Make It Simple To Enjoy...
Eating in Europe
Eating in Europe can be one of the Highlights of your Vacation!
It’s fun but…it can be a bit confusing at times.
Let us give you some information. Then in the European Travel Resource Center you’ll find many more details, suggestions, good web sites and tips… listed by country.
European Travel Planning Tutorial
is best read in Firefox. (Download
Eat wisely in Europe…follow some general tips and you can save money…
- Skip pricey hotel breakfasts – if breakfast isn’t included in your hotel price, head for the nearest corner café.
- It’s fine to ask for tap water – even in France restaurants must offer “carafe d’eau” if you ask for it. Bottled water and soft drinks are pricey.
- Drink the house wine – they are usually very good and you can get it by the glass or carafe…
- Have your main meals at noon – when many restaurants offer good-value and prix-fixe menus at a fraction of the dinner prices.
- Skip restaurants with a view if you want to save…they charge a premium. Go to places with good atmosphere... If there are times you want the view expect to pay more.
- Have a picnic – visit the local bakeries, pastry shops, food markets and street vendors. Then take your food to a park…you save a lot over a sit-down meal. (Very popular in the parcs of Paris)
- Visit restaurants in department stores…they have many food places offering different prices. Often you can pick and choose what you want from different stations…we like the Bijenkorf (Beehive) in Amsterdam and Galeries Lafayette in Paris (with a great view over Paris.)
And what’s very often different in Europe…
- Europeans usually take more than one course, but the portions are smaller
- The tip (service charge) is often included (see below for tipping suggestions)
- The inside of a restaurant can be less than luxurious…but the food can be great
- Ask for regular water if you want it…otherwise you won’t get it
- Most Europeans don’t put ice in drinks and water (this is changing a bit)
- Restaurants in Italy and other southern European countries often include a “cover charge” for the basket of bread…the napkins…the tablecloth, etc.
- Don’t ask for doggy bags…you may not have to…portions are smaller
Eating in Europe...they’re not all called restaurants…
Think fun – think good food
It depends on what you expect but you can enjoy all of these types in Europe. They go by many different names, and they give you an indication of the prices as well.
- Bistro – a small informal, mostly moderately priced restaurant in France
- Brasserie – also in France…a large busy restaurant serving daily specials
- Trattoria – a family-run restaurant in Italy that serves pasta and home-cooked food
- Osteria – also in Italy and often simpler food than a trattoria
- Tavola calda – an informal place in Italy, often self-service, like a cafetaria
- Taverna – a family run bar and restaurant in Greece
- Tasca – a bar in Spain that serves tapas…appetizers served on small plates – you need something “in between” in Spain because restaurants open at 9 or 10 pm
- Kaffeehaus – in Austria, a social gathering place for coffee and pastry
- Konditorei – a pastry shop, and sometimes also a café with regular meals, in Germany and Austria
- Beergarten – buy (or bring) simple sandwiches and pretzels…the beer is provided…in Germany of course!
- Heuriger – a rustic tavern where wine is served (and food) in Austria…the best known are just outside Vienna
More information and direct links by country are listed in the European Travel Resource Center.
Look also in this Tutorial for "fun meals" at
restaurants with entertainment.
How to find the best eating places for what you want in a European city…
It’s one thing you’ll go through every day on your European vacation…choosing where to go for lunch and dinner…here are some suggestions…
- Ask your friends
- Ask the locals…but not always hotel concierges (they often get a commission)
- Look for places that are crowded, and especially with locals, not just tourists
- Stay away from restaurants in popular sightseeing areas
- Look for menus in the local language (see below), not English
Travel magazines often list “best” restaurants in Europe, but remember what magazine you read…
Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler means "upscale and expensive."
Eurocheapo website means reasonable. (We included several links -by country)
The same applies to guide books.
To see if you may enjoy a particular restaurant before you are in Europe check some TripAdvisor comments. Google the restaurant and very often TripAdvisor will show up as well. (But remember, anybody can write a review. Competitors too!)
Information on tipping in restaurants in Europe
It’s confusing no matter where you go in the world.
In most European countries a 15% service charge is already included in the bill…so no tipping is required. However at times people leave a bit more.
More ways to Enjoy Eating in Europe
Enjoy European Food when you’re back home…
- To enjoy eating in Europe…and know what you eat…I recommend taking a good Menu Reader along on your vacation, either book for
all of Europe
or a Berlitz dictionary (by country) that includes Menu translations. It’s the best advice I can give you…you’ll try a lot more different kinds of foods.
- Taste Europe when you’re back home…and treat your friends as well. Instead of bringing back cheap souvenirs for friends and relatives, buy a cookbook…and when you get home, invite them for a meal made of some dishes from the book. The memories of the meals last forever!
To taste...interesting recipes from different European countries visit the European Dinner Parties website at www.EuropeanDinnerParties.com.
- Realize that local specialty foods make great souvenirs. Beautiful tins of tea from England, pots of mustard from France or bottles of infused olive oil from Italy are just a few examples. (Visit the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam where you can buy “personalized” bottles of beer for your friends…or yourself!)
- Make eating (and traveling) solo more fun. Go to restaurants conducive to interaction with “people and food” like a tapas bar in Spain or a sidewalk café in Paris.
- While eating in Europe engage the waiter with questions about the place, the food or even unusual things on the wall.
- Don’t read a book but scribble notes…they may think you’re a reviewer…
- Above all, don’t accept a table near the kitchen door…you’re worth a good table! For more Fun traveling alone read
- Final note:
Also think of the many Cooking Classes and guided Food Walking Tours. See the country listings in the European Travel Research Center.
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