Turkish food is amazing. It’s one of my favorite cuisines in the world and there’s no better place to enjoy it than in Istanbul (which unsurprisingly is one of my favorite cities in the world).
From kebabs to dürüm to lahmacun and pide, there’s so much delicious food to be had in Istanbul. But being a uniquely located city with shores along the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus Strait, one dish that will probably grace your plate often is fresh fish. The waters around Istanbul are home to over twenty different kinds of fish so you’ll always find several types of fresh fish in season no matter which time of the year you go.
As you can imagine, there’s no shortage of fish restaurants in Istanbul. However, being a hugely popular tourist destination, there’s no shortage of tourist traps either.
If you’d like to steer clear of the touristy restaurants and not pay an arm and a leg for Turkish sea bass, then here are ten excellent fish and seafood restaurants that you can visit in Istanbul.
ISTANBUL FISH RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your trip to Istanbul, we’ve put together links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Recommended hotels in Beyoglu, one of the best areas to stay for first-time travelers to Istanbul.
Luxury: Point Hotel Taksim
Midrange: Bonne Sante Hotel
Budget: Bella Vista Hostel
Sightseeing Tour: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour
Food Tour: Guided Food Tour of Street Food and Markets
Cooking Class: Istanbul Cooking Classes
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Istanbul Airport Transfer
Pocket Wifi Device
ISTANBUL TRAVEL GUIDE
If you’re planning your first trip to Istanbul, then you may want to check out our comprehensive Istanbul travel guide. It’ll tell you everything you need to know – like where to stay, which attractions to visit, how to get around, etc. – to help you make the most of your time in Istanbul.
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HOW TO SPOT A TOURISTY RESTAURANT IN ISTANBUL
In my experience, one of the best ways to spot a touristy restaurant is its location. If it’s located within a few blocks of a popular tourist attraction like Hagia Sophia, then more often than not, it’s a tourist trap. A quick glance at their menu will usually confirm this.
On our last trip in August 2023 for example, we paid around TRY 200 for levrek or Turkish sea bass. At touristy restaurants near Basilica Cistern, prices for sea bass often exceeded TRY 500. This is grilled sea bass we’re talking about. Aside from freshness and weight (which was usually consistent), how different can it be?
Another telltale sign is a restaurant’s menu offerings. If a restaurant in Istanbul offers everything under the sun – from fried calamari to dürüm to pottery kebab – then chances are, it’s a tourist trap.
This is why we often seek out restaurants that specialize in just a few dishes. There’s a better chance they know what they’re doing and you’ll get to try a better version of that dish.
I find that these methods work well not just in Istanbul, but in any city that sees large hordes of tourists.
This article zeroes in on the best fish and seafood restaurants but be sure to check out our full Istanbul restaurant guide as well. For healthy eaters, we also have a guide to restaurants that serve vegan and vegetarian food in Istanbul.
MUST-VISIT FISH & SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS IN ISTANBUL
A quick note on prices – any price listed here is accurate as of August 2023. If you’ve been visiting Turkiye often in the last few years, then you’ll know how quickly prices have been increasing in this country. My wife and I joke that prices in Istanbul go up so often that it almost feels like a running taxi meter.
A few months can mean a difference of a few dozen Turkish lira so you may want to confirm prices before going to any of these restaurants.
1. Ulaş Balıkçılık (Best Seafood Restaurant in Cihangir)
We found this little gem of a seafood restaurant when we stayed in the Cihangir neighborhood of Beyoglu. They offer many different types of freshly caught fish like seabass, sea bream, salmon, anchovies, mackerel, blue fish, and more.
To start, we had this mevsim salata or seasonal salad. They offer a couple of other salads and fish soup as well.
You’ll find a wealth of delicious seafood dishes in Istanbul but one of our favorites is midye dolma. A popular street food in Turkiye, it refers to mussels stuffed with herbed rice, spices, and other ingredients like pine nuts and currants. Definitely a must-try in Istanbul!
I enjoy working my way through a whole grilled fish but sometimes, I prefer fish skewers. They’re easier to eat and when cooked properly, they can be even more satisfying.
What you’re looking at below is a pair of perfectly grilled sea bass skewers. Moist, flakey, and melt-in-your-mouth tender, these were insanely delicious and set us back just TRY 180.
Ulas Balikcilik serves delicious food in a more residential part of Beygolu. In my opinion, it’s definitely one of the best fish restaurants in Istanbul.
You can jump to the location map at the bottom of this article for the restaurant’s exact location.
Address: Firuzağa, Türkgücü Cd. No:27/A, 34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily What They Offer: Fried/grilled fish dishes
2. Şen Balıkçılık
Like Istanbul Old City, the area around Istiklal Cadessi is one of the city’s most popular tourist areas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find hidden gems amongst its many tourist traps. Sen Balikcilik, a fish restaurant just off the main strip, is one of those gems.
Sen Balickilik offers different types of seasonal fish and seafood dishes but they also have a good number of meat dishes, hot and cold starters, fish soup, and salads on their menu. Pictured below is the coban salata or shepherd’s salad. You can think of it as the Turkish version of Moroccan salad.
Istanbul is home to an ocean of fresh fish but one of my favorites is grilled sea bass. Known locally as levrek, I enjoy it for a few reasons. One, it’s delicious. Two, it’s good for your health. Three, it typically isn’t priced per kilo (fixed price). And four, it’s one of the cheaper fishes you can find in Istanbul, with a whole grilled fish going for around TRY 200 at a non-touristy restaurant.
This beautiful specimen at Sen Balikcilik set me back just TRY 180.
You’ll find lots of delicious street food in Istanbul but my personal favorite is balik dürüm or fish wrapped in lavash bread with vegetables and spices. Like balik ekmek (fish sandwich), it’s made with one whole fillet of grilled mackerel so it’s one of the healthier street foods you can find as well.
I’m not a fan of balik ekmek because I find it too bready but I absolutely love balik dürüm. It’s a fun and easy dish to eat so I got this one to go.
I forgot to take a picture of the restaurant’s exterior (sorry about that!) but you can jump to our location map to see where it is. It’s literally a minute away from Istiklal Caddesi so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.
Address: Hüseyinağa, Sahne Sk. No:5, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 8AM-2AM, daily What They Offer: Seasonal fish dishes, meat dishes, hot and cold starters
3. Askoroz Balıkçı
Like Sen Balikcilik, Askoroz Balikci is a hidden gem not too far from Istiklal Caddesi. They don’t have as many offerings as Sen Balikcilik but the usual favorites like levrek, blue fish, sea bream, and mackerel are on their menu.
Pictured below is a small plate of salad which you can get in regular or small sizes.
What you’re looking at below is a plate of grilled sea bream which I devoured with mucho gusto.
Like levrek, sea bream is one of the cheaper fishes you can find in Istanbul. At the time, this whole fish cost me just TRY 195.
Askoroz Balikci is located less than a 5-minute walk from Istiklal Caddesi.
Address: Şehit Muhtar, Süslü Saksı Sk. No:15, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily What They Offer: Fish dishes, Turkish desserts
4. Sokak Lezzeti Tarihi Balık Dürümcü Mehmet Usta
This mouthful of a restaurant is one of the more famous fish restaurants in Karakoy. Unlike the previous restaurants on this list, they offer just one thing on their menu – balik dürüm made with one or two fillets of mackerel.
I went with two fillets and this was arguably the best fish wrap I had in Istanbul.
In August 2023, the regular fish wrap went for TRY 100 while the double wrap cost TRY 190. This was seriously delicious and substantial enough for a full meal.
Sokak Lezzeti Tarihi Balık Dürümcü Mehmet Usta is a popular restaurant but balik dürüm is easy to eat so you can get one to go if the place is full.
Sokak Lezzeti Tarihi Balık Durumcu Mehmet Usta
Address: 75 Derb Rahba Lakdima, Marrakech 40000, Morocco What They Offer: Fish wrap
5. Kiyi Balik
Kiyi Balik is another balik dürüm shop in Karakoy, this time just a short walk from the ferry port. They make fish wraps that are slightly different from the others I’ve tried thus far in Istanbul. Can you tell what that difference is from looking at this picture?
Unlike other fish wraps I’ve had in Istanbul, Kiyi Balik encrusts their lavash with a Turkish spice blend. It does add a good amount of flavor to the wrap though some people may find it a tad on the salty side.
Kiyi Balik is a humble stall located about a 5-minute walk from Karakoy port.
Address: Azapkapı, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 10AM-5AM, daily What They Offer: Fish wraps
6. Balıkçı Lokantası (Best Fresh Fish in Kadikoy)
On our last trip to Istanbul, we split a month between Beyoglu and Kadikoy. Ulas Balikcilik (#1) was one of the best seafood restaurants we went to in Beyoglu but in Kadikoy, it was definitely Balikci Lokantasi. This local restaurant on the Asian side of Istanbul serves some of the freshest fish at the best prices in Kadikoy.
To start, they served me a basket of bread and this plate of cold appetizers with ezme (Turkish pepper salad) and baba ghanoush (roasted mashed eggplant).
Can you tell what type of fish this is by now? It’s my favorite Turkish levrek, or grilled marinated sea bass. I rarely met levrek I didn’t like in Istanbul and this was one of the best.
It’s important to point out that Balikci Lokantasi doesn’t have a printed menu. Instead, they’ll direct you to the vitrine to show you what fresh food is available on that day.
At first, I was nervous without having a menu with fixed prices to look at, but I took the plunge anyway. I’m happy I did because that beautiful grilled sea bass with a small side salad and a big bottle of water came out to just TRY 200. Definitely one of the best fish meals I had in Istanbul!
When it comes to restaurants, I prefer the Asian side because you’ll find fewer touristy restaurants here. Frequented mostly by locals, Balikci Lokantasi is the perfect example of that.
Address: Rasimpaşa, Teyyareci Sami Sk. No:20 D:B, 34716 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 12NN-9PM, daily What They Offer: Fish and seafood dishes
7. Balat Balik Evi (Best Fish Restaurant in Balat)
The Balat neighborhood in Fatih is a charming area that’s become one of the most visited in Istanbul. It’s known for its cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and many vintage shops and cafes.
Receiving so many visitors daily, many of the restaurants in Balat look like they cater mostly to tourists but Balat Balik Evi is an exception. This excellent fish restaurant serves seafood favorites like fried calamari, grilled seabass, fried mussels, and lightly fried anchovies at reasonable prices.
For starters, we shared this big bowl of coban salatasi or shepherd’s salad.
When in Istanbul, it’s never a bad idea to go for grilled seabass. This beautiful specimen was priced at TRY 250 at Balat Balik Evi.
If fish sandwiches are your thing, then you may want to go for balik ekmek or balik dürüm instead. This fish wrap from Balat Balik Evi rivals Sokak Lezzeti (#4) as my favorite balik dürüm shop in Istanbul.
A day in Balat is a must for any first-time visitor to Istanbul. If you’re in the mood for fish, then Balat Balik Evi is the place to go in this neighborhood.
Balat Balik Evi
Address: Balat, Vodina Cd. No: 156, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 10AM-1AM, daily What They Offer: Fish and seafood dishes
8. Nevizade Kokoreç
These last three entries aren’t fish restaurants but they’re among our favorite places to have midye dolmas in Istanbul. As described, midye dolmas refer to mussels stuffed with herbed rice, pine nuts, currants, and spices.
You’ll find many of these “kokorec” restaurants in Istanbul. Kokorec refers to an interesting dish of grilled lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned offal. Any restaurant that serves kokorec will almost always serve midye dolmas as well.
You can get midye dolmas per piece. At the time of our visit, stuffed mussels cost TRY 5 each at Nevizade Kokorec, which is a fair price.
Nevizade Kokorec is one of many stalls offering midye dolmas in an area just off Istiklal Cadessi. We chose it based on its positive Google reviews. We weren’t disappointed.
Address: Hüseyinağa, Mah Balık Pazarı, Sahne Sk. No:12/B, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 12NN-2AM, daily What They Offer: Midye dolmas, kokorec
9. Kadikoy Midyecisi
Kadikoy Midyecisi is another poular kokorec/midye dolmas restaurant in Istanbul, this time on the Asian side. They’re pricier than Nevizade Kokorec – offering midye dolmas at TRY 7.50 per piece – but still worth it in our opinion.
You can get midye dolmas per piece at Kadikoy Midyecisi but they also offer them in boxes of 30, 60, or 100 as well.
Address: Caferağa, Sarraf Ali Sk. 22/b, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Türkiye Operating Hours: 11AM-4AM, daily What They Offer: Midye dolmas, kokorec
10. Midyecisi Ahmet
I have mixed feelings about this place. Google “best midye dolmas in istanbul” and Midyeci Ahmet will frequently come up.
While their stuffed mussels are delicious, I’m not sure they’re worth their exorbitant price tag – TRY 10.50 per mussel. I know. Pricey right? That’s over double what most midye restaurants and stalls charge in Istanbul.
But all those locals singing them praises know something we don’t so I suggest trying them for yourself and making your own judgements. It’s a good thing you can buy them per piece.
The self-proclaimed “Lord of Mussels” is a local favorite with many branches throughout Istanbul. This particular branch is located near the Karakoy port.
Address: Multiple branches Operating Hours: Varies per branch What They Offer: Midye dolmas, kokorec
To help you navigate to these fish restaurants in Istanbul, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST FISH & SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS IN ISTANBUL
As described at the top of this article, there are many delicious dishes to be had in Istanbul but seafood, especially fish, is something you need to enjoy at least once. The best restaurants always serve them fresh which is what we tried to find and compile in this list.
Being such a popular tourist destination, this city can be a landmine of tourist traps so I hope this guide to some of the best fish restaurants in Istanbul leads you to many memorable seafood meals.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating fish and seafood in Istanbul!
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It didn’t take long for Budapest to win us over. Within a day of exploring the Hungarian capital, we were smitten with its classical architecture and edgy vibe. The city is home to an exciting restaurant scene that offers a good mix of traditional Hungarian cuisine and modern takes on global comfort food.
Like any fast-food-starved consumer, Budapest’s myriad pizza and burger restaurants are what excited us the most but traditional Hungarian dishes like goulash, chicken paprikash, and stuffed cabbage are what truly warmed our hearts (and our bellies).
If you’re visiting Budapest or any other city in Hungary, then be sure to look for these 25 traditional Hungarian dishes. Like us, they made just warm your heart, and win you over.
HUNGARIAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re visiting Hungary and want to learn more about Hungarian cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour.
Food Tours: Hungarian Food/Drinking Tours
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Photo by Ildi Papp
WHAT IS TRADITIONAL HUNGARIAN CUISINE?
Traditional Hungarian food has been described as a blend of Ottoman, Central Asian, and European (eastern, central, and southern) cuisines. It’s considered one of the spiciest cuisines in Europe, due largely to the heavy use of paprika in many Hungarian dishes.
Hungarian cuisine is traditionally a meat-heavy cuisine that incorporates a variety of seasonal vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and bread. Chicken, beef, and pork are the most commonly consumed proteins while lamb, turkey, duck, fish, and game meats are more often reserved for special occasions.
Aside from Hungarian paprika – which is known to be spicier than other types of paprika – other commonly used herbs and spices in Hungarian cuisine include garlic, caraway seeds, marjoram, dill seeds, and celery seeds.
Many Hungarian dishes are typically served with a side dish like dumplings, while bread is a vital staple food that’s eaten at all meals.
MUST-TRY HUNGARIAN DISHES
This article on traditional Hungarian food has been organized by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Starters / Sides / Snacks
Fozelek is a type of thick vegetable stew or soup. It’s a simple dish that can be made with a variety of different ingredients like peas, spinach, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, lentils, squash, or sorrel. The version of fozelek pictured below is called zordborsofozelek, or green pea stew.
Fozelek is commonly eaten as a main course for lunch, either on its own or topped with additional ingredients like fried eggs, sausage, or meatballs.
Photo by Fanfo
Here’s a version called spenotfozelek, or spinach stew.
Photo by Marian Weyo
Halaszle refers to a traditional Hungarian fisherman’s soup. It’s typically made from freshwater fish like carp, pike, or bass cooked in a rich and spicy broth flavored with onions, tomatoes, paprika, sweet paprika, and other ingredients. Hungarian paprika, an often-used ingredient in Hungarian food, is what gives the soup its distinctive red color.
Originally from the Szeged region of Hungary, halaszle was traditionally prepared over open fires along the riverbanks. It’s a hearty and warming soup that becomes even more popular in winter, especially at festivals and family gatherings.
Photo by Morana Photo
If you like rich meaty soups, then you may want to try orjaleves. It refers to a slow-cooked Hungarian pork soup made with baby back ribs. Cooked with vegetables and pasta, the ribs are cooked for about two hours until they become fall-off-the-bone tender.
Claus, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
4. Jókai Bableves
Jokai bableves is a hearty Hungarian soup made with dried beans – like kidney, pinto, or navy beans – cooked with smoked pork, vegetables, egg noodles, Hungarian paprika, and other spices. It’s often topped with sour cream and commonly eaten during the winter months because of its warming properties.
Interestingly, jókai bean soup gets its name from a famous Hungarian writer named Mór Jókai. He was said to be a regular at a Balatonfüred restaurant where he almost always ordered this soup.
Photo by Fanfo
If you’re accustomed to eating hot savory soups, then your first spoonful of meggyleves may come as a surprise to you. It refers to a Hungarian sour cherry soup made with whole fresh sour cherries, sour cream, sugar, and other ingredients like cloves and cinnamon.
A popular summer delicacy, Hungarian sour cherry soup is traditionally served over dinner, either as an appetizer or for dessert.
Photo by Mike Laptev
STARTERS / SIDES / SNACKS
Some people like sampling local beers when they travel. Others go for sausages. If you like trying different types of unfamiliar cheese, then you may want to try korozott. It refers to a spicy cheese spread popular in Hungary and in other countries where it goes by different names like smirkas (Slovakia), liptauer (Austria), liptaver (Slovenia), and liptao (Albania).
Korozott is made with a spreadable white cheese like cottage cheese or quark, along with paprika, onions, butter, caraway seeds, and other spices. It’s typically chilled and served as a spreadable appetizer with bread, crackers, or fresh vegetables.
Photo by pingpongcat
Lecso is basically a type of Hungarian vegetable stew or ratatouille. It’s made from Hungarian wax peppers (or bell peppers, banana peppers) and tomatoes sauteed in lard or bacon fat with onions, paprika, and other seasonings.
Lecso is especially popular in the summertime or in early autumn, when the best peppers and tomatoes are in season. It can be enjoyed on its own or served as a side dish, usually with bread.
Photo by zi3000
8. Rántott Sajt
Cheese is irresistible on its own, but even more so when it’s breaded and fried. You’ll find some form of fried cheese dish in many countries but in Hungary, the dish to look for is rantott sajt.
Meaning “fried cheese” in Hungarian, rantott sajt is made with a semi-hard or hard cheese – most commonly Trappista cheese – that’s coated in a breading mixture before being deep-fried to a golden brown. It usually comes in rectangular or triangular shapes and served with tartare sauce and a side of french fries or rice.
Photo by Jim_Filim
When thinking of the world’s most decadent food products, many people will probably say the same things – caviar, lobster, Kobe beef, foie gras, etc.
A popular but controversial ingredient, foie gras in Hungary is known as libamaj. I didn’t realize this until our visit but Hungary is known to be the third-largest producer of foie gras in the world, behind France and Bulgaria.
In Hungary, libamaj is traditionally fried in goose fat. It can also be roasted or smoked or made into a paté or mousse. Pictured below are some less expensive tins of libamaj commonly sold at Budapest’s markets.
If you were to have just one street food dish in Budapest, then it should probably be langos (or maybe chimney cake). It refers to a type of Hungarian deep-fried flat bread that’s commonly sold at markets, street food stalls, and festivals.
Langos can be eaten on its own, brushed simply with garlic, or it can be topped with a variety of ingredients like grated cheese, korozott, sour cream, sausage, ham, or mushroom. It can even be topped with sweet ingredients like Nutella, jam, or powdered sugar.
Photo by [email protected]
Here’s a pair of less conventional langos dishes we tried at restaurants in Budapest. The one in the foreground was topped with arugula and sheep cheese while the one behind it is a langos burger.
You probably won’t order this next dish directly but you’ll have it often anyway in Hungary. A staple in Hungarian cuisine, nokedli refers to a type of soft dumpling or egg noodle dish similar to German spaetzle.
To prepare, a sticky batter made with flour, eggs, and water is spooned or pressed through a noodle grater into boiling water. The dumplings are boiled briefly before floating to the surface when cooked.
Nokedli can be enjoyed on their own with butter or served as a side dish, similar to rice or pasta. They’re commonly served with chicken paprikash or added to soups and stews like Hungarian goulash.
Photo by Ildi Papp
12. Túrós Csusza
Turos csusza refers to a rustic cottage cheese pasta dish made with fried szalonna as its key ingredient. Similar to Italian lardo or Slavic salo, szalonna is a type of Hungarian smoked bacon or pork fatback commonly used in Hungarian cuisine.
Turos csusza is made with flat and wide egg noodles (csusza) mixed with cottage cheese (turo), szalonna, and sour cream. It’s a beloved comfort food in Hungary that’s often enjoyed as a main course at family gatherings.
Photo by Angelika Heine
13. Töltött Kaposzta (Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Stuffed cabbage rolls are a common dish in many European countries like Croatia, Poland, Romania, Armenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Hungary, it’s called toltott kaposzta. A variety of ingredients like ground beef, smoked pork, rice, onions, and spices are rolled in fresh cabbage leaves before being cooked in a tomato-based sauce.
If you like stuffed peppers (dolma), then you’re probably going to enjoy toltott kaposzta. It’s a comforting dish that’s commonly served on a bed of sauerkraut with a generous dollop of sour cream.
Photo by Morana Photo
14. Paprikás Csirke (Chicken Paprikash)
Like gulyas, paprikas csirke or chicken paprikash is one of the most well-known dishes in Hungary. It refers to a rustic chicken stew made with pieces of bone-in chicken – like thigh or drumsticks – cooked in a rich paprika-flavored sauce.
Chicken paprikas was one of the dishes I was most excited to try in Hungary. It’s a soulful comforting dish that’s commonly served with nokedli (or rice) and dollop of sour cream.
15. Pacal Pörkölt
If you’re a fan of tripe like I am, then you’ll definitely want to try this Hungarian tripe stew called pacal porkolt. It’s a traditional Hungarian dish made with strips of tripe stewed in a rich sauce flavored with onions, garlic, paprika, and other spices.
Be sure to eat this hearty dish with some freshly baked crusty bread for the most satisfying experience. Just looking at this picture is making me hungary! (sorry)
Photo by Pozhar_S
16. Hortobagyi Palacsinta
Hortobagyi palascinta refers to savory Hungarian crepes filled with a stew-like preparation of ground meat, usually veal or beef.
To prepare, the meat is stewed with onions, tomatoes, peppers, paprika, and garlic before being drained of sauce and stuffed into thin crepes (palascinta). The sauce is then generously poured over the filled crepes and finished off with a dollop of sour cream.
I, Themightyquill, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
17. Gulyás (Goulash)
There are many tasty meat dishes in Hungary but none are more well-known than gulyas or goulash, a hearty meat stew cooked with vegetables and seasoned with paprika. It’s widely considered to be a Hungarian national dish, something many people think of when they think of Hungary.
The origins of this emblematic Hungarian dish can be traced all the way back to the 10th century. It was consumed by shepherds who’d dry the cooked meat under the sun and store it in bags made from sheep’s stomachs. Interestingly, these early versions of gulyas weren’t made with paprika since the spice wasn’t introduced to Europe until the 16th century.
Gulyas stems from the Hungarian word gulya, meaning “herd of cattle”. Gulyas literally means “herdsman” or “cowboy” in Hungarian, but it’s also used to refer to this hearty meat stew.
18. Somlói Galuska
Somloi galuska is a type of Hungarian trifle made with layers of sponge cake interspersed with pastry cream, ground walnuts, and raisins. It’s traditionally served by “scooping” three balls of the trifle cake onto a plate or bowl, and then topping it with a generous amount of whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce.
Curiously, the word galuska literally means “dumpling”, perhaps in reference to the way this popular Hungarian cake is traditionally served.
Photo by Krisztian Tefner
I usually prefer savory dishes over sweets but Hungarian food may be an exception, and it’s all because of this incredibly delicious spit cake known as kurtoskalacs.
Kurtoskalacs literally means “chimney cake” and refers to these chimney-shaped cakes made with yeasted dough. The dough is coated in sugar before being roasted over charcoal around a cylindrical rod and basted with melted butter.
Thanks to its sugary coating, Hungarian chimney cake is known for having a crisp, caramelized exterior and a soft, buttery interior. When it’s done baking, it can be topped with additional ingredients like ground walnuts or cinnamon powder.
Kurtoskalacs is delicious on its own but it’s even better when stuffed with a serving of vanilla ice cream. My god was this good!
20. Dobos Torte
Dobos torte is another Hungarian dessert that you need to try in Budapest. It refers to a sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with a crackingly crisp layer of caramel glaze.
Dobos torte is named after its inventor – Hungarian confectioner Jozesf Dobos. He devised the recipe sometime in the late 1800s (in an era before refrigeration) when he wanted to create a cake that would keep longer than other pastries.
Dobos coated the sides of his cake with ground hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, or chestnuts – which together with the caramel glaze on top – succeeded in keeping it from drying out, thereby preserving its shelf life.
As a kid, I used to look up at the sky and think: “Hmmm, I wonder what that cloud tastes like?” These fluffy egg white clouds floating on a creamy vanilla custard remind me of those innocent times.
Called madartej in Hungary, this dreamy dessert of French origin (oeufs a la neige) consists of meringue floating in a smooth and silky pool of creme anglaise. Light and easy to prepare, it can be made with just five ingredients – eggs, milk, cornstarch, vanilla, and sugar.
Photo by Ildi Papp
22. Mákos Guba
If you like bread pudding and visit Hungary over the Christmas season, then you should keep your eye out for makos guba. It refers to a festive Hungarian dessert made with layers of sweetened stale bread and ground poppy seeds soaked in vanilla-flavored milk.
A favorite holiday dessert, makos guba is commonly served for dessert after Christmas Eve lunch in Hungary.
Photo by acceptphoto
I’m drawn to spherical desserts like profiteroles, cake balls, boba, and Chinese jiandui. The Asian-ness in me finds their auspiciously round and bite-sized shapes to be especially appealing.
In Hungary, one ball-shaped dessert you can try is turogomboc. These Hungarian cottage cheese dumplings are made from a dough of turo (cottage cheese), eggs, and semolina. The dough is shaped into bite-sized balls before being boiled and then rolled in sweetened toasted breadcrumbs.
Crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, these tasty cottage cheese dumplings are sprinkled with powdered sugar before serving. They can also be enjoyed with a side of fruit jam or sour cream.
Photo by Krisztian Tefner
We ate many delicious things in Budapest but this creamy pastry may have taken the cake (pun intended).
Meaning “cream cake” in Hungarian, kremes torta refers to this heavenly dessert made with a generous amount of pastry cream sandwiched between two layers of puff pastry. It’s dusted with powdered sugar before serving and best enjoyed with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Delicious!
Kremes is a popular dessert that goes by different names throughout Europe like cremeschnitte (Germany), kremna rezina (Slovenia), napoleonka (Poland), and kremsnita (Croatia).
25. Szilvas Gomboc
Last on this list of must-try Hungarian food is szilvas gomboc. Like turogomboc, it’s another delicious dumpling dessert, but this time, it’s stuffed with sweet plums.
To prepare, a potato and flour dough is stuffed with plums and shaped into rounds before being boiled in water. When cooked, the dumplings float to the surface. They’re then rolled in toasted or fried breadcrumbs before being served with a dusting of powdered sugar.
These tasty Hungarian plum dumplings are especially popular in the summer when plums are in season.
Photo by pfongabe33
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HUNGARIAN FOOD
There are many fun things to do in Budapest but trying as much Hungarian food as you can should be on your list of priorities. Typical Hungarian dishes like goulash, chicken paprikash, and langos are no-brainers but you should definitely seek out more unconventional dishes like meggyleves sweet soup and pacal porklot as well.
In any case, I hope this list of Hungarian food favorites gets you even more excited to visit Budapest or any other city in Hungary. Thanks for reading and happy traveleating!
This Hungarian food guide contains affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a booking at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free food and travel guides. Thank you!
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Joanna Kozuch – a Polish food expert from Wroclaw – shares with us 25 traditional dishes you need to try on your next trip to Poland.
So you’re planning a trip to Poland and thinking to pack some snacks just in case? No need to do that. We will help you to dive into traditional Polish food and make the right choices once you get there. This country in the heart of Europe has so much to offer when it comes to traditional food, that you’ll rebook your return ticket just to taste some more.
Let’s be honest – it’s nice to admire cities, meet the locals, and get to know the history of the country a bit better, but it’s all for nothing if you don’t try the local cuisine. Polish food will make your memories have a taste. And they will be delicious.
POLISH FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re visiting Poland and want to really learn about Polish cuisine, then you may be interested in taking a cooking class.
Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Poland
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL POLISH CUISINE?
Thanks to its long history, and inspirations from other regional cuisines, Polish food has a special place in the hearts of many foodies worldwide. Growing and evolving over the centuries, it became truly eclectic, strongly formed, and at the same time creative.
Many traditional dishes originated in difficult times, with access to limited food resources. Through the years, they became ever-present on Polish tables. They expanded in range, gained the recognition of many palates, and evolved with new ingredients and ways of serving.
Polish cuisine has always been rich in meat, vegetables, mushrooms, spices, and herbs – all gifts of the Polish climate and land. Heavy winters created the necessity for rich and fatty dishes and helped to invent pickled and fermented products.
Another important feature is patience. Until today, some main dishes for special occasions – like Christmas Eve – take days to prepare. This method of food preparation made food part of the celebration.
Today, we can see how Polish cuisine is transforming, navigating between tradition and new trends. Relying so heavily on meat, it tries to create more and more vegetarian options. By finding forgotten dishes and creating new ones, it adapts to constantly changing reality while sticking to its own rules.
MUST-TRY POLISH FOODS
This article on traditional Polish foods has been organized by category to make it easier to go through. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Starters / Sides
Soups / Stews
Meats / Mains
STARTERS / SIDES
This hard, smoked sheep’s cheese can be tasted in the highland cultural region of southern Poland, in the Tatra Mountain range (for example, in Podhale). It’s where it was originally made.
Oscypek is worth appreciating not just for its unique taste, but also for its visual characteristics, most notably its beautifully decorated edges. It’s often served with cranberry jam, whose sweetness pairs perfectly with the cheese’s salty and strong flavors.
Interestingly, real oscypek is produced only from Spring until the end of December. It takes milk from as many as thirty sheep to produce one oscypek!
Since 2008, oscypek has been registered under the European Union Protected Designation of Origin, which helps to preserve the integrity of food-related products. So if you want to try real certified oscypek, then you need to go to Podhale to enjoy its unique taste.
Photo by tomeqs
2. Placki Ziemniaczane (Polish Potato Pancakes)
Who doesn’t like potatoes? In Poland, you can taste this root vegetable in countless forms. One of them is placki ziemniaczane, which is the Polish version of potato pancakes.
Back in the 17th century, pancakes made from grated potatoes were a basic dish in monasteries, and it’s from one of these monasteries where the oldest recipe was developed. In the small Polish village of Stoczek where the recipe was written, placki were made with one onion, two eggs, and a spoonful of wheat flour per kilo of potatoes. Once made, they were eaten with salt and pepper.
Nowadays, you can serve authentic Polish potato pancakes in different ways. But at traditional polish homes, the most common way is to eat them with sour cream (and here comes the conflict between people who put sugar on top and those who would never do such a thing!), mushroom sauce, or goulash.
Versions made with goulash are referred to as placek po węgiersku, which means “Hungarian pancake”.
Photo by Timolina
Do you think there’s nothing better than a classic crepe? Well, that’s where the krokiet comes in.
The Polish version of croquettes, krokiety consist of breaded crepe-like pancakes stuffed with a savory filling and then fried on a pan. They’re typically filled with minced meat, mushrooms, cheese, fermented cabbage, or some combination of those ingredients.
During the Christmas season, krokiety are served with hot borscht. Krokiet and borscht are a match made in heaven. When you try this pairing, you may just consider moving to Poland!
Photo by Cesarz
4. Salatka Jarzynowa
Salatka jarzynowa is the undisputed queen of Christmas in every Polish home. It’s hard not to overdose on it during that annual eating binge that takes place from the 24th of December until New Year’s Eve.
When it comes to ingredients, there seem to be as many recipes for salatka jarzynowa as there are Polish grandmothers. Basically, salatka jarzynowa contains any vegetable of your choice – most commonly boiled potatoes, carrots, pickled cucumbers, celeriac, onion, and parsnip.
But it can’t really be called salatka jarzynowa if it doesn’t have hard-boiled eggs and one magical ingredient (thanks to which everything in life makes more sense) – mayonnaise.
It might be hard to find salatka jarzynowa in a Polish restaurant, but if you get the chance, then you should definitely order it just to know how breakfast, lunch, and dinner tastes during the Christmas season in every Polish home. During this period, it’s an addition to every meal. Seriously.
Photo by Fanfo
5. Śledź w Śmietanie
I’m not going to lie. Sledz w smietanie isn’t exactly a Polish dish for beginners. Seeing fish mixed with sour cream will be crossing the line for many. But if you’d like to try more exotic Polish foods and love fish, then it’s definitely worth seeking out.
Herring is one of the most popular types of fish in Poland, and you can probably find it in most Polish homes at any time of the year. Most of the dishes are made with salted filets, meaning that the herring is “cooked” in salt only, by curing in it. After that process, the fish is usually stored in oil.
Herring in sour cream is a common part of the Polish Christmas menu. Sometimes, Poles make it for other special occasions as well, but it’s not an everyday dish. Salted filets are mixed with a sour cream sauce made with chopped onions, apples, salt, pepper, and sugar.
As off-putting as it sounds, sledz w smietanie is a Polish dish that you may fall in love with, if you give it a chance.
Photo by Fanfo
Kopytka for Polish people is like gnocchi for Italians. Like many classic Polish foods, it contains potatoes.
These Polish potato dumplings are traditionally made with mashed potatoes and flour, but you can also find recipes that include eggs. Its name literally means “little hooves”, thanks to their shape which reminds people of an animal’s hooves, like a goat or similar.
Kopytka are especially popular in the south of Poland. They’re super easy to make and supremely tasty. Cooked in salted water, they’re traditionally served alone, but they can be enjoyed with other ingredients as well like sauteed garlic, fried onions, melted butter, mushrooms, or bacon.
Speaking of gnocchi and Italy, why not serve them with parmesan cheese and shaved truffles? Whether traditional or modern, you’ll surely never forget the taste of these delicious Polish dumplings.
Photo by Anastasia Kamysheva
No list of the most popular Polish foods can ever be complete without pierogi. Many European countries like Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine claim ownership of this tasty dish, but when you visit Poland, I strongly advise against claiming pierogi to be anything but Polish dumplings. I’m saying this for your own safety!
Pierogi are often called dumplings in English, but it’s not exactly the same thing. Made with dough and a filling, many different types of pierogi fillings have been used over the years but the classic version consists of a mixture of minced and boiled potatoes, fresh quark, and fried onions.
Christmas Eve is always accompanied by pierogi filled with cabbage and mushroom. Another common version is a sweet type of pierogi filled with blueberries and sugar.
No matter the filling, if you could try just one Polish dish, then it should definitely be pierogi.
Photo by Arkadiusz Fajer
8. Leniwe Pierogi
Leniwe pierogi is a Polish dish that’s somewhere between a classic pierogi and kopytka. It’s made with flour, eggs, and the third equally important ingredient – quark, which is a type of fermented white cheese. Known as twaróg in Polish, the quark is what differentiates leniwe pierogi from kopytka.
Leniwe pierogi literally means “lazy pierogi”. It’s referred to as “lazy” because unlike classic pierogi where you have to make the dough and filling separately, this lazy version can be made simply by mixing all the ingredients together, cutting them, and then boiling the dumplings in salted water.
You can eat leniwe pierogi with savory or sweet ingredients like sour cream, powdered sugar, brown butter, bacon bits, or roasted pork. Eating lazy pierogi is a great way to spend a slow afternoon in Poland.
Photo by Aleksandra Duda
SOUPS / STEWS
This next Polish dish is intense. Get ready for an unforgettable experience, and keep in mind that this sour rye soup is not for everyone. With its intense sour flavor, it has as many fans as it does enemies.
You can try different versions of zurek in western Slavic cuisines, but in Poland, it’s typically made with sour rye flour and meat. At many Polish restaurants, it’s served in an edible bread bowl with boiled eggs and kielbasa (Polish sausage). In Polish homes, zurek is traditionally prepared for Easter but it can occasionally be eaten at other times of the year as well.
The story of how and where this polarizing fermented rye flour soup came into existence remains a mystery.
Photo by nesavinov
Chlodnik may not be Polish in origin but that doesn’t keep it from being popular in Poland. In fact, most Polish people refer to it as chłodnik litewski, meaning “Lithuanian cold soup”. You can think of chlodnik as a cold version of the famous borscht (barszcz) because it’s based on beet. But this is where the similarities end.
Chlodnik is made with the leaves and roots of young beets, fermented beet juice, sour cream, kefir, or yogurt. It’s served cold (perfect below 14°C) with chopped radishes, cucumbers, green onions, and hard-boiled egg halves.
Served with boiled potatoes, it’s the perfect dish to enjoy on hot summer days in Poland.
Photo by timolina via Depositphotos
Rosol is one of the most popular Polish soups. Considered by many to be the best cold or hangover cure, it’s traditionally associated with Sunday family dinners and is present at every wedding.
Rosol is basically a clear chicken soup with a meat and vegetable broth. Recipes vary from household to household, with every grandmother using her own list of ingredients and tricks to make the perfect rosol. The taste of the rosol depends on the types of meat used, the choice of vegetables, and how long you boil it for.
Only one rule can’t be broken – no pork can ever be used in rosol. This is done to ensure that the broth comes out perfectly clear. Patience is also key as you have to boil it slowly for the very same reason.
Photo by Przemyslaw Muszynski
Before anything, let me just say that flaki, in Polish, means “guts”. You have to be an unapologetic meat lover to try this dish. Polish people have been eating animal guts since the 14th century so you can rest assured that we know what we’re doing.
Flaki is one of the most traditional dishes in Polish cuisine. It refers to a type of Polish tripe soup made with thin, well-cleaned strips of beef tripe. You can buy ready-to-eat cans or jars of flaki at grocery stores throughout Poland, or order it at any Polish restaurant.
Flaki is a very thick soup or stew with a strong flavor. If you’re daring enough to stomach animal guts, then you should definitely give this dish a try!
Photo by Shaiith
Bigos is considered by many to be a Polish national dish. Often referred to as “hunter’s stew”, it gets its nickname from the Polish epic poem “Pan Tadeusz” by Adam Mickiewicz. Originally a humble dish made with whatever ingredients were available, it became a popular dish across all social classes in Poland, ultimately becoming romanticized and immortalized through poetry.
Bigos is made with various kinds of chopped meat mixed with fermented raw cabbage and shredded fresh cabbage. The choice of ingredients makes it a medieval-style Polish dish, meaning it’s highly nutritious and doesn’t spoil easily.
Perfect for long winters, Poles say bigos tastes better with each reheating. It’s delicious but if you have a sensitive stomach, then you may want to go easy on this dish.
Photo by hlphoto
Gulasz is a Hungarian dish that Poles love as their own. You’ll find it throughout the country, sometimes served with potato pancakes (placki ziemniaczane).
Gulasz is a dense soup made with meat and vegetables (like red pepper and onion) flavored with paprika. We called it “soup” but it’s enjoyed more as a main dish – usually on a flat plate – with mashed potato, noodles, or potato pancake.
When eaten with placki ziemniaczane, gulasz is served on top of the potato pancakes. Topped with sour cream, it’s referred to as an “Hungarian-style potato pancake” when prepared in this manner. It’s certainly a tasty way to try two Polish dishes at once!
Photo by Arkadiusz Fajer
MEATS / MAINS
The word golabki literally means “little pigeons” and refers to the Polish version of sarma or stuffed cabbage rolls. They’re popular in many European countries like Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Moldova but Polish people have their own way of making them.
Golabki are made from boiled cabbage leaves wrapped around a filling of minced meat (beef or pork), rice, and onion. You boil the entire cabbage first before peeling off the leaves one by one and then filling them with the minced meat mixture. The cabbage rolls are then topped with hot tomato sauce before serving.
Polish cabbage rolls are typically reserved for special occasions, probably because it’s quite difficult and time-consuming to make. They’re often served as part of a Christmas Eve meal, at weddings, or at other important events.
The etymology of the name suggests that it comes from other languages and originally had nothing to do with pigeons. But the fact that they’re called “little pigeons” probably helps you remember them! It’s a delicious dish that you definitely shouldn’t forget to try in Poland.
Photo by jabiru via Depositphotos
16. Kotlet Schabowy
Kotlet schabowy is another breaded and fried dish that some Poles are ready to die for. A Polish national dish, if you want to say “Poland” without saying “Poland”, then you can simply say “kotlet schabowy”!
The history of this beloved Polish dish dates back to the 19th century, when it appeared in a cookbook. It’s simply a breaded pork cutlet served with boiled or mashed potatoes and a side of salads. When made properly, it’s impressive to look at due to the cutlet’s large size.
Before frying, the cutlet is pounded until thin with a mallet. The meat is then dipped in flour, then in egg combined with spices, and then lastly in breadcrumbs before being cooked on a frying pan. It’s crispy and very tasty when freshly fried!
Photo by monticello
17. Ryba po Grecku
Why am I talking about a Greek-style fish dish in an article about Polish food? Because it happens to be one of the most popular dishes in Poland!
Probably inspired by the Greek dish psari plaki, ryba po grecku is made from filets or pieces of fish served in a vegetable sauce made from carrots, celery, onion, parsley, and tomato concentrate. The fish is first fried before being stewed in this sauce.
Ryba po grecku is traditionally served as part of a Christmas Eve meal. It can be served hot or cold, which makes it ready to eat at any moment.
Photo by CCat82
Kielbasa refers to Polish sausages. There’s no need to explain what a sausage is, but it’s worth mentioning that Poland is famous for many different types of sausage – myśliwska, biała, swojska, śląska, krakowska, podhalańska, kaszanka, etc. Believe it or not, I can go on forever!
Most of the time, Polish sausages are made with pork, and the more meat it has in the mixture, the better. Making it with too much potato flour, water, or other non-meat ingredients is seen as lowering the product’s quality. The sausages are then traditionally preserved by smoking rather than drying, due to Poland’s climate conditions.
Polish sausages are typically eaten on bread or as an appetizer, but during the summer season, they’re commonly grilled or cooked over an open fire.
Photo by Gravika
Kabanosy is a type of Polish sausage that’s become so popular that it deserves its own entry in this Polish food guide. It refers to a long and thin dry sausage made from pork that’s typically eaten as an appetizer or a snack. A bit smoky in flavor, it can be soft on the inside or really dry, depending on the type and freshness.
Since 2011, kabanos has been registered as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed food product by the European Union, which helps consumers know that the sausage they’re buying is authentic and of Polish origin.
Photo by JacZia
You can’t skip this classic when talking about Polish cuisine. Naleśniki refer to crepe-style Polish pancakes.
Pancakes in Poland are thin and resemble French crepes. Flat and round, they’re prepared from a batter made from eggs, milk, and wheat flour, which is then cooked on a frying pan.
The most traditional version is sweet, filled with white cheese mixed with sugar. In some Polish homes, a bit of cinnamon can be added. Today, however, you can find naleśniki made with many different types of sweet and savory fillings.
One Polish pancake that you should definitely try is racuchy. They’re similar to North American pancakes except they’re smaller and thicker and filled with slices of apple (sometimes flavored with cinnamon). A favorite among Polish children, you can read more about them in our guide to the tastiest Polish desserts.
Photo by Robson90
Do you know what my favorite thing is about Polish doughnuts? They don’t have a hole.
Unlike your typical North American doughnut, Polish paczki are filled with a variety of delicious ingredients like wild rose petal jam, multi-fruit marmalade, pudding, chocolate, sweet cheese, and egg liqueur. Soft and fluffy, they’re typically topped with a glaze or powdered sugar.
Paczki are so beloved in Poland that on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday), many Polish people eat them without stopping – and then discuss who ate the most. They’ve been a favorite in Poland since at least the Middle Ages. Fat chance they’ll ever be forgotten!
Photo by tupungato
Makowiec refers to a magical Polish cake that harkens back to pagan traditions, when poppy seeds consumed on the night of the winter solstice were supposed to bring good luck and protect against evil forces. Like honey and mushrooms, poppy seeds were considered a link with the beyond.
Makowiec is a cake layered with ground poppy seeds, sugar/honey, nuts, and raisins. It’s traditionally reserved for Christmas Eve and can take different forms, depending on where it was made in Poland.
Photo by Letterberry
Piernik is popular in many Slavic countries. It’s traditionally made from wheat flour and honey, and also ginger which was used as an optional ingredient.
Today, this gingerbread treat can be made in various forms – from small stuffed cookies to cakes layered with marmalade. No matter the form, they don’t lose their basic characteristics – durability and a unique flavor imparted by spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom.
In Poland, Toruń is a city famous for its gingerbread. Toruńskie pierniki has been made there for over 700 years. Piernik is enjoyed in many other regions of Poland as well, but mainly during the Christmas season.
Photo by Kristi Blokhin
This next dessert doesn’t really have its roots in Poland, but we Poles really know how to make it right!
The varieties of sernik are endless, but what makes it truly special is the cheese. Polish white cheese (biały ser) or quark (twaróg) is unlike any other, so much so that it’s perhaps the secret ingredient in many delicious Polish dishes like pierogi. Since cheese is the main ingredient in cheesecake, I can confidently say that Polish sernik is the world’s best.
Polish people can all agree that our version of cheesecake is the best, but there’s a never-ending debate as to whether Polish sernik should be made with or without raisins.
Photo by Karjalas
Last but not least, we get to this world-renowned classic – apple pie. Known as szarlotka, this delicious Polish version is made with shortcrust pastry and juicy Polish apples (or optionally other fruits) covered in a crumbly topping. When served hot and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, few things in life are better than szarlotka.
Szarlotka isn’t to be confused with jabłecznik or Polish apple cake. Unlike szarlotka that’s made with shortcrust pastry, jabłecznik can be made with any type of base – puff pastry, sponge cake, etc.
Photo by Fotokon
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL POLISH FOOD
Many Polish dishes will surprise your taste buds and linger in your memory.
Some flavors will make you want to come back. Others you’ll prefer to forget. But one thing is for sure – you will never say that Polish cuisine is not expressive.
This beautiful country has so much to offer and experience. We’re sure that eating local Polish food will enrich your trip and make it a story worth remembering, and telling.
This article on traditional Polish food contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, then we’ll earn a small commission at no additional expense to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!
Cover photo by Arkadiusz Fajer. Stock images via Shutterstock.
For me, the sandwich is like the perfect comfort food. It’s something I gravitate to no matter where we are in the world. It’s portable, it can be a complete meal, and you can eat it pretty much anywhere using little more than your hands. Plus, it’s often a cheap and filling choice of dish when you’re traveling on a budget.
From the classic American BLT to the tasty but heavy Portuguese francesinha, here are sixty delicious sandwiches that you need to try from different countries around the world.
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WHAT IS A SANDWICH?
For purists, a sandwich is a portable dish made with a variety of different ingredients like meats, vegetables, cheese, and spreads held together between two pieces of bread, usually sliced bread. While this definition may be accepted in the west, in other parts of the world, that isn’t always the case.
The modern definition of a sandwich can be traced back to 18th-century England. It’s named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. While playing a game of cribbage, he asked that pieces of meat be served to him between two pieces of bread so he wouldn’t have to eat with a fork or get the cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.
While the term “sandwich” may be credited to Lord Montagu, meals consisting of meat enjoyed between pieces of bread or wrapped in bread have been consumed for much longer than that.
One of the earliest recorded eaters of meat wrapped in bread was Hillel the Elder, a rabbi and scholar who lived in Jerusalem during the first century BCE. He’s said to have wrapped Paschal lamb and bitter herbs in soft matzah flatbread during Passover. Known as the Koreich, it’s a meal that’s still prepared to this day during the Passover Seder.
The truth is, the concept of a sandwich made with two pieces of bread is more of a western definition. In the broadest sense, a sandwich is a portable meal consisting of different ingredients held together by bread.
A sandwich can be made in many ways. The fillings can be served between two slices of bread, they can be stuffed in a bun or roll, or wrapped in flatbread. By that definition, hamburgers, hot dogs, hoagies, tacos, and burritos are all examples of sandwiches.
DELICIOUS SANDWICHES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
This is a big list of sandwiches. To make it easier to digest, I’ve broken it down by continent. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
1. BLT (USA)
The BLT is a textbook example of a classic sandwich. BLT stands for “bacon, lettuce, and tomato” and refers to the main ingredients used to make this popular sandwich.
Recipes for the BLT may vary but at its most basic, it’s made with bacon, lettuce, sliced tomato, and mayonnaise sandwiched between two slices of toasted bread. It can be made with any type of bread like white, rye, or whole wheat bread.
Depending on preference, additional ingredients can be added to a BLT sandwich like avocados and other types of sliced meat. When made with three slices of bread and two tiers of ingredients, it becomes known as a club sandwich.
Photo by Nalga
2. Club Sandwich (USA)
A club sandwich (or clubhouse sandwich) is a type of sandwich made with bacon, ham, chicken or turkey, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise sandwiched between three slices of toasted white bread. The sandwich is cut into quarters or halves and held together by cocktail sticks.
The club sandwich is basically a larger version of the BLT. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and white bread are standard ingredients. Depending on preference, other ingredients like grilled chicken, turkey, ham, roast beef, cheese, and mustard are added to the sandwich.
Club sandwiches are often garnished with a pickle and served with a side of french fries, potato chips, potato salad, or coleslaw.
Photo by bbivirys
3. PB&J (USA)
When I think of the US and American food, one of the first dishes that comes to mind is the PB&J. It’s one of the most iconic sandwiches on this list. Short for “peanut butter and jelly sandwich”, this simple but delicious sandwich is quintessential American comfort food.
As its name suggests, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich consists of peanut butter and fruit jam spread between two slices of untoasted white bread. It’s a favorite among children, with the average American estimated to consume around 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school.
Photo by baibaz
4. Grilled Cheese Sandwich (USA)
Like the PB&J, the grilled cheese sandwich is a simple sandwich but it’s also one of the most delicious. It’s a type of hot toasted or grilled sandwich made with two slices of bread slathered with butter and oozing with melted cheese.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are commonly made with American or cheddar cheese, though any type of melted cheese can be used. The cheese is sandwiched between two slices of bread and then heated until the bread browns and the cheese melts.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are delicious on their own but they’re even better when paired with tomato soup. A grilled cheese sandwich served with a hot bowl of tomato soup is one of my absolute favorite food pairings.
Photo by bhofack2
5. Corned Beef Sandwich (USA)
The corned beef sandwich is a Jewish deli staple consisting of corned beef and mustard served between two slices of toasted rye bread. It can be made with sauerkraut and is typically served with a pickle on the side.
Photo by chasbrutlag
In our native Philippines, we have a type of corned beef sandwich that’s commonly eaten for breakfast or for merienda (light afternoon snack). It’s made with canned corned beef served in pan de sal, a soft Filipino bread roll that’s typically eaten for breakfast.
Photo by audioscience
6. Reuben Sandwich (USA)
The Reuben sandwich is a type of grilled corned beef sandwich. It’s made with swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing (or Russian dressing) served between two slices of grilled rye bread.
There are several theories explaining the origin of the Reuben sandwich. One popular account claims that it’s named after Reuben Kulakofsky (shortened to Reuben Kay), a Jewish Lithuanian-born grocer living in Omaha, Nebraska.
During a weekly poker game at the Blackstone Hotel, Reuben Kay asked for a sandwich made with corned beef and sauerkraut. It was served to him with swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on rye bread. The sandwich quickly gained fame when the hotel added it to its lunch menu.
Interestingly, the Reuben sandwich has become associated with kosher-style delis in the US, though the sandwich itself isn’t kosher because it contains both meat and cheese.
Photo by fotek
7. Roast Beef Sandwich (USA)
As its name suggests, the roast beef sandwich is a type of sandwich made with thin slices of roast beef. The roast beef can be served hot or cold between two slices of bread or in a hamburger bun with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard (or horseradish).
Roast beef sandwiches are commonly sold at diners and fast food restaurants across the US. It’s especially popular in Boston’s North Shore area where it’s been a specialty since the early 1950s.
Served in “junior beef”, “regular”, or “super beef” sizes, Boston’s iconic roast beef sandwich is made with ultra-rare, thinly sliced beef served in an onion roll with mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, and a slice of white American cheese.
Photo by bhofack2
8. Monte Cristo (USA)
The monte cristo sandwich is a variation of the French croque monsieur (#36). It’s made with a ham and cheese sandwich that’s dipped in beaten egg and then pan-fried. It’s essentially a savory-sweet french toast ham and cheese sandwich.
In spite of its name and the French sandwich that inspired it, the monte cristo is very much an American creation. It’s said to have been invented in Southern California in the 1960s and became hugely popular after it was served at a Disneyland restaurant.
Photo by Odelinde
9. Patty Melt (USA)
The patty melt is a sandwich made with a ground beef patty, melted cheese (typically swiss cheese), and caramelized onions served between two slices of grilled rye bread. It’s basically a variation of the American cheeseburger served on sliced bread instead of a hamburger bun.
Photo by chasbrutlag
10. Tuna Sandwich (USA)
A tuna fish sandwich is a type of sandwich made with tuna salad – canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise – served between two slices of bread. Depending on preference, it can be made with additional ingredients as well like celery, onions, hard-boiled eggs, black olives, pickle relish, lettuce, and mayonnaise. When made with melted cheese, it’s known as a tuna melt.
The tuna sandwich is one of the most widely consumed sandwiches in the US. Described as a “mainstay of almost everyone’s American childhood”, an estimated 52 percent of all canned tuna in the US is used to make sandwiches.
Photo by bhofack2
11. Egg Salad Sandwich (USA)
As its name suggests, an egg salad sandwich is a type of sandwich made with egg salad. Similar to tuna salad or chicken salad, egg salad consists of hard-boiled or scrambled eggs mixed with mustard, mayonnaise, and other ingredients like celery, onions, herbs, and spices.
Like a tuna fish sandwich, an egg salad sandwich is typically served between two slices of bread with additional ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes, and olives.
Photo by Williamedwards
12. Bagel Sandwich (USA)
Who doesn’t love a good bagel? Dense, chewy, and a little crisp on the outside, they go so well with cream cheese and make for the perfect breakfast dish in New York City or Montreal.
Bagels with cream cheese are great for breakfast but they can be used to make delicious all-day sandwiches as well. Whether they’re made into breakfast sandwiches with bacon and scrambled eggs or turned into a light lunch with turkey, avocados, and cherry tomatoes, there’s never a wrong time of the day for a good bagel sandwich.
While bagels are originally from Poland, the bagel sandwich is likely an American invention. It was popularized in the 1990s by specialty shops like Einstein Bros. Bagels and Bruegger’s Bagels.
Photo by bhofack2
13. Muffuletta (USA)
Muffuletta refers to a type of Italian bread originally from Sicily. While the bread itself has Italian roots, the muffuletta sandwich is an American invention. It was created in the early 20th century by Italian immigrants from New Orleans, Louisiana.
The muffuletta sandwich is made with a muffuletta loaf sliced in half and filled with marinated olive salad, ham, salami, mortadella, Swiss cheese, and provolone. It can be sold whole, in halves, or in quarters.
Aside from the bread, the olive salad is the defining ingredient in a muffuletta sandwich. It’s made with diced green and black olives and a host of other ingredients like celery, carrots, cauliflower, capers, sweet peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, and spices.
Photo by gkrphoto
14. Hamburger (USA)
There are few dishes that are as representative of American cuisine as the hamburger. This sandwich consisting of a ground meat patty – usually beef – placed in a bun with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and other ingredients is a staple at diners and fast food restaurants across the country (and throughout the world). However, no one can really say for sure where it originated from.
White Castle traces its origin to Hamburg, Germany, which makes sense since it’s called the “hamburger” after all. One story claims that it’s originally from Wisconsin, another links it to Athens, Texas, while yet another says that it was introduced at a county fair in Hamburg, New York.
Of all the hamburger origin stories, the one that seems to carry the most weight suggests that the modern hamburger evolved from the hamburger steak, a dish of minced beef and onion patties served without bread.
Hamburger steaks were widely available in the US by the 1880s, mostly at restaurants that also served bread and sandwiches. Combining the beef patty with bread was a natural progression.
Photo by bhofack2
More commonly known as a “burger”, hamburgers are typically made with beef but the patties can be made with a variety of other meats and ingredients as well like lamb, turkey, mushrooms, vegetables, and tofu.
After beef burgers, the second most popular type of burger may be the chicken burger. Like hamburgers and cheeseburgers, they’re a staple at fast food restaurants across the country.
Photo by fotoatelie
Another popular type of burger is the fish burger. The McDonald’s version of the fish burger – the Filet-O-Fish – has been a mainstay on their menu since the mid-1960s. It was the first non-hamburger item that was added to their menu.
Photo by HandmadePicture
15. Sloppy Joe (USA)
I went to high school in the US and the one sandwich that made the biggest impression on me was the sloppy joe. It struck me because of its funny but perfectly suited name.
Served in a hamburger bun, a sloppy joe is a loose meat sandwich made with ground beef stewed with onions, tomato sauce (or ketchup), Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. It’s a supremely messy but oddly satisfying sandwich. I enjoyed it so much I remember lapping up the loose pieces of ground beef that would fall on my plate.
Photo by bhofack2
16. Pulled Pork Sandwich (USA)
The pulled pork sandwich is one the most popular and delicious sandwiches you can eat in the southern US. It consists of barbecued and slow-smoked pork – usually pork shoulder – that’s manually shredded and then served with a vinegar-based sauce in a bun.
Proper pulled pork is commonly soaked in brine to give it the moisture it needs to cook for over twelve hours. This long, slow cooking process ensures that the pork is tender enough to be pulled apart easily, hence the name pulled pork.
Whether eaten on its own or in sandwiches, pulled pork is a must when visiting the south. Together with brisket and spare ribs, it forms the Texas Holy Trinity of Barbecue.
Photo by bhofack2
17. Hot Dog (USA)
The hot dog is another American classic. It refers to a steamed or grilled sausage served in a soft hot dog bun. Though the sausages used in hot dogs are cultural transplants from Germany, the hot dog sandwich has become an important part of American street food and baseball culture.
Hot dogs are commonly topped with ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, diced onions, and cheese sauce. Depending on where you are in the world, they can be topped with other ingredients as well like sauerkraut, chili, bacon, jalapeño peppers, olives, and mayonnaise.
Photo by bhofack2
18. Hoagie (USA)
Also known as a sub, hero, grinder, or Italian, the term “hoagie” is what Philadelphians use to call a submarine sandwich. It refers to a family of cold or hot sandwiches made from a long bread roll split through the middle and filled with a variety of meats, shredded lettuce, vegetables, cheeses, and condiments.
The hoagie is an iconic American sandwich and recognized as the official sandwich of Philadelphia. The origin of the term “hoagie” is unclear, though one theory suggests that it gets its name from Hog Island, a World War I-era shipyard that produced emergency shipping for the war.
Italians working on the island would make sandwiches out of various meats, cheeses, and lettuce. These sandwiches became known as “Hog Island sandwiches”. The term was shortened to “Hoggies”, then ultimately “hoagie”.
Photo by bhofack2
19. Philly Cheesesteak (USA)
Like the hoagie, this delicious steak sandwich is an icon of Philadelphia. The Philly cheesesteak is an incredibly delicious sandwich made with thinly sliced steak served in a long hoagie roll with melted cheese – usually Cheez Whiz, American, or provolone cheese. Depending on preference, it can be topped with other ingredients as well like sauteed onions, ketchup, and hot sauce.
The Philly cheesesteak is said to have been invented by Pat and Henry Olivieri in the 1930s. They owned a hot dog stand and decided to make a new sandwich using chopped beef and grilled onions. A taxi driver fell in love with the sandwich and suggested they quit the hot dog business and focus on making these steak sandwiches instead, and so was born the Philly cheesesteak.
Personally, the Philly cheesesteak is my favorite sandwich. I’ve had it in many cities around the world but no one makes it quite like they do in Philadelphia.
Photo by Alp_Aksoy
20. French Dip (USA)
Also known as a beef dip, the French dip is a sandwich made with thinly sliced roast beef, swiss cheese, and onions served on a French roll or baguette. It’s served with a cup or bowl of beef broth produced during the cooking process. You’re meant to dunk your sandwich in this broth before each bite, hence the name French dip.
In spite of its name, the French dip is an American invention, its name a reference to the type of bread used to make the sandwich. No one knows who made it first but two restaurants in Los Angeles, both established in 1908, claim to have invented it – Philippe the Original and Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet.
Photo by motionshooter
21. Cuban Sandwich (USA)
Like the French dip, the Cuban sandwich sounds like it was invented overseas but it’s very much an American creation. It’s a type of roast pork and cheese sandwich that became popular among Cuban communities in Florida.
The Cuban sandwich is made with roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard served on Cuban bread. Depending on where it’s from, it can be made with salami as well. Once assembled, the sandwich is placed in a press called a plancha which heats and compresses the sandwich.
The Cuban sandwich has long been at the center of a friendly rivalry between Miami and Tampa. Naturally, both cities claim to make the best version of this sandwich. The main difference between the two is that Tampa makes theirs with Genoa salami.
Photo by bhofack2
22. Meatball Sub (USA)
Who doesn’t love a good meatball? Meatballs are perfect with spaghetti but they’re pretty darn delicious when served in a submarine sandwich as well.
A meatball sub consists of several meatballs served with tomato sauce and cheese in some type of bread roll, usually hoagie rolls or a baguette. Depending on preference, it can be made with additional ingredients as well like roasted peppers, garlic, herbs, and butter.
Personally, when I go to a Subway, I usually order just one of two sandwiches – either a Philly cheesesteak or a meatball sub.
Photo by bhofack2
23. Lobster Roll (USA)
I was lucky to go to high school in New England where we had a plethora of delicious seafood dishes like Boston clam chowder and Maine lobsters. Steamed whole Maine lobster with garlic butter may be my favorite seafood dish but lobster rolls aren’t far behind.
Native to New England, a lobster roll consists of chunks of lobster meat mixed with butter (or mayonnaise), lemon juice, salt, and pepper served on a soft New England-style hot dog bun. Oh my!
Photo by f11photo
24. Clam Roll (USA)
The clam roll is another specialty sandwich from New England. It consists of strips of deep-fried clams served with tartar sauce in a soft hot dog-style bread roll.
I didn’t know this at the time but apparently, fried clams are considered an iconic food in New England. According to a New York Times article, fried clams are to New England what barbecue is to the south.
To prepare, clams are dipped in evaporated milk before being coated in flour and then deep-fried in oil or lard.
Photo by bandd
25. Po’ Boy (USA)
What the lobster roll is to Maine and New England, the po’ boy is to New Orleans. This classic Louisiana sandwich consists of different types of meat or fried seafood served on New Orleans-style French bread.
Before I started writing this article on the best sandwiches in the world, I thought that po’ boy sandwiches were always made with fried seafood. As it turns out, they can be made with a variety of fillings as long as they’re served in “po’ boy bread”, which is a lighter and fluffier type of French bread.
I love po’ boy sandwiches made with fried oysters (pictured below) but they can be made with other proteins as well like fried chicken, roast beef, rabbit, catfish, and alligator. Common additional ingredients include tomatoes, shredded lettuce, pickles, mayonnaise, and hot sauce.
Photo by bhofack2
I’m a seafood man so I love po’ boy sandwiches made with fried shrimp as well. Other common seafood ingredients include fried crawfish, catfish, and crab.
Photo by bhofack2
26. Ice Cream Sandwich (USA)
Even though the word “sandwich” is officially part of this next dish’s name, it’s probably the least sandwich-like dish on this list. The ice cream sandwich is a type of frozen dessert made with ice cream sandwiched between two cookies or wafers.
American ice cream sandwiches are sandwich-like in form but they aren’t true sandwiches because they aren’t made with bread. However, in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand, ice cream sandwiches truly are sandwiches. Keep scrolling to see what I mean.
Photo by bhofack2
Ice cream sandwiches in Singapore can be served between two wafers but they can also be served in a rainbow-colored slice of bread. As strange as this looks and sounds, this version of a Singaporean ice cream sandwich can truly be called a sandwich.
Similarly, street ice cream in the Philippines can be served in pan de sal bread rolls. In Thailand, coconut ice cream can be served between slices of white bread or in a hot dog bun.
The concept of ice cream in bread may sound strange to some people but it actually works!
“IMG_4892” by Ken Masrhall, used under CC BY 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
27. Torta Ahogada (Mexico)
Remember what I said about sandwiches being portable and easy to eat? Well, a few Mexican sandwiches like the torta ahogada turn that notion on its head.
Popular in Guadalajara and Jalisco, torta ahogada literally means “drowned sandwich” and refers to a type of meat-filled submarine sandwich drenched in a spicy tomato- and chili-based sauce.
Made with different types of pork, sliced onions, and lime juice, tortas ahogadas are delicious but nearly impossible to eat with your hands because they’re literally served in a pool of sauce. It’s the only sandwich I’ve ever eaten with a spoon!
Photo by marcoscastillo
28. Cemita Poblana (Mexico)
As I said at the top of this article, I absolutely love sandwiches and the cemita poblana may be one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. A specialty of Puebla, Mexico, it refers to a type of sandwich made with local cemita bread rolls.
Cemitas can be made with a variety of different fillings but the cemita poblana is a specific type of cemita. It’s made with chicken or pork milanesa, quesillo (Oaxaca cheese), papalo, onions, avocado, and chili peppers.
The cemita poblana is absolutely delicious and something that you need to try when you visit Puebla.
29. Guacamaya (Mexico)
This absolute beast of a sandwich is a type of Mexican torta (sandwich) from the city of León. Commonly sold as street food, the guacamaya is made with a bolillo bread roll stuffed with an absurd amount of roast pork, chicharron, avocado, salsa, and lime juice. It may not look it but it’s basically a type of Mexican open-faced sandwich.
30. Pelona (Mexico)
The pelona is another type of sandwich from Puebla. It’s made with shredded meat (usually beef), lettuce, refried beans, salsa, and crema (Mexican sour cream) served on a deep-fried bread roll.
Deep-frying the bread roll gives the sandwich a unique light and crumbly texture. The word pelona literally means “baldy”. Unlike cemita bread rolls, the bread used for pelonas isn’t studded with sesame seeds.
31. Taco (Mexico)
Before anything, authentic tacos in Mexico aren’t like the tacos you see in the US and other western countries. They aren’t made with crunchy deep-fried taco shells folded in half and stuffed with various ingredients. Instead, they consist of soft corn or wheat tortillas topped with a variety of meats (typically pork), chopped onions, cilantro, lime juice, and salsa.
The taco may not seem like a sandwich but based on the most general definition – a portable meal consisting of various ingredients held together by bread – it definitely is. Like pita bread, tortillas are a type of flatbread. They’re used as a vessel to hold the ingredients just like any other type of wrap sandwich.
Photo by resnick_joshua1
32. Burrito (Mexico)
When people think of Mexican food, they often think of tacos and burritos. However, like the crunchy taco, there’s a common misconception that the burrito is an example of Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex cuisine and not authentic Mexican food. This is not true.
Burritos are originally from Chihuahua state in northern Mexico. They’re especially popular in Ciudad Juárez, a city that borders El Paso, Texas. I went on a food tour in Mexico City and according to my guide, burritos crossed the border and eventually became so popular that people assumed they were an example of Mexican-American food.
Burritos are a type of wrap sandwich. The Mexican version is much smaller and thinner than its often gargantuan counterpart in the US. They’re made with flour tortillas and typically filled with just one or two ingredients.
In the US, one popular type of burrito is the breakfast burrito. It’s filled with any combination of breakfast ingredients like scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, peppers, and cheese. From my understanding, it originated in New Mexico and is likely a US creation.
Photo by odua
33. Arepa (Colombia/Venezuela)
The arepa is a pre-Hispanic bread that’s especially popular in the cuisines of Venezuela and Colombia. Flat and round, it’s made with ground maize dough so it’s essentially a type of South American corn bread.
In both Colombia and Venezuela, arepas are eaten throughout the day, either as a snack or as a side dish. They can be eaten plain but they can also be stuffed with a wide variety of ingredients like shredded meat, fried eggs, black beans, avocados, plantains, and melted cheese.
Like the Mexican gordita or Middle Eastern falafel sandwich (#59), stuffed arepas are a type of pocket sandwich.
Photo by anamejia18
34. Choripan (Argentina)
The choripan is Argentina’s answer to the hot dog. It’s widely consumed in Argentina and in other South American countries like Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru.
In much the same way that hot dogs are synonymous with baseball games in the US, choripanes are an important part of football culture in Argentina. It’s a hugely popular sandwich snack that’s commonly sold as street food, especially outside football stadiums.
Choripanes are made with grilled chorizo sausages. The sausages are sliced down the middle and then served in a crusty bread roll with chimichurri or salsa criolla (onion relish).
Photo by zkruger
35. English Muffin Breakfast Sandwich (UK)
Many of us know this irresistible combination of bread, eggs, meat, and cheese as the Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s. However, Ronald McDonald can’t take credit for the invention of this delicious breakfast sandwich.
As you can probably guess from its name, the English muffin breakfast sandwich is originally from the UK. Its origins can be traced back to the streets of 19th-century East London when vendors would set up stalls to sell easy-to-eat breakfast sandwiches to factory workers.
Made with a fried egg, meat, and sometimes cheese served between two halves of a soft roll, it’s essentially a portable sandwich version of the classic English breakfast.
Photo by SouthernLightStudios
36. Croque Monsieur (France)
The croque monsieur is a hot ham and cheese French sandwich. It’s made with baked or boiled ham and sliced cheese (traditionally gruyere) served between two slices of pan de mie (soft bread). The sandwich is lightly seasoned and topped with grated cheese before being baked in an oven or fried in a pan.
The croque monsieur sandwich was said to have been invented at French cafes and bars as a quick snack. Monsieur is the French word for “mister” while croque means “bite”.
Photo by Dpimborough
37. Croque Madame (France)
The croque madame is a variation of the croque monsieur. It’s basically a croque monsieur sandwich served with a poached or lightly fried egg on top.
If you don’t eat meat, then you can enjoy a vegetarian version of the croque madame known as the croque mademoiselle. It’s made with pan de mie, melted cheese, and vegetables like cucumbers, chives, and lettuce.
Photo by Peteer
38. Croissant Sandwich (France)
The French are known for a bevy of delicious pastries like madeleines, macarons, and eclairs, but the croissant is without a doubt the most popular and iconic French pastry of them all. Flaky and buttery, few pastries can brighten up a breakfast table the way freshly baked croissants can.
Croissants are terrific with just butter or jam but they make for great sandwiches as well. Lighter than other types of bread, you can use them to make croissant versions of BLTs, ham and cheese, tuna salad, and egg salad sandwiches.
Photo by ildi_papp
39. Bocadillo de Jamon (Spain)
The bocadillo de jamon is one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. It refers to a simple but delicious Spanish sandwich made with slices of jamon (ham) served in a crusty Spanish-style baguette.
Bocadillo de jamon can be made with just jamon and crusty bread – which is personally my preference – but it can also contain other ingredients like manchego cheese, black olives, tomatoes, and roasted peppers. It’s something you can find pretty much anywhere in Spain.
Photo by nito103
40. Bocadillo de Calamares (Spain)
Bocadillo de calamares is a similarly simple but delicious Spanish sandwich that’s popular in Madrid, especially around Plaza Mayor. It’s made with fried squid rings served in a crusty baguette, either on their own or topped with a mildly spicy sauce made from mayonnaise, garlic, and tomatoes.
Photo by myviewpoint
41. Francesinha (Portugal)
The francesinha is delicious but it has to be one of the heaviest sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.
An emblematic dish in Porto regional cuisine, the francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich made with slices of white bread, linguica (Portuguese sausage), ham, and steak. It’s covered in melted cheese before being topped with a fried egg and drenched in a thick beer and tomato sauce. And if that doesn’t sound filling enough, it’s usually served with a generous portion of fries.
The word francesinha literally means “little French woman” or “frenchie” in Portuguese. It was inspired by the French croque monsieur and adapted to suit the Portuguese palate.
Photo by asimojet
42. Bifana (Portugal)
The bifana is one of the most popular types of sandwiches you can eat in Portugal. It refers to a Portuguese sandwich made with thin slices of marinated roast pork served on a papo seco bread roll. It can be served plain or topped with additional ingredients like bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese, and a fried egg.
Unlike the francesinha which is associated with Porto, the bifana can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere in Portugal. It’s originally from the town of Vendas Novas in the Alentejo region, though Lisbon is known for serving some of the best bifanas in the country.
Photo by PierreOlivier
43. Prego (Portugal)
Francesinhas and bifanas are tasty but the prego is hands down my favorite type of Portuguese sandwich. Like the bifana, it’s a simple sandwich made with garlicky grilled beef served in a crusty papo seco bread roll.
Pregos can be served plain – which is my personal preference – but they can also be topped with additional ingredients like cheese, ham, and a fried egg. Aside from being incredibly delicious, there are two things I find interesting about prego sandwiches.
One, the name prego literally means “nail” in Portuguese. This is in reference to how the garlic flavor is metaphorically “hammered” into the beef using a tenderizing mallet.
And two, pregos are enjoyed just as much for “dessert” in Portugal as they are as a hearty snack. They’re often the last thing Portuguese people eat after a seafood meal.
44. Gyros (Greece)
Gyros refers to a type of Greek wrap sandwich. It’s made with grilled meat – usually pork or chicken – shaved off a vertical rotisserie and served in pita bread with tzatziki, fried potatoes, vegetables, and lemon juice. It’s similar to Lebanese shawarma (#57) or Turkish doner kebab and is arguably the most well-known Greek dish outside of Greece.
Photo by gioiak2
45. Panini (Italy)
The panini is a popular Italian sandwich made with deli ingredients like ham, salami, mortadella, vegetables, and cheese. The fillings are served on some type of Italian bread, commonly ciabatta, focaccia, or michetta.
Similar to a Cuban sandwich, paninis are pressed in a grill and served warm, often with characteristic grill marks on the bread.
Photo by fotek
46. Ftira (Malta)
Ftira refers to a type of ring-shaped Maltese sourdough flatbread. It has a thick crust and a light internal structure with large, irregular holes.
Ftira bread is typically sliced in half and eaten like a sandwich with tuna, olive oil, tomato paste and a host of other Mediterranean ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, pickled vegetables, and fresh salad. It’s an iconic Maltese dish that was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2020.
Photo by RenataA
47. Cevapi (Balkans)
Cevapi or cevapcici is arguably the most recognizable dish from the Balkans. Widely consumed in many countries throughout the region like Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania, and Slovenia, it refers to grilled minced meat sausages made from a heavily seasoned mixture of beef, lamb, pork, and mutton.
Cevapi sausages are typically eaten on their own or served in flatbread as pocket sandwiches. Common ingredients in cevapi sandwiches include ajvar (Balkan condiment), kajmak (unripened cheese), cottage cheese, sour cream, onions, and vegetables.
Photo by fotek
48. Katsu Sando (Japan)
Japan is our favorite country in the world to visit and a lot of that has to do with the food. Sushi and ramen are usually the first dishes that come to mind when people think of Japanese food, but you can find amazingly delicious sandwiches in Japan as well, none tastier perhaps than the katsu sando.
Sando is the Japanese nickname for “sandwich”. Like toruko raisu (Turkish rice), Neapolitan pizzas, and hamburgers, it’s an example of yoshoku or western-inspired Japanese food.
The katsu sando is a simple sandwich made with a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet slathered with tonkatsu sauce and served between two slices of shokupan (Japanese milk bread), sometimes with thinly shredded raw cabbage. Like many dishes in Japanese cuisine, it’s simple but done to absolute perfection.
Katsu sandos are typically made with pork but the best versions are made with high-quality Japanese wagyu beef.
Photo by [email protected]
49. Fruit Sando (Japan)
Have you ever seen a more beautiful sandwich? The fruit sando is a Japanese sandwich made with two slices of shokupan stuffed with fresh seasonal fruit and whipped cream. Available at every konbini (convenience store) in Japan, you’d think the fruit sando is a recent social media creation but it actually has a history dating back over a hundred years.
There are two stories that trace the origin of the fruit sando to either 1868 Tokyo or 1869 Kyoto. Whoever invented it, it seems that this beautiful and delicious Japanese sandwich was created as a quick and easy way to turn ripe fruit into a shortcake.
Photo by eyescompany
50. Gua Bao (China)
Gua bao (or cua pao) are hugely popular pork belly buns that originated from Fujian province in China. They’ve become a popular street food in many Asian countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan (Nagasaki).
The gua bao is a type of sandwich made with braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, coriander, and ground peanuts stuffed between two halves of a soft and pillowy Chinese steamed bun (baozi).
In Taiwan, the gua bao is a hugely popular snack that’s sold at many Taiwanese night markets. It’s often referred to as a “Taiwanese hamburger”.
51. Banh Mi (Vietnam)
The banh mi is one of my absolute favorite sandwiches. It’s something I can’t get enough of whenever we’re in Vietnam. An emblematic dish in Vietnamese cuisine, the term “banh mi” can refer to both the Vietnamese sandwich and the French-style mini baguette used to make it.
Like any sandwich, a banh mi can be made with anything but it’s most often made with some type of pork – either pate, sausages, patties, cold cuts, terrine, or floss. The pork is stuffed into hollowed-out French bread with a slew of other ingredients like cucumber slices, fresh coriander, pickled carrots, shredded radish, and herbs.
It almost doesn’t matter what you stuff into a banh mi because what makes this sandwich truly special is the bread. Crusty and crunchy on the outside, it’s soft and pillowy on the inside so it sort of crumbles in on itself when you take a bite. It’s so darn delicious.
Photo by [email protected]
52. Vada Pav (India)
The vada pav is one of the most popular Indian street foods in Mumbai. It’s a type of sandwich made with deep-fried mashed potato fritters served in a soft bread roll.
To make vada pav, potatoes are boiled and then mashed with garlic, mustard seeds, green chili peppers, and spices. The mash is then shaped into a ball and dipped in besan flour before being deep-fried and served in a bread roll, usually with fried green chilis and one or more chutneys.
Photo by [email protected]
53. Dabeli (India)
Dabeli refers to another type of Indian sandwich. It looks similar to vada pav except it tastes more sweet and tangy rather than savory.
Dabeli is made with a masala spice mixture containing red chili peppers, cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, and cinnamon. The spice mixture is added to a cooked potato mash which is then served in a soft bread roll with grated coconut, sev (fried chickpea noodles), onions, roasted peanuts, coriander, pomegranate seeds, and one or more chutneys.
Photo by stockimagefactory.com
54. Bombay Sandwich (India)
Like vada pav, the Bombay sandwich is one of the most popular street foods in Mumbai. It’s a vegetarian sandwich made with a host of vegetables like tomatoes, beetroot, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, boiled potatoes, and mint chutney sandwiched between buttered slices of white bread.
Bombay sandwiches can be made with plain or toasted bread. They’re satisfying either way but charcoal-grilled versions like the one pictured below are the bomb.
55. Kathi Roll (India)
The kathi roll is a type of Indian wrap sandwich that originated in Kolkata. It’s made with kebab meat wrapped in paratha flatbread with vegetables, egg, paneer, and chutney.
Like many sandwiches on this list, kathi rolls were created out of convenience. Commuters didn’t have time to sit down to a proper kebab meal so Nizam’s restaurant in Kolkata came up with the idea of wrapping kebabs in paratha bread. They’re essentially portable versions of traditional kebab dishes that can easily be eaten on the go.
Kathi (or kati) means “stick” in Bengali and refers to the bamboo skewers used to cook the kebabs.
Photo by stockimagefactory.com
56. Sabich (Israel)
Many people are familiar with falafel but not as many have heard of its lesser-known cousin the sabich. Both are delicious but personally, I think the latter is better.
Sabich refers to a type of Israeli pocket sandwich. Like falafel sandwiches, it’s made with a pita stuffed to the hilt with a variety of ingredients like fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, vegetable salad, crunchy pickles, amba (pickled mangoes), and hummus tahini.
The sabich is said to be named after Sabich Halabi, a shop owner who first started selling the sandwich in 1961. Similar to the English muffin breakfast sandwich or the kathi roll, it’s basically a portable version of the traditional Jewish Iraqi breakfast served in a pita.
Photo by bbivirys
57. Shawarma (Lebanon)
Like hummus, shawarma is one of the most internationally well-known Lebanese dishes. It’s a type of Levantine wrap sandwich that’s closely related to the Turkish doner kebab, Greek gyros, and Mexican tacos al pastor.
Shawarmas are typically made with heavily-marinated chicken, lamb, mutton, or beef grilled on a vertical rotisserie. The meat is shaved off the spit and wrapped in pita bread with fried potatoes, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tahini-based sauces.
Photo by gorkemdemir
58. Balik Ekmek (Turkey)
Balik ekmek literally means “fish bread” and refers to a type of Turkish fish sandwich. Commonly sold as street food along the coastal areas of Istanbul, it’s a simple sandwich made with a grilled mackerel fillet served in a bun with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and a squeeze of lemon.
Photo by FroLove_Misha
59. Falafel (Egypt)
Falafel refers to deep-fried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. It’s a popular dish that’s consumed throughout the Middle East and beyond though it’s said to have its roots in Egypt.
Falafel is often served as part of larger mezze platters though it’s also common to eat them in pita pocket sandwiches with fresh veggies and tahini sauce. In the Middle East, falafel is made with chickpeas but in Egypt, it’s made with dried and ground fava beans.
Photo by bhofack2
60. Braaibroodjie (South Africa)
Braaibroodjie means “barbecue bread” in Afrikaans and refers to the South African version of a grilled cheese sandwich. A staple dish at braais (South African barbecue), it’s a wood- or charcoal-grilled sandwich made with cheddar cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and chutney served between two slices of buttered white bread.
Like the Portuguese prego, braaibroodjie sandwiches are customarily served at the end of the barbecue meal.
Photo by vanderspuyr
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST SANDWICHES IN THE WORLD
When deciding upon which sandwiches to add to this list, I started writing down all the sandwiches I’ve gotten to try over the years. The first sixty sandwiches that popped into my head are basically what I included on this list. (My apologies for not including any from Oceania as I’m not familiar with any.)
Only after settling on sixty did I organize it by country and continent. After finalizing the list, I was surprised by how many of these sandwiches were invented in America. While it’s true that the time I spent in the US may have influenced my choices, I think there’s more to it than that.
America is a fast-paced country that prioritizes work over quality of life. American workers typically get just ten days of paid vacation time a year compared to their European counterparts who get thirty or more. In Australia, workers are guaranteed twenty days plus eight public holidays.
Americans spend more time at the office and can’t afford to indulge in long lunches. They need fast pre-cooked meals, a demand which helped birth the fast food industry and make quick easy-to-eat meals like sandwiches all the more appealing.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed going through this list of the best sandwiches in the world. I certainly enjoyed writing it and reminiscing about all the delicious sandwiches I’ve eaten in my life.
If you have any personal favorites that aren’t on this list, then please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it. As they say: “Life is like a sandwich – the more you add to it, the better it becomes.” Cheers!
Cover photo by [email protected]. Stock images via Depositphotos.
To be honest, Valladolid wasn’t even on my itinerary. We travel for food so our destination choices were based largely on Google searches for “best food cities in mexico”.
Popular food cities like Oaxaca, Puebla, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Merida were included in nearly every article I found. Only when I was doing research on Yucatecan cuisine did I learn about Valladolid.
I saw dishes with names like longaniza de valladolid and lomitos de valladolid so I did some digging. As it turns out, a few dishes that are enjoyed throughout the Yucatan Peninsula originated in Valladolid. I had to add it to my itinerary.
Many people visit Valladolid for just a few days, mainly as a stopover between Merida and cities in the Riviera Maya like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. I needed more time to explore its regional cuisine so I spent over a week in this small but charming pueblo magico.
If you’re visiting Valladolid and have a keen interest in regional Mexican cuisine, then this list of the best Valladolid restaurants will be of interest to you.
VALLADOLID RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you with your Valladolid trip planning, we’ve put together links to top-rated hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Recommended hotels in Centro, one of the most convenient areas to stay for first-time visitors to Valladolid.
Luxury: Le Muuch Hotel Boutique
Midrange: Real Hispano
Budget: Casona del Negro Aguilar
Cenote Ticket: Cenote Maya Native Park Admission Ticket
Cooking Class: Real Mexican Cooking Class & Professional Chef
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Transfers: Cancun | Merida
Mexico SIM Card
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WHAT FOOD IS VALLADOLID KNOWN FOR?
Valladolid is a small city in the eastern half of Yucatan state, close to the border with Quintana Roo. As of this writing, it’s one of 132 pueblos magicos (literally “magical towns”) you can visit in Mexico.
Being a city on the Yucatan Peninsula, traditional Yucatecan food is what you can expect to find in Valladolid. The Yucatan was the heart of the ancient Mayan Civilization so traditional Yucatan cuisine is heavily influenced by Mayan culinary traditions. It’s for this reason why Yucatecan food is often referred to as Mayan cuisine.
I won’t get into too much detail here but some of the tastiest and most important dishes in Valladolid regional cuisine include lomitos, longaniza, cochinita pibil, and pibihuajes. For more information, you can refer to our guide on traditional Mayan cuisine.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN VALLADOLID
1. Restaurante Constanza
I was walking down Calle 37 in downtown Valladolid one morning when I chanced upon Restaurante Constanza. It’s a cozy restaurant that serves a wide menu of breakfast, seafood, and regional dishes. You can find many Yucatecan specialties here like cochinita pibil, lomitos de valladolid, poc chuc, and papadzules.
I was looking at their menu near the front gate when one of the servers started chatting with me. According to him, Restaurante Constanza had just opened up the week before. I’m always happy to support local businesses so I promised to come back at noon when they were ready to serve lunch.
I love trying local food so I was unsure at first what to order, but I eventually settled on this beautiful plate of longaniza de valladolid. As you can tell from its name, it’s a local sausage made with ground pork seasoned with garlic, chile ancho, vinegar, pepper, and spices. It’s served with fresh corn tortillas and a bevy of sides like pickled red onions, avocados, refried beans, tortilla chips, and sour orange wedges.
If you like sampling local sausages when you travel, then you need to try longaniza de valladolid. It’s delicious.
For dessert, I enjoyed this equally beautiful bowl of caballero pobre. Drenched in syrup and served with slices of fresh fruit and raisins, you can think of it as the Yucatecan version of french toast.
Aside from their menu of local dishes, another thing that drew me to Restaurante Constanza was the space itself. It’s located in what appears to be a converted house.
I didn’t bother going inside but there are two tables on the front porch – where I sat – and two more on the front lawn. Eating here makes you feel like you’re having Sunday brunch in someone’s home.
Restaurante Constanza is one of the newest restaurants in Valladolid but I’ve got a feeling they’ll be around for a long time.
Address: C. 37 192A, Centro, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 8AM-5PM, daily What to Order: Breakfast dishes, seafood, traditional Yucatecan dishes
2. Yum Ka’ax El Buen Sabor
Valladolid is known for its Mayan food so when I see a restaurant with a Mayan-sounding name like Yum Ka’ax, I’m instantly on my phone searching for reviews. Thankfully, the reviews were great.
Yum Ka’ax is a Mayan restaurant that serves breakfast dishes, antojitos, tamales, and other Yucatecan specialties. There’s lots of good local food to be had here so I wavered between the cochinita, poc chuc, and sopa de lima before eventually going with the lomitos de valladolid. It’s a tasty local dish consisting of diced pork loin cooked in a slightly spicy tomato sauce.
Like my longaniza de valladolid at Restaurante Constanza, these lomitos were served with a slew of side dishes like rice, hard-boiled egg, avocado, corn tortillas, and plantains. My server was quite amiable and happy to help me choose the right dish. These lomitos were delicious.
One thing that drew me to Yum Ka’ax was their ice cream. They have three flavors – queso de bola (Edam cheese), elote (corn), and chaya (local herb). I wanted to try all three but unfortunately, all they had that day was queso de bola.
I wasn’t bummed for too long because this queso de bola ice cream was delicious. Edam cheese is an important and often-used ingredient in many Yucatecan dishes and desserts.
Valladolid, like the rest of the Yucatan Peninusla, can get blisteringly hot. Aside from diving into a cenotes, fresh juices are among the best ways to cool down.
Yum Ka’ax serves many different types of aguas frescas but since this is Valladolid, I suggest trying agua de chaya. It’s made from a chard-like shrub native to the Yucatan.
Enriched with pineapple or lemon, agua de chaya is a deliciously fresh drink that will keep you healthy and hydrated in Valladolid.
If you want good food (and excellent service) at reasonable prices in Valladolid, then Yum Ka’ax El Buen Sabor is a great place to consider.
Yum Ka’ax El Buen Sabor
Address: Calle 42 número 190 Candelaria 97780 Valladolid Yucatán MX, entre 33 Y 35 Operating Hours: 7AM-8PM, daily What to Order: Breakfast dishes, antojitos, traditional Yucatecan dishes
3. Loncheria Olich
I went to a few good restaurants in Valladolid but Loncheria Olich may have been my favorite. I enjoyed it for its food and its ambiance.
Loncheria Olich is a casual restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. They serve breakfast from 8AM till 1PM and dinner from 6-10PM. I ate here twice, both times for breakfast.
On my first visit, I had longaniza de valladolid. I enjoyed longaniza a few times in Valladolid and Merida and this one was definitely my favorite. It had a crispy but crumbly texture that was an absolute joy to eat.
I enjoyed that longaniza de valladolid so much that I had breakfast here again before taking the bus to Playa del Carmen. This time, I had huevos motuleños, one of the most famous Yucatecan regional dishes. Originally from the town of Motul, it’s a hearty breakfast dish consisting of corn tortillas topped with fried eggs, black beans, cheese, and tomato sauce.
If you’re really hungry and want to try both these dishes, then I suggest getting the motuleños valladolid. It’s basically huevos motuleños served with Valladolid longaniza.
A deliciously fresh mason jar of agua de chaya con piña to wash all that delicious breakfast food down.
I think I enjoyed this space as much as the food itself.
The dining area at Loncheria Olich is located in the back, in a tranquil garden-like space with plenty of potted plants. It’s a breezy al fresco space that’s partially covered so you don’t have to suffer under the intense heat of the Yucatecan sun.
I’ve seen pictures of Loncheria Olich at night and the space looks as charming as it does during the day. I think they serve mostly soups and antojitos at night.
If you want tasty food at great prices served in a space that makes you feel good, then I highly recommend going to Loncheria Olich. For me, it’s definitely one of the best restaurants in Valladolid.
Address: Calle 40 No 179 B entre Calle 33 y 35, Sta Lucía, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 8AM-1PM, 6-10PM, Mon-Sat / 6-10PM, Sunday What to Order: Yucatecan Breakfast dishes
4. El Sazon de Valladolid
El Sazon is another great place to visit for good Mexican food in Valladolid. Located on the outskirts of the centro area, this highly-rated restaurant serves regional cuisines along with seafood, a few vegetarian options, and breakfast dishes. They have such an extensive menu that it can be hard to decide what to get.
After going through their menu a few times and poring through online reviews for clues, I ultimately went with this platter of salbutes. Salbutes are among the most popular antojitos in the Yucatan. They’re puffy deep-fried tortillas that can be topped with any number of ingredients. In this case, two with cochinita and two with shredded chicken.
Cochinita is arguably the single most important dish in Mayan cuisine. It refers to a dish of slow-roasted pork marinated in achiote and sour orange juice. The pork is wrapped in banana leaves and then slow-cooked for up to 16 hours in an earthen oven called a píib. It’s absolutely delicious and a must-try dish in Valladolid.
Admittedly, this wasn’t the best cochinita I had in Valladolid but these salbutes were definitely the most generous. The salbutes themselves were quite large and practically overflowing with meat.
For dessert, I had this smooth and creamy flan napolitano, one of the most delicious desserts you can have in Mexico. It’s basically the Mexican version of a popular custard dessert that exists in some form in many countries throughout the world like Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, and the Philippines.
El Sazon de Valladolid is located several blocks west of Valladolid’s zocalo (main square). It’s in a less busy and much quieter neighborhood that doesn’t get as much vehicular traffic (or tourists).
If you want solid Mexican cuisine in a quiet restaurant that offers good service, then El Sazon de Valladolid is a good place to go.
El Sazon de Valladolid
Address: Valladolid – Cancun 231 A x 48 y 50, Bacalar, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 8AM-10:30PM, daily What to Order: Breakfast dishes, antojitos, seafood
5. La Selva
My AirBnB host recommended this restaurant to me. He frequents La Selva himself to get antojitos and soup at very reasonable prices. Salbutes, panuchos, tacos, and tostadas go for just MXN 15 apiece.
Pictured below is my overflowing plate with three salbutes, two panuchos, and one empanada. If I remember correctly, the panuchos were topped with lomitos while the salbutes were made with shredded chicken. The empanada was filled with ground pork and cheese.
These antojitos were delicious but if you’re an average eater, then don’t overorder and get six. Four will probably be enough.
Like El Sazon de Valladolid, La Selva is located several blocks away from the zocalo. Had it now been for my AirBnB host, then I probably wouldn’t have found this place. ¡Muchas gracias!
Address: C. 42 179C, Sta Lucía, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 6-10PM, Fri-Wed (closed Thursdays) What to Order: Antojitos
6. Echate un Taco
I had cochinita many times in Merida and Valladolid and the version I had here at Echate un Taco was in my top two. This burnt orange mound of slow-roasted pork served on beautiful Mexican dining ware was perhaps the single best thing I had in Valladolid.
Echate un Taco sources their cochinita from Tixcacalcupul, a municipality about 20 km (12.4 miles) south of Valladolid. According to my very gregarious server, this small Yucatecan town is known for producing some of the very best cochinita on the peninsula.
Served with a side of corn tortillas so you could make your own tacos, this cochinita was seriously delicious.
Echate un Taco has a small indoor dining room but if you enjoy dining alfresco, then you can enjoy your cochinita or other Yucatan specialties here. Aside from cochinita, they serve many other regional favorites like lomitos, sopa de lima, papadzules, and poc chuc.
Echate un Taco is located on the same block as El Sazon de Valladolid. It’s a fun little restaurant with great service and what could very well be the best cochinita in Valladolid.
Echate un Taco
Address: Calle 41 x 48 y 50, Bacalar, 97784 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 1-10PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Cochinita pibil, traditional Yucatecan dishes
7. Burrito Amor
Frequent visitors to Tulum may be familiar with this restaurant. Burrito Amor is a fun burrito restaurant that built a loyal following in Tulum before setting up shop in Valladolid. From their website, it looks like they’ll be opening a branch somewhere in the US as well.
Burrito Amor offers a more contemporary menu of Mexican food. You’ll find different types of meat and seafood burritos, egg burritos, salads, and breakfast bowls. There are a few vegetarian and vegan options as well.
Pictured below is my tasty grilled pork and pineapple burrito. This is a regular size but if you add MXN 25, then you can upsize any burrito to a large.
Burrito Amor has a lush, plant-filled garden area in the back where you can enjoy your burrito.
You can also dine in this lovely indoor dining space with tiled floors. They seem to share this space with an art club and cafe.
Between the cafe and Burrito Amor’s alfresco dining space is this room with various ceramics and handicrafts on display. I’m not sure what the story is here but I believe these are all for sale.
In any case, Burrito Amor is a fun little restaurant and a great place to enjoy breakfast or a burrito (or a breakfast burrito) in Valladolid.
Address: C. 44 por 35, Candelaria, 97782 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 8AM-10PM, Thurs-Tue (closed Wednesdays) What to Order: Breakfast dishes, burritos
8. Las Tortolas
I rode a bicycle from my AirBnB to Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman’s cenote. By the time I had gotten back to the outskirts of Valladolid, I was dying of hunger and thirst. Thankfully, this delicious family-run torta (sandwich) shop was along the way.
I’ve had many tortas throughout Mexico and this was one of my favorites. They make them with different fillings like ham, eggs, and longaniza. I was starving from the bike ride so I went for the cubana, which is basically a sandwich with all of the above.
This beautiful sandwich was filled with longaniza, ham, hot dogs, breaded pork, and scrambled eggs. This seriously hit the spot!
Here’s a look at all those delectable layers of meat, egg, and bread. Yummers!
Las Tortolas is located a few blocks south of the zocalo. You can probably walk there in about 15-20 minutes.
Address: C. 38 255, San Juan, 97783 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 7AM-2PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Tortas
9. Nena Nena
Nena Nena isn’t a vegan restaurant but they do make well-prepared vegetarian food. There are no veggie burgers here but you can get vegetarian options of popular Mexican dishes like gorditas, guajillas, tlacoyos, and enchiladas.
However, I’m not a vegetarian so I went with this beautiful plate of tacos de canasta. Tacos de canasta literally means “basket tacos” and refers to tacos that are filled with various stews and then bathed in oil or melted butter. They’re sold from baskets to keep them warm hence the name.
Even before I looked at Nena Nena’s menu, I already knew what I wanted. There was a familiar-looking basket at the entrance to the restaurant with a sign that read “tacos de canasta”. I’ll take five please.
I asked for five but it looks like my server was kind enough to give me six. ¡Muchisimas gracias! Nena Nena fills their tacos de canasta with pressed chicharron, potato and chorizo, potato and chili pepper, refried beans, and pork.
Speaking of tacos de canasta, be sure to check out our guide on the best tacos in Mexico City if you plan on visiting the country’s capital.
Aside from their delicious basket tacos, another thing I loved about Nena Nena was the space. Cafe-like in feel, it’s a relaxed and hip atmosphere with one of the more contemporary-looking interiors I found in Valladolid.
Nena Nena is one of the more fun restaurants I went to in Valladolid. I definitely recommend checking them out, especially if you’re looking for vegetarian or vegan options.
Address: Calle 37 por 44 y 42, Centro, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 10AM-6PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Tacos de canasta, vegetarian-friendly dishes
If you’re looking for a no-frills taqueria in Valladolid, the kind that locals go to, then look no further than Sabrositacos. Located on the same block as La Selva, this humble taco restaurant was recommended to me by my AirBnB host as well.
Sabrositacos is like your typical neighborhood taqueria. They serve the usual taqueria offerings like tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and antojitos.
It had been a while since my last al pastor tacos so I went with four, two mixed with cheese. I will seriously never grow tired of these.
Sabrositacos serves beer and other alcoholic drinks. If you want to spend the night eating tacos and drinking beer at a non-touristy restaurant in Valladolid, then Sabrositacos is a great place to go.
Address: 31 200U X 40 y 42, Santa Lucía, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 6:30PM-12MN, Tur-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Tacos, antojitos
11. Tres Mentiras
I was so happy I found this restaurant. It was actually located on the same street as my AirBnB, several blocks north of the zocalo, but in a section that I didn’t pass too often. I saw it by chance when riding my bike in and out of town.
Tres Mentiras is a restaurant/bar that serves a full range of drinks like mezcal cocktails, tequila, margaritas, martinis, gin and tonics, beer, and more. Their menu offers many comfort food options both Mexican and international like tacos, quesadillas, burritos, chicken wings, and hamburgers.
Pictured below is a tasty trio of pulpo (octopus) tacos. They have octopus, shrimp, fish, flank steak, chicken, and cochinita. Each order comes with three.
Tres Mentiras offers many dishes to choose from but they have an even wider selection of perfectly blended cocktails. I asked my server for recommendations and she pointed me to this piña gengibre made with pineapple, ginger, and Espadin mezcal. I love Mexico.
Tres Mentiras is a fun and colorful restaurant with elaborate murals on the walls. No one was performing that night but they have a stage for live music as well.
Tres Mentiras is a hidden gem in Valladolid. If you’re in the mood for good comfort food, cocktails, and music in a venue that isn’t frequented by tourists, then this is a great place for you to go.
Address: C. 33 214, Candelaria, 97782 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 4PM-1:30AM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Tacos, quesadillas, mezcal cocktails
12. Paletas y Helados Kukulkan
As described, it can get brutally hot in Valladolid and the Yucatan. At the hottest times of the day, refreshing drinks and desserts like these scoops of Mexican ice cream are the next best thing to a cenotes.
Paletas y Helados Kukulkan is an ice cream and frozen popiscle cart that offers the usual flavors like chocolate, Nutella, and vanilla but they also have more Mexican offerings like elote and limon-tequila. Guess which two I got?
Paletas y Helados Kukulkan is like any typical ice cream cart in Mexico but what I like about it is that it’s hidden in plain sight. It’s located in the heart of Valladolid, right by the zocalo, but you’d never know it was there.
You can find the cart inside Centro Artesanal Zaci, a shopping arcade on the north side of the plaza. It’s home to a few shops selling clothing and handicrafts and a lush, plant-filled garden in its inner courtyard. It’s a great place to sit down and enjoy a cup of ice cream to cool down from the intense Yucatan heat.
I believe Paletas y Helados Kukulkan has a proper shop along Calzada de los Frailes but this cart is easier to get to.
Paletas y Helados Kukulkan
Address: Centro Artesanal “Zaci”, C. 39 30, Centro, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 8AM-7PM, daily What to Order: Elote ice cream
There are a few good places to get cheap eats in Valladolid, but the most conveniently located is Bazar Municipal. My AirBnB host turned me on to this place as well.
Located right off the zocalo, on the same side as Centri Artesanal Zaci, Bazar Municipal is home to a food court with about a dozen stalls offering inexpensive food.
13. Loncheria Canul
Whenever we visit an unfamiliar hawker center in Singapore, we always look for the stalls with the longest line of locals. This guarantees that you get the best and most authentic food. The same rule applies anywhere in the world.
But when no single stall stands out, we follow another rule – avoid the stalls with the most aggressive touts. Places like that are aggressive for a reason (ie crappy food) so avoid them at all costs. You’ll find a few of those here at Bazar Municipal.
True enough, one of the quietest stalls at the food court had the highest reviewer rating – Loncheria Canul.
Loncheria Canul has a focused menu offering a few specialties from Yucatecan cuisine like sopa de lima, lomitos, and longaniza. I went with a dish that was somewhat familiar to me because we have something similar in our native Philippines – escabeche.
Escabeche in the Philippines is typically made with fish but what you’re looking at below is pollo (chicken) en escabeche oriental. The term escabeche refers to a culinary technique that involves cooking marinated meats, fish, poultry, or vegetables in an acidic sauce, usually with vinegar.
The reason why the dish is called “oriental” is because it’s originally from the eastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically Valladolid.
Address: Bazar Municipal, C. 40 190, Centro, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 4-10PM, daily What to Order: Escabeche de pollo, antojitos
Mercado Municipal is Valladolid’s main market. Home to butchers, produce sellers, and handicraft shops, it’s a good place to visit if you’d like to get a glimpse of local life in Valladolid.
Like any public market in Mexico, Mercado Municipal is also a great place to get cheap eats in Valladolid.
14. Taqueria Ebeneezer
Remember what I said about looking for the stalls with the longest line of locals? That approach definitely helped me here.
Ebeneezer is a small taqueria tucked away in a corner of Mercado Municipal. They offer a few specialties in Yucatecan cuisine like cochinita and lechon al horno that you can enjoy in salbutes, panuchos, pibihuajes, or polcanes.
Until I got to this stall, I had never heard of pibihuajes before so I googled it. As it turns out, it’s a Yucatecan dish that originated right here in Valladolid.
This is what pibihuajes looks like. It’s basically an oval-shaped sphere of bread made with dough and red beans. It’s baked in a píib before being split open and filled with various ingredients like cochinita, lechon, lomitos, or carne asada.
You can think of pibihuajes as a mini Yucatecan sandwich bun, but much denser in texture.
Address: Mercado Municipal de Valladolid, C. 32 #0, Sta Ana, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 5AM-4PM, daily What to Order: Salbutes, panuchos, pibihuajes, polcanes
15. Loncheria Mati
After eating my pibihuajes and walking out of Mercado Municipal, I noticed this humble restaurant right across the street. It was buzzing with locals, which to me is like a big neon sign that says “come here”.
Another great sign? Loncheria Mati basically offers just a couple things on their menu – empanadas and salbutes/panuchos/polcanes.
The majority of locals were feasting on their empanadas so that’s what I decided to try as well. Loncheria Mati makes empanadas filled with ground meat, cheese, or ground meat and cheese.
Yucatan cuisine is known for a specific type of empanada made with chaya. You can usually see flecks of green in the fried dough but this one didn’t seem to have any.
As you can see below, I got one filled with ground meat and cheese. No wonder Loncheria Mati was packed. Their empanadas are delicious.
Address: C. 37 180, Sta Ana, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan Operating Hours: 7AM-12:30AM, daily What to Order: Empanadas, salbutes, panuchos, polcanes
To help you navigate to these restaurants in Valladolid, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST VALLADOLID RESTAURANTS
I may have been late to the Valladolid party but I’m happy I made a stop here. There are many reasons to visit this charming pueblo magico. It’s the closest jumping-off point to Chichen Itza and there are several cenotes within biking distance of the town.
Bus as this guide on Valladolid restaurants shows, Yucatecan cuisine is another great reason to visit. Thanks for reading and I hope this article leads you to many wonderful meals in Valladolid.
Some of the links in this article on the best restaurants in Valladolid are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase at no added cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Muchas gracias!
When you think of the best food cities in Mexico, Oaxaca is at the top of nearly everyone’s list. If not at the very top, then it’s right up there with cities like Puebla, Mexico City, Merida, and Guadalajara. Even people who’ve never been to Oaxaca have heard that Oaxaca City (and state) is home to some of the best food in Mexico.
It’s hard to find bad food in Oaxaca but it’s even harder to find the best. Discovering the best and most authentic local food is what we enjoy most about trips, so we scoured the internet, combed the city’s streets, and broke bread with opinionated locals to come up with this list of 15 of the best restaurants in Oaxaca.
If you’re visiting Oaxaca and have a taste for traditional Mexican cuisine, then this list will be very useful to you.
OAXACA RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you with your Oaxaca trip planning, we’ve compiled links to popular hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in Centro, one of the best areas to stay for people on their first trip to Oaxaca.
Luxury: Pug Seal Oaxaca
Midrange: NaNa Vida Hotel Oaxaca
Budget: Casa Luna & Sol
Sightseeing Tour: Full-Day Tour of Oaxaca
Food Tour: Night Street Food Tour with Transfers and Tastings
Mezcal Tasting: Mezcal Tasting Session with Expert
Cooking Classes: Oaxaca Cooking Classes
Day Trip: Monte Alban Guided Archaeological Tour
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
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WHAT FOOD IS OAXACA FAMOUS FOR?
Oaxaca is often referred to as the “foodie capital of Mexico”. It’s home to one of the richest pre-Hispanic culinary traditions in the country. Oaxaca’s unique climate and mix of indigenous cultures help make Oaxacan cuisine one of the most varied and interesting in Mexico.
Regional food prepared in the most traditional way is what interests us most about any destination. In this article, we feature some of the best restaurants in Oaxaca City to try regional dishes like mole negro, mole coloradito, caldo de piedra, and more.
This article focuses on restaurants but if you’d like to find the best places to try Oaxacan street food dishes like tlayuda and memela, then don’t forget to go through our Oaxacan street food guide as well.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with what to eat in Oaxaca before learning where to eat, so be sure to check out our guide on 25 must-try traditional dishes and drinks in Oaxaca.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN OAXACA CITY
1. La Casa de La Chef
We always come prepared so we arrived in Oaxaca with a food itinerary of at least fifty restaurants, markets, and roadside stalls. La Casa de La Chef wasn’t on it but we couldn’t ignore this quaint breakfast place after seeing it packed with locals at almost any time of the day.
La Casa de La Chef is a small traditional restaurant that serves all-day Mexican breakfast fare like chilaquiles, entomatadas, enfrijoladas, and huevos al gusto. They also offer daily specials (menu del dia), which is where I saw this delicious enmoladas con tasajo.
This equally delicious plate of huevos motuleños is a permanent fixture on their menu. Huevos motuleños is a Yucatecan dish (from the town of Motul) consisting of fried eggs served on a bed of fried tortillas and beans. It’s smothered in salsa roja (red sauce) with plantains, ham, queso fresco (fresh cheese), peas, and cream.
On another day, I had this tasty omelette filled with Oaxaca cheese and huitlacoche (corn smut).
Huitlacoche refers to a type of fungus that grows on corn. Similar in taste and texture to mushrooms, it’s a delicacy in Mexican cuisine and often used as a filling in omelettes, tacos, molotes, and quesadillas.
La Casa de La Chef is located along Calzada de la Republica, just outside the city center and south of Barrio de Jalatlaco. It’s about a 3-minute walk from Mercado de La Merced.
A restaurant teeming with locals is never a bad sign so be sure to check out La Casa de La Chef if you’re in the mood for good Mexican breakfast food.
La Casa de La Chef
Address: Calz. de la República 302, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 8:30AM-5:30PM, Sun-Fri (closed Saturdays) What to Order: Chilaquiles, entomatadas, enfrijoladas, huevos
2. Amor de Cafe
Amor de Cafe is another good restaurant to visit in Oaxaca for coffee and traditional Mexican breakfast fare. They have a good selection of breakfast dishes, omelettes, sandwiches, and salads.
I was in the mood for an omelette today, but I didn’t want anything ordinary like ham, bacon, or mushroom. I wanted a filling that was more interesting and truly Oaxacan so I went with this omelette oaxaqueño. Keep scrolling to see what was in it.
The omelette oaxaqueño is filled with a generous amount of Oaxaca cheese and chapulines (grasshoppers). Seasoned with lime juice, garlic, chili, and salt, grasshoppers and other insects are a delicacy that’s been enjoyed in Oaxaca and in other parts of Mexico since pre-Hispanic times.
If you’d like an omelette that you probably can’t get where you’re from, then you may want to try this. Personally, we think chapulines are delicious and make for a great filling or topping.
Amor de Cafe is located in the tourist-friendly neighborhood of Barrio de Jalatlaco. Pay them a visit if you’re hankering for good Mexican breakfast food and other comforting dishes.
Amor de Cafe
Address: Blvrd del Panteón 113, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 8:30AM-5:30PM, Sun-Fri (closed Saturdays) What to Order: Mexican breakfast, sandwiches
3. Pannela Panaderia del Barrio
If a western-style breakfast is more up your alley, then Pannela Panaderia de Barrio in Jalatlaco is one of the best places for you to go. This uber popular cafe and bakery opens at 7:15AM every morning and it doesn’t take long for customers to come streaming in as soon as they do.
With eye-catching breakfast dishes like this waffle with Nutella, bananas, and strawberries, how can they not? It’s just one of many beautiful breakfast dishes and sandwiches you’ll find at Pannela Panaderia de Barrio.
Judging by how busy this place is at all hours of the day, it has to be one of the best and most popular cafes in Oaxaca. This place serves amazing food, not to mention excellent pastries and desserts.
Pannela serves a few of these all-day croissant sandwiches. This one was the Pamplona – a croissant sandwich made with chorizo Pamplona, gouda cheese gratin, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and chintextle. Chintextle is a type of Oaxacan paste made with dried pasilla chili peppers as its main ingredient.
We had western-style dishes on every visit but Pannela offers many Mexican favorites as well like molletes, enfrijoladas, entomatadas, and chilaquiles. They also offer different types of sandwiches made with pan de yema, a Oaxacan version of brioche bread.
Aside from serving great Oaxacan coffee, Pannela also offers cups of chocolate Oaxaqueño. Chocolate has been an important ingredient and commodity in the Oaxacan region for thousands of years. It’s a daily staple and plays an important role in ceremonies and rituals like birth, weddings, and funerals.
You can enjoy chocolate Oaxaqueño in many traditional dishes and drinks but my hands down favorite is hot chocolate mixed with milk. The more traditional method is to drink it mixed with water but personally, I prefer it with milk.
On another day, I had the house specialty french toast topped with fresh berries. As you can see below, it was every bit as beautiful (and delicious) as the waffles.
Aside from western and Mexican breakfast dishes, Pannela offers a variety of sandwiches and pizza as well. We weren’t expecting much from this pepperoni pizza but it was surprisingly delicious. It tasted like good homemade pizza with a crisp but airy crust and stringy mozzarella cheese.
Pannela Panaderia de Barrio is a simple but pleasant cafe in Barrio de Jalatlaco with indoor seating and a couple of outdoor tables. It’s very popular with tourists so you’ll never see it empty no matter what time you go.
Aside from made-to-order dishes, Pannela offers many different types of breads, pastries, and desserts as well. Their croissants are delicious.
Pannela Panaderia del Barrio
Address: Aldama 322, Centro, 68080 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 7:15AM-9PM, daily What to Order: Western and Mexican breakfast dishes, sandwiches, pastries, dessert
4. Casa Taviche
Casa Taviche is another great place to have a traditional Mexican breakfast in Oaxaca City. Like Casa de la Chef, they have a focused menu offering a few breakfast dishes like entomatadas, enfrijoladas, tostadas, and chilaqules.
Pictured below is my beautiful plate of entomatadas con tasajo (dried beef).
On this plate is another popular breakfast dish in Mexico – chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are basically fried tortillas that are bathed in a sauce and served for breakfast with other ingredients like queso fresco (fresh cheese), onions, salsa, and meat. This one was served with a side of tasajo.
A Tripadvisor favorite, Casa Taviche is a family-run restaurant located a few blocks east of the zocalo. Just look for this building painted in a bright and cheery Tiffany blue.
Casa Taviche’s dining room is as bright and cheery as its facade. It just felt good to be here. The family who owns and operates the restaurant is lovely as well.
Address: Miguel Hidalgo 1111, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 8AM-10PM, Thurs-Tue (closed Wednesdays) What to Order: Mexican breakfast
5. Las Chilmoleras
As you can probably tell by now, cute breakfast restaurants are a thing in Oaxaca.
Like the previous restaurants, Las Chilmoleras offers a good selection of traditional Mexican breakfast dishes, some of which are artfully presented in these stone molcajetes. A molcajete and tejolote is the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle.
Isn’t this molcajete breakfast bowl pretty? You can’t really see it but this was one of their omelettes served with avocado and a variety of fresh vegetables and herbs.
Here’s a better shot of the molcajete. What a great idea to serve breakfast in these traditional stone bowls.
This arrachera or Mexican skirt steak with a side of french fries and salad was one of their daily specials.
I believe this lovely panna cotta with fresh strawberries was a daily special as well.
If you like smoothies, then you need to try this one. It’s made with carrots, papayas, and strawberries. It’s absolutely delicious.
Las Chilmoleras is located on the corner of busy Calzada de la Republica and Alianza Street in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Address: Alianza 104-D, Barrio de Jalatlaco, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 8AM-5PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Mexican breakfast
onnno loncheria is one of those places in Oaxaca that you can walk by a hundred times without realizing what’s inside. They’re known for their sandwiches but they do offer salads and a few breakfast dishes as well.
We went to onnno for lunch and my better half ordered this hefty ensalada de la casa (house salad) made with grilled chicken, fresh vegetables, goat cheese, caramelized seeds, and olive oil.
I didn’t feel like having meat today so I went with this tasty champiñones (mushroom) sandwich. It was served on ciabatta bread with gouda, goat cheese, arugula, and salsa macha mayo.
Like Pannela, onnno serves freshly baked cookies and pastries as well.
There’s no obvious sign outside the restaurant so it’s easy to walk by onnno without noticing it. We were sitting by the window and got a kick out of people walking back and forth, trying to find the restaurant while navigating on their phone.
Just look for this clipboard hanging from a string. The entrance to the restaurant is through that doorway.
onnno loncheria has a simple but stylish interior. Aside from sandwiches and salads, it’s also a cafe so it’s a great place to work, but just not in this main dining room.
There are signs on the main dining room tables asking guests not to set up their laptops there. Instead, you’ll need to work in this garden seating area.
onnno looks to be popular with digital nomads as this seating area was full when we were there.
Address: Mártires de Tacubaya 308-Interior 1, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, Mon-Sat/ 9AM-4PM, Sun What to Order: Breakfast, sandwiches
Unlike the previous restaurants on this list, Itanoní won’t win any style points but it remains one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca to try traditional dishes and drinks like tetela, memela, pozole, and tascalate. They’re known for using different varieties of heirloom corn to produce most if not all the dishes on their menu.
The menu options at Itanoní are extensive and interesting. We went to a few restaurants in downtown Oaxaca that served what looked like fancified versions of traditional dishes, but at Itanoní, it felt like you were getting the real thing. It definitely felt like one of the most authentic traditional restaurants in Oaxaca.
We wanted to order more dishes at Itanoní but our server told us that this tetela, memela, and de ese were enough for two people.
Here’s an inside look at our tetela. A tetela is a pre-Hispanic dish made with a triangular pocket of fresh corn dough filled with a few simple ingredients like black beans, cheese, and cream. Ours was filled with chicharron, cream, and queso fresco (Antojadiza). The green sauce is a spicy salsa verde that they serve on the side.
Compared to memelas or tlayudas, tetelas aren’t as easy to find so I suggest trying it here at Itanoní. It’s probably one of the best versions of tetela you’ll find anywhere in Oaxaca.
This is an interesting dish that I can’t seem to find much information on. Listed on their menu as de ese, it’s basically a corn tortilla wrapped around a leaf of the hierba santa herb and simple fillings like beans, quesillo, and queso fresco. Hoja santa is a strong peppery herb that’s used in many Oaxacan dishes.
We got ours filled with beans and Oaxaca cheese. I’d love to learn more about this dish but nothing seems to come up when I search for “de ese oaxaca”. Does anyone know the history of this dish?
The third dish we ordered was this memela topped with asiento, refried beans, and fresh cheese. Unlike the other two dishes, it was served with a side of salsa rojo instead of salsa verde.
As good as all three dishes were, these servings of tascalate may have been the best thing we had at Itanoní.
Tascalate refers to a traditional drink made from chocolate, roasted maize, pine nuts, achiote, vanilla, and sugar. It can be enjoyed hot with milk or cold with water and ice. It’s a delicious drink that’s creamy, chocolate-y, and corn-like in flavor.
Itanoní is located in the residential Reforma area, about a 30-35 minute walk north of the zocalo. It’s a bit of a hike to get there but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s definitely one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca for simple and honest Oaxacan food.
Address: Av Belisario Domínguez 513, Reforma, 68050 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 7AM-4PM, Mon-Sat / 7AM-2PM, Sun What to Order: Breakfast dishes, tetelas, memelas, quesadillas
Simply put, you can’t have a conversation about the best restaurants in Oaxaca without mentioning Restaurante Alfonsina. Many people know about Casa Oaxaca and Los Danzantes but only the most food-obsessed travelers will make the trip to Alfonsina, which is a shame because it’s one of the most interesting Mexican restaurants in the region.
Helmed by Chef Jorge León, Alfonsina is located in San Juan Bautista la Raya, a small town about half an hour south of downtown Oaxaca. The restaurant doesn’t have an ala carte menu. Instead, they offer tasting menus consisting of at least five dishes made with fresh ingredients sourced from the market that morning.
Because of its organic nature and dependence on fresh market produce, Chef Jorge likes to call his cooking style cocina de mercado or “market kitchen”. The menu can change on a daily basis so you can think of it as an elevated menu del dia (menu of the day).
You can read more about Chef Jorge and his cocina de mercado cooking style in my article about Restaurante Alfonsina. Fans of Phil Rosenthal may remember it from the Oaxaca episode of Somebody Feed Phil.
Aside from being located in a small residential town half an hour south of Oaxaca City, what makes Alfonsina unique is the setting. The restaurant is located in Chef Jorge’s family home. When you eat there, it feels like you’ve been invited as a guest in the chef’s home.
All things considered, I think that Restaurante Alfonsina is one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca. Don’t miss it if you’re drawn to interesting food experiences like we are.
Address: C. García Vigil 183, 71232 San Juan Bautista la Raya, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 1PM, 2PM, 6PM, 7PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Degustation menu
9. El Son Istmeño
El Son Istmeño is a hidden gem in the Barrio de Jalatlaco neighborhood. It’s perhaps one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca to try traditional food from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Pictured below are garnachas istmeñas, one of the most well-known dishes from this part of Mexico. They’re small, bite-sized antojitos made with fried corn tortillas topped with shredded meat, pickled vegetables, salsa, and queso fresco.
It isn’t native to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec but El Son Istmeño is known for its gorditas as well. Meaning “chubby” in Spanish, gorditas consist of pockets of masa stuffed with a variety of fillings.
Gorditas are meant to be stuffed but the versions at El Son Istmeño were topped with the ingredients instead. We tried them topped with chapulines, quesillo, and cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is a Yucatecan dish made with pork marinated in strongly acidic citrus juices and annatto seeds.
For dessert, we had these molotes de platano, another dish that represents the Isthmus of Tehuantepec’s iconic regional Mexican flavors. They’re deep-fried, oval-shaped spheres of mashed plantain topped with cream and queso fresco.
El Son Istmeño is an al fresco restaurant set in a large, leafy green courtyard with succulents and gravel floors. We had an early dinner there and enjoyed a few beers while watching the waning light of sunset.
El Son Istmeño is an adorable restaurant tucked away in a corner of Barrio de Jalatlaco. We were staying at an Airbnb in the area but we never would have known about this place had we not read about it in an article on the best restaurants in Oaxaca. It’s hidden in a less-visited part of Jalatlaco.
El Son Istmeño
Address: Hidalgo 400, Barrio de Jalatlaco, 68080 De Jalatlaco, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 2-11PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Garnachas, gorditas, molotes de platano
10. Restaurant Coronita
Like tlayudas and memelas, you can’t leave Oaxaca without trying mole. It’s considered the pinnacle of traditional Oaxacan cuisine and Mexican gastronomy.
There are seven famous types of mole in Oaxaca – mole negro, mole coloradito, mole amarillo, mole rojo, mole verde, mole manchamanteles, and mole chichilo. The first three are easy to find but certain moles like manchamanteles and chichilo are less common.
You can try to find each mole separately but the easiest way to taste all seven is to go to a restaurant that serves mole degustation menus. Depending on the restaurant, you can expect to try four to seven of Oaxaca’s famous moles.
One of the best restaurants in Oaxaca to enjoy a mole tasting menu is Restaurante Coronita. At the time of our visit in March 2022, a 7-mole degustation cost just MXN 499 for two people.
Going clockwise from the bottom are mole chichilo, mole amarillo, mole verde, mole manchamanteles, mole coloradito, mole rojo, and mole negro. They’ll also give you a small bowl of rice, a basket of fresh tortillas, and a few garnishes.
I won’t describe each mole in this article but you can refer to our Oaxaca food guide for more information. They’re all interesting but personally, my favorites are mole coloradito, mole manchamanteles, and mole negro. According to our server, manchamanteles and chichilo are the hardest to come by.
Speaking of our server, he did a terrific job explaining the moles to us. Even though they’re all sauces, they’re not all meant to be eaten the same way. Mole negro and mole coloradito for example, are best paired with rice while mole amarillo is meant to be eaten with pickled vegetables.
Behold the mole tasting room. Restaurante Coronita isn’t the trendiest or most modern restaurant but they do offer an extensive menu of traditional Oaxacan dishes at fair prices. We looked at several restaurants and they were one of the few that offered all seven moles in their tasting menu.
Restaurante Coronita is located inside Hotel Valle de Oaxaca, about three blocks west of the zocalo.
Address: 68000, Díaz Ordaz 208, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 8:30AM-6PM, daily What to Order: Mole degustation
11. Caldo de Piedra
Caldo de Piedra was one of my favorite restaurants in Oaxaca. I enjoyed this place immensely because they’re one of the best restaurants if not the ONLY restaurant that serves caldo de piedra, one of the most interesting traditional dishes in Oaxacan cuisine.
Meaning “stone soup” in Spanish, caldo de piedra is a pre-Hispanic soup made with fish, onions, chili peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and epazote (Mexican tea leaf) served in a jícara. What makes it interesting and unique is how it’s prepared. A river stone is heated for over an hour under a wood fire and then dropped directly into the bowl to cook the soup.
They heat the river stones in this furnace. The restaurant is open from 9AM till 6PM so I assume they get it started close to dawn and keep it going throughout the day.
You can watch them prepare your soup. One guy drops the molten hot river stones into the gourd bowls while the other describes the history of the dish (in Spanish). The stones are so hot that the broth erupts like a geyser upon contact, cooking the fish and other ingredients instantly.
Aside from how it’s prepared, what makes caldo de piedra truly special is the story behind the dish. It’s a soup that’s prepared only by men to honor the women of the community. It’s a dish that’s as beautiful as it is delicious so be sure to check out our Oaxaca food guide for more information.
Caldo de piedra is traditionally made with fish but in some parts of Oaxaca, it can be made with shrimp as well. At the Caldo de Piedra restaurant, you can have one or the other or a mixture of both.
No, that’s not a portobello mushroom. What you’re looking at is the river stone sitting at the bottom of my bowl.
There are many delicious dishes in Oaxacan cuisine but the rarity and cultural significance behind caldo de piedra makes it one of the most fascinating. Not only does it give you an authentic taste of Oaxaca’s local cuisine, but it offers a glimpse into the local culture as well.
Caldo de piedra was given Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the state of Oaxaca in 2021. It truly felt like a privilege to eat this.
The Caldo de Piedra restaurant is located along the Carretera Internacional highway, a little over 10 km (6.2 miles) east of downtown Oaxaca. It isn’t the easiest Oaxaca restaurant to get to but it’s well worth the effort. If you value traditional culinary experiences, then you need to go to Caldo de Piedra and try this dish.
Caldo de Piedra
Address: Carretera internacional Cristobal Colón km 11.9, 68270 Tlalixtac de Cabrera, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, Tue-Sat / 12NN-6PM, Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Caldo de piedra
Like Alfonsina, Crudo was featured in the Oaxaca episode of Somebody Feed Phil. Not only is it one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca, but it’s also one of the most unique and interesting.
Crudo is a tiny 6-seater bar restaurant that serves Japanese-Oaxacan tasting menus. Chef Ricardo Arellano combines the flavors of Oaxacan cuisine with Japanese culinary techniques, so what you get is an 8-course omakase-style menu featuring dishes like chilacayote ramen and nori tacos.
Pictured below is an aburi-style seared seabass taco wrapped in nori with avocados, nopales, and Oaxacan herbs.
I won’t talk about it in too much detail here but you can check out my article on Crudo for more pictures and information. Needless to say, if you like Japanese food and Oaxacan cuisine, then you need to book a table at Crudo.
On a side note, if you’ve tried looking for sushi in Mexico, then you know how frustrating it can be to find good Japanese food in this country. Mexican people in general don’t like raw food and every sushi restaurant I’ve been to puts cream cheese in their sushi rolls. Yes, cream cheese. In EVERY roll.
Thankfully, you won’t find any of that here. Pictured below is ikura gunkan sushi combined with chepiche, a Mexican coriander-like herb.
We ate here in October 2022 but based on the latest pictures in their Google reviews, the restaurant appears to have expanded a bit. Crudo used to be located in this tiny space that contained just six bar seats, but it looks like they’ve since doubled their capacity.
Address: Av Benito Juárez #309, Ruta Independencia, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 3PM, 5PM, 7PM, 9PM, Mon-Wed What to Order: Tasting menu
Unless it’s something interesting like Crudo, I don’t usually feature restaurants serving non-local cuisine. But I couldn’t just leave off this hidden gem of an Italian restaurant that people were raving about. It’s fantastic and probably the best pizza restaurant in Oaxaca.
Fagioli is a Mexican-Italian restaurant that serves Mexican breakfast dishes like chilaquiles and enchiladas, but what they’re really known for are their pizzas and pasta dishes.
We started our three-course meal with this heaping plate of grilled chicken caesar salad.
Fagioli has a good selection of pasta dishes to choose from but we went with this Espaqueti Amalfitana. It’s a seafood pasta dish made with shrimp, mussels, and calamari served in a spicy tomato sauce.
The pasta dish was good, the caesar salad was better, but this pizza was easily the star of today’s meal. Capping off our three-course meal was this delicious San Daniele pizza topped with jamon serrano, arugula, and cheese.
We make our own Neapolitan-style pizzas from scratch and for me, this was the best pizza we’ve had anywhere in Mexico. Like authentic Indian food, well-made Neapolitan pizza is something I can never refuse.
Do you know what else I can’t refuse? A glass of clericot to wash all that pizza goodness down with.
I don’t know the neighborhood’s name but Fagioli is located in an area south of Barrio de Jalatlaco, just a short walk from Mercado de la Merced.
If you do decide to eat at Fagioli, then I suggest asking for a table in the garden area out back. It’s a leafy space with lots of trees and a trampoline that kids can use.
Address: Prolongación de la, Prolongacion Calzada de la Republica 216, 68103 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 9:30AM-11PM, Tue-Sat / 9:30AM-10PM, Sun / 2-11PM, Monday What to Order: Pizza, pasta
14. La Terraza del Copal
Great rooftop bars are a dime a dozen in Oaxaca City. La Terraza del Copal is one such rooftop bar located in Barrio de Jalatlaco. The doorway that takes you up to the rooftop space is located right next to Amor de Cafe (#2).
We stayed at an Airbnb not too far from La Terraza del Copal so we’d often enjoy beers here at sunset. Aside from its proximity, what drew us to this rooftop restaurant and bar were the prices.
Rooftop bars near the zocalo can be a little expensive but we found the prices at La Terraza to be much more reasonable. Appetizers start at around MXN 55 while entrees are mostly in the MXN 115-155 range.
At the time of our visit in March 2022, domestic beers were just MXN 30 a bottle. Not bad at all.
This molcajete loaded with guacamole and tortilla chips was made with a special ingredient. Can you guess what?
We’re simple people. If we see the word “chapulines” on a Oaxaca restaurant’s menu, then chances are, we’ll order it. Eating grasshoppers may be odd to some but in Oaxacan cuisine, they’re an important ingredient. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
Salty, crunchy, a little sour, and loaded with umami, chapulines are like little flavor bombs. It’s something curious eaters need to try when they visit Oaxaca. They make a great bar snack with mezcal as well.
La Terraza del Copal
Address: Callejon, Niños Heroes #312, Centro, 68080 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 9AM-10PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Antojitos
15. Terraza Istmo
Terraza Istmo is another great rooftop bar with reasonable prices in Oaxaca. After moving to the Centro area to be closer to the El Dia de los Muertos festivities, we spent every night enjoying drinks at this rooftop bar located just a couple of blocks east of Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.
Like El Son Istmeño (#9), Terraza Istmo specializes in traditional Mexican dishes from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, like these tasty garnachas.
I don’t know what this dish is called but the table next to us ordered it so I asked for it too. According to our server, it’s a type of Istmeño fish spread made with spices and other ingredients. Eaten with toasted tortillas, it’s absolutely delicious.
I don’t remember the exact prices but the beers and cocktails at Terraza Istmo are fairly priced as well.
What you’re looking at below is a michelada, a traditional Mexican drink made with beer, lime juice, chili peppers, and spices. One thing you’ll notice in Mexico is that they put lime juice on everything.
A michelada for me, a cocktail for the lady.
Terraza Istmo is located along Av. Jose Maria Morelos, not too far from Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.
This is the view from Terraza Istmo. Many parades went through here during El Dia de los Muertos.
Address: Av. José María Morelos 400, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 1:30-10PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Garnachas, Istmeño dishes, cocktails
To help you navigate to these restaurants in Oaxaca, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN OAXACA CITY
The traditional food in Oaxaca is some of the best in Mexico, but did you know that the state is celebrated for its coffee and mezcal as well? Oaxaca produces the counry’s best coffee beans and over 70% of its mezcal. You can order mezcal cocktails at any restaurant but I highly recommend doing mezcal tastings at a bar and/or joining a mezcal tour.
Restaurants like Casa Oaxaca, Alfonsina, and Tierra del Sol are great, but to reiterate and echo the sentiment of many Oaxaqueños and non-local foodies, you don’t need to go to fine dining restaurants to experience great food in Oaxaca.
In my opinion, the best restaurants in Oaxaca are run by Oaxacan women who’ve been making the same dish for decades. Making great food is in their genes.
One dining concept that looks super interesting but we haven’t done yet is La Cocina de Humo. Similar to Alfonsina, it’s basically a degustation experience with a menu that changes almost daily. Looking at the photos on the La Cocina de Humo website, the venue looks interesting as well so people looking for less traditional dining experiences may want to look into that.
Whatever your cup of tea may be – whether it be fondas, street food stalls, or gourmet restaurants – Oaxaca has you covered. With this list of the best restaurants in Oaxaca, I hope we do too.
Some of the links in this article on the best Oaxaca restaurants are affiliate links. What that means is that we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. ¡Muchisimas gracias!
There’s no denying it. San Miguel de Allende is gorgeous. In some ways, it reminded me of Prague. It’s almost too pretty to be real.
This colonial-era city nestled in central Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains has been dubbed the “most charming small town in Mexico”, famous for its cobblestone streets, baroque architecture, and old world charm.
For the past fifty years or so, San Miguel de Allende has been a popular destination for American expats and tourists. It’s so accustomed to welcoming foreigners that an estimated 10% of its population isn’t Mexican. Some go so far as to describe it as “Mexico’s Disneyland for adults”. It’s a fairytale destination that oozes with charm though it can feel overly gentrified at times. This manifests itself in many ways, one of the most noticeable being the food.
While it isn’t hard to find upscale Mexican cuisine or boutique hotel restaurants in San Miguel de Allende, it’s a little harder to find good local food. The street food scene is nowhere near as gritty or exciting as Guadalajara or Mexico City, but if you look hard enough, then you’ll find the real San Miguel coexisting with the city’s many trendy restaurants and third wave coffee bar concepts. You’ll just have to stray farther from the city center to find them.
Anyone who knows us well knows that local food, especially street food, is what really turns us on about a new destination. Touristy restaurants don’t do it for us so we scoured the internet, asked locals, and did a lot of walking to find what we believe to be the best restaurants in San Miguel de Allende.
FOOD IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your trip to San Miguel de Allende, we’ve compiled links to popular hotels, tours, and other travel services here.
Top-rated hotels in Centro, one of the most convenient areas to stay for people on their first trip to San Miguel de Allende.
Luxury: Hotel Casa Blanca 7
Midrange: Casa Quebrada Hotel Boutique
Budget: PATIO Alojamiento y Comida
Sightseeing Tour: Downtown Walking Tour
Food Tour: Tacos and Tequilas Tour
Day Trip: Guanajuato City Day Trip
Cooking Classes: San Miguel de Allende Cooking Classes
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Airport Transfer (from Guanajuato Airport, BJX)
Mexico SIM Card
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THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
To help organize this list of the best San Miguel de Allende restaurants, I’ve arranged them by category. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Traditional Mexican Restaurants
Food Halls / Markets
Brunch is a thing in San Miguel de Allende. If that isn’t a sign of gentrification, then I don’t know what is. We aren’t big breakfast eaters but we do love good coffee. This city is a coffee lover’s paradise so we visited some of the best and most popular coffee shops in San Miguel de Allende, a few of which are known for serving good breakfast as well.
1. Ki’bok Coffee
National Geographic described this coffee shop as “a tiny cafe that serves some of the best coffee in the world.” That’s a bold statement and may be up for debate, but there’s no denying that Ki’bok is one of the most popular places in San Miguel de Allende to go for good coffee and a tasty Sunday brunch.
Ki’bok Coffee offers a few international dishes like pasta, hummus, and focaccia sandwiches to go with traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas and sopa azteca. Pictured below is my delicious plate of chilaquiles verdes, a Mexican breakfast dish of lightly fried tortillas served with salsa and other ingredients like pulled chicken, queso fresco, crema, onions, and avocado.
Renée had this equally delicious plate of aguacate relleno, or oven-baked avocados stuffed with eggs and manchego cheese.
As described, Ki’bok is known for serving some of the best coffee in San Miguel de Allende. I suggest trying their Hemingway coffee. It’s their signature blend of Cuban cortado double espresso served with an infusion of brown sugar and topped with foam and powdered cinnamon.
If you’re a fan of coffee, then be sure to check out our guide on the best coffee shops in San Miguel de Allende.
Ki’bok Coffee is located near Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. If you’re a digital nomad, then this is a great place to work. Aside from serving great food and coffee, they have large tables and fast wifi as well.
Address: Diez de Sollano y Dávalos #25, Cuadrante #1, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8AM-7PM, daily What to Order: Breakfast dishes
2. Lavanda Café de Especialidad y Desayuno
Lavanda Café is arguably the most popular coffee shop and brunch spot in San Miguel de Allende. We were here just for coffee and dessert but Lavanda does offer a full breakfast and lunch menu of Mexican and international favorites like french toast, waffles, chilaquiles, and fish tacos.
Lavanda Café offers two types of cake on their menu, this delicious guava and dulce de leche cake and a chocolate lavender cake. They also offer a few pastries like pecan sticky buns, Mexican corn cakes, almond banana bread, and pistachio brownies.
The best coffee beans in Mexico are produced in Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Chiapas. Oaxaca beans are the best and most expensive. According to one coffee shop owner I spoke with, Lavanda Café is just one of two shops in San Miguel de Allende that serves coffee brewed from Oaxaca beans.
Of all the coffee shops we visited, Lavanda has the most extensive menu. They offer espressos, cold brew, and coffee infused with flowers. I asked our server for recommendations and she suggested the Mexican Geisha – a type of pour-over black coffee known for its distinctly floral and fruity flavor.
Lavanda Café is very popular so expect a wait when you go. We tried going on two occasions and both times, there was a half-hour wait. If you’d rather not wait, then it’s best to go shortly after they open at 8:30AM.
Lavanda Café de Especialidad y Desayuno
Address: Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 87, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8:30AM-3:30PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Breakfast dishes
3. Cafe Oso Azul
When doing research for the best brunch and coffee shops in San Miguel de Allende, Cafe Oso Azul often came up. They offer an extensive menu of both Mexican and international breakfast dishes like chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, french toast, and hotcakes.
All breakfast dishes can be ordered a la carte or as part of a set meal with your choice of coffee and either a plate of fresh fruit or a glass of orange juice. Pictured below is my french toast smothered in syrup and topped with a small mound of sliced mangoes and strawberries.
If you’re a fan of smoked salmon, then we highly recommend getting the Jen’s Special. Served in a small skillet, it consists of home-cured salmon served with goat cheese, onions, and either scrambled or fried eggs.
Cafe Oso Azul is located on the next street parallel to Lavanda Café. It was one of our favorite places to have Sunday brunch in San Miguel de Allende.
Cafe Oso Azul
Address: Zacateros 17, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8:30AM-9PM, daily What to Order: Breakfast dishes
4. Hierba Santa Cocina del Sur
Hierba Santa Cocina del Sur may have been our favorite restaurant in San Miguel de Allende. This hidden gem of a restaurant located at the very end of an alleyway in Guadalupe is helmed by a husband and wife chef team from Acapulco. Open for breakfast or lunch (or an early dinner), they serve delicious and beautifully presented Mexican dishes, many of which are specialties from their home state of Guerrero.
From the food to the service to the space to the decor, we absolutely loved everything about this restaurant.
We ate here twice, once for lunch and another time for Sunday brunch. When we were here for brunch, they started us off with this incredibly delicious chargrilled bread with butter and their very own homemade guava jam. Man was this good!
Chef Daniela recommended that we get this dish called huevos motuleños. It’s a beautifully plated breakfast dish of fried eggs served with ham, beans, gouda, peas, plantains, salsa, and queso fresco. Delicious!
You can’t really tell from the picture but nestled between the fresh greens and the crusty bread are poached eggs. What you’re looking at is huevos benedictos – Hierba’s take on the classic eggs benedict.
Instead of english muffins, they use chargrilled crusty bread for the base and top it with poached eggs, bacon, hollandaise sauce, and hierba santa or the Mexican pepperleaf herb. Hierba santa has a unique flavor and is used as an essential ingredient in many Mexican dishes like tamales, pozole, and mole verde. If you like eggs benedict, then you need to try this.
Renée enjoyed lunch here on a different day and was served this starter of tortilla chips and their homemade salsa. According to her, this was the best salsa she’s ever had in her life.
Isn’t this stunning? What you’re looking at is an intriguing Mexican dish called mole de hormiga chicatana. Chicatana refers to a large species of Mexican leaf-cutter ant. They’re harvested just once a year, at the start of the rainy season, and are used as an ingredient in the cuisines of central and southern Mexican states like Guerrero, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Puebla.
According to Chef Daniela, it’s a meticulous dish to prepare because it entails cleaning and removing the inedible wings off of each ant by hand! I saw unprepared specimens for sale at Mercado de San Juan in Mexico City and they really are quite large, their abdomens about the size of small pearls.
To eat, you use the chargrilled vegetables as a spoon to scoop up the rich, complex-tasting mole. Beautifully plated and intriguing dishes like this one are proof that Hierba Santa Cocina del Sur is really a fine dining restaurant masquerading as a casual brunch spot. For us, it’s one of the best restaurants in San Miguel de Allende and a must-visit for anyone looking for interesting local food.
Located at the very end of La Plaza de Hacienda La Aurora, Hierba Santa Cocina del Sur is a casual restaurant that serves some of the best and most interesting food in San Miguel de Allende. Don’t miss it!
Hierba Santa Cocina de Sur isn’t visible from the main road so look out for this alley off Calzada de La Aurora. Located in the artsier part of town, it’s a little over a kilometer north of Jardín Allende and the city center. Trust us, it’s worth it.
Hierba Santa Cocina del Sur
Address: Calz de La Aurora 48A, Guadalupe, 37710 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, Mon, Wed-Sat / 10AM-2:30PM, Sun (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Breakfast and lunch dishes
TRADITIONAL MEXICAN RESTAURANTS
If you travel for food, then you’ll know that the best local restaurants are typically nowhere near a major tourist attraction. San Miguel de Allende is proof of that. While we did find a few good restaurants that serve Mexican specialties in downtown San Miguel, most will require you to do a bit of walking.
5. El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes
If you arrive in San Miguel de Allende by bus, then your first order of business should be to walk with your bags to this restaurant. Located right next to the Central de Autobuses terminal, El Pato serves some of the best barbacoa and mixiote we’ve had so far in Mexico.
As their name suggests, El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes specializes in two dishes.
Barbacoa refers to a type of Mexican barbecue. It consists of a whole sheep or goat that’s traditionally slow-cooked in an underground pit covered with maguey (agave) leaves. Known for its high fat content and strong flavor, the meat is typically served with fresh corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, and one or more salsas.
Barbacoa is enjoyed throughout Mexico, usually as a weekend dish. You can enjoy it from Wednesdays to Sundays at El Pato.
Similar to barbacoa, mixiote refers to a pit-barbecued meat dish popular in central Mexico.
Mixiote is made with cubed meat on the bone – typically mutton, rabbit, chicken, lamb, or pork – flavored with a host of herbs and spices like pasilla and guajillo chili peppers, garlic, cumin, cloves, thyme, marjoram, and bay leaves. The seasoned meat is then placed in the semi-transparent skin of maguey leaves – which in itself imparts a unique flavor – before being cooked in the pit.
Like barbacoa, mixiote is typically served with chopped onion and cilantro and eaten in freshly made corn tortillas with salsa.
Most meat dishes in Mexico are served with fresh corn tortillas. You fill the tortilla with meat, onions, cilantro, and salsa and you’re good to go. Delicious!
El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes is located right next to the main bus terminal in San Miguel de Allende. It’s hard to find local food this good in the city center so I strongly recommend eating here before taking an Uber or taxi to your hotel.
El Pato may not serve upscale Mexican cuisine but in our humble opinion, it’s still one of the best restaurants in San Miguel de Allende. Seriously, don’t miss it.
El Pato Barbacoa y Mixiotes
Address: Calz. de la Estación 121, Zona Centro, 37736 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8AM-2PM, Wed-Sun (closed Mon-Tue) What to Order: Barbacoa, mixiotes
6. Taqueria Zempoal
We asked Chef Daniela and her staff at Hierba Santa Cocina del Sur where to go for the best local food, and Taqueria Zempoal was one of the restaurants they recommended. Unsurprisingly, it’s located about 1.5 km (0.9 miles) south of the city center, in a more residential area that looks nothing like downtown San Miguel.
Taqueria Zempoal is a local favorite that serves typical taqueria food like tacos, quesadillas, carne asadas, alambres, and tortas. Pictured below is my tasty plate of volcanes topped with al pastor meat.
Volcanes are flattened rounds of masa dough that are cooked at low heat on a grill until their edges curl up and resemble a crater, hence the name volcanes. They’re toasty and crunchy, though not as crunchy as tostadas. They can be filled with your choice of meat like pastor, bistec (beef steak), pollo, chorizo, or costilla (ribs).
Like volcanes, alambres refer to another way of enjoying meat in Mexico. It consists of grilled meat like pastor, bistec, pollo, or costilla mixed with a variety of ingredients like bacon, onions, bell peppers, cheese, avocado, and salsa. They’re typically served with freshly made corn tortillas.
Address: Salida a Celaya 25, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. What to Order: Typical taqueria Mexican food
7. Taqueria “El Maguey”
A bit farther down the road from Taqueria Zempoal is another traditional Mexican Taqueria called “El Maguey”. They offer a very similar menu as Zempoal and Brasimix (#8) so we suggest trying all three to see which restaurant you like the best.
The al pastor meat at El Maguey is shaved so thinly that it looks almost like Korean kimchi. We had tacos al pastor at many taquerias in San Miguel de Allende and for Renée, this one was the best.
Pictured below is my equally delicious quesadilla filled with juicy bistec meat. A quesadilla is basically a larger taco made with cheese.
Taqueria “El Maguey” is located about a 3-minute walk from Taqueria Zempoal.
Taqueria “El Maguey”
Address: 37700, Salida a Celaya 41, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 5PM-2AM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Typical taqueria Mexican food
Brasimix is the third taqueria we visited in this part of town. Situated between Taqueria Zempoal and Taqueria “El Maguey”, it’s the biggest restaurant of the three and offers pretty much the same dishes.
In the foreground below is a trio of tacos filled with chorizo, bistec, and chuleta de cerdo (pork chop).
You can’t go to a taqueria without trying their al pastor, the king of all Mexican tacos. This was delicious too.
I ordered this michelada to wash down my trio of tasty tacos. A michelada is a traditional Mexican drink made with beer, lime juice, chili-based sauces, tomato juice, and peppers. Recipes can vary greatly from place to place with some versions being made with additional ingredients like Tajín, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi seasoning, and soy sauce.
As you can probably tell from its ingredients, the michelada is a savory drink that may not be for everyone. Served in a chilled, salt- and chili-rimmed glass or mug, you can think of it as the Mexican version of a bloody mary.
Brasimix and the previous two taquerias are located away from the city center so we suggest doing a taco crawl and visiting all three on the same day. Of the three, Taqueria “El Maguey” opens the latest, at 5PM, so it’s best to come here for dinner. Do let us know which one you like best!
Address: Salida a Celaya 20A, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 3:30-10PM, daily What to Order: Typical taqueria Mexican food
9. Carnitas El Guero
If you’ve been to Guanajuato City, then you’ve probably enjoyed the incredible views from Monumento Al Pipila. I was expecting a similar experience from the mirador in San Miguel de Allende but that wasn’t the case. The view was underwhelming but it did lead me to Carnitas El Guero, a family-owned restaurant that serves great Mexican breakfast dishes and carnitas.
As their name suggests, El Guero specializes in carnitas – a Michoacán dish made with pork simmered or braised for hours in oil or lard. You can have them in tacos, tortas, or quesadillas, but I was here early in the morning so I wanted them with eggs.
Pictured below is my tasty plate of huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs) con carnitas. They were served with a side of beans and ham, salsa, and fresh corn tortillas. ¡Buenos dias!
As described, most meat dishes in Mexico are enjoyed with corn tortillas. It’s almost impossible to go a day here without eating corn in some form.
Carnitas El Guero is located across the street from the mirador. The view from the mirador may be underwhelming, but the same can’t be said about El Guero’s carnitas. They’re delicious.
Carnitas El Guero
Address: Salida Real a Querétaro 90, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, daily What to Order: Carnitas, Mexican breakfast dishes
All located within downtown San Miguel, these next five restaurants are for people who want good food but aren’t willing to go the extra mile for it.
10. Los Burritos
Los Burritos is the closest thing we’ve had to a Mexican fast food chain. They specialize in burritacos, a tasty hybrid of burritos and tacos.
If you’ve eaten your way through Mexico City, then you’re probably familiar with tacos de guisados, those uber delicious tacos filled with different types of stew. That’s basically what these burritacos are except they’re made with flour tortillas. You can get them filled with various stews like mole rojo, pollo con chipotle, picadillo, and papas con chorizo.
To be honest, we weren’t expecting much from Los Burritos but these burritacos were incredibly tasty.
Los Burritos is a quick 5-minute walk from Jardín Allende and the city center.
Address: Hidalgo 23, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 10:30AM-5:45PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Burritacos
11. Sabroso Taqueria
If you want modern tacos in an IG-worthy setting, then Sabroso Taqueria is the place to go in San Miguel de Allende. It’s a trendy Mexican restaurant that shares a space with two other restaurant/bar concepts – Chicago’s Stuffed Pizza and Raffaela Terraza.
Sabroso Taqueria makes more modern versions of traditional Mexican food like tacos and volcanes. They even offer vegetarian and vegan options. On the plate below are tacos filled with suadero meat and cochinita pibil.
Suadero refers to a thin slice of pork or beef cut from the area between the animal’s belly and leg. Cochinita pibil is a Yucatán dish made with pit-roasted pork marinated in strong citrus juices. You can think of it as the pork version of barbacoa. Both are delicious and must-try dishes in Mexico.
If you like trendy restaurants, then you’ll definitely enjoy Sabroso Taqueria. They’re all about the hashtag and IG-worthy food.
Sabroso Taqueria has ground floor seating but hardly anyone sits there. San Miguel de Allende is all about rooftop restaurants so everyone goes straight to the second floor.
Sabroso Taqueria shares a space with Raffaela Terraza, a trendy rooftop bar. It’s a great place to have beer or cocktails to go with your tasty tacos.
Choose a table near the edge of the rooftop terrace and you’ll be treated to this view. Rooftop restaurants are a thing in San Miguel de Allende so you can’t visit this city without going to at least one.
Did I say that Sabroso Taqueria is all about the Gram? Neon angel wings to spruce up your IG feed.
Address: Zacateros 41, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 1-10:30PM, Wed-Thurs, Sun-Mon / 1PM-12:30AM, Fri-Sat (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Modern tacos
12. Chilli Billy
As you can probably guess from its name, Chilli Bily specializes in chili con carne, a popular Mexican-American stew made with chili peppers, ground beef, tomatoes, and kidney beans.
Like burritos, chili con carne is a dish that straddles the border between northern Mexico and the southern United States. Its exact origins are unclear but it’s often attributed to northern Mexican states like Nuevo León or to southern Texas.
Chilli Billy prides itself on making 100% homemade chili. The chef/owner’s name is Billy so I’m guessing they use a well-guarded family recipe. They offer a few chili-centric dishes like chili bowls, chili burgers, chili dogs, and chili fries. Pictured below is my tasty chili burger with a side of french fries.
I was chatting with Billy’s wife (or girlfriend) and she said that they had been open for just four months at the time of my visit. Business must be good based on their online reviews!
I was enjoying my coffee at nearby El Cafe de La Mancha when I saw a small group of people exiting the restaurant. Intrigued, I crossed the street to have lunch here. I’m happy that I did because their chili is delicious.
Address: C. Margarito Ledesma 2B, Zona Centro, Guadalupe, 37710 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 12NN-7PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Chili bowls, burgers, and hot dogs
13. Broaster To Go
I dare you to walk by this pollo frito (fried chicken) restaurant and not get hungry. We stayed at an AirBnB near here and every day, at least twice a day, we’d be subjected to the irresistible smells wafting from this place. I know other people felt the same way because heads would turn soon as they got a whiff of that heavenly fried chicken aroma.
We wound up getting takeaway here twice and their fried chicken is every bit as tasty as it smells. Light and crispy on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside, their fried chicken is delicious.
As its name suggests, Broaster To Go offers takeout only. There’s usually a line at any time of the day but no worries, it moves quickly.
Broaster To Go
Address: 1, Calz de La Aurora, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 10AM-6PM, daily What to Order: Fried chicken
14. Chocolates y Churros San Agustin
San Agustin is the most popular place to have churros and hot chocolate in San Miguel de Allende. They do offer a full menu of Mexican dishes and drinks but as their name suggests, their most popular item is their churros.
You can order regular churros or churros rellenos (stuffed churros). They offer churros stuffed with different fillings like chocolate, caramel, condensed milk, Nutella, or rompope. We tried the rompope which is the Mexican version of eggnog. Serious yum!
You can also order different types of hot chocolate to go with your churros like chocolate Español, chocolate Francés, and chocolate Mexicano. Chocolate Español tastes just like the hot chocolate you’d find at churrerias in Spain – bold and slightly bitter – while chocolate Mexicano tastes lighter and sweeter.
Chocolates y Churros San Agustin is located in the heart of downtown San Miguel, directly facing the small park next to Templo de San Francisco.
Chocolates y Churros San Agustin
Address: San Francisco 21, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM, daily What to Order: Churros con chocolate
There’s nothing I love more than street food. To me, it’s the most honest and unfiltered representation of a culture’s culinary identity. I find that to be especially true in Mexico. Restaurant food is fine but nothing beats the experience of eating tacos from a plastic-covered plate while standing.
While San Miguel de Allende is no Mexico City, you can find good street food here if you’re willing to walk far enough.
15. Tacos San Francisco
After Andy’s Taco Cart (#16), Tacos San Francisco is perhaps the most well-known taco stand in San Miguel de Allende. They open only at night and offer typical Mexican street food fare like tacos and quesadillas filled with different types of meat.
If you want to experience Mexican street food without walking too far, then this is one of the best stands you can visit.
You’ll typically find a small army of people gathered around the Tacos San Francisco stall at night. You can refer to the map at the bottom of this article to see exactly where it is.
Tacos San Francisco
Address: Mesones 48, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. What to Order: Typical street taco stand food
16. Andy’s Taco Cart
Do a Google search for street tacos in San Miguel de Allende and Andy’s Taco Cart will surely come up. It’s the oldest and arguably the most popular taco stand in the city. They have pretty much the same offerings as Tacos San Francisco and are just as good. Pictured below is a delicious pair of late-night suadero tacos.
Not only is Andy’s Taco Cart cheap and delicious, it’s also one of the most reliable. When every other taco stand in the city center was closed on a Tuesday night, Andy’s Taco Cart was the only stall that was open. Behold the pair of quesadillas that satiated my late-night cravings when no one else would.
Andy’s Taco Stand opens only at night on Avenida Insurgentes, around the corner from Los Burritos. Just look for the small army of hungry diners gathered around this cart.
Andy’s Taco Cart
Address: Insurgentes 85, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 6-11PM, daily What to Order: Typical street taco stand food
17. Tacos Don Tomas (Taqueria San Francisco)
This is the third late-night taco stand you can visit in the city center. On Google Maps, it’s listed as Taqueria San Francisco because of its proximity to the church but I believe its real name is Tacos Don Tomas. At least that’s what it says on a small sign on the cart.
Whatever its real name, this humble cart opens only at night and serves the same delicious fare as the previous two taco stands.
There’s a saying that the best tacos come out only at night in Mexico. Tacos Don Tomas and the other street food stands in this guide are a testament to that.
Tacos Don Tomas (Taqueria San Francisco)
Address: San Francisco 17, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. What to Order: Typical street taco stand food
18. Exquisitos Tacos “Diana”
If you want the best tacos in San Miguel de Allende, then you need to wear good walking shoes. Located a little over a kilometer south of Jardín Allende, Exquisitos Tacos “Diana” is a true neighborhood stall that offers some of the best street food in the city. They serve the usual taqueria dishes like campechano (mixed meat), pastor, bistec, and chorizo.
Open only at night, Exquisitos Tacos “Diana” is a true neighborhood stand located in a more residential part of San Miguel de Allende. Because of its location, it doesn’t get as many foreign customers but it’s well worth the trek.
Exquisitos Tacos “Diana”
Address: Orizaba 18, San Antonio, 37750 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 7PM-12MN, Fri-Tue (closed Wed-Thurs) What to Order: Typical street taco stand food
19. Tacos “Santos”
Located on the next street parallel to Exquisitos Tacos “Diana”, Tacos “Santos” may be my favorite taco stand in San Miguel de Allende. It’s my favorite not because their offerings are that much better than everyone else’s. I like them because they offer the most variety.
Tacos “Santos” is the only stall I found that offers tacos de cabeza – tacos made from different parts of the head. It’s my favorite type of taco meat and something that you should definitely try while in Mexico.
Underneath this forest of cilantro and onion are tacos filled with seso (brain), cachete (cheek), and ojo (eyes).
If you want truly interesting tacos in San Miguel de Allende, then you need to make the trek to Tacos “Santos”. You can visit Tacos “Santos” and Exquisitos Tacos “Diana” on the same night.
Address: Clavel 7, San Antonio, 37750 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 6PM-12MN, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What to Order: Typical street taco stand food
20. Elotes y Esquites Don Pedro
When I first learned about this popular Mexican street food called elote, I thought it sounded gross. Corn on the cob slathered in mayonnaise and cheese didn’t appeal to my Asian taste buds, until I actually tried it.
I had my first taste of elote at this stall on the east side of Jardín Allende and it changed my mind forever. Elote isn’t gross at all. Buttery, sweet, and a little spicy, it’s absolutely delicious. Esquite is similar to elote except the corn kernels are removed from the cob and served in a cup.
I believe there are two elote stands around Jardín Allende. When you’re facing Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, Elotes y Esquites Don Pedro is the one on the left side of the park.
Elotes y Esquites Don Pedro
Address: Jardin Allende, Principal 18, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. What to Order: Elotse, esquitas
FOOD HALLS / MARKETS
Like street food stands, mercados offer some of the best local food in Mexico. Markets provide a glimpse of the real San Miguel de Allende so be sure to visit at least one during your stay in the city.
21. Tortas Beltran (Ignacio Ramírez Market)
Ignacio Ramírez Market is probably the best mercado you can visit in the city center. It’s easy to get to and it’s home to around a dozen fondas.
A fonda is basically the Mexican version of a mom and pop restaurant. They’re typically open only for breakfast or lunch and are usually housed in a permanent structure like a mercado.
With so many to choose from, we looked for the fondas with the most customers and Tortas Beltran was one of them. As their name suggests, they specialize in tortas which are Mexican sandwiches served on soft bread rolls.
We asked our server for recommendations and one of the sandwiches he suggested was this torta de milanesa de pollo, or chicken milanesa sandwich.
Another sandwich he recommended was this torta de pierna. Pierna refers to pork leg and is one of the most commonly used ingredients in Mexican torta sandwiches.
When choosing between street food stalls in any country, always go for the one with the longest line of locals. The same rule applies in Mexico and it paid off again today. These tortas were delicious.
Tortas Beltran (Ignacio Ramírez Market)
Address: Ignacio Ramírez Market, Colegio s/n, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 8:30AM-7PM, daily What to Order: Tortas
22. Alumia (Mercado del Carmen)
If mercados and street food stalls are a little too “local” for you, then Mercado del Carmen is right up your alley. It’s a trendy food hall that’s home to about ten restaurants, bars, and cafes.
We learned about Mercado del Carmen from Chef Daniela of Hierba Santa Cocina del Sur. This is where she likes to go with her husband when they aren’t cooking up fabulous Guerrero-inspired dishes at their restaurant. When a local chef tells you to go somewhere, you don’t ask any questions. You just go.
Chef Daniela and her husband like to go to the stall that serves Asian food (Chikatana) but Renée wanted Mexican so she went to Alumia instead. They serve traditional Mexican fare like this delicious carne asada taco.
Mercado del Carmen is located right next to Sabroso Taqueria. It’s a fun space with many food options so definitely check them out on your next trip to San Miguel de Allende.
Alumia (Mercado del Carmen)
Address: Mercado del Carmen, Pila Seca 19, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Operating Hours: 1-9PM, Tue-Thurs / 1-11PM, Fri-Sat / 1-8PM, Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Traditional Mexican dishes
To help you navigate to these San Miguel de Allende restaurants, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. It includes a few other restaurants we had on our list but didn’t go to. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
San Miguel de Allende offers much in the way of fine dining restaurants and luxury accommodations. You can explore every rooftop restaurant and boutique hotel in the city but that doesn’t mean you’ll be experiencing the real San Miguel.
If experiencing the local food and culture is what interests you most about a trip, then we hope this list of (mostly) humble eateries leads you to many memorable meals in this charming, though sometimes Disneyland-like city.
Some of the links in this article on the best San Miguel de Allende restaurants are affiliate links. What that means is that we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. ¡Muchas gracias!
EDITOR’S NOTE:Who doesn’t love Korean instant noodles? Traveleater Jason is a Korean ramen expert and owner of a website about all things South Korea called The Korean Guide. In this article, he shares with us 20 of the best Korean ramen noodles that you absolutely must try.
When we think of Asian-style instant noodles, you might make the association that they come from China or Japan. After all, Japanese ramen is arguably the most famous Japanese dish. While that may be true, have you ever heard of Korean ramen? The list below describes twenty of the most popular brands and flavors from South Korea that anyone in the world has access to.
All these brands of Korean noodles are delicious, with some made with all-natural and organic ingredients that you can take comfort in. However, as a word of caution, anyone with food allergies to things like gluten, eggs, or nuts should avoid eating these.
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Paldo Fun & Yum Gomtang Ramen – A mild-flavored beef with vegetables ramen soup.
Paldo Fun & Yum Extra Hot Spicy Instant Noodles – Super hot and spicy Korean ramen soup.
Nongshim Budae Jjigae Noodle Soup – Traditional “army base soup” made with spicy sausage, spam, ham, baked beans, kimchi, red chili paste, and noodles.
ABOUT KOREAN RAMEN NOODLES
Since the Korean War, ramyeon (or Korean ramen) became an inexpensive filler food. It helped keep bellies full when food like rice was scarce. Developed in 1963 by the Samyang Food Company (some instant ramen products from this brand are recommended below), it staved off starvation and famine. At the time, the situation was dire.
This came with the help of Japanese ramen, a reinterpretation of the original Chinese ramen noodle. They developed spice packages that provided a well-rounded mix of nutrients and minerals. Not only did this save Koreans, but it also became a worldwide phenomenon. Instant ramen surged in popularity in the 1980s and experienced a resurgence in the 2000s.
EXPORTS TO ASIA, EUROPE, AND BEYOND
China, Japan, and North Korea import boatloads of South Korean ramen noodles. It also has widespread fame in Russia, Switzerland, Germany, Britain, and even the United States. While there are many people in the US who have not heard of Korean-style ramen, there are others who clear it off the shelves.
Today, Korean-style ramen noodles are part of an entire Korean food line called K-Food. Of course, this includes classic ramen and instant noodles but also barbecue, rice bowls, and other seafood delicacies. When Koreans are overseas, they always eat a bowl of ramen to remind them of the comforts of home.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES FOR THE BEST KOREAN NOODLES
The key to excellent Korean-style ramen is often up to the diner’s creativity and choice of supplemental ingredients. Including freshly grilled meat like chicken, pork, beef, or fish is always a good idea. This is especially true for specialty ramen soups that include shrimp or squid. Tofu is a good option for vegans and vegetarians.
Plus, you can add other things like hard-boiled eggs, fresh chopped green onions, or a plethora of vegetables to your liking. Baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and even cucumber will make excellent toppings. You can also mix two different flavors of ramen into one fabulous bowl.
The versatility doesn’t stop there. If you prefer, you can stick to a traditional-style ramen noodle soup. However, you can use the seasoning packets to create a sauce rather than just covering the noodles. Also, you have the option of frying the noodles to create even more flavor.
THE BEST KOREAN RAMEN BRANDS
Listed below are twenty of the best and most popular Korean ramen brands that you need to try. You can purchase any of these Korean instant noodles on Amazon (Please note that this article contains Amazon affiliate links).
1. Samyang Buldak Stir-Fried Ramen Noodles (Spicy Korean Ramen!)
If you enjoy a lot of heat in your food, then you’re going to love that we started this list with these Korean spicy noodles from Samyang.
Samyang is a K-Food brand that began back in 1961. But 1963 saw the birth of their instant noodle line, which was done in an effort to fight off food scarcity at the time. Ever since, ramen in general has been the second most popular Korean food.
Today, their Buldak Stir-Fried Korean Ramen Noodles – or Buldak-Bokkeum-Myeon (불닭볶음면) – is one of their most popular products. It’s a hot and spicy ramen with chicken flavor. Also known as “fire noodles”, these are some of the spiciest Korean ramen noodles you can find.
This brand of Samyang Ramen Korean instant noodles is so notoriously spicy that there’s a viral video challenge with people in South Korea and beyond trying to eat a bowl of these fiery noodles as fast as they can. If you’re a fan of spicy food, then you need to try this.
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2. Nongshim Shin Ramyun
Nongshim has one of the top-selling Korean ramen noodle products. It’s famous and enjoyed worldwide, especially in the United States. Their Shin Ramyun is a bold and spicy beef-flavored blend of chewy, soft noodles. It comes with carrots and mushrooms and features the world’s finest peppers.
Shin Ramyun is one of the first styles of ramen released in 1963. But, this is Nongshim’s take on the recipe. Regardless, people everywhere agree, Nongshim Shin Ramyun is one of the best Korean ramen noodles around.
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3. Neoguri Spicy Seafood with Udon-Style Noodles
Another legendary Korean ramen noodle from Nongshim, this debuted in 1982 and has been a hit ever since. It’s notorious for its thick, gooey, and chewy udon noodles with a seafood flavor that’s spicy and distinct. They make it with real ingredients, including various types of seafood and dried kelp.
What makes this so special are the udon noodles. These thick noodles make for a hearty type of Korean ramen.
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4. Jin Ramen Spicy Flavor
Jin Ramen, made by the Ottogi Company, packs a punch of spice in a fabulous Korean ramen soup. It’s made with a host of different ingredients. Aside from the soft, velvety noodles, there’s beef bone stock, red pepper, kelp extract, carrot, mushroom, and green onion, among others. The whole experience is rich and delicious.
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5. Samyang Hot Chicken Carbo Ramen
Returning to the 50-year-long trusted Korean ramen producer, Samyang, their Hot Chicken Carbo Ramen is something to really write home about. “Carbo” refers to the Italian carbonara noodles used in the recipe.
You can think of this as a fusion type of ramen that combines classic Korean ramen with a touch of Italy. They call this Carbonara-Buldak-Bokkeum-Myeon (까르보불닭볶음면). It’s incredibly spicy in the same way as the Buldak spicy noodles previously mentioned in this article.
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6. Samyang Buldak Chicken Jjajang Spicy
Another great flavor in the line of Samyang ramen instant noodles is the Buldak Chicken Jjajang Spicy. Otherwise known as Jjajang-Buldak-Bokkeum-Myeon (짜장불닭볶음면), it’s just like the other spicy Korean ramen chicken flavors they offer, but the sauce is thick and chunky.
It means this isn’t a Korean ramen soup per se. It’s a noodle dish that comes topped with a fried sauce. You can think of it as something like spaghetti but it’s made with entirely different ingredients.
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7. Nongshim Chapaguri Spicy Rom Don Jjajang
Nongshim also offers their own Korean ramen with Jjajang. Their Chapaguri Spicy Rom Don Jjajang features seafood. You add hot water to the spice packet and noodles which produce a rich and hot-tasting ramen that’s covered in spice rather than becoming a soup.
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8. Paldo Fun & Yum Bibim Men Instant Cold Noodles
Paldo Fun & Yum prides itself on providing healthy, delicious, and nutritious K-Food options to the public. Their Bibim Men Instant Cold Noodles brings an interesting twist to a Korean classic that’s famous across the western world.
This incorporates their signature Mukhang ramen noodles which you can use in any Korean dish you make at home. You can toss them with your favorite stir fry with any type of protein, topper, or veggie. The sauce is sweet and spicy with a hint of apple juice mixed with an array of classic Korean spices.
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9. Kko Kko Myeon
Another great product from Paldo Fun & Yum is their Kko Kko Myeon, also known as “kokomen.” This provides a chewy and soft noodle along with spicy chicken broth, green onion flakes, powdered egg, chicken pieces and pepper. The great thing is you can trust there are no artificial flavors or preservatives.
It makes a wonderful base to create your own Korean dish at home. It has versatile ingredients which allow for adding things like a boiled egg, pieces of chicken, or even pork.
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10. Nongshim Chapagetti Chajang Noodle
Chapagetti is Nongshim’s interpretation of a classic Korean staple dish called chajangmyun noodles. The Korean food developers at the company labored over the right combination of ingredients to ensure that it tastes just like what you would find at a Korean noodle shop.
It’s a thick and chunky black bean sauce that’s actually inspired by neighboring China. The soft and chewy noodles combine sweet onions, carrot, and meat flakes. Mix it with your own pickled yellow radish and crushed chili pepper powder for a bold and flavorful dining experience.
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11. I’M E MinSaeng Ramen
MinSaeng – a word that means “people’s livelihood” – is a ramen noodle company from South Korea. “I’m E” harkens back to a popular convenience store chain. They sell this specific type of noodles and spices that mimic the freshly made Korean dish. MinSaeng gets pretty close with this instant ramen version.
The soup is flavored with things like red pepper powder, onion, artificial chicken flavor, artificial beef flavor, and dried seaweed. You can cook it up according to the package directions, but you can also add additional ingredients.
Personally, I like kimchi flavor so I typically make it with kimchi, eggs, and green onion. These will liven up the soup and your taste buds will shimmy with delight.
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12. Jin Ramen Korean Style Instant Noodle
Ottogi’s Jin Ramen Korean Style Instant Noodle comes in two flavors – spicy or mild. The boullion-based spicy broth has plenty of vegetables like green onion, mushrooms, and carrots. The chewy noodles and quick cooking time means you can have a hot bowl of Korean ramen soup in minutes without even being in South Korea.
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13. Paldo Fun & Yum Ilpoom Jjajangmen Noodles
The Ilpoom Jjajangmen Noodles by Paldo Fun & Yum is a traditional and classic blend that doesn’t come with a broth. However, it has a sweet and addictive chili flavor with a savory, spicy kick from its black bean sauce.
The thick, syrupy consistency of this sauce isn’t overpowering in its spiciness or sweetness. Plus, it comes with a crunchy fried onion garnish that you can serve on the side or on top.
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14. Samyang Fire Hot Curry Flavored Chicken Ramen
The Fire Hot Curry Flavored Chicken Ramen by Samyang offers all the wonderful spiciness of their classic Hot Chicken Ramen. The difference is the addition of curry to the mix which creates a tasty variation. However, some people who are familiar with this brand say that the curry isn’t as hot as other styles they make.
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15. Cheese Ramen, Korean-Style Instant Noodle
For cheese lovers, the Cheese Ramen by Ottogi is sure to satisfy your cravings. The spice packet mixes with powdered cheese which, when you add water, gives the noodles a creamy and mild texture with a deliciously rich cheese flavor. These Korean-style instant ramen noodles are ideal for kids and vegetarians.
There’s no meat but it’s rich with veggies and cheddar cheese. This is probably Ottogi’s most popular ramen noodle, especially in the United States.
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16. Nongshim Soon Veggie Noodle Soup
Nongshim produces a ramen soup that’s perfect for vegans – the Soon Veggie Noodle Soup. It’s made with a host of different vegetables and other ingredients that are 100% free of animal byproducts. The vegetable broth is simple, yet delicious with a mild flavor.
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17. Ottogi Sesame Flavor Ramen
Another great ramen dish by Ottogi comes in sesame flavor. It has eggshell calcium, green tea, corn, red pepper, garlic, beef bone broth, roasted sesame seeds, and green onion. It has a rich and flavorful taste punctuated by whole sesame seeds.
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18. Paldo Fun & Yum Gomtang Ramen
This Gomtang Ramen by Paldo Fun & Yum is so popular that it clears shelves fast, especially in the United States. Enjoyed for its mild beef and vegetable flavor, this is an instant ramen version of a traditional Korean recipe that’s often made at home and served at noodle shops throughout the country.
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19. Paldo Fun & Yum Extra Hot Spicy Instant Noodles
Yet another fabulous ramen dish from Paldo Fun & Yum, these Extra Hot Spicy Instant Ramen Noodles are not for the faint of heart. If you have any aversion to hot and spicy food, then you may want to try another type of ramen until you can build up your tolerance.
Also called Teumsae ramyun (틈새라면), this is one of the most unique and spiciest sauces. You can prepare it as a soup but it’s most recommended as a sauce with noodles on the side. It will help quell the overwhelming burning sensation that you’ll get in your mouth.
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20. Nongshim Budae Jjigae Noodle Soup
For an authentic K-Food noodle stew, you have to try Nongshim’s Budae Jjigae. This is a traditional dish with a name that translates to “army base soup.” It typically consists of baked beans, ham, sausage, spam, kimchi, and of course, noodles. It’s also made with a red chili paste Koreans call gochujang.
While Nongshim’s version is an instant noodle, it’s quite comparable to what you’ll find at someone’s home or a noodle shop. It’s spicy, flavorful, and packed with nutrients.
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FINAL THOUGHTS ON KOREAN INSTANT NOODLES
Even though this is a huge list of Korean ramen noodles for you to start with, there are hundreds, if not thousands more. There are some that appeal to those with more adventurous palates, like versions made with squid.
Regardless, Korean instant noodles are delicious, fast, and easy to make. They’re certainly a nutritious way to get a fast meal, no matter where you are in the world.
Some of the links in this article on the best Korean ramen brands are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!
Uzbekistan is somewhat of an enigma. Not as many travelers visit Central Asia so Uzbekistan and its wonders remain a mystery to many people.
But that hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when this double-landlocked nation was one of the most visited regions in the world. Thanks to its strategic position along the Silk Road, travelers and traders would go through Uzbekistan in droves, leading to cities like Samarkand and Bukhara amassing considerable wealth and power.
The Silk Road’s impact on Uzbekistan is clearly evident in the country’s jaw-dropping Islamic architecture. It can also be appreciated in its cuisine. Uzbek food is an intriguing blend of influences, shaped through the centuries by its neighbors and the many traders traveling along the Silk Road.
Food is always a fantastic way to experience the local culture. The architecture in Uzbekistan is one of the country’s biggest draws but as this list of tasty Uzbek dishes will show you, so is the food.
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WHERE IS UZBEKISTAN?
Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country in Central Asia. It’s bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to the south, and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to the east. Tashkent is its capital and largest city while Samarkand and Bukhara are two of its most popular destinations.
Aside from its position along the Silk Road, it was interesting to learn that Uzbekistan is one of just two double-landlocked countries in the world. A double-landlocked country is a country that’s bordered on all sides by other landlocked countries. Liechtenstein is the other.
WHAT IS TRADITIONAL UZBEK FOOD?
Uzbekistan shares many dishes and culinary traditions with its neighbors in Central Asia.
Freshly butchered meat and locally-grown vegetables feature prominently in the diet of local Uzbek people. Thanks to the abundance of sheep, mutton and lamb are among the most widely consumed meats. They make their way into many Uzbek recipes though beef, goat, poultry, camel, and horse meat are also common.
Being a grain-farming country, rice, noodles, and breads are equally vital to Uzbek culture and cuisine. In fact, plov or Uzbek rice pilaf is the country’s national dish and the most popular food in Uzbekistan.
THE BEST OF UZBEK CUISINE
Achichuk is a type of Uzbek salad made with fresh onions, tomatoes, chili pepper, herbs, and seasonings. Often served as a side dish with plov, it’s one of the simplest local salads you can try in Uzbekistan.
Photo by kovalnadiya.ukr.net
If you’re fond of dumpling dishes, then you need to try manti. It refers to a type of boiled or steamed dumpling popular in many countries throughout Central Asia, the Balkans, and the South Caucasus. Made with ground meat wrapped in thin dough, you can think of it as the Uzbek version of Chinese baozi/jiaozi, Korean mandu, Tibetan momo, or Monoglian buuz.
The size, shape, and fillings for manti can vary from region to region. In Central Asia, they’re usually larger in size and steamed using a multi-level metal steamer called a mantovarka. These large steamed dumplings are typically made with spiced minced meat like ground lamb or beef, lamb fat, potatoes, onions, cabbage, pumpkin, and other vegetables.
In Uzbekistan, manti are enjoyed for lunch or dinner, usually with sour cream, tomato sauce, or fresh sliced onions. Like many Uzbek dishes, they’re traditionally eaten by hand.
Photo by fanfon
Samsa (or somsa, samosa) refers to a type of savory pastry popular in Central Asian cuisine. You can think of it as the Uzbek version of the Indian samosa and other similar iterations like the Lebanese sambousek and the Moroccan briouat.
Unlike Indian samosas that are deep-fried, samsas in Uzbekistan and Central Asia are traditionally baked in an oven. They’re commonly shaped like triangles and stuffed with a mixture of ground meat (usually lamb, beef, or chicken), tail fat, and spices. Meat samsa is the most common but you can find other versions as well like potato, pumpkin, or onion samsa.
Soft and crunchy on the outside but juicy on the inside, this flaky pastry is a staple breakfast food in Uzbekistan. It’s traditionally eaten for breakfast with tea or as a hot street food snack.
Photo by bbivirys
Chuchvara refers to a traditional dumpling that’s sometimes referred to as the Uzbek version of Russian or Italian ravioli. It’s similar to manti except it’s smaller in size and traditionally boiled in a soup with meat and vegetables.
To make chuchvara, a basic dough is rolled out and cut into smaller squares before being stuffed with a mixture of minced meat (usually lamb or beef), onions, and seasonings. The dumplings are then boiled in broth with fried meat and vegetables. Often served with a sprinkling of fresh dill, you can think of chuchvara as the Uzbek version of Chinese wonton soup.
Photo by bbivirys
Chuchvara dumplings are traditionally served in soup but they can be fried as well. Kovurma chuchvara or fried chuchvara are cooked in hot oil and typically served with a side of sour cream or cold yogurt.
Other types of chuchvara in Uzbekistan include osh kuktli chuchvara and ugra chuchvara. The former is made with a stuffing of finely chopped greens, onions, tail fat, and hard-boiled eggs while the latter consists of classic chuchvara dumplings cooked in a soup with meatballs and noodles.
Photo by bbivirys
Shurpa (or shorba, chorba) refers to a family of soups or stews found in the cuisines of many countries throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Central/Eastern Europe. They can be made in different ways and typically consist of large chunks of meat cooked in a broth with potatoes, different vegetables, herbs, and spices.
Shurpa is a hugely popular Uzbek soup traditionally made with lamb and thick slices of potato, carrot, onion, tomato, and sweet pepper. It’s seasoned simply with salt and black pepper and often garnished with fresh dill, coriander, or parsley. Served with bread, this rich, thick soup is hearty and filling and one of the most beloved dishes in Uzbek cuisine.
Lamb soup is the most popular but there are many recipes for shurpa in Uzbekistan. It can be cooked in a number of ways and made with different ingredients like chickpeas, fish, or meatballs.
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Like plov and shashlik, lagman is one of the most popular Uzbek dishes. Originally from Xinjiang in northwestern China, it refers to a pulled noodle dish that’s become popular in many Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
In Uzbekistan, lagman is typically served in one of two ways – as a hearty noodle stew or as a fried noodle dish. When served as a soup, the hand-stretched noodles are boiled in water and served in a rich broth made with fried meat (usually lamb or beef), garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and other vegetables. It’s typically seasoned with cumin seed, salt, and pepper before serving.
Photo by fanfon
Also popular in Uzbekistan is fried lagman. It consists of stir-fried lagman noodles cooked in a vegetable sauce made from garlic, onions, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, herbs, and other ingredients. It can be served on its own or topped with a fried egg.
Photo by ryzhkov86
7. Shivit Oshi
Shivit oshi is one of the most eye-catching Uzbek dishes on this list. Also known as “khorezm lagman”, it’s a colorful dish of bright green noodles from Khiva, an Uzbek city near the border with Turkmenistan.
Khorezm cuisine differs in many ways from the rest of Uzbekistan. Fresh herbs and vegetables feature more prominently in the diet and the best example of this is shivit oshi. It’s a regional Uzbek dish made with hand-pulled lagman noodles infused with fresh dill, giving them their characteristic bright green coloration.
Mainly a summer dish and served only in Khiva, shivit oshi is must-try food in Uzbekistan. It’s traditionally enjoyed topped with a meat and vegetable stew and a side of sour cream or plain yogurt.
Photo by efesenko
8. Obi Non
Like plov, obi non is one of the most important foods in Uzbekistan. Also known as lepyoshka, it refers to a type of round, flat Uzbek bread baked in a traditional clay oven called a tandyr. You can think of it as the Uzbek version of Indian naan bread, but thicker and adorned with a decorative top.
This ubiquitous homemade bread is eaten with just about anything in Uzbekistan. It can be made in many ways and varies from region to region, even from town to town! It can be plain or enriched with additional ingredients like meat, lamb fat, nuts, sesame seeds, and raisins.
Photo by omnislash
No article on Uzbek food can ever be complete without plov, the country’s national dish. It refers to the Uzbek version of hearty rice pilaf, a widely consumed dish of rice cooked in broth that originated in South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
Plov (or palov) is the most famous dish in Uzbekistan. It’s a socially and culturally important food that Uzbeks are abundantly proud of. Traditionally prepared in a kazan (large cooking pot), plov is commonly made at home as a family meal or in larger quantities to celebrate holidays and special occasions like weddings.
Uzbek plov can be made in dozens of ways, but the most famous version is made with a base of grated and seasoned onions, carrots, and meat sautéed in fat. Rice is added before being topped with water and simmered until the rice is fully cooked. Depending on the cook, different ingredients can be added as well like meat, chickpeas, vegetables, raisins, and fruit.
Photo by fanfon
If you like meat dishes, then you need to try shashlik. It’s one of the most popular dishes in Uzbek cuisine and refers to a version of shish kabob that’s consumed in many countries throughout Central Asia, the Caucasus, and in former Soviet Republics like Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia, Lithuania, and Ukraine. In fact, the word shashlik stems from shashlyk, the Russian word for “shish kabob”.
Shashlik is traditionally made with lamb but it can be made with other types of meat as well like beef, chicken, and venison. Meat rolls made with ground beef or fatty beef (or lamb) are common, as are skewered and grilled chicken legs. For a truly memorable experience, then you may want to order grilled skewers threaded with horse meat.
Whatever it’s made with, shashlik skewers are typically threaded with just meat or with alternating pieces of meat, fat, mushrooms, and vegetables. If you prefer vegetarian food, then you can order grilled skewers of just potatoes, vegetables, or mushrooms as well.
Photo by rovada
11. Kazan Kabob
As its name suggests, kazan kabob is an Uzbek dish traditionally prepared in a kazan, a large cooking pot commonly used in Central Asian and Balkan cuisines. The kazan is the same pot used to make plov.
Kazan kabob isn’t like your typical kabob dish. It consists of marinated meat like mutton or beef that’s pan-fried first with potatoes before being covered and steamed in a kazan at low heat. When fully cooked and tender, it’s traditionally served with onions and fresh vegetables.
Photo by fanfon
12. Dried Nuts and Fruits
Like many countries in the region, dried nuts and fruits are common in Uzbekistan. They can be found at every food market and make for an interesting snack or healthy dessert. Toasted apricot seeds are especially popular and often paired with beer.
Photo by Curioso_Travel_Photography
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN UZBEKISTAN
As with all our food guides, this article on Uzbek food is a work in progress. It includes some of the most important Uzbek dishes like plov, manti, and obi non, but conspicuously missing are examples of Bukharan Jewish cuisine and Uzbek sweets like khalva and navat.
This article will grow and improve with every update but we do hope it whets your appetite before your next trip to Uzbekistan and Central Asia. Thanks for reading and have an amazing time exploring the architecture and food in Uzbekistan!
Cover photo by kovalnadiya.ukr.net. Stock images via Depositphotos.
Madrid is one of our favorite cities in Spain. We enjoyed it more than Barcelona.
Barcelona attracts more international visitors than Madrid but the Spanish capital endeared itself to us with its cosmopolitan feel and more authentic vibe. In Barcelona, we felt like tourists but in Madrid, we felt almost like locals, so much so that we could really see ourselves living there.
If you enjoy walking, then you’re going to love Madrid. It’s a huge city but very walkable and with many interesting neighborhoods to explore. Its museums are second to none and like anywhere in Spain, the food is beyond incredible.
There’s so much to experience in the Spanish capital that I’ve put together this detailed Madrid travel guide to help you plan your trip. It’ll tell you everything you need to know to eat well, see as much as you can, and make the most of your time in Madrid.
VISIT MADRID QUICK LINKS
This Madrid travel guide is long. For your convenience, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.
Top-rated hotels in Malasaña, one of the best and coolest areas to stay for first-time visitors to Madrid.
Luxury: INNSIDE by Meliá Madrid Gran Vía
Midrange: Hostal Adis
Budget: Woohoo Hostal Madrid
Sightseeing Tour: Royal Palace Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
Food Tour: Secret Food Tours Madrid
Flamenco Shows: Flamenco in Madrid
Travel Insurance with COVID cover (WFFF readers get 5% off)
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TRAVEL GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Madrid Travel Restrictions
Madrid at a Glance
Best Time to Visit Madrid
Traveling to Madrid
Where to Exchange Currency
Best Areas to Stay in Madrid
Places to Visit in Madrid
Things to Do in Madrid
Day Trips from Madrid
Spanish Food Guide
Where to Eat in Madrid
Points of Interest in Madrid (Map)
How to Get Around in Madrid
How Many Days to Stay / Madrid Itinerary
Madrid Travel Tips
MADRID TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Because of the current global situation, Madrid travel guidelines change frequently. Our friends at Booking.com created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.
Before reading this Madrid travel guide and planning your trip, be sure to check Booking.com for information on travel restrictions to Spain. If you do decide to visit Madrid, then you may want to seriously consider getting travel insurance.
You may need a visa and other travel documents to visit Spain depending on what type of passport you carry. Check out iVisa.com to learn about the requirements and to apply for a visa (if necessary).
If you’re a Philippine passport holder, then check out our article on how to apply for a Schengen visa through the Embassy of Spain in Manila.
MADRID AT A GLANCE
Madrid is the Spanish capital and the country’s largest city by population. It’s a highly cosmopolitan destination that’s home to mouthwatering food, luxury shopping, and some of the world’s finest museums.
People looking for culture will have much to look forward to in Madrid. Aside from its many galleries and exhibit spaces, Madrid is home to three of the world’s most important museums – the Museo del Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Reina Sofía. Major works from some of Spain’s most celebrated artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Diego Velázquez, and Joan Miró are on display there.
Fashionistas will enjoy strolling the Golden Mile and Gran Vía while Traveleaters with a taste for tapas and all things Spanish food will have their plates full in Madrid. Mercados abound and its vibrant restaurant scene covers the gamut from unpretentious tapas bars to Michelin-starred fine dining establishments.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MADRID
In terms of the weather, Mar-May and Sept-Nov are the best months to visit Madrid. They’re the mildest times of the year.
On our last trip, we visited Madrid in late April and the weather was perfect. It would be overcast on some days but it never rained. It wasn’t warm yet but we were fine getting around in just light jackets.
MAR-MAY: These are among the best months to visit Madrid. The weather in spring is ideal, especially towards late April and May. If you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures, then March would be a good month to visit as well.
JUN-AUG: Summers in Spain can be unbearably hot. Getting around on foot or by metro can be uncomfortable so this may not be the best time to visit Madrid. On top of that, many business owners close shop in the summer to take month-long holidays themselves.
SEP-NOV: Like spring, autumn is one of the best times to visit Madrid. The weather is perfect.
DEC-FEB: If you don’t mind colder weather, then winter may not be a bad time to visit Madrid, especially with hotel prices being at their lowest all year. January is the coldest month with temperatures often dipping into the low 30s°F (around 0°C).
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Madrid
For more on Madrid’s weather, check out these climate graphs from holiday-weather.com. I’ve also created the average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below with the most ideal months to visit marked in orange.
TRAVELING TO MADRID
We took a bus to Madrid from Granada in southern Spain but there are several ways to get there depending on where you are. I suggest checking Bookaway to find route options available to you. You can click on the link or use the widget below.
People flying into Madrid will be arriving at Madrid Airport, officially known as Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD). It’s located about 9 km (5.6 mi) northeast of central Madrid. There are several ways you can get to your hotel in the city center from the airport.
Traveling by metro is one of the cheapest and fastest ways to get to central Madrid from the airport. Travel times and fares will vary depending on your final destination, but metro line 8 will get you into Nuevos Ministerios metro station in the city center in around 12-15 minutes. The metro operates from 6:05AM till 1:30AM.
Lines C1 and C10 on the Renfe train will take you from Airport Terminal 4 to Nuevos Ministerios station in about 18 minutes. Trains run every 20-30 minutes.
Madrid Airport Express Bus
There are several buses you can take from the airport to downtown Madrid, the fastest being the Madrid Airport Express Bus. Line 203 will take you to the Atocha-RENFE hub in the city center in about 40 minutes. If you’re traveling at night, then it’ll drop you off at Plaza de Cibeles which is about 1.5 km (0.9 mi) north of the Atocha-RENFE station.
The Madrid Airport Express Bus operates 24/7 and runs every 15-20 minutes during the day and every 35 minutes between 11:30PM and 6AM. You can check the Madrid Airport website for more information and for other bus transfer options.
Taking a taxi is more comfortable but also more expensive. The taxi ride from the airport to the M30 central area in Madrid is subject to a fixed fare of EUR 30. Just be sure to catch it from the official taxi stand at the airport.
According to this TripAdvisor thread, regular commuters don’t really use ridesharing services like Uber in Spain, but it may be a good (and cheaper) alternative if the airport taxi queue is long. While Uber does operate in Madrid, most people prefer to use the FreeNow (MyTaxi) app. Another option is Cabify.
If you’d like to have a private transfer waiting for you at the airport in Madrid, then you can book one in advance through Get Your Guide.
Spain has an extensive rail network, at the very heart of which is Madrid. If you’re in a city relatively near Madrid, then train travel may be better than flying as it’ll get you into a station already within the city center. From there, you can take the local metro or taxi to your hotel. You can check Trainline for route information and to book train tickets to Madrid.
This was how we arrived in Madrid on our last visit. We took a 4.5 hr Alsa bus from Granada to Madrid Estacion Sur. If you’re traveling on a budget, then buses are a great way to get around in Spain as they’re cheaper than trains and just as comfortable. You can search for bus tickets to Madrid on Bookaway.
Renting a car is arguably the best way to explore Spain and Europe. We drove from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela and it turned out to be one of the most memorable legs of our trip. If you’d like to rent a car and drive to Madrid, then you can do so on Rentalcars.com.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
The unit of currency in Spain is the Euro (EUR).
We withdrew EUR from ATMs throughout our entire stay in Spain so we didn’t have to change any currency in Madrid. This seems to be the de facto option in Spain and in many other European countries these days.
If you plan on using your ATM card in Europe, then I suggest letting your bank know before your trip. That way they don’t flag any transactions as suspicious. In my experience, my ATM card works fine in some machines but not in others. I had no problems withdrawing from ATMs anywhere in Spain.
NOTE: Many ATMs in Europe will ask if you’d like to proceed “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion so your hometown bank performs the conversion for you. Proceeding with conversion authorizes the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion, usually at highly unfavorable exchange rates.
BEST AREAS TO STAY IN MADRID
If it’s your first time in Madrid, then it’s best to stay in Centro. Being in this central district will put you right in the heart of Madrid and close to many restaurants, cafes, bars, transportation options, and tourist attractions.
Centro refers to a large central area in Madrid composed of smaller neighborhoods, each with its own character. The first five areas recommended in this Madrid travel guide are part of Centro while the sixth is located directly east of this central district.
I’ve created a color-coded map to help you understand where these areas in Madrid are. Click on the link for a live version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)
GREEN – Lavapiés RED – Chueca YELLOW – Malasaña PURPLE – La Latina ORANGE – Barrio de las Letras / Huertas BLUE – Salamanca
If you’re looking for a good budget hotel in Madrid, then the Lavapiés area is one of the best places for you to stay. It’s an artsy and culturally diverse neighborhood with lots of interesting Spanish and international restaurants, bars, and cafes, especially along Calle Argumosa.
Lavapiés offers plenty in the way of accommodations but do stick to the main streets and squares as some of the smaller side streets can get a bit seedy at night. You can book accommodations in Lavapiés on Booking.com. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Atocha Hotel Madrid, Tapestry Collection by Hilton
Midrange: Uma House Atocha
Budget: 2060 The Newton Hostel
If an active nightlife scene is what you’re after, then Chueca is one of the best areas to stay in Madrid. It’s the hub of the LGBTQ community in Madrid and home to lots of trendy nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes. It’s also a great destination for shopping as it’s home to many interesting boutiques and upscale shops, especially along Calle de Hortaleza.
You can search for accommodations in Chueca on Booking.com. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Only YOU Boutique Hotel Madrid
Midrange: Woohoo Rooms Chueca
Budget: Bastardo Hostel
For younger travelers, Malasaña is arguably the best area to stay in Madrid. It’s one of the hippest areas in Madrid with a great mix of restaurants, tapas bars, pubs, boutiques, street art, and museums. It’s within walking distance to Calle Gran Vía as well which is home to some of the best shopping in Madrid.
You can book a hotel room in Malasaña on Booking.com. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: INNSIDE by Meliá Madrid Gran Vía
Midrange: Hostal Adis
Budget: Woohoo Hostal Madrid
La Latina refers to the area just south of the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral. It’s within walking distance to Plaza Mayor and home to El Rastro flea market, the biggest in Madrid. It’s a very walkable area with elegant architecture and excellent tapas bars, many of which are clustered along Calle de Cava Baja.
You can search for accommodations in La Latina on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Posada del León de Oro Boutique Hotel
Midrange: Posada del Dragón Boutique Hotel
Budget: Hostel MYD La Latina
BARRIO DE LAS LETRAS / HUERTAS
Barrio de las Letras (or Huertas) is the literary quarter of Madrid and the best area to stay if the main purpose of your trip is to visit the city’s museums. It’s home to Paseo del Prado and the Golden Triangle of Art. Staying in this area will put you within walking distance of the Museo del Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Reina Sofía museums.
Huertas is located immediately to the west of Parque del Buen Retiro (Buen Retiro Park), one of the largest green spaces in Madrid. Together with Paseo del Prado, this expansive public park is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can book a hotel room in Huertas on Booking.com. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: The Westin Palace, Madrid
Midrange: Room Mate Alba
Budget: Hostal Pacios
If you want a truly luxurious stay in Madrid, then look no further than Salamanca. It’s one of Madrid’s most exclusive neighborhoods and home to some of its swankiest hotels and restaurants. However, it isn’t as centrally located as the previous areas so you’ll need to take the metro to get to Madrid’s top tourist attractions.
You can find accommodations in this posh Madrid neighborhood on Booking.com or Agoda. Listed below are some of the top-rated hotels in Salamanca:
Luxury: Relais & Châteaux Heritage Hotel
Midrange: VP El Madroño
Budget: Hostal Retiro
You can also book hotels and home stays in Madrid using the handy map below.
PLACES TO VISIT IN MADRID
1. Museo del Prado (Prado Museum)
The Prado Museum is one the most famous museums in the world. It’s the crown jewel of the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk), a one-kilometer stretch of major museums in Madrid’s city center. It’s home to a mind-blowing collection of European art, mostly from the Spanish, Italian, and Flemish schools of painting.
The Prado Museum features over 8,600 paintings and 700 sculptures from Spanish masters like Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, and Joaquín Sorolla. These are the types of priceless pieces that you read about in art textbooks and only dream about seeing in person.
You can purchase a ticket to Prado Museum in advance or book a guided tour but if you plan on visiting all three major museums in Madrid, then I highly recommend getting a Paseo del Arte pass.
Photo by Enrique Palacio Sans via Shutterstock
Suggested Length of Visit: About 3-4 hrs Admission: EUR 15 Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, Mon-Sat / 10AM-7PM, Sun and public holidays Nearest Metro Stations: Banco de España (L2), Estación del Arte (formerly Atocha) (L1)
2. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Thyssen-Bornemisza is the second of the three major museums in Madrid. While the Museo del Prado is filled with priceless pieces from the Renaissance, this museum features a more modern collection from famous international and Spanish artists like Francis Bacon (pictured below), Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Roy Lichtenstein.
If you prefer contemporary art, then you may enjoy the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum more than the Prado. It’s a lot less crowded than the Prado Museum and they let you take pictures of the artworks.
You can visit Thyssen-Bornemisza on your own or book a guided tour. As advised, you may want to get a Paseo del Arte pass if you plan on visiting all three major museums on your own.
Suggested Length of Visit: About 2-3 hrs Admission: EUR 13 Operating Hours: 12NN-4PM, Mon / 10AM-7PM, Tue-Sun Nearest Metro Station: Banco de España (L2)
3. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
The Reina Sofia Museum is the third major museum in Madrid and personally, my favorite of them all. It’s a large modern museum housing over 22,400 works of contemporary Spanish and European art, many by renowned Spanish masters like Salvador Dalí (pictured below), Joan Miró, Juan Gris, and Pablo Picasso.
You aren’t allowed to take pictures of it but one of Picasso’s most celebrated works, Guernica, is on display here. If you’re a fan of Picasso or Dalí, then you need to visit this museum.
You can purchase a ticket to Reina Sofía or book a guided tour but as advised, you’ll save money on the cost of admission if you get a Paseo del Arte pass.
Suggested Length of Visit: About 3-4 hrs Admission: EUR 12 Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, Mon, Wed-Sat / 10AM-2:30PM, Sun (closed Tue) Nearest Metro Stations: Estación del Arte (formerly Atocha) (L1), Lavapiés (L3)
4. CaixaForum Madrid
If the big three aren’t enough to satisfy your craving for art and culture in Madrid, then you may want to visit CaixaForum. Located in Paseo del Prado, near the three major museums, CaixaForum Madrid is a sociocultural center with over 2,000 square meters (21,528 sq ft) of exhibit halls. The venue hosts multimedia displays, art exhibits, workshops, and music and poetry festivals.
You can check the CaixaForum website for a schedule of upcoming events in Madrid.
Photo by eskystudio via Shutterstock
Suggested Length of Visit: About 1-2 hrs Admission: EUR 6 Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, Sun-Thurs / 10AM-10PM, Fri-Sat Nearest Metro Station: Estación del Arte (formerly Atocha) (L1)
5. Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid once served as the family home to the kings of Spain, specifically from Charles III to Alfonso XIII. Today, it still functions as the royal family’s official residence though it’s used only for state ceremonies and has been opened to the public for viewing.
The Royal Palace contains over 3,400 rooms and is known to be the largest functioning royal palace in Europe. In fact, it’s so big that only a small section of the palace is shown to the public at any given time. The Royal Armoury and Kitchen are highlights as is the changing of the guard which takes place on Wednesday and Sunday every week.
You can purchase tickets at the gate, but if you’d rather not fall in line, then you may want to get fast-access tickets in advance or book a guided tour through Get Your Guide.
Suggested Length of Visit: About 2-3 hrs Admission: EUR 12 Operating Hours: 10AM-6PM, Tue-Sat / 10AM-4PM, Sun-Mon Nearest Metro Stations: Ópera (L2, L5, R), Plaza de España (L2, L3, L10)
6. Cibeles Palace
Located at Plaza de Cibeles, Cibeles Palace (or Palacio de Comunicaciones) is the former post office and telegraph/telephone headquarters of Madrid. Opened in 1909, this striking white building is known for its elegant architecture and offers some of the best panoramic views of the city.
Since 2007, Cibeles Palace has functioned as the seat of the Madrid City Council. It features a contemporary art gallery called CentroCentro and offers visitors 360° panoramic views of Madrid from its highest tower.
If you enjoy lofty views, then you may want to make a quick stop here. You can visit on your own or book a guided tour that makes a stop at Cibeles Palace.
Photo by noelia leonor via Shutterstock
Suggested Length of Visit: About 1 hr Admission: EUR 3 Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mon) Nearest Metro Station: Banco de España (L2)
7. Chamberí Ghost Station
If conventional museums aren’t your thing, then you may want to visit Chamberí Ghost Station instead. It refers to the now-disused Estación de Chamberí, one of the eight original stations on the Madrid Metro’s first line.
Opened in 1919, the station was permanently closed in 1966 before reopening as a museum called Anden or Platform 0 in 2008. It features the station’s original ads comprised of brilliantly-colored tiles, and offers a glimpse into the history and origins of Madrid’s metro system.
Photo by Quintanilla via Shutterstock
Suggested Length of Visit: About 30 mins – 1 hr Admission: FREE Operating Hours: 8:30AM-11PM, daily Nearest Metro Stations: Alonso Martínez (L4, L5, L10), Bilbao (L1, L4), Iglesia (L1), Quevedo (L2), Rubén Darío (L5)
THINGS TO DO IN MADRID
1. Enjoy Bocadillo de Calamares at Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is one of the most emblematic landmarks in Madrid. Located in an area called Madrid de los Austrias (Hapbsurg Madrid), this public square with 400 years of history is the heart and soul of Old Madrid.
Plaza Mayor is one of the most popular places in the city for tourists to eat, people watch, and enjoy the outdoors. Aside from the famous Mercado de San Miguel, you’ll find a lot of small restaurants and tapas bars around Plaza Mayor. Many serve bocadillo de calamares, a classic Madrid snack consisting of battered squid rings served in a bun. Order one and eat it outside like a local.
There are many ways to get to Plaza Mayor but I suggest walking up Calle de Cuchilleros and entering the square through Arco de Cuchilleros. It’s a monumental and impressive-looking archway with steep steps that lead you up and into the square.
You can easily visit Plaza Mayor on your own but if you’d like to go on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Nearest Metro Stations: Ópera (L2, L5, R), Sol (L1, L2, L3), Tirso de Molina (L1)
2. Explore Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel or San Miguel Market is by far the most famous market in Madrid. Similar to La Boqueria in Barcelona, it’s a Madrid institution and a must-visit for anyone looking to dive into Spanish cuisine.
Built in 1916, San Miguel Market opened as a local food market before growing into Madrid’s first gourmet market. It consists of over twenty stands whose offerings range from the finest Iberian ham to exquisite cheeses from Asturias to the freshest shellfish and seafood from Galicia.
Mercado de San Miguel is considered a culinary temple in Madrid and extremely popular. It receives over ten million visitors a year so expect a crowd at any time of the day. For the best experience, I suggest going as soon as they open at 10AM.
You can easily visit San Miguel Market on your own, but if you’d like to go as part of a guided sightseeing or food tour, then you can book one in advance through Get Your Guide.
Operating Hours: 10AM-12MN, Sun-Thurs / 10AM-1AM, Fri-Sat Nearest Metro Stations: Ópera (L2, L5, R), Sol (L1, L2, L3)
3. Take a Selfie with El Oso y El Madroño at Puerta del Sol
A short walk from Plaza Mayor is another iconic square in Madrid – Puerta del Sol. Like Plaza Mayor, it’s one of the busiest and most famous squares in Madrid. Known for its semi-circular shape, it’s regarded as “Kilometer 0” and is the center for all radial roads in Spain.
Aside from the stone slab marking Spain’s Kilometer 0, Puerta del Sol is famous for the clock on the Casa de Correos building and the statue known as El Oso y el Madroño. Meaning “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree” in Spanish, this sculpture is regarded as the heraldic symbol of Madrid.
It’s easy to visit Puerta del Sol on your own but if you’d like to go as part of a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Photo by Juan Francisco Gallego Amador via Shutterstock
Nearest Metro Station: Sol (L1, L2, L3)
4. Go Shopping at the Golden Mile and Gran Vía
If you’re a fashionista looking to do some shopping in Madrid, then you’ll probably want to stroll the length of the Golden Mile and Gran Vía, two of the best shopping districts in the city.
Gran Vía is the busiest and most popular street in Madrid. It features 1.3 km (0.8 mi) of some of the most sought-after retail shops in town like H&M, Zara, PRIMARK, Lacoste, and the Atletico Madrid official store.
If over a kilometer of shops isn’t enough for you, then you can continue east to the Golden Mile, a cluster of stylish boutiques and exclusive brands located in the upscale neighborhood of Barrio de Salamanca. Think Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany & Co.
Photo by kasto via Depositphotos
Nearest Metro Station: Banco de España (L2), Callao (L3, L5), Gran Vía (L1, L5), Plaza de España (L2, L3, L10), Santo Domingo (L2)
5. Take a Stroll in El Retiro Park
Parque del Buen Retiro (or simply Retiro Park or El Retiro) is one of the largest public parks in Madrid. Together with Paseo del Prado, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering an area of about 125 hectares (309 acres).
Located not too far from the Prado Museum, Retiro Park is a green oasis with over 15,000 trees, a lake, gardens, monuments, and sculptures. It’s a great place to relax, take a stroll, or just escape the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Some of the most prominent features of El Retiro include the monument to King Alfonso XII, the Rosaleda (rose garden), the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), and the Paseo de las Estatuas (Statue Walk).
You can easily visit El Retiro Park on your own, but if you’d like to go as part of a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Photo by karnizz via Depositphotos
Nearest Metro Station: Estación del Arte (formerly Atocha) (L1), Ibiza (L9), Retiro (L2)
6. Watch a Flamenco Show
This picture of flamenco dancers performing in a cave was from a breathtaking show we saw in southern Spain. If you aren’t familiar with it, flamenco is a Spanish art form consisting of song, dance, and guitar playing. It’s a passionate and powerful art form which in my opinion, is an absolute must-do in Spain, especially if you can experience it in a cave.
Flamenco is originally from the Andalusian region so Granada is one of the best places to catch a show in Spain. But if Granada isn’t on your itinerary, then you can watch it in Madrid. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of flamenco shows held in the Spanish capital.
7. Visit a Weekend Market
On our last visit to Madrid, we stayed at an AirBnB directly across Matadero Madrid, a former slaughterhouse repurposed into a cultural center. It features multiple spaces dedicated to exhibits, performances, and workshops.
On the last weekend of every month, Matadero Madrid hosts the Mercado de Productores (pictured below), a farmer’s market with over fifty food stalls offering a variety of fresh produce and local dishes, all of which were produced in the areas immediately surrounding Madrid. If you’re lucky enough to be in Madrid at the end of the month, then I highly recommend checking out this market.
Another great weekend market to visit is El Rastro flea market, the biggest of its kind in Madrid. It’s held every Sunday and on public holidays and features over a thousand merchants selling a wide range of goods from artisanal products to accessories to clothing and kitchenware.
8. Go on a Madrid Food Tour
Exploring the local food in Madrid on your own is always fun but if you really want to learn about Spanish cuisine, then you may want to go on a guided tour. Simply put, no one knows the food in Madrid better than a local. A knowledgeable guide can take you from mercado to mercado and tapas bar to tapas bar to experience the best of local Spanish cuisine. Plus, they can give you lots of insider tips as well.
Check out Get Your Guide for a list of the best Spanish food and wine tasting tours in Madrid.
Photo by eskystudio via Shutterstock
9. Go on a Sightseeing Tour
Madrid has a terrific public transportation system making it very easy to get around. You can easily visit Madrid’s top tourist attractions on our own, but if you’re pressed for time, then you may want to book a guided sightseeing tour. Not only will you learn more about every place you visit, but it’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to see Madrid’s top sights.
Check out Get Your Guide for a list of guided tours in Madrid. Aside from the usual walking tours, they offer more fun tours as well like Segway tours and E-bike tours.
Photo by Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock
10. Take a Cooking Class
Aside from food tours, we also enjoy taking cooking classes when we travel. It’s one of the best ways to learn about the local cuisine. Food tours can show you what and where to eat in Madrid but if you really want to learn about Spanish cuisine, then you may want to take a cooking class. Learning what goes into a dish is like looking under the cuisine’s hood.
If you’d like to learn how to make classic Spanish dishes like callos a la madfrileña or tortilla de patata (Spanish omelet), then check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Madrid.
Photo by nito via Shutterstock
DAY TRIPS FROM MADRID
If you’re staying long enough in Madrid, then you might want to go beyond the city and take a day trip. I’ve listed three of the closest day trip destinations from Madrid below but be sure to check out our full article on Madrid day trips for more recommendations.
Toledo is perhaps the most popular day trip destination from Madrid. Once referred to as the “City of the Three Cultures”, this UNESCO World Heritage Site can be reached in a little over half an hour by high-speed train.
Aside from its fascinating history and interesting architecture, Toledo is known for being the adopted home of El Greco, the famous Greek painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance.
It’s easy to visit Toledo on your own but if you’d like to go on a guided tour from Madrid, then you can book one through Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2).
Photo by ArTono via Shutterstock
Travel Time: About 45 mins
Another popular day trip destination from Madrid is Segovia. It’s located about 90 km (56 miles) northwest of Madrid and can be reached in a little over half an hour by high-speed train.
There are three architectural marvels to visit on a day trip to Segovia – the ancient Roman aqueduct (pictured below), the Alcazar, and the Catedral de Segovia. If you travel for food like we do, then you’ll be pleased to learn that Segovia is also famous for its cochinillo asado or roast suckling pig.
Like Toledo, Segovia is easy to visit on your own but if you’d prefer to go on a guided tour from Madrid, then you can book one through Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2).
Photo by Vladimir Sazonov via Shutterstock
Travel Time: About 45 mins
3. San Lorenzo de El Escorial
Commonly known as the Monastery of El Escorial, San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the historic residence of the King of Spain. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important architectural monuments of the Spanish Renaissance.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is located about an hour northwest of Madrid. You can buy entrance tickets at the gate or in advance through Get Your Guide. You can also go on a guided tour.
Photo by canadastock via Shutterstock
Travel Time: About 1 hr
SPANISH FOOD GUIDE
In our humble opinion, Spain is one of the world’s best countries for food. It’s home to many delicious dishes like paella valenciana, cochinillo asado, callos a la madrileña, tortilla de patatas, and churros con chocolate.
If you’re wondering what to eat in Madrid, then check out our Spanish food guide for a list of 45 of the most delicious dishes in Spain. If you’re obsessed with tapas like we are, then you need to check out our Spanish tapas guide as well.
Spanish dishes like paella and tapas are delicious but so are Spanish desserts. You’ve probably heard of churros con chocolate and flan but be sure to check out our article on Spanish desserts for more sweet recommendations in Spain.
WHERE TO EAT IN MADRID
Our Spanish food guide shows you the best dishes to eat in Madrid and Spain, but if you’re wondering where you should go for lunch or dinner in the Spanish capital, then be sure to check out our Madrid food guide. It lists fourteen of the best restaurants, tapas bars, mercados, and tabernas to visit in Madrid.
Fourteen may be too many for some people so I’ve listed five of our favorites below. Be sure to click through to the complete food guide for more pictures and information.
1. La Venencia
La Venencia is an icon in Madrid. It’s an historic bar and local hangout that hasn’t changed since the days of the Spanish Civil War. They offer a small menu of tapas and just one drink – Sherry wine. Also known as Vino de Jerez, it’s a type of Spanish fortified wine produced in the Jerez-Xeres-Sherry region of Andalusia.
If you enjoy a bit of history and local flavor with your food, then I suggest enjoying a few drinks and tapas at La Venencia. Rumor has it that Ernest Hemingway was a regular here.
2. Bodega de la Ardosa
Bodega de la Ardosa was one of our favorite tapas bars in Madrid. It’s a Madrid institution and a neighborhood favorite that’s been around since 1892.
Unlike La Venencia which is more of a specialized bar, Bodega de la Ardosa has a full bar and offer many tapas dishes like salmorejo, tortilla de patata, and this terrific plate of alcachofas or grilled artichokes sprinkled with salt.
Bodela de la Ardosa is extremely popular with the locals so it’s best to go on a weekday. I tried going on a Sunday and the place was practically bursting at the seams. On a Monday afternoon, we had the place to ourselves.
3. La Tasqueria de Javi Estevez
La Tasqueria de Javi Estevez is one of the most interesting restaurants we went to in Spain. It’s an upscale restaurant known for offering an entire menu of offal-inspired dishes like lamb sweetbreads, beef tongue, and pork cheek.
If that isn’t enticing enough for you, then you may be pleased to learn that La Tasqueria de Javi Estevez is the proud owner of one Michelin Star, making it perhaps the only Michelin-starred offal restaurant in the world!
If you like experiencing unusual food when you travel, then you need to make a reservation here. Check out my article on La Tasqueria for more information.
4. Chocolateria San Gines
Google “things to do in madrid” and this famous chocolateria will surely come up. Chocolateria San Gines is one of the most iconic places to eat in Madrid. They’ve been open since 1894 and is the most famous place in the city to have churros con chocolate (churros with hot chocolate). It’s a delicious pairing that’s often enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack in Spain.
No matter how long you’re staying in Madrid, you need to have a plate of churros with hot chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines. It’s a Madrid institution and almost a rite of passage for first-time visitors to Madrid.
5. Mercado de San Fernando
Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market) may be the most famous but it wasn’t our favorite market in Madrid. Like La Boqueria in Barcelona, it’s too popular and crowded and doesn’t offer the most relaxed dining experience.
We explored several mercados in Madrid and Mercado de San Fernando was the one we enjoyed the most. It’s located in the colorful Embajadores/Lavapies neighborhood and offers a diverse mix of stalls offering a range of international and Spanish cuisine.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN MADRID
To help you navigate, I’ve pinned the places recommended in this Madrid travel guide on a map. Click on the link to open the live map in a new window.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN MADRID
Madrid is a highly walkable city with great public transportation so it’s easy to explore on your own. Depending on your needs, I highly recommend getting either of these Madrid transport cards.
Tourist Travel Pass
If you plan on using public transportation a lot in Madrid, then it may be worth it to get a Tourist Travel Pass. It’ll give you unlimited rides on all forms of public transport for the duration of your pass.
Tourist Travel Passes in Madrid are valid for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7 days and come in two versions – Zone A and Zone T. If you’re planning on exploring just the city center, then a Zone A pass is enough. But if you intend to explore the surrounding areas of Madrid like San Lorenzo de El Escorial, then it’s best to get a Zone T pass.
Tourist Travel Passes are available for purchase at any metro station in Madrid, including the airport. Click on the link for more information on the Madrid Tourist Travel Pass.
If you plan on using public transportation but not often enough to warrant an unlimited pass, then you may want to get a 10-journey ticket instead. This is what we did. We got a 10-journey ticket for Zone A (central Madrid) which was more than adequate for our needs.
Like a Tourist Travel Pass, you can get a 10-journey ticket from any metro station. Click on the link for more information on the 10-journey ticket in Madrid.
No matter how you get around, I suggest downloading the Google Maps app (iOS | Android) if you haven’t already. It’ll tell you all the different ways to get from point A to point B by walking or using any city’s public transportation system. It’s accurate and reliable and something we can’t travel without.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / MADRID ITINERARY
With so much to see and do in the Spanish capital, you’re probably wondering “how many days are enough for Madrid?” That’s a great question and the not so great answer is, it depends.
Staying longer is always a good idea anywhere but if you’re pressed for time, then three full days should be enough. It’ll give you enough time to see all the major sights in Madrid. But if you’re a serious art lover and want to fully explore the major museums in Madrid, then 4-5 days would be better.
Here’s a sample 3D/4N Madrid itinerary to help you plan your trip.
DAY ONE • Prado Museum • Cibeles Palace • Take a stroll on Gran Vía • Explore Chueca • Explore Malasaña
DAY TWO • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum • Puerta del Sol • Chocolateria San Gines • Plaza Mayor • Mercado de San Miguel • Royal Palace of Madrid
DAY THREE • Reina Sofía Museum • Retiro Park • Explore Lavapiés • Watch a flamenco show
MADRID TRAVEL TIPS
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel
If you enjoy every facet of travel planning like I do, then you’re going to find the Sygic Travel app useful. I’ve been using this free trip planning app to create our itineraries for several years now. You can download it for free on iOS or Android.
2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
Having a stable wifi connection is a must when traveling. You’ll need it to navigate, do research, translate signs, and stay connected on social media. Having access to Google Maps alone justifies the cost.
We brought our own Pokefi devices so we didn’t need to rent any mobile routers in Europe. But if you do need a device that works in Madrid and Spain, then you can rent one through Get Your Guide.
3. Save Money With a Paseo del Arte Pass
If you plan on visiting the Prado museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Reina Sofía in Madrid, then it’s a good idea to get the Paseo del Arte Pass. Aside from the convenience of not having to line up for tickets each time, you’ll save money on the total cost of admission.
4. Be Wary of Pickpockets
Pickpocketing and petty theft are common in Spain, especially in bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona. You need to be aware of your surroundings and always be mindful of your belongings. Be especially vigilant in busy tourist areas like Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, and El Retiro flea market.
5. Store Your Luggage
Homestay platforms like AirBnB and Vrbo are becoming more and more popular these days so having a place to store your luggage can be a concern. If you need a safe place to store your luggage for a few hours, then you can check Luggage Hero for available storage options in Madrid.
6. Check for Madrid Travel Deals
You can buy vouchers for tours and other travel-related services from many online platforms. For a trip to Madrid, I suggest checking Get Your Guide and Klook. They’re both trusted tour providers offering a good selection of deals on tours, transfers, tickets, and more.
7. Rent a Car
Renting a car is one of the best ways to experience and explore Spain. We rented a car and drove from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela and it turned out to be one of the most memorable legs of our trip.
If you’re considering renting a car in Spain or anywhere else in Europe, then you can do so through Rentalcars.com.
8. Get Travel Insurance
To be honest, we didn’t used to get travel insurance often, but we do now, on every trip. Frankly, you never know what can happen when you’re traveling. Valuables can get stolen and you can get hurt. Travel insurance is one of those things that you hope to never use, but if you do wind up needing it, then you’ll be glad you had it.
We always get travel insurance from SafetyWing or Heymondo. They’re both popular travel insurance providers used by many long-term travelers. Click on the links to get a free quote from SafetyWing or Heymondo. Get 5% off on Heymondo if you pick up a policy using our link.
9. Bring the Right Power Adapter
Spain has Type C or Type F electrical outlets so be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.
I’m by no means an expert on the Spanish capital but I do hope you find this Madrid travel guide useful. I’m only sharing some of the things I learned from our trip. If you have any comments or suggestions, then please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for reading and have a great time visiting the art museums and neighborhoods of Madrid!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Madrid. See what’s in our backpack for a complete list of our gear. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon and other affiliate links.)
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