Travel

Top six European foodie destinations for 2019

Europe is dishing up world-class gastronomic experiences over the coming year, whether it's dumpling festivals in Poland or new British wine trails Sunday, 23 December

By National Geographic Traveller Food

From gastronomic big-hitters such as France to lesser-known food destinations like Sibiu in Romania, there are plenty of places in which to take a culinary break in 2019. Here's our pick of Europe's finest.

South Aegean, Greece
An idyllic collection of Greece's Cyclades and Dodecanese islands makes up one of Europe's Regions of Gastronomy for 2019 — established destinations like Kos, Mykonos, Santorini, and Rhodes, along with smaller gems such as Naxos, Paros and Milos. Olive and citrus groves, goat's cheese, and fresh fish abound, but South Aegean dishes include such distinctive offerings as savoro — floured, salted fish dipped in a sour marinade, fragrant with local rosemary and oregano. You'll also find salads dressed with herring roe on the island of Syros; fish baked with sesame paste in Rhodes; and barley rusk-crusted red mullet in Mytilini — plus slow-cooked lamb sweet with grazed herbs, and syglino (fatty smoked pork) in various spots. The rich volcanic soil that feeds the region's exceptional fruits, veggies and pulses also produces thriving vines. Greece is one of Europe's oldest wine-producers, and viticulture here is experiencing something of a renaissance, with islands such as Santorini and Crete yielding medal-winning reds, whites, roses and even sparkling wines. Sarah Barrell

Krakow, Poland
Vibrant soups, tangy pickles and dumplings of all kinds — Polish cuisine is hearty, moreish and varied. However, if you've tried pierogi (the country's best-known dumpling), you might well choose to throw variety to the wind and simply gorge on plates of these pillowy treats. And nowhere will you find a wider range of pierogi than in the beautiful medieval city of Krakow during August, when one of the central squares is given over to the annual Dumpling Festival. During the event, restaurants dish up classic flavours (cheese and potato, mushroom and sauerkraut) but also experiment with new filings, from salmon to venison. And in 2019 there will be even more ways to satisfy your cravings, as Krakow becomes the inaugural European Capital of Gastronomic Culture, celebrating the title with a long list of culinary events. Among them will be Krakow Zapusty, a carnival in February featuring a celebration of chrust, the local fried pastry. Nicola Trup

Kent, UK
Never mind Napa, Kent is the wine region we should be paying attention to in 2019. According to recent stats from Wine GB, southeast England now accounts for 75% of all vineyard plantings nationwide, and after a bumper harvest last year, Kent's wine is moving up a gear. Enter The Wine Garden of England, a collection of seven of the county's wineries that have joined forces to champion and develop their wine tourism offering, with suggested self-guided routes between the vineyards as well as Napa-style chauffeured tours. Plus, new tasting rooms, winery restaurants, and vineyard accommodation. The Garden of England, as Kent's traditionally known, is picturesque, too; great swathes of land here are being planted with vineyards, so even on a drive down the M20 you'll spot row upon row of grapes growing on those south-facing chalky slopes. It's a new, New World. Fiona Sims

France
France is, of course, worth visiting for its food at any time, but it's set to shine even brighter in 2019 with a handful of gastronomic happenings. Chief among them is the opening of the first of three planned food museums, Cité de la Gastronomie, in Lyon – a city that's already a haven for gourmands. Due to launch in September, the museum will celebrate culinary traditions and food from around the world, with a sister institution expected to open in Dijon in 2021. Provence, meanwhile, has named 2019 as its 'gourmet year', with festivities such as Goût de France (Taste of France) in March, where visitors can meet with local chefs, shop at gourmet markets and explore urban vegetable gardens. Prefer Paris? The next big event in the capital's food calendar is the opening in spring of Moulin Seine, the city's first floating bakery, which will also have a waterfront terrace and a pergola, for scoffing your croissants underneath. NT

Matera, Italy
Matera may be on the map this year as a European Capital of Culture, but food-savvy travellers have long known this unique, cave-studded mountain city is worth a pilgrimage. Close to the popular Puglia coast, it's far from the received image of sleek, sunny Italy; thanks to its remote mountain-top location, a previous lack of good roads or any rail links, Matera was long cut off from the rest of Italy, and it remains one of the last real bastions of cucina povera ('poor cooking'). Staples include flour-made cavatelli pasta, garlands of sun-dried chilli peppers, and soups of local pulses such as black chickpeas. And the surroundings are just as enticing as the food itself; restaurants in atmospheric sassi, UNESCO-listed ancient cave dwellings. As for accommodation, Airbnb-style rentals and homestays dominate, so travellers can stay alongside generations of the same family, and their livestock. SB Head here to find out why Matera was featured in our Cool List for 2019.

Sibiu, Romania
The second European Region of Gastronomy for 2019 is Sibiu, a lovely Transylvanian district of rolling hills and pretty villages, with a medieval walled city at its heart. In honour of the title, organisers will be encouraging local producers and suppliers to come into the city (also called Sibiu) from the surrounding countryside to demonstrate their culinary expertise. There will be a programme of food festivals and events, markets and specialised tours focusing on dishes from around Transylvania. Expect local cheeses, Romanian sweet and sour soups, and a surprisingly broad selection of Transylvanian wines.  Jamie Lafferty

Head here to find out why Sibiu was featured in our Cool List for 2019.