From Tostadas in Spain to Tiropita in Greece, it's worth getting up early to sample some traditional tastes.
Holiday impressions are often made by the experience of unfamiliar tastes and traditions rather than set-piece tourist attractions. To help you sample some flavours you’ll treasure, we’ve hand-picked seven of the best breakfast spots in Europe for a true taste of local culture.
1. Tostada in Spain
Yes, it sounds like toast, and it is, but when you sit down to the first meal of the day in Madrid, you’ll find something interesting on top. A traditional combination of tomate y aceite, simple olive oil and tomato goes down a treat. Add a slice of Iberian ham for non-vegetarians and you’re set up for the day. If you’re visiting Andalucía in the south, a local variation is a topping of manteca colorá, coloured lard. Paprika and other spices are added to the lard to give it that characteristic orange colour before it’s used to cook finely chopped pork.
Learn more culinary traditions at spain.info
2. Knäckebröd in Sweden
Breakfast would be a sad affair in Sweden without knäckebröd, traditional Swedish crispbread with the distinctive taste of rye. Hard-boiled egg, cheese and ham with slices of cucumber and tomato are popular topping options. Things get more intense if you go for the popular fish roe spread Kalles Kaviar with chopped mackerel in tomato sauce. Whichever option you pick, it’s always accompanied by super-strong coffee and is best enjoyed in the open air overlooking one of Stockholm’s many lakes and waterways.
For more details, visit sweden.se/culture-traditions
3. Cornetto in Italy
You may think of cornetto as ice cream, but in most of Italy, try asking for a breakfast cornetto and you’ll be served a delicious croissant. It could be plain or come with chocolate, jam or Italian creamy custard, known as cornetto alla crema. Wherever you go here, you’ll find breakfast almost always consists of coffee and croissants – but for the best view while you’re enjoying it, nothing beats Piazza della Signoria in Florence, with a view of Michelangelo’s David. When in Rome, for a little variation you could try a traditional Lazio maritozzo, a sweet-treat breakfast stuffed full of whipped cream. It’s been the morning choice of hungry Romans for centuries.
Find out more at deliciousitaly.com
4. Karelian pie in Finland
A perennial favourite for breakfast in Helsinki, savoury Karjalan piirakka or Karelian pie, has a pastry crust made with rye dough filled with thick rice porridge. You can eat it as it comes or with an egg butter topping made by mashing hard-boiled eggs with soft butter. In Helsinki’s restaurant district of Töölö, you can order gourmet toppings like sliced reindeer meat or smoked salmon to savour as you gaze out over the Baltic sea. For something simpler to start your day, puuro, an oat-based porridge served with milk and a sprinkling of berries, sugar and butter is another breakfast staple.
Read more about traditional Finnish restaurants at myhelsinki.fi/en/eat-and-drink
5. Tiropita in Greece
Traditionally, the Greeks have never been big on breakfast. If some sustenance was needed to start the day, coffee and paximadia (a biscuit or dried bread), perhaps with a drizzle of olive oil, would suffice. When hunger sets in around 11 am, the ubiquitous tiropita, or cheese pie, was and remains the most popular snack of choice. Its filo pastry casing is filled with a mix of feta cheese and herbs and shaped into sausages or crescents. A notable regional variant from Skopelos is twirled into a spiral snail shape, making a handy pocket-sized parcel.
Find out more about Greek cuisine at visitgreece.gr/en/gastronomy
6. Sir i vrhnje in Croatia
A traditional breakfast delight for Croatians from Krapina-Zagorje County, the main ingredients of sir i vrhnje are cottage cheese and soured cream. Just mix them together and add smoked paprika, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. It’s served with unleavened maize bread baked to make a thick crunchy crust. You’ll be well set up to explore the gorgeous beaches and dramatic scenery of the Dalmatian coastline.
For more details about Croatian food, see feeds.croatia.hr
7. Canistrelli in France
To many Northern Europeans there’s something slightly decadent about the idea of sweet biscuits for breakfast, but in Corsica it’s a normal fact of everyday life. Canistrelli are made of flour, sugar and olive oil mixed with white wine and other flavourings like lemon zest or anise. They’re double baked for a crisp finish and a long shelf-life, but the olive oil creates a crumbly texture, just perfect for dipping into your breakfast coffee.
To see more about Corsican cooking, visit go-to-corsica.com
Due to COVID-19, restrictions are currently in place at many of these locations. Please check official websites and read the latest government advice before making any travel plans.