Europe's Surprising Culinary Capitals

You might be on Santa's naughty list if you dine out in Finland

Reindeer in Finland
Robert Schrader

When you think of exciting food around the world, your mind probably heads to Asia, Africa, or South America—European cuisine, for one reason or another, doesn't have a reputation for being adventurous. While it's true you won't find much in the way of volcano-level spiciness or arachnid protein anywhere near the Alps, European cuisine can still surprise and delight you. Here's the skinny on eating amazingly in five European cities.

Apple Strudel from the Streets in Salzburg

The word "street food" usually conjures image of crude fried cuisine, even entrails and insects, but it turns out that architecture and music aren't the only things that are most sophisticated in Austria. To be sure, walking the streets of Salzburg, famous among other reasons for being the birthplace of Mozart, you'll encounter a fast food you likely won't find anywhere else in the world: Apple strudel you can eat while you walk, or take back to your hotel for a sweet midnight snack.

Transcend Basic Belgian Food in Bruges

Belgium, on the other hand, has a reputation for its street food, from fries (France, contrary to popular belief is not where they originate from) to waffles. With this in mind, your foodie strategy in Bruges, a canal filled city also called the "Venice of the North," should be to seek out an expert that's bougier (or "Brugier," as it were). De Karmeliet is not only among an elite club of Belgian restaurants to have received three Michelin stars, but is also convenient many of the best hotels in Bruges.

What Do They Eat in Croatia, Anyway?

It's easy to have a unique food experience in Croatia, if only because of how little most people outside the Balkan country know about the food there to begin with. To be sure, you might not even need to leave your Hvar hotel to enjoy an awe-inspiring meal, whether you whet your appetite with delicate čevapi sausage, sample grilled sardines from the nearby Mediterranean, or try Croatia's take on gulaš, which is better known under its Hungarian spelling, "goulash."

Daring Danish Smørrebrød in Aarhus

Although Denmark enjoys greater culturally ubiquity than Croatia, its cuisine—omnipresent Danish Butter Cookies notwithstanding—is just as poorly known. Indeed, while open-faced Smørrebrød sandwiches are nothing special to the average Dane, you'll likely find yourself enamored with them when you exit your Aarhus hotel in search of a meal. Strike a balance between familiarity and fabulousness at Kähler Spiseselon, famous for its less traditional takes on Smørrebrød.

Say Goodbye to Finland With Reindeer Meat

The only reason you're likely to stay in Vantaa, Finland is if you've got an early Finnair flight out of nearby Helsinki airport the next morning. Thankfully, said airport allows you to sample one of Finland's most traditional foods, so even if your trip was as short and productive as a Finnish work week, you can leave the country saying you've sampled reindeer meat. Specifically, the Fly Inn Restaurant & Deli near Gate 27 serves reindeer burgers, which allows you to eat something somewhat strange in a decidedly normal way.