Home Culinary Travel New research reveals Europe’s Top 5 hidden foodie destinations

New research reveals Europe’s Top 5 hidden foodie destinations

Wicklow, Ireland, revealed as the best underrated foodie destination in Europe for American travelers.

According to Skyscanner, 47% of U.S. travelers have booked a destination based purely on a specific restaurant they want to visit, and a further 37% say it’s something they plan to do this year.

With 85% of U.S. travelers planning to make the same number of international trips, if not more, in 2024, and the majority reporting that they wish to prioritize holidays where they can unwind and connect with nature, Icelandair has conducted new research to pinpoint the best hidden foodie destinations in Europe.

The study, which analyzed review data from over 30 rural hotspots outside five of the most popular European destinations with U.S. travelers (London, Reykjavík, Rome, Dublin, and Barcelona), has found that Wicklow, a quaint seaside town on the outskirts of Dublin, is the best rural hotspot for American gastronomes, with an average restaurant review rating of 4.63 out of five. 

Europe’s top 5 hidden foodie destinations

RankFoodie DestinationHub  City1-Star Michelin  Restaurants*Average Restaurant Rating

*Michelin-rated restaurants located near either the hub city or foodie destination.

Wicklow, Ireland, ranks as the top European destination for food lovers

Wicklow is a small town located just south of Dublin, known for its stunning landscapes and rugged coastlines. For foodies, Wicklow offers a variety of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including artisanal cheeses, freshly caught seafood, and its renowned Wicklow lamb.

In addition to the local farms, which supply the county’s many top-notch restaurants, the region is also well-known for its organic apples. Visit a nearby orchard to pick your own, or pop into a local pub to try a glass of regional cider.

Distance from Dublin: 1 hour and 18 minutes by train
Average restaurant rating: 4.63
Must-try foods: Local beef and lamb dishes, Irish stew, boxty, and apple-based deserts.
Most searched-for local dish: Apple Crumble (60,500 average monthly searches)

Bagnoregio, Italy, is home to one of the most searched-for European dishes: Cacio e pepe 

Bagnoregio is famous for its stunning medieval architecture and breathtaking views. For foodies, Bagnoregio offers an authentic taste of Italy, with homemade pasta, locally produced olive oil, aged cheeses, and locally sourced cured meats. The town’s restaurants and trattorias serve up delicious meals made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, often paired with excellent local wines such as frascati.

Distance from Rome: 2 hours and 20 minutes by train
Average restaurant rating: 4.58
Must-try food: Local cheeses, cured meats, Fettuccine con rigaglie di pollo, a type of pasta typical of northern Lazio, and hazelnut-based desserts.
Most searched-for local dish: Cacio e pepe (90,500 average monthly searches)

Arctic Char is the must-try dish from Vik, Iceland

Vik is a small village located on the southern coast of Iceland that, while small in size, boasts a surprising range of culinary delights. Known for its locally grown produce, such as potatoes, turnips, and carrots, as well as its Icelandic seafood, including lobster, cod, and melt-in-your-mouth Arctic char, Vik is an great destination for indulging in hearty Icelandic stews and other traditional dishes.

Carolyn Bain, travel expert at Icelandair, said:

“Iceland is a fishing country and the fish is super fresh. Try the lamb, which is essentially free-range meat as Icelandic sheep roam freely around the countryside all summer. Icelandic skyr is a must-try: it’s a thick, creamy, yoghurt-like product. Hot dogs are the quintessential street food. And definitely pick up some local candy to sample.” 

Distance from Reykjavik: 3 hours and 20 minutes by train
Average restaurant rating: 4.50
Must-try food: Local seafood such as Arctic char, fish stew, and “kjötsúpa”, a traditional lamb soup.
Most searched-for local dish: Plokkfiskur (1,600 average monthly searches)

Whitstable, United Kingdom, and its hub city have the highest number of Michelin star restaurants

Whitstable is a quintessential seaside town. It is famed for its oysters, which local fishermen have been harvesting since the late 18th century, as well as many other local fares, including mussels, prawns and cockles.

Enjoying a pint of locally brewed ale along with your meal is a popular choice for many visitors. After indulging in your meal, treat yourself to a traditional cream tea. This typically consists of freshly baked scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Distance from London: 1 hour and 20 minutes by train
Average restaurant rating: 4.41
Must-try food: Whitstable oysters, scones, and local seafood dishes.
Most searched-for local dish: Fish and chips (450,000 average monthly searches)

Sitges, Spain, ranks fifth with an average restaurant rating of 4.40

Nestled between the rugged beauty of Garraf National Park and the sparkling mediterranean sea, Sitges is absolutely captivating and a welcome break for travelers who like to avoid the crowds. Only 35 minutes from central Barcelona, it’s easy to spend a morning or afternoon there, or stay the night and enjoy the lively bar scene.

Distance from Barcelona: 35 minutes by train
Average restaurant rating: 4.40
Must-try food: Fideuà, a seafood dish similar to paella but made with short noodles instead of rice.
Most searched-for local dish: Croqetas (49,500 average monthly searches)