In these cities, to travel is to eat, and eat well.

By Kendall Cornish
July 08, 2020
Advertisement
Getty Images

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Traveling foodies are insatiable — trust us, we know. To us, to travel is to eat, and eat well. If the ideal trip to you involves more eating than sightseeing or if you find yourself booking reservations at restaurants before anything else, then this list of Travel + Leisure reader-voted destinations is for you.

Our readers ranked these 25 locales as the top foodie destinations of the year. From the birthplace of mezcal to the cities with the most Michelin-starred restaurants and chefs, these are the best places to visit with an appetite.

Many of the cities on this list are within the same country or region, so allow this list to guide you through your very own foodie tour. From Japan’s Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka to Mexico’s Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende and, of course, France’s Lyon, Paris, and Aix-en-Provence, you can head in any direction and find the start and finish of your dream foodie crawl.

Alternatively, dedicate all your time to unpacking the dishes and culture of some incredible locations like Mendoza in Argentina’s wine country or Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city, where the produce is as exceptional as the appreciation for the experience of food.

Even the gastronomical capitals of the world, like Paris, have moved down our list to make room for America's very own New Orleans and Charleston.

Let your curiosity rather than your established palate lead you on your next trip. Forget your favorite foods and, instead, travel with an open mind, knowing the myriad of dishes waiting for you to try them.

1. Oaxaca

iStockphoto/Getty Images

The birthplace of mezcal, Oaxaca comes  in first place this year. It’s known for the way it marries its culinary traditions (think mole, molotes, and fresh, soulful dishes) with the innovative flavors of modern Mexican cooking.

2. Beirut

iStockphoto/Getty Images

A consistent winner for food tourists, the capital city of Lebanon draws in culinary talent from all over the world, but it’s the traditional dishes crafted by Lebanese chefs themselves who continue to impress year after year.

3. New Orleans

Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Traditional NOLA dishes have always been outstandingly delicious, but this Southern city continues to impress the palettes of people from all walks of life more and more year after year.

4. San Sebastián

iStockphoto/Getty Images

Donostia to the Basques, or San Sebastián, is home to some of the best seafood in the world and a staggering number of Michelin stars per square meter. Pintxos are the local style of tapas and, while traditionally delicious, serve as a canvas for some of the city’s culinary innovation.

5. Florence

Getty Images

From fettunta, the original garlic bread, to ravioli nudi, or naked ravioli, the food of Florence eventually appears all around the world at some of the most famed restaurants. Why not go to the source?

6. Rome

Getty Images

Gelato, pasta carbonara, and pizza are just the start — the abundance of culinary hotspots and traditional restaurants led by generations of the same family give the city’s nickname “Eternal City” a double meaning.

7. Kyoto

Getty Images

There may be no better place to restaurant hop and make entire days of eating than Gion, Kyoto — a waterfront neighborhood with slender streets full of almost exclusively restaurants, high and low.

8. Charleston

Squire Fox

Charleston’s rich food scene stems from its people. Black-owned restaurants paved the way for this Southern city’s reputation for amazing American soul food.

9. Tokyo

Getty Images

You could probably eat at a new restaurant in Tokyo every hour for the rest of your life and not hit every great one. While you may not visit this Japanese city exclusively to eat (there’s too much else to see and do), visiting the themed, renowned, and hidden restaurants should definitely be on the agenda.

10. San Miguel de Allende

Getty Images

One of Mexico’s more cosmopolitan cities, San Miguel de Allende has become home to some of the country’s most talented and innovative chefs. But the local, traditional dishes that have always been there still reign supreme.

11. Singapore

Getty Images

The stalls of the many hawker centers across Singapore make the food culture what it is in this diverse country. Each market stall usually specializes in one dish that’s been perfected over generations.

12. Paris

Alex Cretey Systermans

It wouldn’t be a list of the best foodie destinations without this legendary locale. From croissants to steak frites, Paris is a culture and fashion-loving foodie’s dream.

13. New York City

David Williams

So many people living in New York City are originally from somewhere else, and they’ve brought their dishes with them...as well as the creativity and ingenuity that make the NYC food scene so vibrant.

14. Lyon

Anthony Lanneretonne

A city you could eat in for the next 100 years without getting tired, Lyon serves French classics and fresh, modern dishes without the waiting list and price tag of Paris.

15. Bologna

iStockphoto/Getty Images

Dubbed Italy’s culinary city, Bologna has a way of life that almost revolves around its food. And with ingredients as quality as the cars that hail from this region, why wouldn’t it?

16. Chiang Mai

Getty Images

This city in Northern Thailand has some of the most renowned street food in the world. Quick and casual, the culture around eating here doesn’t accept shortcuts, no matter how fast the food is.

17. Mexico City

Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock

As the chefs of Mexico City combine global and national flavors more and more, this Mexican locale has become a major draw for foodies from around the world.

18. Aix-en-Provence

Getty Images

Traditional, “home-cooked” French cuisine is the way of this university city in the Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France, so while the glossier spots are deservingly popular, the hidden, side-street establishments are just as deserving of praise.

19. Chicago

Lucy Hewett

When it comes to American staples, Chicagoans know how to do it up right (and greasy). But fine dining has more than settled in this Midwestern city and delivered its own approach to the concept — think warm hospitality meets culinary luxury.

20. Bangkok

Christopher Wise

Another legendary Thai street food destination, Bangkok’s confidence bleeds into its culinary atmosphere. If you’re from the West, you’re likely to have something you’ve never tried before — and it’s likely to be amazing.

21. Barcelona

Simon Watson

Eating and drinking go together all night long in Barcelona. Tapas keep you energized during nights out dancing and drinking, but they are also rooted in tradition and encourage a deeper enjoyment of each and every item you eat.

22. Mendoza

Getty Images

This Argentinian wine country, home to some of the world’s best malbecs, has claimed its own corner of the gastronomic and foodie travel scene with its unreal cuts of meat and fresh, unique produce.

23. Osaka

Getty Images

The takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and izakayas of Osaka, or the “Nation’s Kitchen,” are calling. And lucky for us, the latter doesn’t close until late.

24. Hong Kong

Getty Images

Another vast city full of more culinary adventures than one could experience in a lifetime, and dim sum is only where the list begins.

25. Madrid

Carol Sachs

Wine and tapas are a way of life in this Spanish city. Don’t leave without trying paella, but that better not be the only thing you eat (cocido madrileño, oreja a la plancha, and more await).

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.