
  • Kulfi (Indian ice cream)
  • Gulab Jamun (sweet fried dumplings)
  • Pav Bhaji (spicy vegetable curry with bread)
  • Butter Chicken (creamy tomato-based chicken curry)
  • Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese curry)

Top Beverages:

  • Masala Chai (spiced tea)
  • Jaljeera (cumin and lemon drink)
  • Lassi (yogurt-based drink)
  • Paneer Soda (Indian soda with a unique twist)
  • Nimbu Pani (refreshing lemonade)


pizza, pasta and wine on a table

Italy, the birthplace of pasta and pizza, is your first stop on a European gastronomic adventure. This nation, known as one of the world’s top food destinations, is a haven for lovers of Mediterranean cuisine, which boasts a rich tapestry of fish, whole grains, vegetables, coffee, wines, and delectable cold cuts. Italian desserts often feature a blend of regional fruits with sweet cheeses.

When it comes to food and travel, cities like Naples, Bologna, Rome, Sicily, and Tuscany beckon, promising to lead you into a week-long food coma. Plus, these places are celebrated for their scenic countryside, fine wine, and authentic local cuisine. Whether it’s a simple meal, home-cooked dishes with grandma’s touch, or gourmet extravaganzas, the flavors are boundless.

To truly savor Tuscan cuisine, explore the local food markets with a knowledgeable guide, join a food or wine tour, or immerse yourself in a cooking class.

Here are some of the culinary delights you must savor when in Italy:

Top Dishes:

  • Risotto
  • Pizza
  • Gelato
  • Tiramisu
  • Arancini (stuffed rice balls)
  • Polenta (cornmeal dish)
  • Focaccia (savory flatbread)
  • Gnocchi (pillowy potato dumplings)
  • Tortellini/Ravioli (stuffed pasta)
  • Lasagne (layered pasta dish)
  • Fiorentina (Tuscan T-bone steak)
  • Minestrone (hearty vegetable soup)

Top Beverages:

  • Italian liqueurs: Limoncello, Mirto
  • Americano (a popular aperitif)
  • Cappuccino (rich Italian coffee)
  • Negroni/Bellini Cocktails (classic Italian cocktails)
  • Italian wines: Prosecco, Barolo, Chianti


an Art Deco restaurant in France

France is a nation that needs no introduction when it comes to culinary excellence. This country, with its masterful techniques and unyielding sophistication, is the birthplace of some of the world’s most revered dishes. French cuisine, as we know it today, is a fusion of influences from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and beyond. Two pivotal ingredients in this culinary landscape are cheese and wine, but France is not just about that. It’s a place where gastronomy is an exquisite art form.

In France, you can embark on a delightful culinary journey, exploring cities that offer diverse and exceptional food experiences:

1.Paris:The City of Love is also a city of bakeries. With fresh baguettes, buttery croissants, and delectable eclairs, Paris is a paradise for pastry lovers. From quaint sidewalk cafes to Michelin-starred fine dining establishments, Paris caters to every culinary preference.

2.Bordeaux:Famous for its wine, Bordeaux is also home to a remarkable food scene. Enjoy a glass of Bordeaux wine with a platter of local cheeses and charcuterie, or indulge in a gourmet dining experience.

3.Marseille:Located on the Mediterranean coast, Marseille boasts a rich seafood tradition. Sample bouillabaisse, the iconic fish stew that originates from this vibrant city.

4.Lyon:Often referred to as the “Gastronomic Capital of the World,” Lyon offers a diverse range of gastronomic delights. From traditional bouchons serving regional fare to renowned Michelin-starred restaurants, Lyon is a food lover’s haven.

5.Lille and Strasbourg:These cities embrace Franco-German cuisine with dishes that reflect a blend of French and German culinary traditions.

Now, let’s savor some of the quintessential French delights:

Top Dishes:

  • French pastries: éclairs, croissants, pain au chocolat, macarons, and more.
  • Foie gras (a delicacy made from duck or goose liver)
  • Soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup)
  • Coq au vin (chicken braised in wine and mushrooms)
  • Bœuf bourguignon (hearty beef stew from the Burgundy region)
  • Ratatouille (vegetable stew)
  • Tarte tatin (caramelized apple tart)
  • Confit de canard (slow-cooked duck leg)
  • Soufflé
  • Cassoulet (slow-cooked casserole with beans, sausages, and meat)
  • Chicken cordon bleu (breaded and fried chicken stuffed with ham and cheese)
  • Croque madame/monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a fried or poached egg)

Top Beverages:

  • Hot chocolate
  • Cognac
  • Picon bière (French aperitif mixed with beer)
  • Pastis (An anise-flavored aperitif)
  • Kir (A popular French cocktail made with crème de cassis and white wine)
  • Pineau des charentes (A fortified wine made in the Charente region)
  • Panaché (a blend of beer and lemonade)


Greek salad in Santorini Island

In Greece, the roots of culinary tradition intertwine with the essence of Mediterranean cuisine, much like its Italian counterpart. Here, you’ll encounter the familiar presence of olive oil, wheat, and wine, painting a picture of robust flavors. Greek cuisine’s foundations stretch back to Ancient Greek and Byzantine traditions, as well as influences from the Balkan region. You’ll find an array of meats, and fish remains a vital component of Greek gastronomy. Common ingredients include cheese, lemon juice, herbs, and yogurt. 

When you’re ready to explore the finest Greek cuisine, island-hop between Crete, Santorini, Sifnos, and Lemnos for regional delicacies that will leave an unforgettable mark on your palate.

Here are some of the Greek culinary treasures you must savor:

Top Dishes:

  • Moussaká (aubergine-based dish)
  • Saganáki (fried cheese)
  • Gemistá (stuffed vegetables)
  • Spanakopita (spinach pie)
  • Souvláki (grilled meat skewers)
  • Baklava (sweet pastry)
  • Saganaki (fried cheese, yes, it’s that good!)
  • Loukoumádes (honey dumplings)
  • Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)
  • Ntomatokeftedes (tomato fritters)
  • Fassolatha (bean soup)

Top Beverages:

  • Wine: Retsina, Vinsanto
  • Spirits: Metaxa, Ouzo, Tsikoudia
  • Kitron (citrus liqueur)
  • Greek frappe
  • Greek mountain tea (herbal infusion)
  • Visináda (sour cherry cordial)


a pot of paella

Spain, a country with a culinary culture that reflects a tapestry of regional and historical influences, is a must-visit for any food enthusiast. Over the centuries, Spanish cuisine has been shaped by the Greeks, Romans, and Moors who settled here. The country’s location on the Iberian Peninsula contributes to the prominence of fish and shellfish in many dishes. Today, Spain offers a food culture teeming with rich and intense flavors, characterized by the use of ingredients like olive oil, saffron, anchovies, peppers, herbs, and olives.

When it comes to indulging in gastronomy, several Spanish cities stand out:

  1. Barcelona:A city that captures the heart with its breathtaking surroundings. In Barcelona, you can savor a variety of Spanish delicacies and enjoy its vibrant culinary scene.
  2. Seville:Steeped in tradition and known for its historical charm, Seville is a city where you can relish authentic Spanish flavors and get lost in the magic of its winding streets.
  3. Valencia:Famous for paella, a delectable rice dish cooked with a medley of ingredients. Valencia offers a foodie’s paradise with its iconic Spanish cuisine.
  4. Santiago de Compostela:A city where you can nourish your soul with a pilgrimage and your palate with Galician delights. Here, seafood reigns supreme.
  5. Bilbao:A city in the Basque region, Bilbao is known for its unique blend of traditional Basque and modern Spanish cuisine.
  6. Cataloniastands out as a region with a distinct culinary identity. Girona and Costa Brava are known for their wealth of culinary traditions, fusing mountain and sea influences.

Now, let’s explore some of Spain’s culinary treasures:

Top Dishes:

  • Cured meat: chorizo, jamón (ham)
  • Seafood paella/paella Valenciana
  • Churros
  • Tapas
  • Tortilla española (Spanish omelet)
  • Croquetas (croquettes)
  • Gazpacho (chilled tomato soup)
  • Fabada (Asturian bean stew)
  • Albondigas (meatballs)
  • Bacalao (salt cod dishes)

Top Beverages:

  • Sangria wine
  • Horchata (nut milk)
  • Cuba libre (rum and cola)
  • Agua fresca (fruit-infused water)
  • Tepache de piña (fermented pineapple drink)
  • Spanish sherry
  • Mojito (rum cocktail)
  • Cava (Spanish sparkling wine)


Turkish breakfast on a restaurant 

Turkey is a crossroads of cultures and a land where history intertwines with culinary mastery. Turkish gastronomy is a tapestry woven with threads from the Ottoman Empire, Middle Eastern, Balkan, Central Asian, and Eastern European traditions. This rich tapestry has given birth to a cuisine that harmoniously blends meat and vegetables while generously incorporating yogurt into various dishes.

In Turkey, savoring the flavors of the country means embarking on a culinary adventure across its diverse cities:

  1. Istanbul:This captivating city, straddling two continents, boasts a culinary scene as diverse as its geography. From street-side kebabs to elegant restaurants serving exquisite hummus, Istanbul is a food lover’s paradise. Don’t miss the “Two Markets, Two Continents” tour, where you’ll explore markets on both the European and Asian sides while enjoying a delectable 6.5-hour journey filled with Turkish delights.
  2. Izmir:As a thriving tourist destination, Turkey offers a treasure trove of history, culture, and, most importantly, culinary experiences. Izmir, a city where tradition and modernity coexist, beckons food enthusiasts with its unique Aegean cuisine. Influenced by Ottoman, Greek, Jewish, Italian, and French culinary traditions, Izmir is a paradise for food lovers. Enjoy the Mediterranean-style cuisine with fresh salads, vegetables, and seafood, ideal for vegetarians. Explore mouthwatering delights such as Kokorec, stuffed mussels, Gevrek, Boyoz, Kumru, and a range of delightful sweets like Izmir Bombas, Shambali cake, and Subye sherbet.

Let’s indulge in some Turkish culinary delights:

Top Dishes:

  • Şiş kebab (skewered meat)
  • Kumpir (Baked potatoes stuffed with various toppings)
  • Tulumba (sweet and syrupy dessert)
  • Döner kebab (slices of seasoned meat)
  • Tarhana çorbası (tangy soup made with fermented grains)
  • Künefe (a dessert made from thin noodle-like pastry soaked in syrup)
  • Menemen (spicy Turkish breakfast dish)
  • Şakşuka (mixed vegetable meze dish)
  • İçli köfte (fried bulgur shells filled with spiced meat and nuts)
  • Kısır (bulgur salad with herbs, nuts, and pomegranate molasses)
  • Maraş dondurması (traditional Turkish ice cream)
  • Turkish delight (a sweet confection made from starch and sugar)

Top Beverages:

  • Türk kahvesi (traditional Turkish coffee)
  • Turkish tea 
  • Ayran (yogurt-based drink)
  • Boza (fermented drink made from wheat or millet, often garnished with cinnamon)
  • Şalgam suyu (Spicy turnip juice)
  • Nane limon (Minty lemonade)
  • Pomegranate juice


traditional Morrocan tajine 

Did you know that one of the world’s top countries for food is a fusion of two distinct culinary cultures? Mexican cuisine beautifully blends Indigenous Mexican traditions with Spanish influences. In the days before colonization, native recipes featured essential ingredients like corn, cacao, chiles, avocado, beans, and tomatoes. However, it was the Spanish who introduced cereals, spices, and oils to this culinary tapestry. Together, these elements create the essence of Mexico’s globally celebrated gastronomy.

For food enthusiasts in Mexico, these cities are a culinary haven where your taste buds can embark on a delightful journey: Mexico City, Oaxaca City, Monterrey, San Miguel de Allende, and Valle de Guadalupe.

Top Delights:

  • Tacos al pastor
  • Enchiladas
  • Tamales
  • Quesadillas
  • Burritos
  • Chilaquiles (crispy tortilla chips bathed in salsa and topped with various garnishes)
  • Pozole (hearty soup made with hominy corn, meat and garnish)
  • Tostadas (crispy tortillas topped with ingredients and salsas)
  • Elotes/esquites (grilled or boiled corn on the cob or in a cup with toppings)
  • Mole (rich, complex sauce often served with poultry or other meats)
  • Mangonada (mango-based frozen treat)

Top Beverages:

  • Tequila
  • Mezcal
  • Margaritas
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate
  • Michelada (spicy and tangy beer-based drink often garnished with lime and spices)
  • Horchata (sweet rice or almond milk beverage infused with cinnamon)
  • Champurrado (thick and warm chocolate-based drink)
  • Carajillo (coffee-based cocktail)
  • Atole (thick masa-based hot drink)
  • Cafe de olla (traditional Mexican spiced coffee)
  • Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea)


traditional Morrocan tajine 

Moroccan cuisine is nothing short of delicious, and when you find yourself in Marrakech, you have the opportunity to do more than just taste it. Explore the vibrant markets and street food – it offers a feast for the senses, with a kaleidoscope of colors, an array of enticing aromas, the buzz of lively sounds, and captivating sights.

It’s a foodie destination in Africa and is a star of the North African cuisine, which is a delightful fusion of flavors accentuated by subtle spices.

Top Delights:

  • Tajine (slow-cooked meat dish)
  • Kebabs
  • Briouats (meat-filled pastries)
  • Couscous (small, steamed wheat balls)
  • Bastille (savory-sweet pastry filled with pigeon or chicken, almonds, and a blend of spices)
  • Mechoui (whole roasted lamb or goat)
  • Harira (hearty and aromatic soup)
  • Moroccan Salads: zaalouk (eggplant), taktouka (pepper and tomato)
  • Chebakia (sweet pastry made from fried strips of dough)

Top Drinks:

  • Moroccan mint tea
  • Spiced Coffee
  • Leben (traditional Moroccan fermented buttermilk)
  • Sahlab (creamy, starchy drink)
  • Araq (traditional anise-flavored alcoholic drink)