One of the most joyful aspects of traveling is experiencing new and fascinating cuisine. Many people (us included) sometimes choose to travel to a specific place primarily to try new food. But what are the best destinations for unbelievably tasty food? Our “Global Foodie Index” is your perfect companion to find the best cities to satisfy such delectable quests.
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We looked at a variety of factors to rank each of these 150 cities to find the ones with the best food in the world. Our Global Foodie Index grades the cities on five different metrics that we determined to be the most important to any foodie looking for the best places to eat around the globe. The “best” of anything tends to be pretty subjective, so we broke down the key factors for what can be considered an excellent foodie destination to create the most objective ranking possible.
Because this study ranks the best of the world cities for foodies, we did not give any cities a final grade below a C-, nor did we give any individual metric a rank of F. Each city is compared against the others for the total ranking, but all of these world foodie destinations are amazing in their own right, and all of them would be sure to delight a food-loving traveler.
1. Number of Michelin-Starred Restaurants (0-100 points) — Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants deemed to be of a very high standard. We found the number of Michelin-starred restaurants in each city using the Michelin Guide.
2. Number of the World’s Best Restaurants (0-50 points) — We factored in the number of restaurants from The World’s 100 Best Restaurants list located in each city for foodies looking for the best food in the world. We also incorporated restaurants from their Latin America and Asia lists. This metric was only half-weight because of the limited number of restaurants included each year and because only certain regions are represented.
3. Cities With the Most National Cuisines (0-100 points) — The number of different national cuisines available in each city was another factor we deemed essential for foodies looking to enjoy a wide range of foods when traveling to a new city. Types of cuisine ranged from Afghani to Zhejiang and everything in between. We compiled this data from TripAdvisor.
4. Cost of a Meal for Two (0-100 points) — We looked at the average cost of a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant in each city. Foodies know dining out can be expensive, so this is an essential metric to consider. Data was obtained from Numbeo.
5. Number of Restaurants per Capita (0-100 points) — The total number of restaurants in the city was also factored into the final grade. This data was obtained from TripAdvisor by calculating the number of restaurants in a city relative to its population. Calculations were made per capita, so incredibly large cities were not gaining an advantage over smaller cities.
We did our best to survey often under-represented regions, as delicious food can be found worldwide. Many top-ranking “Best Food Destination” lists often concentrate mainly on the biggest cities, like New York and London. Our goal was to dig deep and rank some lesser-known (but still significant) foodie destinations.
The Michelin Guide, arguably the gold standard for foodie culture, has a heavy bias towards Asian, European, and to a lesser extent, American restaurants. Much of the world is simply under-represented when it comes to Michelin star ratings, which is an obvious limitation of our foodie study. However, Michelin is such an industry standard that it would be negligent to omit it as a factor.
The 15 Best World Cities for Foodies
Unsurprisingly, some of the world’s biggest cities are also some of the best for foodies. 13 of the top 20 countries are located within Asia, four are in Europe, and two are in the United States. The top 20 cities have diverse options and cuisine choices, impressive accolades (like Michelin-starred restaurants), and many restaurants per capita.
1. Tokyo, Japan
Japan has three of the world’s 15 best foodie destinations, and Tokyo leads the pack of global foodie destinations. Tokyo earned the highest marks for its number of Michelin restaurants and the number of national cuisines. An impressive 436 Michelin-starred restaurants are in Toyko alone, and foodies can also enjoy 120 different national cuisines while dining in this stellar city.
The traditional food in Japan is also often considered to be some of the healthiest in the world for the calorie-conscious foodie, with many of their dishes featuring plenty of fruits, vegetables, and seafood. In fact, Japanese people have some of the highest life expectancies in the world, and this is often attributed (at least in part) to their diet!
2. Paris, France
Paris is synonymous with exceptional cuisine. French food is world-famous for its rich food culture and history. Many of the country’s most famous dishes are served worldwide, and its Parisian chefs are some of the most renowned.
Between French cheese, wine, and pastries, there’s sure to be something for every foodie. Locally-sourced fruits, vegetables, and herbs are often featured heavily in French cuisine. All Paris visitors should sample the impressive selection of delicious pastries at France’s famous pâtisseries.
Paris can be pretty pricey at an average of $69.90 for a mid-range meal for two, but the city boasts a laudable 423 Michelin-starred restaurants.
3. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok has plenty of local, fresh cuisine, from street food to high-end restaurants and a wide range of dishes and eateries. The city boasts a remarkable fifteen “World’s Best” restaurants, the highest of any city on our list. And, at an average price of only $24.10 for a mid-range meal for two, Bangkok’s exceptional cuisine won’t break the bank.
4. New York City, United States
New York City is famous for its foodie culture, with cuisines from all over the world represented in different boroughs throughout the city.
New York has its distinctive specialties, like fresh bagels, hot dogs, and pizza, but more than that, New York City is a hub of some of the best foods from all around the world. Diners can enjoy 118 different types of cuisine in New York City and 452 Michelin-starred restaurants (the most of any city on our list).
5. Phuket, Thailand
Amazing food is a big part of Thai culture. Phuket is Thailand’s second of two world-famous cuisine cities in the top five foodie countries of the world. From spicy curries to fresh seafood, it’s easy to find good food at any time of day. Foodies will delight in the fact that the average cost of a meal for two in Phuket is only $25.46.
Street food is a popular way to enjoy Thai food all around the country, and Phuket is no exception. Thai markets (and night markets) are a fantastic way to experience local dishes. Some examples include the Chillva Market and the Phuket Weekend Market.
Pro tip: When eating street food anywhere in the world, always check for freshness and ensure it looks sanitary and fully cooked.
Singapore is a popular tourist destination for many reasons, one being its food culture. With a big melting pot of many cultures within the city, the variety of food here is endless – enticing food stalls, traditional Singaporean eateries, award-winning fine dining establishments, and modern fusion restaurants. Foreigners make up approximately 30% of all Singapore residents, so there’s no end to the variety you can experience when visiting this dynamic city.
Singapore has over 250 Michelin-starred restaurants and over 100 represented types of cuisine, so there is sure to be something for everyone.
7. Osaka, Japan
Osaka is well known for its culinary specialties, including the multi-course Japanese traditional feast kaiseki. Osaka also has a variety of annual food and drink festivals, like the Tenjin festival and the Aizen summer festival, each featuring a wide range of culinary delicacies.
And as a bonus: Osaka’s average cost per meal for a mid-range dinner for two is only $43.80, which is almost $10.00 cheaper than Tokyo’s! It may not seem like much for one meal, but it adds up.
8. Hong Kong, China
With Cantonese, Chinese, and European roots, Hong Kong’s food is not to be missed. Hong Kong cuisine tends to be incredibly fresh and heavily features fresh vegetables, fish, and tofu. Hong Kong may have plenty of traditional restaurants, but 114 types of cuisine are also represented in the city, and over 200 Michelin-starred restaurants.
9. Seoul, South Korea
South Korea is a popular foodie destination, with Korean specialties served worldwide. Korean food heavily features many fermented dishes, as fermented foods are considered healthy and great for digestion. Kimchi, arguably Korea’s most popular and well-known fermented cabbage dish, is served at many meals. Seoul has an impressive 171 Michelin-starred restaurants, so there are plenty of amazing options to choose from!
10. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations and is a great place to experience the best of traditional Thai food. Chiang Mai may be known for its temples and beautiful nature, but the culinary culture should not be missed. And at only $17.97 for a two-person meal, Chiang Mai’s cuisine won’t break the bank.
11. London, United Kingdom
London is one of the most famous and bustling cities in the world, with a population of nearly 9 million people. It’s no surprise that many of the world’s best chefs congregate in this global hub. There are almost 400 Michelin-starred restaurants in London alone.
12. Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city, is a great island destination with a fascinating cultural history. It is a lively, buzzing city that should not be missed. Taipei is a great destination for seafood lovers, as it is heavily featured in their cuisine thanks to the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Vegetarians can rejoice as well, as there are plenty of veggie options featured throughout the city.
Street food is popular in Taipei, as are its night markets featuring stalls of delicious dishes. Markets are great for trying many different types of Taiwanese cuisines in one place, and should not be missed by the traveling foodie.
13. São Paulo, Brazil
Surprisingly, São Paulo is the only South American city in our top 15 list. Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, and it’s also one of the most diverse. The city has a rich culinary culture, with influences from all over the world, including Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Sao Paulo has a wide array of delicious, hearty meals, sweet pastries, and traditional drinks to keep every foodie satiated.
14. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is our third Japanese city in our top 15 rankings of best foodie destinations, and for a good reason. Kyoto restaurants heavily feature plenty of traditional Japanese cuisine, like yudofu, tempura, and soba. Kyoto has over 200 Michelin-starred restaurants.
15. Bali, Indonesia
Last but not least, Bali is a world-famous travel destination, and Indonesian food is one of the biggest draws for tourists. The food of Bali is a cuisine that heavily features rice, vegetables, meat, and plenty of bright spices.
Interestingly, Bali is the only restaurant in our top 15 list with no Michelin-starred restaurants. However, there are plenty of unique eateries to try, regardless.
What is a Foodie?
Simply put, a foodie is a person who is passionate about food and the experience of eating.
The term “foodie” was first used in the early 1980s in New York Magazine but quickly took off and is now a commonly-used word. “Foodie” means someone who loves to eat, discover, learn about, and talk about food. Foodies enjoy eating at restaurants and trying new global cuisines, but they also find pleasure in attempting to cook new recipes. They are always looking for new eateries and dishes to try, and they love sharing their experiences with other people.
Foodies have a wide range of interests that go beyond just eating. They may be interested in how food is grown, processed, cooked, and preserved. They are often fascinated by how restaurants are run or how chefs develop recipes while staying true to their style. Many foodies are passionate about all aspects of food culture and creation: from farming to beekeeping to canning to plating and all other forms of food preparation. Often, foodies are as fascinated by the science and art of food as much as they are by the taste and texture.
Foodies will go out of their way, travel long distances, and often pay a premium to try a specific delicacy. Adventurous foodies specifically seek out other cultures to enjoy their culinary differences and will choose vacation destinations based on their wealth of cuisines.
Contrary to popular belief, being a foodie doesn’t mean exclusively seeking out the most expensive or elaborate dishes. Many foodies delight in street food and hearty, traditional fare just as much as they enjoy luxurious dining experiences.
15 Tips for Traveling as a Foodie
Lyric and I consider ourselves foodies and avid travelers. Here are our top tips for globetrotting as serious food lovers:
Ask the locals where they like to eat – In my opinion, you’re not going to find the best restaurants in Times Square. Striking up conversations with locals and asking where they like to eat is a great way to find the best, most authentic food in a new city.
Balance your budget-friendly and “once-in-a-lifetime” meals – There are plenty of fantastic street food options worldwide, which can be a great way to manage your budget as a foodie. Not every meal on vacation will be at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Mixing up higher-end and wallet-friendly options will keep your foodie vacation from causing you to go broke.
Book your reservations in advance – Many higher-end foodie destinations will require reservations weeks (sometimes months) ahead of time. It’s best to google the restaurants you want to visit when planning a trip and call the restaurant to find out their reservation policy before you even get there so you don’t miss out on the chance to dine at more exclusive establishments.
Splitting meals – It may seem like a simple idea but if you’re going with loved ones, consider splitting meals. That way, each person gets to try twice as many meals as they would otherwise. There are so many new and unique foods to sample, but a finite amount of money (and stomach space).
Take a cooking class – What better way to take your culinary experiences back with you than learning how to create a regional dish from a local expert? Many cooking classes are available worldwide, and you’ll get unparalleled first-hand experience creating global cuisine.
Research ahead of time – Researching ahead is great for planning your culinary itinerary. We like to search “best food in [insert destination]” or “best restaurants in [insert destination],” or better yet, ask a friend who lives there or has visited for their favorites!
Get plenty of exercise between meals – There’s nothing like a food coma to ruin a vacation day. Make sure to break up the foodie experiences with walking, hiking, biking, or simply some good, old-fashioned sightseeing.
Leave a restaurant review – Reviewing meals is a great way to show love for the establishment (if it was good) or give constructive feedback (if it didn’t live up to the expectation). Plus, it’s a great way to catalog your foodie journey and recall fond memories of wonderful eateries. You can review restaurants straight on Google or on websites like TripAdvisor.
Be spontaneous – Not every local hidden gem is documented online. Follow your nose when walking around and discover new places you may have never heard of. Where are the locals eating? A busy restaurant is often a sign of a local favorite.
Get away from the tourist traps – Authentic (not to mention budget-friendly) options are often found far from the main attractions in the city.
Eat some of your meals at your rental – Some of the fun of exploring new cultural cuisines is seeing what the locals eat at home and the different ingredients they use to flavor their meals. Try out a local recipe or two at your rental (if you have a kitchen), or grab a few snacks while relaxing back at the hotel.
Visit a farmer’s market – Check out the local farmer’s markets (or regional equivalent) for the freshest locally-sourced ingredients. Plus, it supports small businesses, artisans, and farmers!
Try a food tour – Plenty of major cities will have walking food tours with guides to show you the best, most flavorful destinations.
Be a risk taker – The hallmark of a global foodie is getting out of your culinary comfort zone and trying new dishes, spices, flavors, and types of cuisine. Don’t be afraid to taste something new, even if it may not sound so appetizing initially.
Don’t forget the drinks – Many countries have a fantastic variety of beverages that are sure to delight foodies. From Moroccan mint atay to Indian mango lassi to Japanese saké, there are many local and regional beverages that shouldn’t be missed.