Weighing up where to travel next in Europe? Following your stomach isn’t always the best advice in life, but a holiday built around food can be the perfect cultural ticket to a country.
‘Food adventures’ are an increasingly popular genre of getaway, so there’s plenty of options to choose from.
They’re a cut above a holiday that simply features a food experience - like making halloumi in Cyprus or a Pintxo tour in San Sebasatián. When food is the main ingredient, your whole itinerary is planned around having the best gastronomic time imaginable.
Here are some of the top picks from Intrepid Travel, which specialises in small group experiences, and other operators in the field.
Italy: Set out on a real food adventure
The ‘eat’ in Eat Pray Love, the home of pizza, pasta and Peroni, Italy is a food-lover's dream.
Food envy always rears its head when a friend tells you they’re off to the south mediterranean country, and you can expect to see gelato galore in their Instagram grid, or a simple looking but clearly delicious carbonara.
But to give the food fest some structure, Intrepid have planned an eight day tour that takes you from Venice - with its rich risottos, ‘saline baccala’ (salted cod) and creamy polenta - to Rome.
And eating isn’t the only part of the food chain that travellers partake in. Watching farmers unload their canal boats; making pasta in Bologna; visiting a Parmigiano Reggiano factory in Emilia-Romagna, you’re guaranteed to emerge with a far richer sense of Italy’s food sector.
Prices start at €2,418, with group sizes from one to 12 and a minimum age of 15.
Porto: Drown yourself in port and experience a Michelin-starred restaurant
A collaboration between luxury travel company Black Tomato and specialist food guide website Eater is behind this sensational itinerary in Porto.
The Portuguese city’s eponymous port and wine industry of course gets a strong billing here, with private tastings at cellars around the Douro Valley.
A two-Michelin star restaurant sets the bar high for your first evening meal. Your appetite is unlikely to dip however, with day two bringing a private cooking class in the nearby town of Guimarães.
In total there are six days, priced at €6,000 and upwards depending on how you tailor your trip.
Greece: Go on a food odyssey
This food adventure to Greece is an active one, whisking you round the country’s gorgeous coastline in search of its finest meals.
There’s an accent on learning from locals; making traditional ‘lalgia’ donuts on a countryside farm in Kardamyli, and picking up tricks of the trade from a chef on Poros island, renowned for its lamb and olive groves.
Other highlights include a family-run bee-yard, plenty of cheese and olives, and visits to some of the most incredible sights in Athens, Epidaurus and Mycenae.
A good food adventure is more than the sum of its parts, and you’re sure to dine out on the tales from your personal Greek odyssey for years.
Intrepid’s trips start at €2,635, with group sizes from one to 12 and a minimum age of 15.
Northern Spain: Explore the delicacies of this lesser known food mecca
Northern Spain is another region that has long been on food-lover’s maps.
The Intrepid tour begins in Barcelona, where you can get into the holiday spirit with some locally-produced cava before your first tapas crawl.
Of course there’s loads to feast your eyes on in Barcelona too, including Gaudi’s Casa Mila and La Sagrada Familia. But it's the art of cooking that takes centre stage as you’re taught how to craft the Spanish classic paella.
The tour continues westwards by train to Logrono and the seaside city of San Sebastian, ‘jewel of the Basque country and a city obsessed with food’.
It takes 10 days to complete your route to Santiago de Compostela, and costs around €3,175 in total.
Armenia and Georgia: Get off the beaten track in eastern Europe
If you want to eat off the beaten track on the edge of Europe, one of Responsible Travel’s tours to Armenia and Georgia could be the holiday you’re craving.
Both countries in the Caucasus have delicious traditional cuisines and long wine making histories.
Over 10 days, a local guide will transport you between the capitals of Yerevan and Tbilisi, through towns, markets and vineyards where food and folklore are intimately intertwined.
Cooking masterclasses and a visit to the oldest winery in the world await, with prices starting at around €1,455.
Germany: Go by train for a slow food adventure
You don’t have to be guzzling air miles before you’ve even got started on your food adventure.
Flight-free travel agency Byway helps you to ‘build’ holidays by selecting destinations reachable by train plus experiences. You can pair ‘food and drink’ with history, nature, nightlife, relaxation or arts and culture to create the perfect adventure for you.
They also cater to vegetarians and vegans, so there’s no stress down the line trying to find the right place. A tailor-made trip from London to Germany, for example, might start with catching the Eurostar to Amsterdam and a night in a Conscious Hotel, with a tasty range of vegan foods for breakfast.
Another train ride takes you to the ‘vegan capital’ of Berlin, where you can try local street food currywurst, delicious donuts, authentic Georgian cuisine and Michelin starred dining.
And onwards to a plant-based hotel in Frankfurt, before looping back home through Paris.
Croatia: Get adventurous with kayaking and cool off with a BBQ
If Croatia is still on your bucket list, why not incorporate a mini food adventure within your visit?
This eight day itinerary from Flash Pack includes an immersive food experience in Zagreb - winding through the capital’s backstreets - a wine-tasting en route from Split to Dubrovnik, and a day of gourmet cooking with a local family.
It weaves in plenty of adventure in between, like an al fresco BBQ party at the end of a river you’ve just kayaked down waterfalls on. And the chance to make new friends for life, since Flash Pack’s trips are geared towards solo travellers.
The price for this package starts at around €3,452.