In cities across Europe, some of the continent’s most tasty and creative food is served from curbside carts, kiosks and market stalls.
Europe might be home to some of the world’s best restaurants, but the quickest way to get to the heart of a city’s culture and cuisine is on the street. Inexpensive and often innovative, street food is freshly cooked, convenient and ready to eat. It’s spontaneous too, usually sold by vendors in public spaces and designed to be enjoyed on the go with your fingers or wooden cutlery. And, while approaches to street food vary considerably from place to place, it always offers a true taste of local specialities.
To compile this list, we set a few rules. We omitted the most obvious capital cities with a widely-recognised street food scene – such as Paris, London and Barcelona – and only considered destinations with a population of well under one million. Each city also needed to have its own distinctive street food scene with dishes and delicacies particular to that place, whether that’s centuries-old local sandwich recipes or ethnically-diverse dishes from multicultural communities. We’ve also taken into consideration food festivals, daily and weekly markets, and covered food courts. So here, in alphabetical order, are our top 20 street food destinations in Europe.
For a carb-fuelled visit to Belgium’s capital of cool, you need look no further than its local ‘chippies’, now designated part of the country’s cultural heritage. There are dozens to choose from, but Friktot – the oldest and most famous establishment – dishes out some of the city’s finest, served piping hot in a cone. Beyond potatoes, locals mill around the weekly Exotic Market, stocking up on alluring fruit and vegetables while scarfing down everything from spicy quesadillas to spring rolls. And, no visit to Antwerp would be complete without a Belgian waffle. The Smallest Waffle Shop In the World might be modest in size, but its waffles are far from it, topped with lashings of whipped cream and chocolate.
‘Cucina povera’ (‘The food of the poor’) reigns supreme in this historically-overlooked port city, which explains its rich street food scene. Bari Vecchia, the historical heart, is packed full of hole in the wall bakeries and street vendors serving up local street food specialities such as panzerotti (fried pizza stuffed with tomato, mozzarella or minced meat), focaccia barese (fluffy focaccia loaded with tomatoes) and sgagliozza (fried polenta). There are entire festivals dedicated to local dishes too, like the Sagre delle Orecchiette, which celebrates the tiny ear-shaped pasta famously made outdoors in the city’s winding alleyways. Daily and weekly food markets are plentiful, but savvy locals hotfoot to the fish market along Lungomare for paper plates piled high with Puglia’s freshest raw seafood and a frosty beer.
This Rhine-side city is famous for its arts and culture, which is hungry work. For sightseers in a rush, grub-on-the-go is easy to find on wheels, street corners and under cover at the city’s many markets. There are dozens of food trucks dotted around the city, but the Swiss-sourced burgers at Franky’s BBQ and fresh pasta at Pastardo are highlights. Beyond the curbside, the city is home to two dedicated street food markets offering up street food specialities from all corners of the globe: Markethalle and KLARA. Street food has a firm footing in the city’s cultural calendar too, with lively weekly events such as Schlemmer-Markt at Marktplatz and Foodtruck Donnerstag at Meret Oppenheim Platz, culminating in the gargantuan Food Market Festival, held in April and August.
This Aegean coastal town is fast becoming an upmarket holiday hotspot, but it’s easy to find simple, salt-of-the-earth culinary pleasures on its cobbled streets. The weekly Friday market is brimming with stalls selling fresh produce and savoury snacks, like simit (a pretzel-like bagel) and peynirli borek (flaky filo studded with spinach and cheese). Tucked around the castle, kiosks serve up local street food dishes such as kumpir, a Turkish take on the jacket potato topped with sauces and yoghurt. Kebabs – possibly the world’s most popular street food – are a staple here too. The local speciality, sebzeli doner, is cooked on a spinning skewer and served in a warm pitta, roll or wrap from counters across the city centre.
Perched on the River Avon, with Gloucestershire to the north and Somerset to the south, multicultural Bristol is a hotbed of creativity and culture. Driven by its large student population and London diaspora, at the heart of this spirit of innovation is a flourishing food scene, exemplified by the ethnically diverse street food sold across the city. Locals and visitors flock to daily and weekly markets where purveyors serve up delicacies from under gazebos and vintage trucks. Those in the know head to the six-day-a-week foodie heaven of St Nicholas Market, home to everything from Szechuan noodles and Persian wraps to zingy tacos and comforting pie and mash, while at the Tobacco Factory Sunday Marketpatisserie, Italian arancini and kombucha fly off the shelves.
Cobbled streets lined with colourful shop fronts, restaurants, and cosy pubs characterise the fabled Irish capital. And what the city’s restaurant scene lacks in excitement, its street food more than makes up for. From the iconic Temple Bar Market to pop-up counters around the city, Dublin has plenty of budget-friendly street food spots to satisfy any craving. Classic Irish dishes such as Irish stew – featuring hearty meat and potatoes, and typically washed down with a pint of Guinness – are ubiquitous, but you don’t have to look hard to find international cuisine either. At Coppinger Row market, you’ll find Mediterranean and Palestinian fare, while for riverside eating a chain of stalls along the Grand Canal serve up sushi, burrito, paella, falafel, and more.
Düsseldorf has more than its fair share of fine dining establishments, but it impresses with a street food scene to rival higher profile European cities too. At its epicentre is Markt am Karlsplatz, one of the city’s largest farmer’s markets. Wedged in among the fresh fruit and vegetables, you’ll find a host of stalls serving everything from traditional bratwurst and reibekuchen (potato cakes) to spicy Asian noodles and French delicacies. More than 1,000 people descend on the Rhein Promenade’s FischMarkt every Sunday, which boasts over 100 vendors serving up ready-to-go fish dishes, as well as signature street food from across the globe. Other culinary highlights include VeggieWorld Dusseldorf (exclusively veggie street food), Dusseldorf Street Food Festival and Gourmet Festival Dusseldorf, which puts a high-end spin on street fare.
Cheaper and smaller than its more famous counterpart Stockholm, picturesque Gothenburg in southwest Sweden isn’t short on charm and appeal. Its compactness makes it highly walkable, and for those who like to partake of street food during their urban perambulations, its curbside offerings won’t disappoint. Translating to “Herring Door”, Strömmingsluckan is perhaps the city’s flagship street food vendor. Located in a courtyard along with several other food trucks, their signature serving is fried herring paired with mashed potatoes and lingonberries (with added Dijon mustard and horseradish, for those who like their fish with a kick). For less native fare, there’s Bánh Mì Truck, where fans of the eponymous French-Vietnamese hybrid sandwich get their fill, and, of course, no Sweden visit is complete without meatballs, available at markets citywide.
The Netherlands’ third-largest city has re-established itself as a culinary destination in recent years, and the best place to get a flavour of the city for a bargain is at one of its many food courts. Foodhallen Scheveningen serves up street food specialities from 17 countries under one roof, while Foodhallen Centrum boasts a rolling roster of small traders, with dishes accompanied by local beats and brews from Kompaan Brewery. For more local fare, try kibbeling (fried codfish served with remoulade sauce) or haring (pickled herring). Follow the locals to Het Haringhuiseje, which has been serving the speciality for nearly a century. Top it off with a trip to Van Schaik for a traditional Stroopwafel, a thin round cookie filled with sticky caramel.
Once something of a culinary desert, the Finnish capital is now a foodie’s delight – and never more so than in the summertime. This is when the city’s street food scene really comes alive, from food trucks and bikes to people opening their doors on Restaurant Day (when the usual regulations are waived and people can open pop-up food shops on the street, in their home, or anywhere else). One of the most popular street food vendors is Blueberry Milk Bike, purveyors of a delicious Finnish alternative to frozen yoghurt, who you’ll often find at the Esplanade park on a balmy summer’s day. Meanwhile, indoor street grub can be found at Hietlahti Market Hall, a buzzing enclave of small eateries serving everything from ramen to burgers.
Heraklion’s street food scene is as colourful and chaotic as the Cretian capital itself. Local specialities include gyros, dakos (bread topped with grated tomato) and kalitsounia (fried pastries filled with cheese and greens). Visitors are never a few steps from tasty souvlaki, Greece’s quintessential street food, though local favourites include Chop Chop and Souvlaki Tsigos. Heraklion Central Market is bursting with fresh produce, herbs and spices and cheeses, along with small cafes and tavernas serving up cheap and cheerful on-the-go dishes. Street Food Festival Crete, an annual three-day extravaganza, offers street food flavours from all corners of the globe too, alongside live music, an onsite brewery, and huge crowds.
Dotted with medieval castle walls, lush parks, and cobbled streets, Krakow is one of Central Europe’s most beautiful cities. And what better to accompany you as you explore its sights than some delicious street food? The Polish city is teeming with holes in the wall and other no-frills outlets selling grab-and-go-style food to enjoy as you wander. Notable hotspots include the hipster district of Kazimierz, home to a buzzing 17th-century marketplace where food trucks sell Krakow’s most famous street food, the Zapiekanka (also known as Polish pizza) and other popular local treats such as Obwarzanki (bagel-shaped bread loaves). For the true Krakow street food experience, check out the legendary roadside Blue Nysa van where flame-licked kielbasa sausages are dished out with crusty bread and a dollop of mustard.
Slovenia’s compact, castle-topped capital has gained a reputation as a culinary hotspot thanks to a new generation of chefs putting a creative spin on traditional cuisine. The best place to see it in action is Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen), a huge weekly street food market where dozens of stands and food trucks dish up everything from dry-aged brisket burgers to shredded cheese-topped pancakes. The Central Market is a must for sampling the city’s best local produce, while a stroll along the kiosk-lined riverside will inevitably lead to mid-afternoon snacking on strukli (cottage cheese-filled dumplings) and burek (flaky pastry stuffed with meat, cheese or apples). Top it off with a trip to Klobasarna, purveyor of Ljubljana’s best kranjska klobsasa (sausage), doused in mustard and horseradish and served with a warm roll.
France’s unofficial food capital has far more to offer than fine dining. As well as food trucks, kiosks and hole-in-the-wall joints, Lyon is home to the most food courts in Europe. At its epicentre is the Food Market Les Halles Paules Bocuse, a kind of epicurean superstore housing bouchons, kiosks, cafes and oyster bars. HEAT offers up 600m2 of street food concessions that change throughout the year, while Halles de la Martiniere, the city’s oldest food court, focuses on a more sustainable street food story through seasonal, local and organic produce. The Street Food Festival, meanwhile, invites gastronomes on a four-day multi-sensory experience that comprises street food, live music and art displays.
Music-mad Manchester in northwest England has experienced something of a transformation in recent decades, shedding its rough-around-the-edges reputation and becoming a fertile breeding ground for modern commerce and culture. The city’s market scene, previously centred around apparel and the occasional fruit and veg stand, now includes hip food trucks frequented by an army of hungry office workers – and leisurely locals on weekends – who flock to Arndale Market and Manchester Markets to pick from a cornucopia of world cuisine. Other hotspots include the outdoor food and drink concept, Hatch, and the Escape to Freight Island urban market. The city also plays host to the acclaimed Annual Manchester Food & Drink Festival.
The multicultural capital of Sicily has a long and proud history of street snacking, with plenty of specialities to show for it. Palermo’s street kiosks, vans and ancient markets – Vucciria, Bolero, Capo and Borgo Vecchio – serve up a staggering variety of ready-to-eat dishes, ranging from sfincione (local pizza) and panelle (chickpea fritters) to more daring dishes like stigghiola (skewered sheep and goat intestines). At Porta Carbone, cars form early morning queues for the city’ pani ca medusa, a sandwich stuffed with fried cow spleen and topped with cheese. Then there’s Palermo’s most famous street food, arancini, served up at hole-in-the-wall bakeries, delis and stalls across the city. So revered are these rice balls, that they even have a patron saint and entire day dedicated to them.
As Europe’s oldest continually inhabited city, Plovdiv’s food traditions are rooted in millennia of multicultural influences. Bargain bites are available on every street corner, at kiosks serving up local specialities such as banista (cheese-filled pastry), shopska (salads) and chushki burek (cheese-filled peppers). Steamed corn topped with cheese, mayonnaise and spices is a popular street snack too. Come evening, it’s all about the doner and gyros, usually made from spit-roasted chicken and served with french fries in a freshly-baked flatbread. Daily farmer’s markets trumpet traditional dishes and snacks from artisan food producers, while the annual Street Food and Art Festival brings together local music, theatre, and crafts.
Porto’s street food might not come on wheels, but the city’s many markets, bakeries and cafes serve up a myriad of grab-and-go food options. It’s also home to one of the country’s most popular food festivals, the Festa de São João, which showcases some of the city’s simplest snacks and dishes from fairy-light festooned stalls. There are several food markets dotted around the city, ranging from daily markets selling farm-fresh produce to hipster havens like Mercado Bom Sucesso, where visitors can tuck into everything from Italian flatbreads to gourmet burgers. On any weekend, visitors will find stalls selling roast suckling pig sandwiches, farturas (Portuguese-style churros) and Pastéis de Nata, Portugal’s famous custard tarts.
While Iceland’s climate doesn’t lend itself to al fresco eating, it hasn’t stopped a growing number of street food vendors across Reykjavík doing a brisk trade. And while at one time the offerings didn’t extend much beyond greasy sandwiches and Belgian waffles, in recent times the capital has cultivated a vibrant, innovative street food culture. At the heart of this burgeoning scene is Lax, a seafood and Prosecco-focussed market in the up-and-coming Grandi district, where a harbourside setting is perfect for enjoying a bite on warm summer evenings. Expect gin-marinated salmon and ceviche, and sparkling wine cocktails. Box street food market is another favourite spot, where the food ranges from Philippine, Indian and Mexican to classic Icelandic delicacies such as fish and seafood.
It may be small, but Malta’s elegant capital is packed full of sights. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for hungry travellers in a rush, with stalls, trucks and bakeries dishing up cheap and cheerful street food bites designed to be enjoyed on the go, from pastizzi (stuffed pastry parcels) to hobz biz zejt (freshly baked bread) served with lashings of tomato, capers, garlic, fresh basil and olive oil. A romantic setting meets modern flair at Is Suq ta Belt, the city’s historic food market, which serves Turkish kebabs, Thai noodles, and everything in between. Then, there’s the Malta International Food Festival, a five-day gourmet event that sees over 100,000 people flock to the city to sample street food hailing from across the globe.