If you’re reading this article, then you’ve probably heard about the food in Puebla. Like Mexico City and Oaxaca, Puebla City is home to some of the most delicious food in Mexico.
And we aren’t just talking about typical Mexican food like tacos and quesadillas either. When you visit Puebla, you’ll get to try interesting dishes like chanclas, camotes, and pipián. Mole poblano and chiles en nogada are signature dishes and probably unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before.
If you’ve been to Mexico City and love tacos al pastor, then you’ll be interested to learn that Puebla is home to the crossover dish that inspired it. Like Oaxaca, Puebla is rich in culinary traditions and is a must-visit for any Traveleater.
Mole poblano is the most important but be sure to look for all twelve of these dishes the next time you visit Puebla.
POBLANO CUISINE QUICK LINKS
To help you with your Puebla trip planning, we’ve put together links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in Centro Historico, one of the best areas to stay for first-time visitors to Puebla City.
Luxury: Banyan Tree Puebla
Midrange: Hotel Boutique Casareyna
Budget: Hostal Casa De Arcos
Sightseeing Tour: Half-Day Private City Tour with Transportation
Food Tour: Guided Foodies Tour with Cathedral Visit
Cooking Classes: Puebla Cooking Classes
Day Trip: Cholula Magical Town 6-Hour Tour by Double-Decker Bus
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Mexico SIM Card
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WHAT FOOD IS PUEBLA, MEXICO FAMOUS FOR?
Puebla is home to many delicious dishes, but if you only had one day in the capital city, then you have to go for mole poblano. It’s a national dish and something that you cannot miss. If you visit in August or September, then chile en nogada is a must as well.
After you’ve familiarized yourself with what to eat in Puebla, then be sure to check out our article on the best restaurants in Puebla to learn where you should go to try these dishes.
1. Mole Poblano
Mole is a defining dish in Mexican cuisine. When people think of mole, they usually think of mole poblano. It’s the signature dish of Puebla and regarded by many as Mexico’s national dish.
Mole poblano is a thick sauce made with about twenty different ingredients, among the most important being cocoa and chili peppers. Chocolate is often used as a shortcut but moles made from scratch are typically made with cocoa and sugar. Dark brown in color and intensely rich in flavor, it’s traditionally served over turkey with sesame seeds and a side of rice.
There are two legends that recount the origin of mole poblano. The first and more popular claims that the dish was created in the 16th century by nuns from the Santa Rosa Convent. The archbishop was paying them a visit and they had nothing to prepare for him except for an old turkey.
They mixed together whatever ingredients they had in the kitchen like different types of chili peppers, old bread, chocolate, and spices. They cooked the sauce for hours and poured it over the turkey meat. Thankfully, the archbishop enjoyed the dish and the rest is history.
Mole poblano is best when made from scratch but according to a local we met in Oaxaca, most moles at restaurants are made with mole paste. A proper version takes about three days to prepare. If restaurant moles are already this good, then I can only imagine what proper moles must taste like!
Mole poblano truly is a labor of love. It’s considered the pinnacle of Mexican culinary traditions and best enjoyed during the Cinco de Mayo celebrations. It’s featured prominently in this annual festival that commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
2. Pipian Verde
I’m not sure if it qualifies as a type of mole, but pipián refers to any Mexican sauce made with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) as its main ingredient. In Puebla, pipián verde seems to be the most common though you can also find a red version known as pipián rojo.
Recipes vary but pipián verde or “green mole” is typically made with ground toasted pumpkin seeds mixed with pureed greens, tomatillos, and green chili peppers (poblano, serrano, jalapeño). Other ingredients include sesame seeds, peanuts, garlic, and spices.
3. Pipian Rojo
Pipián rojo is similar to pipián verde except its made with red chili peppers and tomatoes.
Pictured below is a mole degustation platter with four different types of sauces – pipián verde, pipián rojo, poblano, and blanco. Mole blanco is a type of Oaxacan mole made with roasted and ground peanuts, almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and white corn tortillas mixed with fruits, white chocolate, milk, chili peppers, and spices.
4. Chiles en Nogada
Like mole, chiles en nogada is considered a signature dish of Puebla and Mexico’s national dish. It’s a visually striking dish consisting of a large poblano chili stuffed with a picadillo mixture containing ground meat, panochera apple, sweet-milk pear, criollo peach, aromatics, and spices.
The stuffed pepper is then drowned in a creamy white sauce made with walnuts, milk, double cream, fresh cheese, and sherry, before being garnished with red pomegranate seeds and parsley. Both the poblano chili and walnut sauce are typically served at room temperature.
Unlike mole that’s available year-round, chiles en nogada is a seasonal dish that’s traditionally enjoyed when pomegranates are in season, usually from around August till mid-September. Tied to Mexican Independence Day, it’s a patriotic dish whose coloration represents the main colors of the Mexican flag – chile poblano for green, walnut sauce for white, and pomegranate seeds for red.
Chiles en nogada is largely unavailable at other times of the year but if you visit Puebla in August or September, then you cannot leave the city without trying this dish.
5. Tacos Arabes
If you like the iconic taco al pastor, then you need to try tacos arabes as well. It’s considered the predecessor of tacos al pastor and is the first Mexican iteration of the Lebanese shawarma.
Sometime after the First World War, a wave of Lebanese immigrants settled in Puebla and brought with them their shawarma-making tradition. Over time, locals tweaked the recipe to suit the Mexican palate. They substituted lamb with pork and created what would eventually become known as tacos arabes.
Tacos arabes are similar to tacos al pastor except they’re flavored with Middle Eastern spices and indigenous central Mexican ingredients. Another important difference is that the grilled pork is wrapped in pan arabe (pita bread) instead of corn tortillas and it isn’t served with any pineapple.
Pictured below is a version made with jocoque, a Mexican fermented milk product similar to sour cream.
This picture of spit-roasted pork helps illustrate the difference between tacos arabes and tacos al pastor.
The spit on the far left is for tacos al pastor. It’s much more orange in color due to the use of annatto (achiote) seeds in the marinade. It’s also shaped like a top – hence the term trompo (spinning top) – unlike the arabe spits that are more cylindrical in shape.
Don’t mind the size difference in this picture. Al pastor trompos are usually much bigger, about the same size as the arabe spits.
When you look at taqueria menus in Puebla, many will have terms like “taco arabe”, “taco de harina”, and “taco oriental”. They’re all made with arabe meat but the difference is in the bread they’re served in.
Taco arabe is served in pan arabe or pita bread. Taco de harina is wrapped in a flour tortilla while taco oriental is served in a corn tortilla. The picture below illustrates the difference between tacos arabes and tacos oriental. Because corn tortillas are typically palm-sized, tacos oriental are considerably smaller than tacos arabes and much lower in price.
We’ve tried all three tacos and for us, tacos arabes are the most delicious. In our opinion, the fluffiness and chewiness of pan arabe works best with this type of meat.
Speaking of tacos, be sure to check out our guide on the best tacos in Mexico City. It lists some of the best places in the capital to enjoy taco favorites like al pastor, suadero, cabeza, and guisado.
The chalupa is a tasty Mexican snack that originated in south-central Mexican states like Puebla, Hidalgo, Guerrero, and Oaxaca. It consists of a thin layer of deep-fried masa dough topped with different ingredients like shredded meat, lettuce, refried beans, onions, peppers, and salsa.
Chalupas can be made with different ingredients depending on where it’s from, but in Puebla, it typically consists of shallow-fried discs of masa topped with shredded chicken or pork, cheese, chopped onion, and either red or green salsa.
You can eat chalupas at many restaurants and street food stalls in Puebla. At some places, you’ll find them topped with mole poblano instead of the usual salsa.
In Guadalajara, tortas ahogadas are among the most popular comfort foods. In Mexico City, it’s the taco. In Puebla, it’s cemitas.
Cemitas are basically Pueblan tortas (sandwiches) served on bread rolls covered in sesame seeds. Torta is the generic word for a Mexican sandwich while cemita de Puebla refers to a specific type of torta made with meat, slices of avocado, quesillo (Oaxacan cheese), onions, pápalo, and chipotle adobado. Cemitas made with milanesa – flattened breaded fillets of chicken, pork, or beef – are among the most popular.
Cemitas are arguably the most ubiquitous food in Puebla. We tried it at several places – both at restaurants and street food stalls – and we never met a cemita we didn’t like. They’re cheap and make for a tasty quick snack in Puebla.
If you like sandwiches and have a big appetite, then the super cemita is more up your alley. Made with the same ingredients but on a much bigger bread roll, it’s basically the supersized version of a cemita.
Be sure to check out our Puebla restaurant guide to find out where you can enjoy this sexy beast of a Mexican sandwich.
If cemitas sound appealing to you, then you definitely need to try pelonas as well. It’s another type of Poblano sandwich made with a specific set of ingredients – shredded beef, refried beans, lettuce, and salsa – served on a deep-fried bread roll.
Pelonas are absolutely delicious and may have been my single favorite dish in Puebla. The fillings are good but deep-frying the bread is what really makes this dish. It’s crunchy but very light and crumbles away when you take a bite. It’s so good.
It may not seem like it but what you’re looking at below is another must-try Poblano sandwich. Called chanclas, they’re Puebla’s answer to Guadalajara’s tortas ahogadas.
Chanclas are similarly soppy sandwiches made with flour-dusted pambazo bread drenched in a spicy tomato-based sauce called guajillo sauce. Fillings typically consist of a mixture of ground beef, chorizo, avocado slices, onions, and lettuce.
Chanclas in English translates to “sandals” or “flip-flops”, perhaps in reference to the bread’s shape. Pambazo bread is so incredibly light that you almost forget you’re eating a sandwich.
Molotes are another popular street food dish in Puebla. They’re empanada-like antojitos (snacks) made with a mixture of corn masa and all-purpose flour stuffed with a variety of ingredients like chicken tinga (shredded chicken), Oaxacan cheese, mushrooms, and huitlacoche (corn smut). The fillings are sealed in a half-moon shape before being deep-fried to a crispy, golden brown.
Like cemitas, molotes are everywhere in Puebla. They’re similar in shape to empanadas but they’re typically much larger and with a thicker, harder shell. They’re topped with cream and one or two salsas (red and/or green) before serving.
11. Dulces Típicos de Puebla
If you have a sweet tooth, then you’re going to love Puebla. It’s home to over 300 types of dulces típicos or traditional sweets.
Borne from the influx of foreign influences and ingredients, Puebla’s handmade artisanal sweets were created in convents during colonial times and were initially given as gifts to the convents’ benefactors. Today, they’re sold all throughout Puebla and make for the perfect souvenir food item.
One street with a particularly high concentration of sweets shops is Avenida 6 Oriente. There are so many candy shops along this street that it’s often referred to as “Calle de Los Dulces”.
There are too many sweets to list in this article but some of the most popular include camotes, borrachitos, tortitas de Santa Clara, and ate. Pictured below are camotes, a type of dulce made with sweet potatoes, sugar, and lemon or orange essence. They’re made in different colors and flavors and are known to be the most popular type of dulce in Puebla.
If you like candies spiked with alcohol, then you need to pick up a pack of borrachitos. Meaning “little drunks” in Spanish, borrachitos are poblano sweets made with cornstarch and sugar enhanced with some type of alcohol like tequila, rompope (Mexican eggnog), or cognac.
Tortitas de Santa Clara are cookie-shaped sweets made with pepitas, egg yolks, milk, flour, icing sugar, lard, and teqesquita (natural mineral salt). It gets its name from the convent where it was invented – Santa Clara.
These sweets known as ate may not be as popular as the previous three, but they may have been my favorite. They’re made with pureed fruit pulp that’s cooked with sugar or piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar) until it thickens and hardens into a paste.
Also known as quince jam, ate used to be made only with quince but they can now be made with almost any type of fruit, one of the most popular being guava. Pictured below are blocks of guava ate, the one on the left enhanced with chili.
All the dishes mentioned in this list are native to Puebla. This last entry, a raisin-flavored liqueur called “pasita”, isn’t just native to Puebla, it’s native to one Pueblan bar of the same name.
Pasita is the trademark drink of La Pasita, a small cantina or Mexican bar located at one end of Callejón de Los Sapos. It consists of a house-made raisin liquor served with a toothpick-skewered raisin and a cube of goat cheese.
Served in a slender shot glass called a caballito (“slender horse”), this fruity amber-hued liqueur has been the signature drink of La Pasita for over fifty years.
PUEBLAN FOOD TOURS
Traveleating on your own is always fun, but if you have limited time in Puebla, then you may want to go on a food tour. Not only will a local guide you to the city’s best restaurants, markets, and food stalls, but they’ll be able to explain all the dishes to you in more detail. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of food tours in Puebla.
PUEBLAN COOKING CLASSES
Going on a food tour is a great way to sample the best Pueblan food in a short amount of time. But if you’re staying long enough, then you may want to take a cooking class. Simply put, there’s no better way to learn about local dishes than by making them yourself. It’s like looking under the cuisine’s hood. Check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Puebla.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PUEBLAN MEXICAN CUISINE
Of all the cities we’ve visited so far in Mexico, Puebla is one of our favorites, and a lot of that has to do with the food. Twelve dishes is a good number but it’s only just the beginning. This delicious state in central Mexico has so much more to offer.
We haven’t tried them yet but I’ve read about other moles and sauces like mole de chilayo, mole verde de Zacapala, and adobo. Adobo is of particular interest to us because it’s the national dish of the Philippines, where we’re originally from.
The word adobo stems from the Spanish word adobar, meaning”to marinate”. There are many differences between the two versions but vinegar is a key ingredient in both. Was our adobo a product of Mexican influence, thanks to the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade Route? It’s possible. In any case, that’s a discussion better left for another article.
I hope you enjoyed this list of must-try dishes in Puebla. If you’re a local and have obscure food recommendations for us, then we’d love to hear from you. ¡Muchas gracias!
Some of the links in this Pueblan food guide 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!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was verified by Asma Ghuidhaoui, a recipe and cookbook writer from Kairouan, Tunisia.
When holiday-goers think of North Africa, Egypt and Morocco usually come first to mind. However, not far behind is Tunisia, the northernmost country in Africa. Bordered by Libya, Algeria, and the Mediterranean Sea, this country of 11 million is home to long coastlines and a wealth of historical attractions, none more remarkable perhaps than El Djem and the ancient city of Carthage.
Tunisia offers much to history buffs but it also gives food lovers lots to look forward to, especially if you like spicy food. Couscous and shakshouka may be familiar to many but if you want to learn more about Tunisian food, then keep reading to find out which dishes to look for on your next visit to Tunis and Tunisia.
TUNISIAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to Tunis and want to really learn about Tunisian dishes, then you may be interested in joining a Tunisian food or wine tour.
Tunisian Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Tunisia
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Photo by Kate_Smirnova
WHAT IS TRADITIONAL TUNISIAN CUISINE?
Tunisian food can best be described as a blend of Mediterranean and native Punics-Berber cuisines. Like many countries in the Mediterranean basin, Tunisian cuisine is heavily based on seafood, meat, olive oil, tomatoes, and a plethora of spices like cumin, caraway, coriander, and paprika.
Tunisian cuisine shares many similarities with its North African neighbors, though spend a few days eating Tunisian food and you’ll find that it’s noticeably spicier. This is due in part to the heavy use of harissa in Tunisian cooking. Harissa refers to a spicy paste made from a mixture of ground chili peppers, garlic, and spices. It’s the most important ingredient in many sauces and gravies and is the most commonly used condiment in Tunisian cuisine.
Other than harissa and chilli peppers, other important ingredients often found in Tunisian dishes include tomato paste, tuna, eggs, and Tunisian olives.
MUST-TRY TUNISIAN DISHES
There’s no better way to start this Tunisian food guide than with couscous. Known as kosksi in the Tunisian dialect, couscous is a staple dish in North African cuisines and is considered a national dish in Tunisia.
Couscous refers to small granules of rolled durum wheat semolina cooked in a special double boiler. To cook, fine-grain couscous is layered over a bed of whole herbs in the upper pot while the meats and vegetables are cooked in the lower pot. As the meat and vegetables cook, steam rises through the vents and into the container above, cooking the pasta with aromatic steam. Similar to risotto, the couscous granules need to be stirred constantly to prevent lumping.
Couscous is traditionally served with the meat and/or vegetable stew spooned on top. It can be consumed in many different ways in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Mauritania, but in Tunisia, it’s typically made spicy with harissa sauce and served with lamb, beef, fish, and other types of seafood. In some parts of Tunisia, it can even be served with camel.
Wajih Khalfallah, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Masfouf (or mesfouf) refers to a version of sweet couscous that’s traditionally prepared for suhur during the holy month of Ramadan. Extra fine couscous is doused with olive oil before being steamed and then mixed with cold butter (or milk) and sugar.
Tunisian recipes vary but masfouf can be mixed with aromatics like orange blossom water or geranium water for added flavor. The sweetened couscous is usually decorated with a variety of nuts, dates, and other fruits before serving.
Photo by fanfon
Brik is the Tunisian version of borek. Originally a Turkish dish, it refers to a family of stuffed filo pastry dishes commonly consumed in countries throughout the Balkans, the South Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.
In Tunisia, brik can be made with a variety of savory fillings like tuna, shrimp, boiled potato with capers, preserved lemon, egg, and parsley. The fillings are wrapped in a thin and delicate pastry dough known locally as malsouka or warka before being deep-fried. In other countries, borek is often baked but in Tunisia, it’s typically deep-fried.
The most popular version of these delicious Tunisian pastries is made with egg wrapped in a triangular pastry pocket with tuna, onions, parsley, and harissa. Spritzed with lemon juice, it’s a tasty snack that’s traditionally eaten by hand.
Muckster, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Breakfast lovers will probably be familiar with this next Tunisian dish. More commonly known as shakshouka or shakshuka in the west, chakchouka refers to a globally popular Maghrebi dish of poached eggs served in a spicy tomato sauce with green peppers, onion, garlic, olive oil, paprika, harissa, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
The origins of chakchouka are unclear, though some argue that it may be Tunisian or Yemeni in origin. It’s consumed throughout North Africa and the Middle East and has been a part of Sephardic Jewish cuisine for centuries. It’s become a hugely popular dish in Israel as well thanks to Libyan and Tunisian Jews who migrated to the country in the mid-20th century.
Depending on where it’s from, chakchouka can be made in different ways. Some versions are spicier, others are more sweet. Some make them with just tomatoes and eggs while others will include potatoes, onions, and peppers. Ingredients can vary but for a chakchouka to be considered an authentic Tunisian chakchouka, then it must be made with crushed garlic cloves and caraway powder.
Photo by alex9500
Lablabi is a Tunisian chickpea soup made with dried chickpeas served in a thin, garlic- and cumin-flavored broth. Served over pieces of stale crusty bread, it’s commonly eaten for lunch or dinner, especially during colder weather to help the body stay warm.
Recipes vary but a poached egg is usually added to the soup, along with a host of other ingredients like tuna, capers, pepper, Tunisian olives, harissa, olive oil, and lime juice.
Photo by fanfon
6. Mechouia Salad
Mechouia salad is one of the most popular dishes in Tunisian cuisine. Served at the start of almost every Tunisian meal, it refers to a simple Tunisian salad made with mashed grilled vegetables seasoned with ground coriander and caraway seeds.
To prepare, onions, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant (optional), and garlic are grilled until their outer layers become charred and totally black. The vegetables are then peeled, finely chopped, and mashed together before being seasoned and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
Typically served as a starter or side dish, mechouia salad is usually garnished with additional ingredients like hard-boiled eggs, tuna fish, olives, capers, and fresh parsley or cilantro.
Photo by Asma Ghuidhaoui
7. Omek Houria
Like mechouia salad, omek houria is a simple Tunisian salad made with mashed vegetables, this time carrots. Carrots are boiled and then mashed into a purée with garlic, caraway seeds, harissa, vinegar, olive oil, and salt.
Typically served as a side dish, omek houria is often garnished with finely chopped parsley and other ingredients like boiled eggs, Tunisian olives, feta cheese, and coriander.
Photo by fanfon
8. Ajlouk Qura’a
Tunisian people seem to be fond of mashed vegetable salads and ajlouk qura’a is yet another example of that. It refers to a type of Tunisian salad made with cooked zucchini mashed with harissa, red bell peppers, garlic, caraway, ground coriander, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Like the previous two dishes, ajlouk qura’a is typically served as a starter or side dish, usually with bread. It’s often served as a component with other Tunisian dishes in kemia, the Tunisian version of mezze platters.
Photo by fanfon
If you like tomato-based stews, then you need to try kabkabou, a traditional Tunisian dish made with fish cooked in a rich tomato sauce.
Different types of fish like grouper, tuna, or mackerel can be used to make kabkabou. Healthy and easy to prepare, it’s made by stewing the fish in a sauce consisting of tomato paste, harissa, garlic, onion, cumin, saffron, and oil. Capers and olive are often added to the stew along with a spritz of lemon juice before serving.
Photo by fanfon
10. Marqa Jelbana
Similar to Moroccan stews cooked in a tajine, marqa refers to a family of slow-cooked Tunisian stews made with meat, tomato paste, onion, garlic, and spices.
Marqa jelbana is a type of Tunisian stew made with peas, potatoes, and some type of meat, usually lamb, beef, or chicken. It’s a hearty stew that’s typically prepared during the colder winter months, usually with a side of freshly baked bread.
Photo by fanfon
Merguez refers to a spicy mutton- or beef-based sausage popular in Maghrebi cuisine. Commonly consumed in Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, it consists of uncooked lamb or beef (or both) flavored with a host of spices like cumin, harissa, chili pepper, sumac, fennel, and garlic. The heavily seasoned meat mixture is stuffed into a lamb intestine casing and usually grilled.
In Tunisian cuisine, merguez can be eaten on its own or used as an ingredient in Tunisian dishes like ojja. Ojja is a variation of chakchouka made with merguez sausages.
Photo by Asma Ghuidhaoui
For many people, the word “fricassee” may conjure images of a traditional French chicken stew but in Tunisia, it refers to a fried sandwich made with tuna, hard-boiled eggs, capers, Tunisian olives, boiled potatoes, and harissa. It’s a popular and filling dish that’s often enjoyed at fast food restaurants and sandwich shops throughout the country.
Yamen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
This spicy paste made with chili peppers isn’t necessarily a dish, but it’s still one of the most important entries in this Tunisian food guide. A staple condiment in Maghrebi cuisine, it refers to a hot chili pepper paste made from roasted red peppers, baklouti peppers, garlic, cumin, caraway, coriander, and olive oil.
Harissa is used to flavor many Tunisian dishes like meat and fish stews, couscous, lablabi, and fricassee. It’s such an important ingredient in Tunisian cuisine that it’s sometimes referred to as the “national condiment of Tunisia”.
Photo by alexzrv0521
These delicious fried dough rings are a popular snack in many countries and Tunisia is no different. Bambalouni refers to the Tunisian version of the American doughnut. Made with flour dough deep-fried in hot oil, it can be enjoyed at any time of the day, either with a sprinkling of sugar or soaked in honey.
Available at fast food restaurants and street food vendors throughout the country, these Tunisian doughnuts are best when served hot and paired with coffee.
Photo by Yamen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Croppsed, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Makroudh refers to a type of semolina cookie popular in the cuisines of the Maghreb and Malta. It’s made with a combination of semolina flour and all-purpose flour filled with dates, figs, or almond paste. The dough with filling is rolled and cut – usually into diamond shapes – before being baked in an oven or fried in hot oil.
In Tunisia, makroudh is commonly filled with dates but they can also be made with figs. These delicious Tunisian pastries are soaked in a sweet honey or sugar syrup before serving, often with a cup of hot mint tea.
Photo by azarbico
TUNISIAN FOOD TOURS
Needless to say, no one knows Tunisian food better than a local, so what better way to taste the best of Tunisian cuisine than on a guided food tour? A knowledgeable local will lead you to the best restaurants, markets, and street food stalls so all you have to do is follow and eat. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Tunisian food and wine tasting tours in Tunis and other destinations throughout the country.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TUNISIAN FOOD
Tunisian food may not be as well-known as Moroccan or Egyptian cuisine but it’s every bit as interesting, especially if you enjoy more spice in your food. This food guide offers just a small taste of Tunisian cuisine but we hope it helps put Tunisia on your radar when searching for the most delicious destinations in Africa.
Some of the links in this Tunisian food guide are affiliate links, meaning 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 it helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!
Cover photo by OlegDoroshenko. Stock images via Depositphotos.
Our native Philippines is no slouch when it comes to tropical fruits. But as much as it pains me to admit it, many Thai fruits are even better. In fact, they’re so good that it’s one of the top things frequent travelers are most excited about when they visit Bangkok and Thailand.
Thailand is home to one of the biggest and most diverse collections of tropical fruit in the world. If you’re a fan of fresh fruit like we are, then listed in this article are twenty of the most delicious and interesting fruits that you need to try in Thailand.
THAI FRUIT QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand and want to learn more about Thai cuisine, then you may be interested in going on a food tour or taking a cooking class.
Food Tours: Food and Drinking Tours in Thailand
Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Thailand
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THAI FRUITS
Before we dive into this list of the most delicious and exotic Thai fruits, let’s answer a few commonly asked questions about the fruits in Thailand.
1. How many fruits are there in Thailand?
That’s a good question. We’re only familiar with the commercial varieties but according to this paper on the development of fruit production in Thailand, there are over 1,000 varieties of tropical and sub-tropical fruits in the country. A reported 57 of those fruits are grown commercially with the 6 biggest fruit crops being mango, durian, mangosteen, longan, rambutan, and lanzones.
2. What are the top 3 fruits that tourists should try in Thailand and why?
This is subjective. You can’t go wrong with any of the 6 major Thai fruit crops mentioned in the previous question but personally, I’d recommend durian, mangosteen, and lanzones. Personally, those are my three favorite Thai fruits.
3. When are the fruits in Thailand in season?
This varies from fruit to fruit but the main fruit season in Thailand is from April to July. Some fruits are available year-round though most are best at certain times of the year. To help you decide which fruits to try on your visit to Thailand, I’ve indicated under each entry when these Thai fruits are in season.
4. Where can I buy fruits in Bangkok?
Fresh fruits are available in every fresh market in Bangkok, but one of the best places to have them is at Or Tor Kor Market. Located next to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market, it’s a more upscale food market declared by CNN and Newsweek as one of the 10 best food markets in the world.
Prices are a bit higher at Or Tor Kor but the quality is second to none. Plus, it’s cleaner and much more pleasant than your average wet market in Southeast Asia.
MUST-TRY EXOTIC THAI FRUITS
Thailand is home to many popular fruits like mango, banana, pineapple, passion fruit, and coconut. Most of you are already familiar with those fruits so we’ve left them off this list to focus on the more exotic fruits in Thailand like durian, sugar apple, dragon fruit, and rose apple.
Personally, mangosteen is one of my favorite Thai fruits. We have them in the Philippines as well but the mangosteen in Thailand is on a different level. They’re so incredibly sweet and delicious.
Mangosteen are round Southeast Asian fruits with a leathery purple shell and soft white fruit. To eat, you cut the thick purple skin in half with a knife to reveal 5-8 segments of the delicate fruit. The largest segments will have a seed in the middle which you can spit out after eating the white flesh.
When in season, nothing beats Thai mangosteen. They’re sweet, just a little but tangy, and insanely addictive. It takes some serious will power to stop eating them!
It’s interesting to note that mangosteen is nicknamed the “queen of fruits” in Thailand. They’re commonly paired with durian, the “king of fruits”, because they’re said to have a cooling effect on the body as opposed to durian which is known to increase your body heat.
Scientific name:Garcinia mangostana Thai name: Mangkut (มังคุด) Mangosteen season in Thailand: April to December
Photo by somchaichoosiri
The undisputed “king of fruits”, durian is perhaps the most notorious and polarizing fruit in Thailand. You either love it or you hate it. Personally, I love it and can’t get enough of it whenever we visit Bangkok. It’s the one Thai fruit that I always look for at Or Tor Kor Market.
Brownish green in color with a thorny and thick exterior rind, durian has an unrelenting stench that’s off-putting to many. Most foreigners can’t get past its smell which has been likened to rotting flesh or moldy gym socks, but the ones that do are rewarded with a sweet and silky fruit reminiscent of custard flavored with almonds.
No matter how good durian tastes, its stench is undeniable so it’s banned in many public spaces like hotels, airports, and the subway. Personally, I think it’s best when eaten ripe and straight from the rind, but people wary of the smell may want to try it in a processed form first. Durian is used as a flavoring agent in many Thai food products like candies, cakes, chips, ice cream, and coffee.
Durian can vary greatly in quality with the best brands setting you back a few hundred baht. If you want to try the raw fruit without breaking the bank, then I suggest going to Or Tor Kor Market. You can get just one or two prepackaged pieces so you don’t have to buy the whole fruit.
Scientific name:Durio zibethinus Thai name: Turian (ทุเรียน) Durian season in Thailand: April to August
Photo by davidgn
Lanzones (or langsat, longkong) is the third of my personal big three Thai fruits. Provided they’re in season, lanzones, durian, and mangosteen are the three fruits I would always look for on every return trip to Thailand.
Lanzones is a popular Southeast Asian fruit with thin, pale brown skin and translucent flesh. Clustered like grapes, the skin is easy to break open with your fingers to reveal 4-5 segments of the sweet fruit. The smaller segments are usually sweeter while the largest segments will have a seed in the middle. You can eat the flesh around them but be careful not to bite into the seeds as they can be very bitter.
Like mangosteen, lanzones is one of those incredibly addictive Thai fruits. They may even be more addictive since they’re smaller and easier to eat. Once you start, it’s almost impossible to stop.
Scientific name:Lansium parasiticum Thai name: Langsat (ลางสาด) Lanzones season in Thailand: July to October
Photo by supaleka
4. Dragon Fruit
Also known as pitaya or pitahaya, dragon fruit is one of the most beautiful and unusual-looking fruits on this list. It refers to the fruit of a cactus tree cultivated throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world like Central America, Southeast Asia, India, and the Caribbean.
Dragon fruit is known for its distinctive reddish-purple skin with green fins or horns and a soft white flesh dotted with small crunchy black seeds. It’s very mild in its sweetness and has a texture similar to kiwi fruit. Dragon fruit can be eaten fresh with a spoon, sliced and mixed into a fruit bowl, or blended into juices.
Dragon fruit with white flesh is the most common and what you’d typically find at fresh markets in Thailand. Dragon fruit with deep purple flesh is sweeter but more rare. Even rarer still is yellow dragon fruit.
Scientific name:Selenicereus undatus Thai name: Gao mung gorn (แก้วมังกร) Dragon fruit season in Thailand: April to October
Photo by sabinoparente
Native to Central America and the West Indies, Thai guavas are among the most common fruits you’ll find at a sidewalk fruit stall. Available year-round, they’re about the size of an apple with white flesh and many small seeds inside. Guavas can be eaten ripe though they’re more commonly eaten raw with salt or sugar mixed with dried chili.
Interestingly, the Thai word for guava is “farang”, which is the same word used to describe foreigners. No one really knows the reason for this but it may stem from the fact that guavas were introduced to Thailand by European traders sometime in the 17th century.
PRO TIP: You may come across farang that seem unnaturally bright green in color. These may have been dipped in a sugar dye solution so it’s best to avoid them and buy more normal-looking guavas from a reputable fruit shop.
Scientific name:Psidium guajava Thai name: Farang (ฝรั่ง) Guava season in Thailand: Year-round
Photo by Paul_Cowan
The pomelo (or pummelo) is the principal ancestor of the grapefruit. It’s a large citrus fruit with a thick rind and pale yellow to orange or dull red flesh. Juicy, sweet, and sour, it tastes similar to grapefruit but without any of its characteristic bitterness.
Pomelo is typically eaten fresh with salt, sugar, and chili flakes, though it’s also common to find it incorporated in Thai dishes like yum sum-o (ยำส้มโอ), a spicy salad made with pomelo, coconut milk, and shrimp.
Scientific name:Citrus maxima Thai name: Som-O (ส้มโอ) Pomelo season in Thailand: Year-round
Photo by pedphoto3pm
Tamarind refers to the curved, pod-like fruit of a leguminous tree native to tropical Africa. It’s now cultivated in many parts of the world, including Thailand where it exists in two versions – sour and sweet.
Sour tamarind grows everywhere in Thailand and is often used as an ingredient in chili sauces and popular Thai dishes like pad thai and tom yum. This popular fruit ranges in sourness from sweet-and-sour to mouth-puckeringly sour and can be turned into a variety of candies, snacks, and drinks.
One of my favorite Thai tamarind candies is made with the sticky fruit removed from its exterior rind and rolled in a mixture of sugar, salt, and crushed chili. It’s a mouthwatering and highly addictive combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy!
Sweet tamarind is considerably more rare than the sour variety and is grown only in certain parts of Thailand like Phetchabun province. They’re much more expensive but worth every baht. Before I tasted them, I didn’t like fresh tamarind but the sweet variety changed my mind. They’re surprisingly sweet and without a trace of sourness.
Scientific name:Tamarindus indica Thai name: Makam (มะขาม) Tamarind season in Thailand: November to February (sweet tamarind), Year-round (sour tamarind)
Photo by jianghongyan
Santol is a tropical fruit native to Malesia. Round in shape and about the size of an apple, it has a translucent to white pulp that can range in flavor from sour to very sweet, depending on the maturity and variety of the fruit. Santol is also known as cotton fruit in reference to the soft and juicy but cotton-like consistency of its pulp that can be difficult to separate from the seeds.
In Thai cooking, unripe santol is a key ingredient in som tam (ส้มตำ) or Thai papaya salad. It’s also used in other Thai dishes like santol and pork (แกงหมูกระท้อน) and santol and prawn curries (แกงคั่วกระท้อนกุ้ง).
Scientific name:Sandoricum koetjape Thai name: Krathon (กระท้อน) Santol season in Thailand: April to August
Photo by kwanchaichaiudom
Like dragon fruit, rambutan is one of the more eye-catching Thai fruits on this list. Its name is derived from the Malay word rambut, meaning “hair”, and is in reference to the green hair-like spikes covering its bright red rind.
Rambutan is closely related to lychee and longan, the next two fruits in this Thai fruit guide. It’s good but personally, my least favorite of the three. It has the thickest rind and its flesh usually isn’t as sweet as the other two. Plus, it’s the hardest to separate from the seed.
Scientific name:Nephelium lappaceum Thai name: Ngor (เงาะ) Rambutan season in Thailand: May to September
Photo by AndreySt
Longan is the lesser known cousin of rambutan and lychee but it’s the sweetest and my favorite of the three. It has a thin pale brown skin that you can easily break with your fingers to get to the deliciously sweet and juicy fruit inside. To eat, you pop the whole thing in your mouth and spit out the seed. Unlike rambutan, it takes little effort to separate the fruit from its seed.
Longan is cultivated in the Chiang Mai region of northern Thailand. Interestingly, its name means “dragon eye” in Cantonese and refers to the eyeball-like appearance of the shelled fruit. The flesh is translucent so you can see the big black seed inside, like a sweet and juicy eyeball.
Like mangosteen and lanzones, longan is one of those Thai fruits that you can just eat forever. It’s that good.
Scientific name:Dimocarpus longan Thai name: Lamyai (ลำไย) Longan season in Thailand: June to August
Photo by AndreySt
The lychee is somewhere between a rambutan and longan. They’re slightly bigger than longan with a similarly thin but rough red skin that’s easy to break with your fingers. The fruit is deliciously sweet, though perhaps not as sweet as longan, with a smooth texture that’s easy to separate from the seed.
Lychee is native to Guangdong and Fujian provinces of southeastern China where they’ve been cultivated at least as early as the 11th century. You need to try the fresh fruits but you may want to try canned versions as well. They’re submerged in sweet syrup and used as an ingredient in desserts like bananas and lychees in coconut milk.
Scientific name:Litchi chinensis Thai name: Linjee (ลิ้นจี่) Lychee season in Thailand: April to June
Photo by nanka-photo
12. Sugar Apple
The sugar apple is one of my favorite Thai fruits. It’s about the size of a tennis ball and known for its distinctive knobby green skin. When ripe, you can easily split the fruit in half with your hands to reveal dozens of fleshy white segments inside, most of which contain a seed.
Sugar apple is best eaten with a spoon. You scoop up spoonfuls of the fleshy segments and put them in your mouth all at once. The fruit has a creamy texture that separates easily from the seeds which you can then spit out one by one.
Sugar apple is also referred to as custard apple or sweetsop because the the fruit tastes much like creamy custard. It’s absolutely delicious, especially when refrigerated.
Scientific name:Annona reticulata Thai name: Noina (น้อยหน่า) Custard apple season in Thailand: June to September
Photo by RealityImages
13. Salak (Snake Fruit)
Salak refers to a species of palm tree native to Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. Its fruit is commonly referred to as “snake fruit” because of the scaly pattern on its hard, prickly reddish-brown shell. From a distance, it really does resemble the head of a snake.
Snake fruit can be a bit difficult to peel but persistent tourists will be rewarded with a slightly sweet and tart pulp that’s dry and crunchy. It’s commonly eaten raw and dipped in a mixture of salt and sugar.
Scientific name:Salacca zalacca Thai name: Sala (ระกำ) Snake fruit season in Thailand: June to September
Photo by gamjai
14. Rose Apple
Rose apple (or wax apple, rose pear, mountain apple) refers to the fruit of a flowering tree native to Malesia and Australia. Bell-shaped and waxy in appearance, rose apples can be bright red or light green with a crunchy texture reminiscent of apples or pears, but juicier. In Thailand, the version of rose apple with green skin is more common.
Rose apples are a slightly sweet fruit often eaten raw with salt and sugar. They’re also one of the main ingredients in a Thai spicy salad (ยำชมพู่) made with dried shrimp and chili peppers.
Scientific name:Syzygium malaccense Thai name: Chompoo (ชมพู่) Rose apple season in Thailand: Year-round
Photo by imagebrokermicrostock
Growing up to 3 ft (91.5 cm) long and weighing in at 80 lbs (36 kg), the jackfruit is a large fruit that’s every bit as delicious as it is versatile. It consists of a thick bumpy rind which when broken open reveals dozens of yellow waxy segments, each containing a seed.
Jackfruit tastes sweet but not too sweet. It’s relatively dry with a robust texture that’s crunchy when eaten raw, but almost meat-like when cooked. For me, jackfruit is best when eaten fresh, but like lychees, it’s commonly canned in sugar syrup and used in desserts like ruam mit (รวมมิตร), a Thai dessert made with shreds of coconut and jackfruit in coconut milk.
Jackfruit is also commonly dried and made into chips and used as an ingredient in savory dishes like Thai curries. Thanks to its meaty texture and neutral taste, it makes for an excellent meat substitute.
Scientific name:Artocarpus heterophyllus Thai name: Kanoon (ขนุน) Jackfruit season in Thailand: January to May
Photo by anasta.see.you.yandex.com
16. Star Fruit
The common name of this next Thai fruit isn’t obvious until you slice it. Also known as carambola or 5 fingers, these distinctively-shaped fruits have five ridges that run along its sides. When sliced across, the cut segments resemble little stars.
When eaten ripe, star fruits are crunchy, firm, and very juicy. They’re just slightly sweet with tart, sour undertones, similar to apples or pears. Star fruits are usually eaten raw but they can be made into juices, relishes, and preserves.
Scientific name:Averrhoa carambola Thai name: Ma fueng (มะเฟือง) Star fruit season in Thailand: October to December
Photo by sirikornt
When I first saw gac at a fruit stall in Phuket, I thought it was fake. Covered in small thorns, it has an intense reddish-orange skin that looks almost like plastic. I remember being so befuddled by this exotic fruit that I had to ask the vendor if it were real. She confirmed it was and sold me a bottle of gac juice, which was absolutely delicious.
A less common Thai fruit, gac is a type of melon that grows throughout Southeast Asia and northeastern Australia. When eaten raw, it has a dense but mild-tasting flesh rich in beta-carotene and lycopene. Based on what I’ve read, it seems to be a fruit that’s best enjoyed as juice rather than eaten fresh.
Scientific name:Momordica cochinchinensis Thai name: Fak khao (ฟักข้าว) Gac season in Thailand: December to January
Photo by Praiwun
18. Hog Plum
The hog plum is a fruit native to the tropical Americas. Like guava, it was introduced to Asia by the Portuguese and has since become naturalized in parts of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. When eaten ripe, they have a sharp, somewhat acidic taste similar to Granny Smith apples.
Hog plums can be eaten fresh or made into juices, concentrates, and jellies. In Thai cuisine, the fruit is used as a secondary ingredient in som tam (Thai papaya salad) while the leaves are sometimes served with certain types of nam prik (น้ำพริก) or Thai chili paste.
Scientific name:Spondias mombin Thai name: Makok (มะกอก) Hog plum season in Thailand: July to September
Photo by norgallery
Chico may not be as pretty as dragon fruit but it’s just as worthy of a spot on this Thai fruit guide. Also known as sapodilla or chikoo, it refers to a fruit that’s native to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean but is now cultivated in large quantities throughout Southeast and South Asia.
Resembling a potato more than fruit, chico is an oval-shaped Thai fruit with dull mud-brown skin. It’s unattractive exterior belies a pear-like flesh that’s sweet and malty in flavor. Its pulp is soft and juicy with a slightly gritty though not unpleasant texture.
Scientific name:Manilkara zapota Thai name: Lamut (ละมุด) Chico season in Thailand: September to December
Photo by nungning20
20. Plum Mango (Marian Plum)
No, this isn’t the same sweet mango used to make that delicious Thai dessert with coconut milk and sticky rice. Commonly known as marian plum or plum mango, it belongs to the same family of fruits as mangoes and cashews but is a different fruit altogether.
The marian plum looks like a small ripe mango but its smell and taste are different. When cut open, its bright orange flesh releases a mango-like fragrance with a hint of turpentine. Soft, jelly-like, and slightly fibrous in texture, marian plum flesh tastes sweet and similar to mangoes but is much more acidic in flavor. They can be eaten raw as is, with or without the skin, or mixed into Thai fruit salads.
Scientific name:Bouea macrophylla Thai name: Maprang (มะปราง) Plum mango season in Thailand: April to May
Photo by utah778
THAI FOOD TOURS
If you’re reading about Thai fruits, then it’s safe to assume you have an interest in Thai food in general. If you’re visiting Thailand and looking to really dive into the cuisine, then you may be interested in booking a food tour. Not only will a Thai guide take you to the city’s best restaurants, markets, and street food stalls, but they’ll be able to explain all the dishes in more detail as well.
Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Thai food tours in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and other popular tourist destinations throughout the country.
THAI COOKING CLASSES
Eating mango sticky rice with coconut milk is one thing, but learning how to make it yourself is another. In my opinion, there’s no better way to learn about the local cuisine than by taking a cooking class.
We’ve taken cooking classes in many cities around the world, including Phuket and Chiang Mai, and have enjoyed them all. Check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Thailand.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THAI FRUITS
I hope you enjoyed reading this Thai fruit guide as much as I enjoyed writing it. I absolutely love Thai fruits and think it’s one of the best reasons to visit Bangkok. It’s something we always look forward to on every return trip to Thailand.
If you want more suggestions on what to eat in Thailand, then be sure to check out our Thai food guide as well. Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating all the delicious and exotic fruits in Thailand!
Some of the links in this article on Thai fruits are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if we make a sale at no added expense to you. 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. Thank you!
Featured photo by seagamess. Stock images via Depositphotos.
You may have heard of halo-halo and ube, but how many more Filipino desserts can you name? Those are two of the most popular desserts in Filipino cuisine but there are so many more tasty sweet treats you need to try on your next visit to the Philippines.
If you have a sweet tooth and are planning that next big trip to the Philippines, then here are 25 delicious Filipino desserts that you absolutely cannot miss.
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Photo by junpinzon
THE BEST FILIPINO DESSERTS
There’s no better way to start this guide on Filipino desserts than with puto, one of the most famous dessert snacks in the Philippines. It’s one of the most iconic Filipino dishes you can think of and something that’s enjoyed everywhere in the country.
Puto refers to small steamed rice cakes made with slightly fermented glutinous rice dough (galapong). It’s the most popular form of kakanin – a family of Filipino desserts or snacks made with glutinous rice paste. Kakanin is derived from the Filipino word kanin, meaning “rice”, and can be thought of as the Filipino version of Indonesian or Malaysian kuih.
The most basic form of this steamed rice cake is white in color (putong puti) but it does come in different hues depending on what it’s made with. For example, puto made with pandan leaves is green (putong pandan), puto made with ube is purple (putong ube), and puto made with cheese is yellowish in color and typically comes with a thin sliver of cheese on top (putong queso, pictured below).
Traditionally sold in bilaos or woven trays in the Philippines, these steamed rice cakes are typically enjoyed on their own for merienda (afternoon snack) or as an accompaniment to savory dishes like dinuguan (pork blood stew).
If you’d like to make putong puti at home, then you can try this recipe. Puto is traditionally made by soaking glutinous rice in coconut milk and then grinding it into a paste using a stone mill, but versions made in modern kitchens often use glutinous rice flour instead. It’s much easier but not quite as good.
Photo by MikeEdwards
If putong puti is Batman, then putong kutsinta is Robin. Often sold and enjoyed together, this orange variation of the classic Filipino steamed rice cake is just as popular and every bit as delicious. In fact, it was my favorite type of kakanin growing up in the Philippines.
Flatter in shape and orange-ish in color, kutsinta may look very different from the classic version of the iconic rice cake but it’s actually quite similar. It’s made with the same basic ingredients but with the addition of lye which gives it a much chewier and stickier texture. White sugar is substituted with brown sugar and anatto seeds (achuete) are used for color.
Unlike puto that’s typically eaten on its own, kutsinta is always paired with shredded coconut. Kutsinta can be classified as a type of puto, hence the name putong kutsinta, but Filipinos usually refer to it simply as kutsinta. This sticky rice cake is absolutely delicious and still one of my favorite dishes to snack on in the Philippines.
Photo by Ramon FVelasquez, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
If you like kutsinta, then you’re probably going to enjoy this next Filipino dessert as well. Pichi-pichi (or pitsi-pitsi) is a type of cassava cake made with cassava flour, sugar, and lye. Commonly flavored within pandan leaves, it has a similar texture to kutsinta and is typically rolled in grated coconut or topped with cheese and/or latik before serving.
Even though pichi-pichi isn’t made with glutinous rice, it’s still considered a type of kakanin in the Philippines. It has no bearing on the flavor but food coloring is often added to create different-colored versions of this popular cassava cake.
Photo by Judgefloro, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Like puto, suman is one of the most iconic and widely available types of kakanin in the Philippines. It refers to a type of Filipino rice cake made from sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and steamed in banana leaves.
Like puto, suman can be found in many forms throughout the country. The most common varieties are typically shaped like a cigar and served with a sprinkling of sugar on top or drizzled with latik, a type of dark coconut caramel sauce made with coconut milk and brown sugar.
Unfortunately, I’m only familiar with the most basic kinds like suman malagkit (literally “sticky suman”), but travel through the Philippines and you may get to try more interesting varieties made with ingredients like black rice, chocolate, and pinipig (toasted and pounded grains of immature glutinous rice).
No matter what it’s made with, suman is an important and delicious Filipino dessert that’s typically enjoyed for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
Photo by hendraxu
Isn’t this pretty? Sapin-sapin is one of the most colorful and eye-catching types of kakanin. The name literally means “layered” in Tagalog and refers to the brightly-colored layers that make up this classic Filipino dessert.
Sapin-sapin is made with glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar. Lesser versions use just food coloring to achieve the different layers but the most lovingly made versions of this delicious dessert are flavored with ingredients like ube, langka (jackfruit), and pureed corn. It’s usually topped with latik and toasted desiccated coconut before serving.
It’s worth noting that the latik mentioned here is different from the latik that’s often drizzled over suman. Depending on where you are in the Philippines, the word latik can mean either the coconut caramel sauce or coconut curds. Latik coconut curds are made by reducing coconut milk to oil and solids and then frying the solids in the oil till golden brown.
Photo by junpinzon
6. Puto Bumbong
Visit the Philippines around Christmas time and you may get to try puto bumbong, a festive Filipino dessert known for its deep purple color. Traditionally associated with the Christmas season, puto bumbong is one of the prettiest types of kakanin in the Philippines and something I always associate with the holidays.
Because of its rich purple color, many people think that puto bumbong is made with ube (purple yam) but it isn’t. It gets its purple color from pirurutong which is a unique heirloom variety of glutinous rice that’s naturally deep purple to almost black in color.
Puto bumbong is made by steaming the purple rice mixture in bamboo tubes and then serving it on banana leaves. It’s typically slathered with butter or margarine before being topped with muscovado sugar and shredded coconut.
Yes, it’s every bit as delicious as it looks.
Photo by junpinzon
Like puto bumbong, bibingka is a classic Filipino dessert with strong ties to the holidays. It’s available year-round but it’s a dessert that’s traditionally eaten around Christmas.
Like the previous Filipino desserts on this list, bibingka is a type of kakanin though it’s a bit different from the others because it’s baked instead of steamed. It’s made with a glutinous rice and coconut milk batter poured in a clay pot lined with banana leaves. The pot is sandwiched between two layers of pre-heated charcoal which cooks the batter from the top and bottom.
Bibingka can be made with just batter but the best versions are enriched with slices of salted egg. Typically enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack, especially after simbang gabi, this delicious dessert is usually topped with butter or margarine, sugar, cheese, or shredded coconut.
If you ever find yourself in the Philippines over the Christmas holidays, then I highly recommend trying this dish. I may be biased but for me, it’s one of the most delicious Filipino desserts on this list.
Photo by bugking88
8. Bibingka Malagkit / Biko
This next Filipino dessert used to confuse me as a kid. It shares the same name as my beloved Christmas bibingka but it looks and tastes nothing like it.
Bibingka malagkit literally means “sticky bibingka” and refers to a Filipino rice cake made with cooked glutinous rice topped with caramelized brown sugar and coconut cream. Dense and sticky, it’s actually closer in taste and texture to suman than Christmas bibingka which is probably what caused much of my confusion. In any case, it’s a delicious Filipino dish that’s often enjoyed as an afternoon snack or for dessert.
Depending on which part of the Philippines you visit, you may encounter a similar dessert called biko. It’s also made with sticky rice and looks very similar to bibingka malagkit except it’s topped with latik.
Photo by junpinzon
9. Sans Rival
Sans rival is one of the more interesting cakes or pastries in the Philippines. It’s interesting because it’s different from the usual Filipino desserts.
Sans rival consists of three layers of cashew nut meringue held together with buttercream. After assembling the layers, the cake is coated with more buttercream and topped with chopped cashews before being kept in the freezer to give it a uniquely crunchy and chewy texture.
Meaning “unrivaled” in French, no one really knows where the dish originated from but one theory claims it’s the Filipino version of the French dacquoise. According to the story, many Filipinos traveled to France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some brought cooking techniques back with them which led to the creation of sans rival. The use of cashews differentiates sans rival from the French dessert which is made with almonds and hazelnuts.
Photo by Sara McCleary, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
This festive and colorful dish is one of the most internationally well-known Filipino desserts. Even if you’ve never had it, chances are you’ve at least heard of this Filipino dessert or seen it on social media.
Meaning “mixed” in Filipino, halo-halo refers to a cold and refreshing dessert made with crushed or shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk, and a plethora of additional ingredients like sweetened beans, coconut strips, ube (purple yam jam), sweet corn, kaong (sugar palm fruit), leche flan, sweetened bananas, and ice cream. You can think of it as the Filipino version of Vietnamese che.
Halo-halo is usually served in a tall parfait glass so you can see its multi-colored layers of ingredients. To assemble, it starts with the various ingredients at the bottom followed by shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk. Depending on the restaurant, it can be topped with additional ingredients like leche flan, purple yam jam, and ice cream. Vanilla ice cream is nice but my favorite versions are topped off with a scoop of ube ice cream.
Halo-halo is one of the most photogenic Filipino desserts so be sure to get your Instagram shots before digging in. To eat, you take the long spoon and thoroughly mix up the shaved ice with the other ingredients until you have a colorful sludge of refreshing deliciousness. Many tourists who’ve tried it say that halo-halo is their favorite Filipino dessert.
Photo by junpinzon
11. Sorbetes (Dirty Ice Cream)
For me, these colorful ice cream carts are just as iconic a sight in the Philippines as passenger jeepneys. They have those colorful fancy wheels and are often blinged out with hand-painted patterns and ornate fonts. I read that the wheels are always painted yellow so they resemble the sun in our nation’s flag.
Sorbetes refers to the type of Filipino ice cream sold from these mobile street carts. At the time of its invention, it was made with carabao’s milk which was cheaper than cow’s milk. Today, both types of milk are used to make sorbetes along with local ingredients like sweetened coconut milk and cassava flour. Some of the most popular sorbetes ice cream flavors include mango, ube (purple yam), coconut, and our personal favorite – queso (cheese).
Sorbetes is commonly referred to as “dirty ice cream”, perhaps in reference to the way its sold on the street. But there’s nothing dirty about it (as far as I know). It melts faster than your average store-bought ice cream so it’s best to gobble it up as quickly as you can.
Unlike your everyday ice cream that’s typically sold in waffle or sugar cones, dirty ice cream can also be served in bread buns. Yes, bread buns. I know it sounds odd, but the combination actually works! If you’ve been to Singapore, then you may have seen something similar.
Photo by MikeEdwards
12. Ginataang Bilo-Bilo
Ginataan refers to a family of sweet and savory Filipino dishes made with gata or coconut milk. You can sometimes tell if a dish is made with coconut milk because the word “ginataan” is part of its name, like ginataang kuhol (snails cooked in coconut milk), ginataang manok (chicken in coconut milk), and ginataang mais (corn with coconut milk).
In our household, and I believe in many parts of northern Philippines, when someone says just “ginataan”, they’re usually referring to this thick dessert soup made with sweetened coconut milk. Like halo-halo, it can contain any number of ingredients like sweet potato, tubers, sago (tapioca pearls), langka (jackfruit), and sweetened bananas.
My personal favorite are the ones made with sticky rice balls. Known as ginataang bilo-bilo, it can contain any of the ingredients mentioned above plus these delicious chewy rice balls cooked in sweetened coconut milk. These sticky rice balls have a soft and chewy texture that goes so well with the sweet potatoes and tapioca pearls.
Ginataang bilo-bilo can be enjoyed for dessert but since it’s so filling, it’s more commonly enjoyed as an afternoon snack. It’s traditionally served hot though it can be served cold as well.
Photo by Obsidian Soul, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Taho is a classic Filipino dessert that brings back fond childhood memories for many Filipinos. It’s the Filipino version of douhua, the popular Chinese snack of silken tofu served in many parts of Asia. It exists in different versions throughout the continent but in the Philippines, it consists of three ingredients – silken tofu, tapioca pearls, and arnibal (brown sugar syrup).
Filipinos from the suburbs grew up eating this traditional dessert. Everyday, either in the morning or in the afternoon, the taho vendor would ply the neighborhoods and yell out “tahoooo!” while carrying two aluminum buckets on either side of a bamboo pole. One bucket contained the silken tofu while the other carried the tapioca pearls and brown sugar syrup.
Taho can be enjoyed for dessert, but depending on when the taho vendor would pass by your house, we’d typically have it for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Silken tofu can be served cold or hot but in the Philippines, it’s more commonly served hot or at room temperature.
Photo by junpinzon
14. Leche Flan
Leche flan is one of the most popular and beloved Filipino desserts. Unless they’re dead, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy the taste and silky soft texture of this incredibly delicious Filipino caramel pudding.
As you can probably tell, leche flan is the Filipino version of flan or creme caramel, a popular dessert made with sweetened condensed milk and lots of egg yolks. It exists in many countries throughout the world like Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and Brazil.
In the Philippines, leche flan is usually made in an oval-shaped tin mold called a llanera. This soft and creamy dessert is hugely popular in the Philippines and something you’d typically find at a Filipino party or family gathering. Luckily for tourists, leche flan is served at many Filipino restaurants as well.
Photo by imwaltersy
Like leche flan and taho, turon is an iconic dessert that many Filipinos grew up eating. It refers to a popular Filipino snack or dessert made with thin slices of plantain dusted with brown sugar and deep-fried in lumpia wrapper. This delicious treat is commonly sold as street food in the Philippines though it’s often enjoyed at home as well, either for dessert or as an afternoon snack.
Turon is usually eaten at room temperature but personally, I like it best when it’s served hot and with a side of vanilla ice cream. It’s so delicious!
Photo by asimojet
16. Banana Cue
Like turon, banana cue is one of the most popular Filipino desserts commonly sold as street food. It refers to skewered deep-fried plantains coated in caramelized brown sugar.
Filipinos love plantains and banana cue and turon are the two most widely consumed Filipino desserts made from these mildly sweet cooking bananas. Depending on who’s making them, they can both be dusted with toasted sesame seeds for added nuttiness.
Photo by MikeEdwards
If you come across a vendor selling banana cue, then chances are he’ll be selling kamote cue as well. Kamote cue is a similarly skewered and deep-fried street food dessert made with sweet potatoes.
17. Minatamis na Saging
Minatamis na saging literally means “sweetened banana” and refers to a simple but delicious dessert made with chopped plantains cooked in arnibal (brown sugar syrup). Depending on the cook, other ingredients like sweet potato, jackfruit, and sago may be added as well.
Minatamis na saging can be eaten on its own but it’s also frequently used as an ingredient in other Filipino desserts like halo-halo. When served with shaved ice and evaporated milk, it becomes known as saba con yelo (literally “banana with ice”).
Photo by [email protected]
With the Philippines being a Spanish colony for over 300 years, it’s no suprise that many Filipino dishes have Spanish roots. Ensaymada is one of them. It’s originally a Mallorcan dish that’s become a staple snack or dessert in Filipino cuisine.
Ensaymada is a type of Filipino brioche bread baked with butter and topped with buttercream and grated cheese, usually queso de bola (edam). The name ensaymada stems from the root word saim, meaning “pork lard”. Spanish ensaimada is made with pork lard but the Filipino version is made with butter instead.
Like bibingka and puto bumbong, ensaymada is traditionally associated with the holiday season though it’s widely available at any time of the year. Over Christmas, people often gift friends and relatives with boxes of special ensaymada. It has a light and fluffy consistency and is commonly eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
Photo by MikeEdwards
Like ensaymada, polvoron is a Filipino dessert that was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish colonists. Its name stems from the Spanish word polvo, meaning “powder” or “dust”, and is in reference to the dessert’s soft and very crumbly texture.
Spanish polvoron is made with flour, sugar, milk, and nuts while the Filipino version is made with a large amount of powdered milk, toasted flour, sugar, and butter or margarine. It can be flavored with other ingredients as well like ube (purple yam), strawberry, pinipig (toasted rice), and cashew.
Polvoron is milky and delicious but it’s also chalky and dry. TV game shows and house parties would have parlor games where participants would put polvoron in their mouths and try to whistle. It’s not easy!
Photo by PantherMediaSeller
20. Pan de Coco
Visit a neighborhood bakery in the Philippines and you’ll find many different types of locally made pastries and bread. Pan de coco is one of the most well-known and something that you’ll find in most of these Filipino bakeries.
Pan de coco literally means “coconut bread” and refers to a type of sweet bread stuffed with a filling of grated coconut, brown sugar, butter, and coconut milk. It’s said to be Honduran in origin and made its way to the Philippines via the Spanish colonists.
Photo by junpinzon
21. Buko Pie
Buko means “coconut” in Filipino. This versatile Filipino fruit is a vital part of the local cuisine and can be prepared in a number of ways. It can be enjoyed fresh, made into toppings or sauces, or used as a filling. For me, one of the most delicious Filipino desserts made with coconut is buko pie.
A specialty of Laguna province in Luzon, buko pie is made with young coconut meat mixed with a creamy, custard-y filling and enclosed in a flaky pie crust. You can think of it as the Filipino equivalent to American apple pie, which is exactly what inspired it.
According to the story, a Filipina working in the US learned how to make apple pies so she wanted to create something similar on her return to the Philippines. Apples aren’t native to the Philippines so she substituted them with young coconut meat, and so was born this delicious and now very famous coconut dessert.
Creamy and custard-y, buko pie is a mildly sweet dessert with the tropical flavors of coconut. Like its inspiration apple pie, its absolutely delicious when served hot from the oven and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Photo by MikeEdwards
22. Egg Pie
Egg pie is exactly what it sounds like, a sweet dessert made with egg. It’s basically a delicate but firm egg custard dessert served in a buttery and flaky pie crust. In a way, it’s the Filipino version of a Portuguese pastel de nata or a Hong Kong egg tart, but for sharing.
I love the simplicity of Filipino egg pie. It’s firm enough to eat using only your hands and is usually available at the same neighborhood bakeries that sell Filipino pastries and breads like pan de coco.
Photo by junpinzon
23. Buko Pandan
If you’re like me and enjoy the scent of coconut and pandan, then you’re going to love this next dessert. As you can tell from its name, its made from coconut meat and pandan leaves, a fragrant pairing that comes together beautifully in this cold and refreshing dessert.
Buko pandan is a popular Filipino dessert made with jelly cubes, young shredded coconut meat, and sweetened condensed milk infused with the aroma of pandan leaves. Depending on who’s making it, it can be made with additional ingredients as well like tapioca pearls, kaong (sugar palm fruit), and nata de coco (coconut gel).
Buko pandan is often served at family gatherings and get-togethers. If you visit the Philippines and get invited to a Filipino party, then you may just find a big green bowl of buko pandan calling your name.
Photo by tyasindayanti
24. Fruit Salad
Fruit salad is one of the most popular Filipino desserts in the country. It’s a staple dessert at many households and often served at parties and family gatherings.
There are many delicious recipes for fruit salad but it’s typically made with fruit cocktail, sweetened condensed milk, and all-purpose cream. Depending on who’s making it, other ingredients are often mixed into this cold and refreshing dessert like kaong (sugar palm fruit), nata de coco (coconut gel), and sweet corn kernels. When it’s made with young coconut shreds, it becomes known as buko salad.
Filipino fruit salad can be eaten at room temperature, which is how I like it, but it’s mostly chilled or frozen before serving. Attend a Filipino party and you may find a bowl of fruit salad right next to a bowl of buko pandan.
Photo by MikeEdwards
25. Ube Halaya
Unless you shun social media like the plague, then this last dessert needs little introduction. What you’re looking at is ube halaya or purple yam jam. Thanks to its rich purple color, it’s taken social media by storm in recent years and is used as the main ingredient in many desserts like ice cream, cakes, croissants, and cookies.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have any of those fancy desserts. To get our ube fix, we’d dig into jars of purple yam jam and eat it directly off a spoon. Nowadays, we have an endless variety of delicious Filipino desserts made with purple yam, but licking it off a spoon is still my favorite way of enjoying ube.
Photo by asimojet
FINAL THOUGHTS ON FILIPINO DESSERTS
Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. But there are a few Filipino desserts that I just cannot live without. Delicious sweet treats like leche flan, taho, ube, and kutsinta always bring me back and never fail to put a smile on my face.
To be honest, Filipino food can be polarizing. There are many weird Filipino dishes like balut or dinuguan. It isn’t one of the more universally appealing Asian cuisines like Thai or Japanese, but there’s less of a debate when it comes to Filipino desserts. Most are delicious so I suggest trying as many as you can on your next trip to the Philippines.
Cover photo by junpinzon. Stock images via Depositphotos.
Thrill seekers have many reasons to visit South Africa. It’s one of the adventure capitals of the world and home to many adrenaline-inducing activities like shark cage diving, bungee jumping, and paragliding. Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in Africa and your best chance to see the Big Five anywhere on the continent.
But South Africa isn’t just about adventure. It’s home to some of the best and most diverse food in Africa and a wine tradition that dates back to the middle of the 17th century.
As you’ll soon see from this article on traditional South African foods, people with a taste for adventure and great food will have much to look forward to in Cape Town and South Africa.
SOUTH AFRICAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to South Africa and want to really dig into the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour.
Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in South Africa
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL SOUTH AFRICAN FOOD?
Quickly scroll through this article and it becomes apparent that the food in South Africa is a fusion of indigenous cooking and many external cultural influences. These include Dutch, French, Indian, and Southeast Asian. Each made an indelible impact on the local food and culture, making South African food truly a global cuisine.
In the precolonial period, the South African diet consisted mainly of cooked grains (primarily maize), pumpkin, beans, fermented milk, and roasted or stewed meat. People kept sheep and goats but beef has always been the most coveted type of meat in South Africa. In fact, so prized was beef that ribs from slaughtered cattle were often offered to village chiefs.
The arrival of European settlers led to many changes in South African food. New spices and cooking methods were introduced though red meat continues to figure prominently and is still the centerpiece of any meal.
This is best exemplified by the braai or South African barbecue, a marathon of meat consisting of different types of red meat like sausages, chops, kebabs, and steaks cooked over a wood or charcoal fire. It’s a social event and a vital part of modern South African culture.
THE BEST IN SOUTH AFRICAN CUISINE
This guide on the traditional food in South Africa 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
Meats / Mains
Staples / Bread
Desserts / Drinks
There’s no better way to start this food guide than with braai, a barbecuing tradition that’s as much a social custom in South Africa as it is a culinary event. What you’ll find in this section are South African foods typically associated with a braai.
As important a cultural tradition as asado is to Argentinians, so is braai to South Africans. Meaning “grilled meat” in Afrikaans, braai is short for braaivleis and is essentially the South African equivalent to a barbecue. Though for many South Africans, it means much more than that.
A typical braai in South Africa consists of a variety of meat like beef, pork, lamb, chicken, ostrich, seafood, boerewors (sausage), and sosatie (skewered meat) barbecued on a grill. Root crops, bread, and game meats like warthog, kudu, and springbok are often barbecued as well. An authentic braai is always fueled by wood (preferred) or charcoal and never with gas.
There are generally two types of braai – one where the braai master organizes the meat and another called “bring-and-braai” or “chop n’ dop” where the guests bring the meat while the braai master provides the side dishes. Common sides enjoyed at a braai include braaibrooodjie (grilled sandwiches), pap, and roosterbrood (bread).
Like an Argentinian asado, a braai is governed by tradition and can last for several hours. Guests gather around the grill to socialize and enjoy snacks like biltong and droëwors (dried meats) while watching the braai master in action. The word “watching” here is key. All the grilling is left to the braai master as it’s considered rude to intervene in any way.
In fact, there’s a popular saying in South Africa that goes: Jy krap nie aan ‘n ander man se vuur nie, which means “You don’t mess around with another man’s fire!”
More than just food, the braai is a cultural tradition in South Africa that transcends race and social class. It brings family and friends together and is the go-to social event to celebrate national holidays and milestones like birthdays and graduations.
A braai can be enjoyed at any time of the year though it becomes especially significant on Heritage Day. Known unofficially as “Braai Day”, people get together on September 24 for a barbecue to celebrate the many cultures and traditions that make up South Africa.
Photo by AnkevanWyk
Boerewors refers to a South African sausage that’s popular in the cuisines of countries in southern Africa like Namibia and Zimbabwe. Boer means “farmer” and wors means “sausage” in Afrikaans, so boerwors literally means “farmer’s sausage”.
Boerewors is made with coarsely minced beef and a host of different spices like coriander seed, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and black pepper. The beef can be mixed with minced pork and/or lamb but authentic boerewors must always contain beef.
According to South Africa’s regulators, boerewors must be made with 90% meat and 10% spices and other ingredients. The meat component can be made with a maximum of 30% fat and must not contain any offal or mechanically separated meat.
Traditionally made into spiral form, boerewors is often braaied (barbecued) though it can be cooked in other ways as well. It’s a common sight at braais and is often eaten with pap (corn meal).
According to Guinness World Records, the longest boerewors ever made measured just over 1,557 meters long (almost 5,109 ft). Time for a braai!
Photo by AnkevanWyk
The sosatie is another dish that’s often part of a traditional braai in South Africa. It refers to cubes of meat, usually lamb or mutton, skewered on sticks and cooked on a grill or pan-fried. A Cape Malay dish, the word sosatie is derived from saus meaning “spicy sauce” and sate which refers to skewered meat.
Recipes for sosatie vary but it’s typically made with chunks of meat that are marinated overnight in a mixture of fried onions, garlic, chili pepper, curry leaves, and tamarind juice. Lamb and mutton are most common though it can be made with beef or chicken as well. The meat is threaded onto skewers, often with onions and peppers interspersed between the meat, and then grilled.
Sosatie is one of the best examples of the Cape Malay influence on South Africa’s cuisine. The Cape Malays are descendants of formerly enslaved Asian and African Muslims who lived at the Cape during Dutch and British rule. When they were freed, many settled in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town and introduced a culinary tradition that’s become an important part of the traditional cuisine in South Africa.
Photo by AnkevanWyk
4. Roosterbrood (Roosterkoek)
Roosterbrood or roosterkoek refers to a type of grilled bread made with flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and water. Like the meats at a braai, they’re cooked directly on the grill over a wood or charcoal fire.
Roosterbrood is known for being smokey and crusty on the outside but soft and doughy on the inside. It’s a popular side dish and the perfect foil to the juicy grilled meats of a braai.
Photo by Wirestock
Grilled cheese sandwiches are delicious any which way, but have you ever had one grilled over a wood or charcoal fire? A common side dish at braais, braaibroodjie translates to “barbecue bread” and refers to the South African version of the grilled cheese sandwich.
There are many variations of braaibroodjie but it’s typically made with two slices of buttered white bread, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, red onions, and chutney. If you aren’t familiar with it, chutney refers to a family of Indian condiments made popular in South Africa by the British.
Smokey, gooey, and crunchy, braaibroodjie is perhaps the second most popular dish at a braai, after the meats, and is typically served at the end of the meal.
Photo by vanderspuyr
STARTERS / SNACKS / SIDES
6. Biltong / Droëwors
If you like meat jerky, then you’re going to enjoy biltong and droëwors. They’re the South African equivalent to American beef jerky, but much better.
Biltong refers to a type of dried cured meat popular in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. Cut into flat pieces or strips, it can be made with different types of meat like beef, chicken, fish, ostrich, and wild game meats like kudu or springbok.
Unlike beef jerky that’s sliced, marinated in spices and sugar, and then cooked, biltong is cured in vinegar and then air-dried whole before being cut into strips. The difference in process leads to a softer and more flavorful cut of dried meat. Vinegar is the key flavoring agent in biltong but spices like ground coriander seeds, rock salt, allspice, and black pepper add to its many layers of flavor.
When ready, biltong develops a deep meaty flavor with a texture that’s somewhere between jerky and Italian prosciutto. Aside from being softer and more flavorful than beef jerky, it’s also healthier because it’s made with less sugar. Biltong needs to be consumed within four days when fresh but with proper storage, it can keep for several months.
In South Africa, biltong is often enjoyed as a snack or used as an ingredient in many dishes like stews, sandwiches, and breads. Guests eagerly waiting for the meats to cook will often snack on biltong and droëwors at braais.
Photo by Wirestock
Like biltong, droëwors is a type of dried meat snack that’s widely consumed in South Africa. It refers to a type of dried sausage based on the popular boerewors. In Afrikaans, droë means “dry” while wors means “sausage”, so droëwors literally means “dry sausage”.
The recipe for droëwors is similar to boerewors except they’re made mainly with beef. Pork and veal, which are often used in boerewors, aren’t ideal for droëwors because they can go rancid when dried.
Droëwors are typically made into thinner sausages (dunwors) to help them dry faster and make them less prone to spoilage. They can sometimes be made into thicker sausages (dikwors) as well, but they need to be flattened first to provide a larger surface area for drying.
Droëwors are traditionally made with beef but they can be made with other meats as well like mutton, lamb, venison, and ostrich. Common seasonings include coriander, clovers, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, brown vinegar, garlic, and chili pepper. The ingredients are mixed together and then stuffed in thin sausage casings before being hung to dry for over a week. When ready, they can be eaten as is without the need for cooking or refrigeration.
Like biltong, it’s believed that droëwors was invented sometime in the 19th century as a way of creating a portable and durable food source. Migrating Dutch settlers called Voortrekkers needed food that would sustain them through the Great Trek. They needed food that would last and be easy to carry, so they started curing and drying meat to prolong its shelf life.
Photo by Wirestock
Between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of indentured Indian workers were brought to South Africa to help develop the sugar industry in the former Natal province (now KwaZulu-Natal). With them came Indian dishes and culinary practices, some of which have become part of the traditional cuisine in South Africa. Among those dishes is the samoosa.
As you can probably guess, the samoosa is the South African version of the South Asian samosa, a baked or fried triangular pastry filled with a variety of savory ingredients. Recipes for samoosas vary but they’re typically made with a minced meat filling (usually beef, chicken, or lamb) flavored with garlic, ginger, onions, herbs, and spices.
Photo by Wirestock
8. Amanqina Enkukhu
If you’re an adventurous eater and have a taste for unconventional food, then amanqina is right up your alley. Known colloquially as “walkie talkies” or “runaways”, it refers to a stew made with chicken feet. It’s a common township snack food popular throughout the country.
To make amanqina, chicken feet are boiled in water to remove the outer layer of skin. They’re then seasoned with various spices like curry powder, turmeric, salt, and black pepper before being stewed, fried, or barbecued. When ready, they’re often enjoyed as a snack with pap.
Amanqina isn’t for everyone but if you’re accustomed to eating chicken feet at Chinese dim sum restaurants, then this delicacy should be a walk in the park. It can be made with cow, pig, or sheep heels as well.
Photo by vanderspuyr
9. Monkey Gland Sauce
This oddly named condiment has been a staple item on South Africa’s restaurant menus for decades. Monkey gland sauce refers to a sweet and tangy sauce typically served as a topping for grilled steaks and burgers. Recipes vary but it’s typically made with chutney and tomato sauce along with other ingredients like onions, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
In spite of its name, monkey gland sauce has nothing to with monkeys or their glands. There are several theories as to how it got its name. The most popular asserts that the sauce was named in honor of a French scientist – Dr. Abrahamovitch Serge Voronoff – who was conducting experiments to cure impotence in men. He would graft monkey testicle tissue onto the testicles of impotent men in an attempt to restore their vigor.
Dr. Voronoff was a regular at the Savoy Hotel in London and often ordered a brandied steak which the restaurant staff nicknamed “monkey gland sauce” in honor of his experiments. One of the hotel staff’s waiters would later move to South Africa and bring the dish with him.
Regardless of its true origins, monkey gland sauce has become a widely consumed condiment in South Africa. Aside from burgers and steaks, it’s also used as a marinade and dipping sauce for roasted potatoes, onion rings, and french fries.
Photo by fanfon
MEATS / MAINS
The word potjiekos literally means “small pot food” and refers to a traditional South African dish cooked in a round cast-iron cauldron called a potjie. Used outdoors and fueled by a wood or charcoal fire, the potjie is descended from the Dutch oven and is a common apparatus found in many homes and villages throughout the country.
Traditionally, potjiekos is made with meat (often lamb or pork) and various vegetables like carrots, cabbage, potatoes, onions, cauliflower, and green beans. The ingredients are seasoned with Dutch-Malay spices and some form of alcohol like beer or sherry before being slow cooked over a low fire. Little sauce or water is added so the ingredients are steamed and not boiled in the manner of a stew.
What makes potjiekos different from a traditional stew is that the pot is never stirred. This is to ensure that the flavors from the different ingredients stay separate during the cooking process. When a potjiekos is cooked properly, the distinct flavors of each ingredient should still be discernible.
Photo by ezumeimages
This is what the potjie looks like. It’s a three-legged cast-iron cauldron introduced to South Africa by Dutch explorers who arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in the middle of the 17th century. The cauldron and dish eventually spread throughout South Africa when the Voortrekkers migrated east.
Today, potjiekos remains a popular dish throughout the country. Like the braai, it’s a communal dish that’s cooked and enjoyed outdoors with friends and family.
Photo by Wirestock
Frikkadel is another example of the Dutch influence on South African cuisine. Popular in the Netherlands and in other countries throughout Europe, it refers to a lightly spiced meatball dish often served with a sweetened tomato sauce.
To make frikkadel, ground beef is mixed with onions, eggs, garlic, salt, black pepper, butter, herbs, and spices. That sounds like any typical recipe but what makes South Africa’s version unique is its use of soaked white bread as a binder. This helps keep the meatballs soft and very juicy. The meat mixture is then formed into balls or patties before being baked or deep-fried.
Frikkadel can be eaten hot or cold, served as is or with a chunky and herby tomato sauce called sheba sauce. It’s similar to a classic Italian tomato sauce except it’s made sweeter with onions and sugar.
Photo by fanfon
12. Mala Mogodu
If you’re a fan of tripe, then mala mogodu is right up your alley. Popular in the cuisines of South Africa, Lesotho, and Botswana, it refers to a traditional stew made with beef tripe and intestines simmered with onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and spices.
Photo by stockbp
13. Tomato Bredie
Tomato bredie refers to a type of stew made with mutton or lamb. Known in Afrikaans as tamatiebredie, It’s another delicious example of the Cape Malay influence on South African cuisine.
To prepare, fatty and bony cuts of mutton or lamb are covered in flour and browned. They’re then stewed with a variety of vegetables like tomatoes, green beans, pumpkin, cauliflower, and lentils. The meat and vegetables are slowly simmered till tender and flavored with a host of spices and seasonings like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and chili.
What makes tomato bredie unique is that it isn’t made with any water. It’s essentially a self-saucing dish that forms a gravy from the reduced tomatoes and the rendered fat and juices from the meat. When ready, it’s traditionally served with fluffy white rice.
Photo by fanfon
14. Cape Malay Curry
This curry dish is perhaps one of the tastiest and most popular examples of the Cape Malay influence on South African food. It refers to a type of South African curry made with meat (often lamb or chicken) cooked with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and a host of spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and masala powder. It’s usually served with rice and eaten without the use of utensils.
Photo by fanfon
Denningvleis refers to a South African stew made with meat simmered with onions, garlic, tamarind paste, and different spices like cloves, allspice, and bay leaves. A Cape Malay dish, its name stems from the Javanese word dendeng, which refers to water buffalo meat. But in South Africa, lamb or mutton is typically used.
Denningvleis is usually paired with mashed potatoes, white rice, or geelrys – a type of South African yellow rice.
Photo by fanfon
Fans of this aromatic rice dish will recognize that biryani is another example of the Indian influence on South African cuisine. It refers to a popular dish of Indian origin made with meat (usually lamb or chicken) layered with basmati rice, potatoes, and lentils seasoned with a host of herbs and spices like saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, turmeric, mint, and coriander.
Photo by fanfon
17. Hoenderpastei (Boer Chicken Pie)
Hoenderpastei or boer chicken pie refers to a type of chicken pot pie popular in South Africa. It’s made with chicken layered with vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and ham seasoned with lemon juice, bay leaves, pepper, and salt. The dish is topped with shortcrust pastry and then baked in an oven till golden brown and crispy.
Photo by fanfon
Bobotie refers to a popular South African dish made with curried meat and dried fruit baked with a thin egg-based topping. Similar to moussaka, it’s one of the most well-known examples of Cape Malay food and is widely regarded to be a national dish of South Africa.
To make bobotie, ground beef or lamb is cooked with onions, grated apple, raisins, milk-soaked bread, and egg. The mixture is seasoned with lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and various spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, and curry powder. The mixture is pressed into a casserole dish and then topped with milk and egg before baking. When ready, it’s typically garnished with bay leaves and often served with South African yellow rice.
Not a meat eater? No worries, you can enjoy a vegan or vegetarian version of bobotie made with lentils instead.
Photo by fanfon
STAPLES / BREAD
This isn’t the most exciting example of South African food but it’s one of the most important. Pap is the South African equivalent to Kenyan or Tanzanian ugali, a staple food that’s consumed throughout Africa.
Pap refers to a type of fluffy porridge made from maize meal (coarsely ground maize). Depending on how it’s cooked, it can be runny, soft, or stiff. Pap with a smoother consistency is called slap pap or soft porridge while thicker pap is known as stywe pap. A crumblier version of pap called phuthu pap (or uputhu, krummel) is also common.
Similar to American grits, pap can be eaten at any time of the day with other dishes. At breakfast, it’s usually enjoyed with butter, sugar, and milk. For lunch or dinner, it’s paired with a variety of more substantial meat and vegetable dishes like stews, curries, braai, and boerewors. It can even be watered down and fermented to produce a drink called mageu.
Photo by Marietjie
Umngqusho is a popular dish made with samp and beans. Samp refers to a staple food made with dried, pounded, and chopped corn kernels. It’s similar to mealie meal except it isn’t as finely ground.
Samp can be consumed in many ways but one of the most common preparations is to cook it with sugar beans. The samp and beans are soaked overnight before being slowly simmered until soft. Recipes for umngqusho vary but it’s often cooked with onions, garlic, and potatoes and seasoned with various spices like curry powder, cloves, allspice, and black pepper.
Umngqusho can be eaten as is or paired with other dishes like chakalaka. It can also be made into a more substantial dish by adding meats like beef, lamb, or poultry.
Photo by stockbp
21. Bunny Chow
Bunny chow, or bunny for short, is a popular street food dish that originated from the Indian community of Durban. Also known as kota or scambane, it consists of a hollowed out loaf of soft white bread filled with mutton curry.
Invented sometime in the mid 20th century, the exact origins of this dish are unclear. One theory claims that it was invented as a way for Indian sugar cane workers to easily transport their lunch to the field. White bread was a cheap substitute for roti and made for a convenient way to transport their curries.
Another story claims that a South African restaurant run by Banais (an Indian caste) was the first to serve this dish, hence the name bunny chow. Others believe that the dish may have been invented by Indian golf caddies who were banned from using sharp cutlery during apartheid. They devised the dish as a way of easily carrying and consuming their food using only their hands.
Whatever its true origins, this street food dish increased in popularity during the apartheid era. It became a practical lunch for Indian and Black South Africans who were barred from entering many establishments.
Bunny chow can be made with quarter, half, or full loaves. The loaf is hollowed out then filled with mutton, chicken, or bean curries. The dish has become so common that simply saying “quarter mutton” is enough for vendors to know what you want.
The dish is traditionally wrapped in newspaper and eaten on the go by hand, using the hunk of removed bread for dipping. It’s a tasty but messy dish that’s best eaten quickly before the bread gets soaked through with the curry.
Photo by lcswart
Like bunny chow, vetkoek is a popular street food in South Africa. It literally means “fat cake” in Afrikaans and refers to a deep-fried ball of dough that’s similar to a doughnut but without the hole.
Vetkoek can be eaten as is, spread with syrup, honey, or jam, or sliced open and stuffed with a variety of fillings. One of the most popular versions is the curry bunny. Commonly sold by street vendors and fast food shops throughout South Africa, it’s a type of stuffed vetkoek filled with curried minced beef.
Photo by lenyvavsha
DESSERTS / DRINKS
Traveleaters with a sweet tooth will surely enjoy koeksister. It refers to a South African pastry made with braided fried dough coated in a sticky sweet syrup. It’s a popular dessert and a common sight at roadside stalls and supermarkets throughout South Africa.
When you visit Cape Town, be sure to try both versions of koeksister. The type described here is the braided version which is known for its crunchy sweet crust and soft syrupy interior.
Venture into Bo-Kaap and you’ll find a Cape Malay version called koesister that comes in the form of fried dough balls rolled in desiccated coconut.
Photo by lenyvavsha
Meaning “milk tart” in Afrikaans, melktert refers to a classic South African custard dessert made with milk, flour, sugar, and eggs. Topped with a sweet pastry crust and often dusted with powdered cinnamon, it’s similar to a Portuguese egg tart except its lighter and with a more pronounced milky flavor.
Another vestige of the Dutch influence on South African cuisine, the melktert is believed to be a descendant of the mattentaart, a cheesecake-like Dutch dessert. It’s a common sight at South African supermarkets and is perhaps the closest thing South Africa has to a national dessert pie. Eat it warm or chilled. It’s delicious either way.
Photo by ToscaW
25. Rooibos Tea
If you’re looking for something to pair with melktert, then look no further than rooibos, a South African herb that’s brewed into a reddish-brown herbal infusion known as “African red tea” or “red bush tea”.
Endemic to the mountainous region of Cederberg, the brewing of rooibos was popularized in the 1700s as an alternative to the more expensive imported black tea. Like any herbal infusion, it’s steeped in hot water to produce a tea-like beverage often enjoyed with milk, sugar, honey, or lemon. But because it’s an herb, its completely caffeine-free and makes a great substitute for caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea.
Often made into cappuccinos, espressos, latte, or iced tea, the flavor of rooibos has been described as smokey, sweet, grassy, and earthy with hints of vanilla.
Photo by iuliia_n
SOUTH AFRICAN WINE TOURS
South Africa is known for its wines. Much of its wine production is concentrated around Cape Town so people with a keen interest in wine may want to go on a wine tour. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of wine tours from Cape Town.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN SOUTH AFRICA
Safari and adventure may be foremost in people’s minds when they think of South Africa. But as this article illustrates, there’s so much more to look forward to than just lions, elephants, and Cape buffalo. South African food is interesting and diverse and just one more reason why you should visit Cape Town and South Africa.
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Cover photo by RubinowaDama. Stock images via Depositphotos.
According to this article from the Smithsonian, what constitutes traditional Armenian cuisine is a frequent topic of discussion among Armenians. The definition of Armenian food seems to change depending on who you ask and where they’re from. According to the author, much of the confusion stems from Armenia’s “complicated history of wars, genocide, kingdoms, and conquerors”.
Armenian food traditions were formed over thousands of years in the Armenian Highlands, a fertile region well-suited to growing wheat, lentils, apricots, figs, and pomegranate. However, its location made it a prime place for conflict between warring empires which in turn made Armenian food culture subject to constant change.
Waves of immigration further altered the face of Armenian cuisine to the point that Armenian dishes consumed in the Caucasus are often vastly different from the Armenian foods familiar to the diaspora. The perfect example is choreg, an Armenian Easter bread made with ground sour cherry seeds. It’s one of the most beloved dishes in the diaspora but virtually unknown in Armenia.
My better half spent a good portion of her life in Los Angeles, home to the largest Armenian-American population in the US. People who live in places where Armenian food is readily available may think they’re familiar with the food in Armenia, but as these next thirty dishes will show you, that may not necessarily be the case.
ARMENIAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re visiting Armenia and want to really dive into the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour.
Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Armenia
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL ARMENIAN FOOD?
Armenian food is a reflection of the country’s history and geography. Lamb, eggplant, yogurt, and lavash are staples in the Armenian diet while bulgur is traditionally preferred over rice or maize. Often, the flavor of Armenian food is dictated by the freshness and quality of its ingredients rather than from a heavy-handed use of spices.
Fresh and dry herbs are used extensively in Armenian cuisine. Wheat is the primary grain and exists in many forms like bulgur, whole wheat, semolina, and shelled wheat. Nuts and legumes are used liberally while a variety of fresh and dried fruits like apricots, pomegranate, sour cherries, and sumac berries are used as main ingredients and souring agents in many Armenian dishes.
Because of their geography and shared histories, many Armenian dishes can also be found in similar forms in the cuisines of its neighbors like Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, and the North Caucasus.
THE BEST FOOD IN ARMENIA
A list of 30 dishes can be a mouthful so this Armenian food guide has been organized by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Starters / Salads / Soups
Breads / Pastries / Rice
Vegetarian / Dairy
Armenian Food Tours
STARTERS / SALADS / SOUPS
Dolma (or tolma) is one of the most popular traditional foods in Armenia. It’s widely considered to be an Armenian national dish and is equally popular in the cuisines of many countries in the Balkans, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Levant.
Dolma comes in many forms and goes by different names depending on where it’s from, but it’s typically made with a mixture of ground meat (usually beef or lamb), rice, herbs, and spices wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves, or stuffed in vegetables. They can be served hot or cold, with or without meat, and often with a creamy yogurt (matsun) and garlic sauce with fresh Armenian lavash or pita bread on the side.
It’s important to note that wrapped versions of dolma can also be referred to as sarma. The terminology can be confusing but a distinction is made between dolma dishes that are wrapped and dolma dishes that are stuffed. The term sarma means “rolled” or “wrapped” while dolma means “stuffed” or “filled”. By those definitions, versions of the dish made with vine or cabbage leaves are called sarma while hollowed out and stuffed vegetables are known as dolma. This will make more sense when you see the pictures below.
Other than the vessel used, the stuffing remains the same and all versions of this beloved Armenian dish, whether wrapped or stuffed, can be collectively referred to as dolma. Pictured below is yalanchi sarma, a meatless type of sarma made with grape leaves.
Photo by lvssvl1
Dolma can be made with different types of vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and onions. The vegetables are hollowed out before being filled with the stuffing and cooked.
So important is dolma to Armenian cuisine that a dolma festival called Uduli is held in a different part of Armenia every year. The festival showcases dozens of varieties of dolma and features a cooking competition between the country’s best cooks and chefs. They compete to see who can create the best dolma based on taste, presentation, and concept.
Photo by fanfon
Manti (or monta) refers to a type of dumpling popular throughout the South Caucasus, Central Asia, the Balkans, and beyond. They exist in many forms but Armenian manti are typically made with a spiced meat mixture, usually ground lamb or beef, wrapped in thin dough that’s either boiled or baked.
Unlike other types of manti, Armenian manti are smaller in size and always made in an open canoe shape. They’re often served with a sauce made from matsun or ttvaser (sour cream) and garlic, or in an Armenian soup called sulu manti. Manti are generally more common among western Armenians while a similar dumpling called khinkali is preferred in the east.
Thomas Steiner, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Eech (or itch) refers to an Armenian bulgur salad. It’s similar to Lebanese tabbouleh except in eech, the bulgur isn’t just a supporting ingredient, it’s the star of the dish.
Recipes for eech vary but it’s typically made with bulgur, tomatoes, onions, parsley, bell peppers, paprika, lemon, and olive oil. It can be served warm, chilled, or at room temperature, usually as a salad, side dish, or spread with fresh pita bread, lavash, or crackers.
Eech is also referred to as “mock kheyma” or “meatless kheyma”. It’s a common Lenten dish but it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Photo by Bernashafo
Yershig (or suǰux) is the Armenian version of sujuk, a dry fermented sausage popular in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central Asia. It’s made with ground meat – usually beef or lamb – and a host of different spices and seasonings like garlic, cumin, sumac, paprika, and salt.
Yershig is known to be a fairly spicy and salty sausage with a high fat content. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be prepared in many different ways. When raw, it’s hard and stiff so it’s usually cut into slices and cooked in its own fat. It can be pan-fried with eggs and vegetables, baked into pastries, made into a filling for sandwiches, or used as an ingredient in stews.
Photo by elena.hramova
Basturma (or abouhkd, pastirma) is a type of highly seasoned air-dried cured beef. It’s believed to be Armenian or Turkish in origin but it’s popular in the cuisines of several other countries like Greece, Egypt, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia.
Basturma is typically made with beef or water buffalo but it can be made with other meats as well. To prepare, the meat is rinsed and salted before being dried and cold pressed for up to sixteen hours to remove moisture. It’s then dried for several days until the fat melts and forms a white layer.
The next step involves hot pressing the meat and covering it with a spice paste mixture (çemen) made from ground fenugreek seeds, chili powder, and mashed garlic. It’s then left to dry again before it’s ready to be consumed. The entire process takes about a month.
Because of the Armenian diaspora, basturma has become popular throughout the Middle East. It can be eaten in many ways – as charcuterie, cooked into omelettes, or stuffed into phyllo pastries.
Photo by LiubovMernaya
Soups and stews form an important part of the Armenian diet, especially during winter. Armenian winters are long and cold so hot soups like kololik are served almost daily in Armenian homes.
Kololik refers to a type of Armenian meatball soup. It’s a comforting and warming dish consisting of meatballs made with ground lamb, rice, onions, parsley, and seasonings. The broth is flavored with beef stock and made with rice, onions, tarragon, and potatoes. Beaten eggs can also be used to thicken the soup.
Photo by lvssvl1
Not to be confused with the Tunisian hot chili pepper paste, harissa (or harisa) refers to a type of Armenian porridge made with stewed chicken and cracked or coarsely ground wheat. It’s one of the most popular dishes in Armenian cuisine and considered by many to be a national dish.
Originally, harissa was made with lamb but it’s now more commonly made with chicken. It’s traditionally served on Easter Day and on the third Sunday of September, to commemorate the Musa Ler resistance during the Armenian genocide in 1915. It’s a highly ritualistic dish that takes many hours to cook, its long cooking process being an essential part of the harissa tradition.
According to legend, the dish got its name from the patron saint of Armenia – Gregory the Illuminator. While serving a meal to the poor, they ran out of lamb so wheat was added to the pot. He noticed that the wheat was sticking to the bottom which prompted him to say: “Harekh! Stir it!”, and so was born the name of the dish – harissa. The dish has been offered as a charity meal ever since.
Photo by VickyDimBO
BREADS / PASTRIES / RICE
Lavash refers to a thin traditional flatbread baked in a tonir (similar to tandoor) or on a saj. It’s one of the most widely consumed breads in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Lavash can be made with leavened or unleavened dough. Toasted sesame and/or poppy seeds is sometimes sprinkled on the rolled out dough before it’s baked in a tonir. Traditionally, the dough is slapped to the inside of the oven but it can be cooked on a saj or pan as well.
Lavash is a versatile bread that can be used in many ways. When freshly made and still soft, it’s often used as a wrap for khorovats (a national dish of Armenia) or eaten for breakfast with eggs, cheese, jam, or butter. Dried lavash is crumbled to add more substance to khash, also an Armenian national dish. Lavash dries out quickly but it can be rehydrated with water to make it soft again so stacks of dried lavash (pictured below) are a common sight at Armenian markets.
Like many dishes from that region, lavash isn’t without its controversies. It was described by UNESCO as “an expression of Armenian culture” which drew ire from the citizens of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan who claimed that the dish was regional, not Armenian. Though often attributed to Armenia, some historians believe that it may have originated in the Middle East.
Regardless of where it’s originally from, you’re sure to encounter (and enjoy) lavash many times on your trip to Armenia.
Photo by VickyDimBO
Matnakash refers to a type of traditional Armenian bread. It’s made with leavened wheat flour dough shaped into oval or round loaves with bold central ridges created by hand. In fact, the name matnakash literally means “finger draw” or “finger pull” in reference to how these ridges are made.
Matnakash gets its characteristic golden brown color and crispy crust from being brushed with a sweetened tea essence before baking. It can be eaten warm or at room temperature with different dipping sauces, soups, and stews.
Photo by PavelTalashov
Gata refers to a family of Armenian dessert pastries. It exists in many variations throughout Armenia, with some towns and regions known for making their own unique version.
Traditionally, gata was baked in a tonir but modern versions are now baked in conventional ovens. They can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes and can either be plain or adorned with some type of pattern or decoration. They can resemble croissants or be formed into flattened discs (pictured below) about a foot in diameter. These disc-like versions of gata are often decorated before baking and tend to be sweeter and more cake-like in texture.
Regardless of its shape, some of the most popular versions of gata are filled with koritz (or khoreez), a sweet filling consisting of flour, butter, sugar, and vanilla. Some recipes add walnuts to the filling as well.
Gata is a popular Armenian dessert that’s typically eaten at festivities like the feast of Candlemas, but it can be enjoyed at any time of the year, often with coffee or tea.
Photo by kostin77
These croissant-like versions of gata are made from an enriched bread dough rolled out into paper-thin sheets. The sheets are smeared with butter or koritz before being rolled up and cut into spirals. When baked, they puff up and become crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, much like a croissant.
Photo by iko
Boereg (or byorek) is the Armenian version of börek, a family of filled pastries popular in the cuisines of many countries in the South Caucasus, the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Levant. They consist of phyllo dough or puff pastry filled with a variety of ingredients like meat, cheese, spinach, or potatoes.
Börek exists in many different versions throughout the region. They can be made in various sizes and shapes and can be either savory or sweet. In Armenia, boereg is typically shaped into triangles and filled with cheese, spinach, or ground beef.
Photo by dar19.30
Lamadjo is the Armenian version of lahmacun, a baked flatbread and spiced meat dish popular in Turkish cuisine. It consists of a thin layer of dough topped with minced meat (usually beef or lamb), herbs, and spices. Though it resembles a thin cheese-less pizza, it’s rolled up and eaten more like a wrap along with different vegetables like onions, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and pickles.
Lamadjo is a popular dish in Turkish and Armenian cuisine but it’s believed to have its roots in the Middle East. Flatbread had been used to wrap meat for thousands of years but it wasn’t until medieval times that the bread and toppings were baked together. This led to the creation of a dish called lahm b’ajin, which was later shortened to lahmajin and other similar names.
Photo by ann_1101.mail.ru
13. Zhingyalov Hats
Zhingyalov hats (or zhengyalav hatz, jingalov hats) refers to a traditional Armenian flatbread dish made with finely diced herbs and vegetables. It’s originally from the Artsakh and Syunik provinces of Armenia and can be considered a type of herb-filled lavash.
To prepare, unleavened dough is rolled out until its paper thin before being filled with a mix of 10-20 types of diced and oiled herbs and vegetables. Milder-tasting herbs and greens like spinach, lettuce, chickweed, and viola leaves form the base while stronger and more potent herbs like chervil, urtica, and taraxacum are used in smaller quantities to add a punch of flavor.
After the dough is stuffed with the herb mixture, it’s fried on a saj or in a tonir before being consumed with beer, wine, or doogh (yogurt-based drink). Zhingyalov hats are especially popular during the Great Lent but they can be eaten at any time of the year.
Photo by danilovajanna
Pilaf refers to a family of rice dishes popular in many parts of the world, most notably Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, India, and the Caribbean. It consists of long-grain rice cooked in stock or broth with fried onions, vegetables, meat, and fragrant spices like cardamom, bay leaves, and cinnamon.
There are thousands of variations of pilaf around the world but in Armenia, some of the most common are made with rice cooked in stock seasoned with a variety of spices like mint, parsley, oregano, and allspice. Some Armenian recipes may replace rice with bulgur or orzo while others may just incorporate them into the dish along with vermicelli noodles. Pictured below is a type of Armenian pilaf made with liver.
Photo by Paul_Cowan
VEGETARIAN / DAIRY
Ghapama refers to an Armenian stuffed pumpkin dish. It’s made with a hollowed out pumpkin filled with boiled rice and dried fruits like chopped apples, apricots, plums, dates, and raisins. It can be sweetened with honey, ground cinnamon, or sugar before being baked in a tonir.
To serve, the cooked and softened pumpkin is brought to the dinner table where it’s cut down the sides so it opens up like a flower. Popular at weddings and holidays like Christmas and New Year, it can be served as part of the main meal or for dessert. Dessert ghapama are usually made sweeter than versions eaten with meals.
Photo by fanfon
Topik (or tobig) refers to an Armenian vegan dish traditionally served during Lent. It’s made with a chickpea and potato paste filled with a cooked mixture of onions, currants, nuts, tahini, herbs, and spices. They’re typically formed into patties or balls and topped with pine nuts, currants, cinnamon, and lemon.
Photo by Alp_Aksoy
Chechil (or husats, tel) refers to a type of brined and smoked Armenian string cheese. Produced in the Armenian Highlands, it’s similar in consistency to mozzarella or sulguni and is often sold in thick braided ropes.
Chechil is a low-fat cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk. To make, curd is heated to high temperatures which allows is to be stretched and kneaded to the desired consistency. The cheesemaker will pull the cheese into thin dense strings before maturing them in brine. The strings are then smoked and braided together by hand into thick ropes before being sold.
Popular throughout Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the US, chechil is a salty, smokey, and chewy snack that goes very well with beer. Its low fat content also makes it an ideal diet food.
Photo by AChubykin
Matsun (or matzoon, matsoni) refers to a centuries-old fermented milk product originally from Armenia. Similar to yogurt, it’s made primarily with cow’s milk but it can be made with goat, sheep, or buffalo milk (or a mixture) as well.
To prepare, a mixture (meran) made with dried cornelian cherry fruits, wheat, and rye is used as a starter. Natural rennet is produced by placing small pieces of cattle intestine inside gauze and then immersing it in boiling milk. The rennet is later removed and the pot with fermented milk is left under a blanket overnight before the matsun is ready for consumption the following day.
Matsun has long been an important part of the Armenian diet. It’s used in the production of butter. It can be eaten with or without bread and used as an ingredient in many Armenian soups, salads, fillings, and drinks.
When dried, matsun is turned into a longer-lasting product called kamats matsun. To preserve it for even longer, it’s turned into cioratan by forming the kamats matsun into little balls and then leaving them under the sun or baking them in an oven. Cioratan lasts for years and can be rehydrated with water when they’re ready to be consumed.
Photo by lvssvl1
Matsnaprtosh is a matsun-based Armenian soup made with mostly raw vegetables like finely chopped cucumbers, green onions, radish, and dill. It can be made with other ingredients as well like garlic, boiled potatoes, eggs, and cooked meats like ham, beef, veal, or sausage.
Matsnaprtosh is very similar to Russian okroshka but it’s generally made with fewer vegetables. Like okroshka, it’s a refreshing cold soup that’s typically enjoyed in the summer.
Photo by fanfon
If you enjoy barbecued meats, then you’re going to love khorovats. It’s the Armenian version of shish kebab or shashlik made with skewered cubes of meat grilled over an open flame. The word khorovats means “grilled” in Armenian.
Khorovats can be made with different types of meat but pork is most commonly used. Recipes vary but it’s typically made with bony, slightly fatty pieces of pork marinated in a mixture containing salt, pepper, garlic, onion, herbs, and other ingredients. Vinegar is never used because it changes the flavor of the meat.
The marinated meats are skewered on flat shish or shampoor (skewer) before being grilled over charcoal on a khorovats-style grill called a mangal. Unlike American-style grills, it doesn’t have a grate so the meats are cooked directly over the coals. Vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and peppers are also grilled on the mangal but not on the same skewers as the meat.
Khorovats is an Armenian national dish, one that’s near and dear to the hearts of many locals. During the Soviet era, meat was already scarce but it became even more of a rarity during the post-Soviet era of the 1990s. Today, to invite people over for khorovats meant that life was good. It’s become a celebratory dish often reserved for special occasions.
Photo by [email protected]
21. Lule Kebab
Lule kebab (or lyulya kebab) refers a type of skewered minced meat kebab popular in Armenia and Azerbaijan. It can be made with different types of meat like beef, lamb, or mutton ground with onions, herbs, spices, and seasonings. The mince is wrapped into oblong shapes around skewers and then grilled on a mangal.
Lule kebab is often eaten wrapped inside lavash with vegetables and herbs like roasted peppers, tomatoes, onions, and parsley. A sprinkling of sumac can also be added for an extra kick of flavor.
Photo by pavlofox
22. Chi Kofte
If you enjoy eating raw meat and fish, then you’re probably going to find chi kofte interesting. It’s like an Armenian version of steak tartare made with raw ground meat (usually beef, lamb, or goat) and bulgur. It’s the same dish as Turkish çiğ köfte and a close relative of Lebanese kibbeh nayyeh.
To prepare, very fresh meat is ground several times until it achieves a paste-like consistency. It’s then mixed with bulgur and a host of herbs and spices before being formed into oblong-shaped patties by hand. They’re lightly shaped in the fist which is what gives them their characteristic indentations.
Because chi kofte is made with raw beef, it needs to be consumed on the same day. It’s drizzled with lemon and olive oil and usually eaten with gheyma, salata (fresh salad), or both. Gheyma refers to an Armenian side dish made with ground beef cooked with onions and parsley.
Photo by Alp_Aksoy
Like khorovats, khashlama is considered a celebratory dish in Armenia, one that’s usually reserved for special occasions. It’s a type of meat stew that’s traditionally made with boiled lamb though it can be made with beef as well. The name khashlama is derived from the Armenian word khashel, meaning “to boil”.
Khashlama consists of bone-in lamb boiled in a flavorful broth with vegetables and root crops like tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. In the summer, it’s often made with summer vegetables like bell peppers, eggplant, and fresh herbs. According to the description in this khashlama recipe, it actually started off as a summer dish to coincide with the slaughtering of lambs and the harvesting of fresh vegetables.
I don’t know how true this is but it’s said that men seldom cook in Armenia because they reserve their energy for big dishes like khashlama and khorovats. They make them just once a year, usually outdoors and in the summer, to make the dishes that much more special.
Khashlama is equally popular in Georgia with both countries claiming to have invented the dish.
Photo by vigenmnoyan.gmail.com
If your head feels a little heavy after a night out in Yerevan, then you may want to tuck into a bowl of khash, Armenia’s miracle hangover cure of boiled cow hooves. It’s an Armenian national dish that exists in various forms throughout the South Caucasus, the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Levant.
Khash is traditionally made with boiled down cow hooves but it can contain other parts as well like the head and tripe. It was traditionally served in winter, usually in the morning with mulberry vodka. Like khashlama, it’s name is derived from the Armenian word khashel, meaning “to boil”.
To prepare, the cow’s hooves are cleaned, cut, and soaked in cold water for a day to remove any impurities and foul odors. They’re then boiled overnight until the water becomes thick and gelatinous and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. It’s customary to offer a series of toasts when eating khash, one of which goes to the cook to acknowledge the hard work that goes into making this beloved Armenian dish.
Khash is served with a variety of condiments and sides like garlic, radish, lemon, vinegar, and cinnamon. It’s also served with dry and fresh lavash. Dry lavash is crumbled into the soup to give it more substance while soft lavash is used as a wrap for eating and to cover the bowl to seal in the heat.
Photo by AChubykin
Tjvjik refers to an Armenian offal dish. Traditionally, it was made with just beef liver fried with onions, but more modern versions are now made with additional ingredients like tomato paste, vegetables, fresh herbs, and other types of offal. It’s usually eaten with lavash, rice, or potatoes.
Photo by lenyvavsha
Pakhlava (or paklava) is the Armenian version of baklava, a hugely popular dessert consumed in many countries throughout the the South Caucausus, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Like lavash, it’s a beloved but contentious dish claimed by many countries.
At its core, pakhlava is a layered dessert made with multiple sheets of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Many variations of this dessert exist but Armenian pakhlava is typically sweetened with a simple syrup spiced with cloves and cinnamon.
Cut into diamond shapes, pakhalava is especially popular during the holidays. It’s a mainstay on the Armenian Christmas table and often consumed to celebrate Easter as well.
Photo by mythja
27. Mikado Cake
This cake may sound Japanese but it’s 100% Armenian. Not only is it an authentic Armenian dish, but it’s said to be one of the oldest Armenian classic cake recipes.
Mikado cake is a type of Armenian layer cake. Recipes vary but it basically consists of multiple thin cake layers frosted with chocolate custard or caramel buttercream. To decorate, the cake can be dusted with chocolate shavings or powdered cocoa. Not exactly the most diet-friendly dish but probably not something you’re likely to resist.
Photo by vigenmnoyan.gmail.com
28. T’tu Lavash
T’tu lavash (or pastegh, bastegh) is the Armenian version of fruit leather. Sold in different colors, they look like giant rolls of Fruit Roll-Up. It’s name literally means “sour lavash” and is in reference to the thin, easily rolled flatbread popular in Armenian cuisine.
T’tu lavash is popular in many countries where it goes by different names like tklapi (Georgia), pestil (Turkey), lavashak (Iran), and amerdeen (Arab world). Following an ancient method of fruit preservation, it’s made by sun-drying pureed fruit like grapes, plums, cherries, and apricots into thin leather-like sheets. It can be eaten as is or used as an ingredient in Armenian soups like t’ghit.
Local tip, if you’re staring at a basket of t’tu lavash and unsure which one to get, then ask for the one made with apricots. Locals are especially proud of the Armenian apricot (Prunus armeniaca) which is considered a national symbol of Armenia.
Photo by shinylion
Along with apricots and grapes, pomegranates are among the most important fruits in Armenian culture. It’s an indigenous fruit of the Armenian Highlands and regarded as a symbol of the country, one that represents fertility, abundance, and marriage.
Pomegranates are a staple fruit in every Armenian household. Tart and mildly sweet, they’re typically eaten fresh with their seeds often used as a garnish in various meat and fish dishes. Pomegranate juice is a popular beverage which can also be fermented to produce a semi-sweet pomegranate wine with many health benefits.
Photo by fotovincek
30. Dried Fruit
Visit any Armenian market and you’re sure to find dozens of varieties of dried fruit. Like pomegranates, they aren’t an Armenian dish per se but they’ve been an important part of the Armenian culinary tradition for thousands of years. Dried fruits like apricots, black plums, sour cherries, and sumac berries are often used as main ingredients or souring agents in Armenian soups, pudding, cakes, and dolma.
Photo by Marianarbh1
ARMENIAN FOOD TOURS
As much fun as it is to traveleat on your own, there’s no denying that no one knows Armenian food better than a local. You can do all the research you want but one of the best and easiest ways to experience Armenian cuisine is to go on a food tour.
Not only will a local take you to the city’s best markets and restaurants, but they’ll be able to explain all the Armenian dishes to you in more detail. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Armenian food and wine tours in Yerevan and other cities throughout the country.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ARMENIAN FOOD
Armenian food is complicated but fascinating. It tells a story many centuries old of kingdoms, conquerors, migration, and assimilation. As an outsider, I can never hope to fully understand it but it’s certainly opened my eyes to this part of the world and its ever-evolving cuisine.
As one Yerevan-born Armenian puts it, “I don’t think culture is static. Culture always changes. Food is one of those things about culture that is the easiest to transform and change”. Armenian food is the perfect example of that.
Some of the links in this Armenian food guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no additional expense to you. 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 so much!
Cover photo by shain55. Stock images via Depositphotos.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We gravitate towards traditional food when we travel but learning where locals go is always a good thing. Zagreb is a cosmopolitan city offering a range of cuisines, so we asked Traveleater Ana Cerovski from KitchenToast to share with us a list of popular restaurants and bars where locals like to go.
Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia and a place with intertwined history, culture, and gastronomy. It’s a place to explore and enjoy so any tips and tricks to help appreciate it like a local are always welcome.
Because of that, we decided to list ten of the best Zagreb restaurants and bars that utilize the trendy “street food” concept. They offer delicious food that’s easy to eat with your hands, making them the ideal partners for exploring the city or simply finding a nice relaxing place to sit and soak up the sun.
Learn what and where to eat in Zagreb while discovering the flavors of the world!
FOOD IN ZAGREB QUICK LINKS
Eating at local restaurants is always fun, but so is going on food tours. If you’d like to eat your way through Zagreb with a local, then you may be interested in one of these food tours.
Taste Zagreb: 4-Hour Food Tour
Zagreb: 3.5–Hour Traditional Culinary Walking Tour
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THE BEST ZAGREB RESTAURANTS & BARS
Brewbites is a true American restaurant and sports bar. It has unique decoration – simple, yet with interesting design lines and details. The Brewbites restaurant is a place where locals like to go to relax and watch sports matches. Because of that, you’ll find TV screens all over the place so you don’t miss out on any match balls or points!
When it comes to its food, the restaurant offers burgers, ribs, bar snacks, salads, wraps, pancakes, and desserts. Of course, it also has a wide selection of refreshing local and international beers. The Brewbites American restaurant and sports bar is a favorite spot to be, and aside from its cool design and pleasant atmosphere, it offers amazing food and flavors!
Ulica Ljudevita Gaja 10, Zagreb 10360 Croatia Tel: +385 1 4820 800 What to Order: Burgers, ribs, bar snacks, beer
2. Ginger Sushi
The idea of this restaurant is quite simple – to offer top-quality sushi. With its colorful design, interesting details, and simple cuisine which emphasizes rich flavors and aromas, this restaurant has become a favorite sushi spot for both locals and tourists alike. It has an ideal location in the center of Zagreb so every tourist and visitor can enjoy it before, during, or after sightseeing.
Ginger Sushi offers amazing dishes with rich flavors and aromas. They have a great selection of sushi made with high-quality ingredients at affordable prices. All the dishes are carefully prepared so they bring a true touch of Japanese traditional recipes into the center of Zagreb.
Masarykova Ulica 21, Zagreb 10000 Croatia Tel: +385 1 8897 086 What to Order: Sushi
3. Croatian Food Heritage
When we mention the word charming, this place immediately comes to mind. The Croatian Food Heritage combines two ideas – the traditional flavors of Croatia and the popular street food concept. With its recognizable blue sign with red letters, the Croatian Food Heritage is a small spot with a beautiful interior. It offers traditional products so you can always buy small dishes with unique flavors and take them home with you.
Besides flavors-to-go, the restaurant offers Crobites. These are small but creatively made bites from different regions of Croatia. From Slavonia and Međimurje to Istria and Dalmatia, the restaurant has it all – truffles, prosciutto, fish, cheeses, olive oil, local wines, brandies, craft beers, and more. Every dish presents a small, delicious, and unique taste of traditional Croatian cuisine.
Croatian Food Heritage
Petrinjska ulica 14, Zagreb 10000 Croatia What to Order: Crobites
4. La Štruk
If you’re looking for an authentic Croatian food experience with amazing gastronomy and a unique atmosphere, make sure to visit La Štruk! It’s set in an old backyard surrounded by stone, and with charming details and colorful chairs. The restaurant offers romantic summer vibes which contribute to that authentic experience you’re looking for!
La Štruk is not only unique because of its setting and design, but it also stands out because of its menu. It offers only one dish prepared in a variety of ways – štrukli! Štrukli is a Croatian traditional dish that can be cooked or baked with cheese, nuts, apples, blueberries, truffles, and more. We locals know and agree – this place is a must-visit and a must-try!
Skalinska Ul. 5, Zagreb 10000 Croatia Tel: +385 1 4837 701 What to Order: Štrukli
5. Craft Room
The Craft Room is located inside a charming yellow house. It has a beautiful terrace while on the inside, there are green walls in combination with natural wood. This place is imagined as a classic bar and pub with an excellent selection of food and drinks. It’s located in the center of Zagreb so you can enjoy the city’s beautiful architecture and charming streets and after that, relax on the terrace of the Craft Room.
The chefs of this restaurant prepare amazing burgers in combination with beer and yes, they are really proud of their selection of beers. They offer 12 craft and over 100 local and international beers! The Craft Room is an ideal place to relax after a day of sightseeing or just catching up with some old friends over a tasty, juicy burger and a refreshing glass of beer.
Opatovina 35, Zagreb 10000 Croatia Tel: +385 91 232 3289 What to Order: Burgers, craft beer
6. Ožujsko Pub Tkalča
If you’re looking for a nice sunny terrace along Zagreb’s most photogenic street – Ožujsko Pub Tkalča is your place. Aside from the terrace, the pub is placed inside an old house and its interior looks quite beautiful due to the stone walls and bright yellow chairs and tables. This street food pub combines old Zagreb’s spirit with vintage style and thanks to that, it’s a perfect match for all visitors and tourists.
When it comes to its menu, well, let us just tell you – it is amazing! The pub’s specialties are ribs, T-bone, ramstek, Zagreb’s burger, and beefsteak with various side dishes, salads, and drinks. Of course, there is a nice selection of different burgers, beer snacks, seafood, and more. Ožujsko Pub Tkalča is an excellent example of a pub offering a combination of different cuisines, recipes, and dishes that will have your mouth watering in just a few seconds!
Ožujsko Pub Tkalča
Skalinska Ulica 2A, Zagreb 10000 Croatia Tel: +385 95 518 1900 What to Order: Ribs, steak, burgers
7. SOI Fusion Bar
Decorated with a combination of vintage and industrial vibes, SOI Fusion Bar is quite an interesting place to eat and hang out with your friends, or just relax after a long day of sightseeing. The restaurant is located in a little alley with graffiti and a couple of tables in front. On the inside, the brick dominates the space with simple brown and black details.
SOI Fusion Bar offers delicious Asian recipes and dishes. The chefs prepare a variety of starters, main dishes, and sweets which brings a bit of Asian spirit into the old town of Zagreb. The restaurant prepares classic Asian street food rich in flavors and aromas with a small selection of local craft drinks.
SOI Fusion Bar
Ilica 50 Swanky Mint Hostel, Zagreb 10000 Croatia Tel: +385 91 916 2101 What to Order: Asian food
8. Taquitos Bandidos
This street food restaurant is exactly what it sounds like – a classic Mexican cantina with a picturesque interior and design that will transport you to Mexico in the middle of dessert. But, unlike the movies, this time, you’ll be transformed with amazing food and nice cold drinks!
The flavors you can taste at Taquitos Bandidos are classic Mexican aromas – from chilli con carne and taquitos to quesadillas, wraps, nachos, and salads in combination with jarritos (Mexican soda) or beer. The flavors may be classic but the chefs at Taquitos Bandidos know how to bring that special twist to meet all your expectations and more.
Radićeva ul.12, Zagreb 10000 Croatia What to Order: Mexican food
9. El Toro Burger & Ribs – CLOSED
The concept of El Toro Burger & Ribs is to offer fast and simple dishes based on top-quality ingredients. It’s located in the center of Zagreb and its design is just amazing! With classic black lines on the outside, the restaurant’s interior has a combination of vintage and industrial details. With naked bricks, metal accents, and brown shades, El Toro Burger & Ribs is a unique place with amazing vibes!
The restaurant’s menu offers a variety of juicy burgers, delicious ribs, and unique pizzas. Besides that, some of the chef’s specialties are tacos with shrimp, tex mex chicken quesadilla, El Toro pulled bull quesadilla, and avocado salad. The variety of the menu and amazing flavors and aromas are the ones that make this restaurant stand out.
El Toro Burger & Ribs – CLOSED
Petrinjska ulica 2 30 meters from Ban Jelacic Square, Zagreb 10000 Croatia Tel: +385 99 461 6306 What to Order: Tex-mex
10. Wok and Walk
The simple interior of Wok and Walk presents a nice contrast to all the rich dishes and flavors that await you there. The place is a classic Chinese restaurant focused on preparing Chinese recipes and dishes. The restaurant offers a wok for the walk or you can sit and enjoy all the flavors. The Wok and Walk has a pleasant atmosphere for enjoying a bit of Chinese cuisine.
The menu has a wide selection of classic dishes divided into hot appetizers, soups, dishes with noodles, dishes with different proteins, desserts, various specialties, and chef’s recommendations. Of course, the dishes can be served in small or big portions. Wok and Walk is a great place for a taste of Chinese cuisine!
Wok and Walk
Ilica 60, Zagreb 10000 Croatia Tel: +385 99 776 1163 What to Order: Chinese food
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN ZAGREB
From classic burgers to the cuisines of the world, Zagreb truly has it all. You can enjoy American classic dishes or sing a mariachi song while enjoying Mexican food. You can taste Croatian traditional bites as well as indulge in Chinese or Japanese cuisines. The decision is yours.
Enjoy exploring the city, its amazing architecture, culture, and history, and then seduce your taste buds with amazing delicacies and specialties that await you at Zagreb’s every corner!
Some of the links in this Zagreb restaurant guide are affiliate links. We’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. 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 guides. Thank you!
Barcelona has it all. It’s got history, unique architecture, and a wealth of great museums. It has about 4 km (2.5 miles) of sandy beaches and some of the best food in Spain.
With all that it has going for it, it’s no surprise that Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. No matter what time of the year you go, you’ll almost always find the city teeming with people.
As lovely as Barcelona is, the crowds can get a bit overwhelming at times. The city offers much to see and do but if you’ve already experienced its top tourist attractions, then it’s time to escape and go on a day trip from Barcelona.
BARCELONA DAY TRIPS QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your trip to Barcelona, we’ve compiled links to recommended tours and other travel-related services here.
Sightseeing Tour: Sagrada Familia Entry Ticket with Audio Guide
Food Tour: Walking Tour with Local Tapas and Wine
Flamenco Show: Flamenco Show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
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BEST DAY TRIPS FROM BARCELONA
It’s easy to go on one-day trips from Barcelona thanks to Spain’s efficient and convenient railway system. But if you’d like the most freedom, then perhaps you’d be interested in renting a car. Trains and buses are great but driving is the best way to experience Spain and Europe.
We rented a car to go from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela and it turned out to be one of the most fun legs of our trip. It allowed us to travel on our own schedule and stop wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted.
Distance is important when choosing a day trip from Barcelona so I’ve organized this list based on traveling time. Click on the links below to jump to any section of the guide. Estimated times are for one-way travel from the Barcelona city centre.
1 hr day trips from Barcelona
1-2 hr day trips from Barcelona
2-3 hr day trips from Barcelona
1 HR DAY TRIPS FROM BARCELONA
1. Serra de Collserola
If you’d like to go hiking but don’t want to stray too far from the city, then Serra de Collserola is the perfect place for a day trip. It’s a mountain range and protected park located just outside Barcelona.
Collserola is one of the biggest metropolitan parks in the world. It spans an area of 8,000 hectares which is about 22 times the size of Central Park in New York! It’s home to numerous hiking trails and an abundance of flora and fauna, making it a convenient destination for people wanting to go hiking or bike riding from Barcelona.
There are several hiking trails to enjoy in Collserola, one of the most popular being Carretera de les Aigues – a 9 km (5.6 miles) path offering spectacular views of the city.
Collserola is one of the easiest day trips near Barcelona so you can go hiking there on your own or join a tour.
Photo by vlinaresgarcia
How to Get There: Based on my research, there are many ways to get to Collserola depending on which part of the park you’d like to visit. If you’re going to Carretera de les Aigues, then you can take a train from Barcelona to Peu del Funicular station. Ride the funicular one stop to Carretera de les Aigues station. It’s listed as a request stop so you’ll probably need to inform the driver that you’d like to get off. Average Travel Time: About 30 mins
Sitges is a coastal town about 35 km (22 miles) southwest of Barcelona. It’s famous for its beaches, festivals, pulsating nightlife, and LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere.
Sitges is known for its excellent microclimate which sees around 300 days of sunshine per year. Its mild weather and many beaches along a 2.5 km (1.6 miles) promenade make it a favorite destination for beachgoers.
Depending on what time of the year you go, you can attend one of its many events and festivals like Gay Pride, the Sitges Carnival, and the Sitges International Film Festival. The Sitges carnaval attracts over 250,000 revelers each year while the film festival is recognized as one of the world’s leading fantasy and horror film festivals.
Sitges has its share of cultural attractions as well like the Church of Sant Bartomeu and Santa Tecla, but clearly, its beaches and festive atmosphere are its main draws. If you like to party, then Sitges should definitely be on your itinerary.
It’s easy to visit Sitges on your own, but if you’d like to go on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2). These tours combine Sitges with other destinations recommended in this guide.
Photo by Boris Stroujko
How to Get There: Take the train from Barcelona-Sants station to Sitges station. Average Travel Time: About 40 mins
Montserrat refers to both the multi-peaked mountain range and the large Benedictine abbey (Santa Maria de Montserrat) perched near its summit.
Measuring 1,236 meters (4,055 ft) at its peak, it’s the highest point of the Catalan lowlands. The name Monsterrat literally means “serrated mountain” and is in reference to the mountain range’s many jagged peaks.
The site of reported visions, Monsterrat is considered the holiest site in Catalonia. It receives over two million visitors annually, many from pilgrims coming to see the famed Black Madonna statue.
If you arrive at Santa Maria de Montserrat before 1PM, then you can catch a performance by the Escolania, one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe.
Montserrat is equally popular with hikers and rock climbers looking to enjoy its many hiking trails and rock formations. You can trek to the peak of Sant Jeroni for some of the most spectacular views of Catalonia.
You can visit Montserrat on your own or go on a guided tour (Option 1 | Option 2 | Option 3).
Photo by A_Mikhail
How to Get There: Take the R5 train from Placa d’Espanya station to Aeri de Montserrat station. From there, take the rack railway up to the monastery. Average Travel Time: About 1 hr
4. Penedes Wine Region
Penedes is a wine-producing region and DOP (Denominación de Origen Protegida) for wines in Catalonia, about an hour west of Barcelona. After the Rioja, it’s considered one of the best wine-producing regions in Spain.
The Penedes region produces a range of red and white wines, none more famous perhaps than its cava, a type of Spanish sparkling wine similar to champagne or prosecco.
Cava enjoys Denominacion de Origen (DO) status, meaning it must be produced in a specific region using traditional methods for it to be labeled as “cava”. As such, about 95% of all cava is produced in the Penedes region, making it one of the best Barcelona day trips for wine lovers.
Photo by M. Vinuesa
How to Get There: If you’d like to do an independent wine tour, then it’s best to take the train from Barecelona-Sants station to either Vilafranca del Penedes or Sant Sadurni D’Anoia stations. Average Travel Time: About 1 hr
Figueres is a small town within the coastal Costa Brava region, about half an hour south of the French border. It’s best known as the birthplace of Salvador Dali and where his main museum is located.
The Dali Museum is the second most visited museum in Spain, after the Prado. Designed by Dali himself, the building is as quirky as the famed surrealist. As you can see below, it features giant eggs and golden statues sitting on its roof!
The eggs instantly catch your attention but only when you get close will you notice the building’s maroon exterior covered in life-sized casts of bread.
It’s a bizarre but apt preview to a museum housing the biggest and best collection of Dali’s art in the world. Fittingly, the remains of the artist are buried in a crypt beneath the stage.
You can visit Figueres on your own by high-speed train or go on a guided tour (Option 1 | Option 2). It’s located near Girona so many tours will take you to both cities.
Photo by MPanchenko
How to Get There: The fastest way to get from Barcelona-Sants station to Figueres Vilifant station is by high-speed AVE train. Average Travel Time: About 1 hr
1-2 HR DAY TRIPS FROM BARCELONA
Located about 60 km down the coast from Sitges is Tarragona, a port city that combines Roman ruins with a beach atmosphere. It’s considerably larger than Sitges and is home to one of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Spain.
Tarragona’s Roman ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and collectively known as the Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco. It consists of over a dozen well-preserved monuments, some of the most remarkable being its seaside amphitheatre and its colossal aqueduct measuring 27.5 meters (90 ft) high.
You can easily visit Tarragona on your own by train, or you can go on a guided tour (Option 1 | Option 2). Tarragona is located along the same stretch of coastline as Sitges so these tours will take you to both.
Photo by Mistervlad
How to Get There: Take the train from Barcelona-Sants station to Tarragona station. Average Travel Time: About 1 hr 15 mins
If your day trip from Barcelona falls on a Tuesday or Saturday, then perhaps you’d be interested in going to Vic, the first of several medieval villages on this list. It’s a medieval town known for its well-preserved architecture and colorful biweekly markets.
Vic’s Placa Major has been hosting these markets since the 9th century. Every Tuesday and Saturday, it turns into a festive labyrinth of stalls selling local produce, crafts, flowers, and various knick-knacks.
If you travel for food like we do, then be sure to look out for embutidos or traditional cured meats. Vic is famous for its embutidos like fuet (dried pork sausage), botifarra (raw pork sausage) and bull negre (cured pork sausage with pork blood). Vic’s embutidos are widely considered to be some of the best in the region.
Vic is located about 75 km (46.6 miles) north of Barcelona, en route to the Pyrenees. It makes for an interesting day trip on any day, but to maximize your trip, it’s best to go on market day.
You can explore Vic on your own or go on a guided tour (Option 1 | Option 2).
Photo by jorisvo
How to Get There: Take the R3 train from Barcelona-Sants station to Vic station. Average Travel Time: About 1 hr 30 mins
Famous for its cobbled streets, stone buildings, and botanical gardens, Girona has a reputation for being one of the best day trips from Barcelona. It’s a millennia-old city famous for its Jewish Quarter, which is recognized as one of the oldest and most well-preserved in Europe.
So picture perfect is the medieval city of Girona that it was used as a filming location for the Game of Thrones. It served as the backdrop for Braavos and King’s Landing, setting the stage for some of the show’s most memorable scenes like Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame.
Girona is home to many museums and historical attractions like Girona Cathedral and the Arab baths. The multi-colored houses by the edge of the River Onyar are among the city’s most photographed. It’s just one of just many photo opportunities you’ll find in this beautiful town.
If you watch a lot of travel food shows, then you may recognize Girona as the home of El Celler de Can Roca. It’s a 3 Michelin-starred Catalan restaurant consistently lauded as one of the world’s best.
You can easily explore Girona on your own by high-speed train, but if you’d like to go on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2 | Option 3).
Photo by Lena Serditova
How to Get There: The fastest way to get from Barcelona-Sants station to Girona station is by high-speed AVE train. Average Travel Time: About 1 hr 30 mins
9. Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar is a municipality in the southernmost region of the Costa Brava, about 40 km (25 miles) south of Girona City. It’s a charming seaside resort town famous for its sandy beaches and its 14th-century medieval castle.
So beautiful is Tossa de Mar that it was once a favorite destination for artists and intellectuals. Marc Chagall famously called it the “blue paradise”. It became a popular tourist destination in the 1950s after appearing in the film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman with Ava Gardner.
People come to enjoy it’s 14 km (8.7 miles) stretch of beaches and coves, and to explore the Vila Vella. An icon of Tossa de Mar, it’s the only remaining medieval walled town along the Catalan coast. Explore its labyrinth of alleys and climb along its ancient walls for spectacular views of the Mediterranean.
It’s a bit trickier to get to Tossa de Mar but you can get there by train and bus in about 2 hours. Alternatively, you can go on a guided tour (Option 1 | Option 2).
If you’re interested in a destination with a good balance of cultural and natural attractions, then Tossa del Mar is well worth the effort.
Photo by kavalenkava
How to Get There: Take the RENFE Cercanias train from Barcelona-Sants station to Blanes station. From Blanes, you’ll need to catch the bus that goes to Lloret, then to Tossa de Mar. Depending on what time of the year you go, there may not be any direct buses to Tossa de Mar from Blanes so you’ll need to transfer buses at Lloret bus station. Average Travel Time: About 2 hrs
2-3 HR DAY TRIPS FROM BARCELONA
I first heard about Cadaques many years ago. My brother and his Spanish girlfriend spent the day there from Barcelona. He described it as a sleepy but charming fishing village made famous by Salvador Dali.
Cadaques is a small town in the province of Girona about 20 km south of the French border. It’s known for its lovely whitewashed houses and relaxed seaside atmosphere.
It’s said to have been an inspiration to Dali who spent family holidays there in his youth. He would spend the latter part of his life at nearby Port Lligat, in a quirky dreamlike house that’s now a museum.
Cadaques is about 170 km (105 miles) northeast of Barcelona. You can get there by public transportation but it’s perhaps best visited on an overnight trip. Alternatively, you can go by rental car or on a guided tour.
Photo by Oleg_P
How to Get There: The fastest option is to go by high-speed AVE train from Barcelona-Sants station to Figueres Vilifant station. From there, you can either walk (2.5 km) or take a taxi to the Figueres bus station to catch a bus to Cadaques. Average Travel Time: About 2 hrs 30 mins
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST DAY TRIPS FROM BARCELONA
Barcelona is a vibrant city with much to see, do, and eat. It’s wealth of architectural landmarks, interesting neighborhoods, markets, and tapas bars will keep any first-time visitor occupied for days. But if you’re staying long enough, then you may want to explore beyond the city and go on one of these fun Barcelona day trips.
Spain’s public transportation system makes it easy enough to get around on your own, but if you’d prefer to have everything arranged for you, then it’s best to go on a guided tour. I’ve included links under each day trip destination but you can check out Get Your Guide and Klook for more tour options from Barcelona.
Thanks for reading and I hope this guide on the best day trips from Barcelona gives you plenty of ideas for your trip. If you have any questions, then let us know in the comment section below. Have an amazing time in Spain!
Some of the links in this article on Barcelona day trips are affiliate links, through which we can earn a small commission if you make a purchase or booking at no extra cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you so much!
Whenever we visit a new city, we try to diversify our food choices to create as complete a culinary picture as possible. There are only so many meals in one day so we aim to have as many different dishes as we can.
Not so in Kanazawa. Bordered by the Sea of Japan in Ishikawa prefecture, Kanazawa is home to some of the freshest seafood in the country. And any city in Japan that has superb seafood will offer superb sushi. That was exactly the case in Kanazawa.
Sushi is my absolute favorite Japanese food in the world so I welcomed the opportunity to have sushi as much as I could in Kanazawa. It was fresh, available everywhere, and relatively cheap compared to other cities in Japan.
If you’re exploring Japan’s central Chubu region, then listed below are ten great Kanazawa restaurants you can visit. Over half are sushi restaurants but there are others as well that offer Kanazawa food specialties like wagashi and Kaga ryori.
FOOD IN KANAZAWA QUICK LINKS
To help you with your Kanazawa trip planning, we’ve compiled links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in the downtown area, the most convenient area to stay for first-time visitors to Kanazawa.
Luxury: Kanazawa Hakuchoro Hotel Sanraku
Midrange: HOTEL AMANEK Kanazawa
Budget: K’s House Kanazawa – Travelers Hostel
Food Tour: Private Food Tasting Walking Tour
Market Tour: Omicho Market and Higashichaya Food Tour in Kanazawa
Cooking Class: Omicho Market Tour and Cooking Class in Kanazawa’s Kitchen
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
Japan Rail Pass
Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass
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THE BEST KANAZAWA RESTAURANTS
1. Omicho Market
The first entry in this Kanazawa food guide isn’t a restaurant but a market. Similar to Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka and Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Omicho Market is a covered market with over 200 stalls selling a wide variety of fresh seafood caught from the Sea of Japan. It’s been the largest fresh food market in Kanazawa since the Edo period.
Omicho Market was the very first place I visited after checking in to my hotel. Kanazawa doesn’t get as many tourists as Osaka or Kyoto so the experience of exploring Omicho Market was a much more pleasant one.
Crabs are some of the best things you can have in Kanazawa. Pictured below are ice boxes filled with king, snow, and hairy crabs.
Crabs are incredible in Japan but they’re also very expensive. That box with three crabs on the left goes for about USD 200 (JPY 21,600).
There are plenty of stalls at Omicho Market selling cooked food. This grilled skin-on Atka mackerel irozuke looked interesting so I tried it. It was good – sweet, savory, and a little smokey.
There isn’t as much information about irozuke online but I believe it refers to a local method of food preparation and preservation. It entails coating seafood in a thick sweet and savory glaze made from a soy sauce and sugar reduction.
I was on my way to a sushi lunch at Kaitenzushi Okura so this irozuke was all I had, but there are plenty of dishes to snack on at Omicho Market. If you travel for food like we do, then exploring Omicho Market is one of the best things you can do in Kanazawa.
Aside from market stalls, you’ll also find a good number of restaurants at Omicho Market. Located near one of the entrances, Okura is a small kaitenzushi restaurant offering unbeatable sushi lunch sets.
Kaitenzushi refers to a type of Japanese restaurant that serves sushi on conveyor belts. I love kaitenzushi restaurants but I was here to try one of Okura’s lunch sushi sets. Between 11AM and 3PM, they offer 10-piece sushi sets for as little as JPY 500. At today’s exchange rate, that’s less than USD 5!
Okura offers five different types of lunch sets ranging in price from JPY 500 to JPY 3,000. Pictured below is the JPY 500 set which contained some of my favorites like unagi (eel), amaebi (sweet shrimp), maguro (tuna), and inari (tofu skin). This was by far the least I’ve ever paid for sushi in Japan. Wow!
Kaitenzushi Okura is located right by one of Omicho Market’s entrances. If you’re looking for a cheap Kanazawa sushi restaurant, then this is a great place to go.
Address: 38 Shimomicho, Kanazawa 920-0917 Ishikawa Prefecture Operating Hours: 10:30AM-8PM, daily What to Order: Sushi Expect to Pay: About JPY 550 (with tax)
Also located at Omicho Market is Ichinokura, a Kanazawa seafood restaurant that offers kaisendon bowls. Kaisendon refers to a bowl of unseasoned white rice topped with different types of raw seafood.
Ichinokura has several kaisendon bowls ranging in price from JPY 990 to JPY 2,850. Pictured below is the JPY 2,500 bowl topped with ten different types of seafood including sake (salmon), tako (octopus), amaebi (sweet shrimp), and kani (crab). Their most expensive bowl has crab, salmon roe, and boiled pufferfish.
Ichinokura is located on the second floor of Omicho Market so it isn’t as easy to spot.
Address: 88 Aokusamachi Omi-Cho Ichiba-Kan 2F, Kanazawa 920-0907 Ishikawa Prefecture Operating Hours: 11AM-11PM, daily What to Order: Kaisendon Expect to Pay: About JPY 2,500 for the large kaisendon
4. Kourin Sushi
Kourin Sushi is a great but inexpensive Kanazawa sushi restaurant. In fact, it’s one of the most highly-rated cheap sushi restaurants I could find in Kanazawa.
You can order nigiri sushi per piece, or in 5- or 10-piece sushi sets. They also have chirashi bowls, kaisendon, and maki rolls.
I was choosing between the JPY 2,300 high-end sushi set and the JPY 1,200 omakase (chef’s choice) set. I went with the latter, and as you can see below, it included a couple pieces of aburi or blowtorched sushi.
Kourin Sushi is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee that maintains a perfect 5-star rating, even after over 500 reviews. Like many restaurants in Japan, this Kanazawa sushi bar isn’t that big so try to come early if you can.
Address: 79 Bakuromachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0903, Japan Operating Hours: 11:30AM-1:30PM, 5:30-10PM, Thurs-Sat, Mon-Tue / 11:30AM-1:30PM, Sun (closed Wednesdays) What to Order: Sushi Expect to Pay: Between JPY 100-400 per piece of nigiri sushi
5. Mawarusushi Ponta
Mawarusushi Ponta is a gem. It’s a very local kaitenzushi restaurant that had the second best sushi deal I found in Kanazawa. They offer 10-15 piece sushi sets for JPY 800 to JPY 1,280.
Pictured below was the 15-piece sushi set for JPY 1,280. It included a few choice pieces like unagi (eel), hamachi (yellowtail), sake (salmon), and mirugai (geoduck).
Customers can help themselves to as much miso soup as they want. It’s made with whole fish parts so it’s swimming with flavor. Just be careful of all the fish bones.
Mawarusushi Ponta is a bit far from the city center, about 2 km (1.2 miles) northwest of Kanazawa Station. It’s located in a non-touristy part of town with mostly warehouses and about a half-dozen Japanese restaurants. It’s well worth the effort if you like sushi and good deals.
Address: 4-15-1 Sainen, Kanazawa Ishikawa Prefecture Operating Hours: 11:30AM-2PM, 5:30-8PM, daily What to Order: Sushi Expect to Pay: At least JPY 800 for a sushi set
Takasakiya is a Kanazawa sushi bar owned and operated by the cutest elderly Japanese couple. The husband makes the sushi while his wife serves the drinks.
Takasakiya offers two omakase sushi sets, one for JPY 2,300 and the other for JPY 2,800. This was my last meal in Kanazawa so I went with the more expensive set.
As expected, it came with the most premium pieces of fish among all the sets I enjoyed in Kanazawa. Some pieces I recognized like akagai (ark shell), ikura (salmon roe), and toro (fatty tuna), but a few pieces were completely foreign to me.
In broken English, he tried to explain to me what each one was but he described many of them as “local fish, local clam, or local shrimp”. Whatever they were, this omakase set was fantastic and my best sushi meal in Kanazawa.
Takasakiya is a cute and cozy counter sushi shop that doesn’t have a lot of reviews, but they do have a perfect 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. I definitely recommend checking them out.
Address: Japan, 〒920-0864 Ishikawa, Kanazawa, 高岡町Takaokamachi, 7−33 寿し高崎屋 Operating Hours: 11:30AM-1:30PM, 5-9PM, Fri-Wed (closed Thursdays) What to Order: Sushi Expect to Pay: At least JPY 2,300 for on omakase sushi set
7. Shijimaya Honpo Yayoi
If you’d like to experience regional Kanazawa food, then you should try kabura zushi. It’s a type of nare sushi associated with Kanazawa. Nare sushi (or narazushi) refers to an early form of sushi made with fermented fish pickled with rice.
Kabura zushi is commonly sold in these takeaway packs so you can eat it at home. From what I gather, it’s more of a snack food rather than something you can order at restaurants. Thankfully, Shijimaya Honpo Yayoi had a small cafe in their shop so I could try it on the spot with some tea.
Is this the strangest sushi you’ve ever seen? Kabura zushi is made with salted buri (Japanese amberjack or yellowtail) sandwiched between pieces of pickled turnip.
It’s left to ferment in a tub with strips of carrot and koji – the same starter mold used to make miso, soy sauce, and sake – to break down the fish proteins and concentrate the flavor. Kabura zushi was invented as a method of food preservation and typically consumed in winter.
Served at room temperature, kabura zushi has an interesting taste and texture. It’s crunchy, a little sour, sweet, and with a good punch of saltiness and umami from the fish.
Kabura zushi was definitely the most interesting dish I had in Kanazawa. It’s good but somewhat of an acquired taste. It was surprisingly pricey as well, about USD 10 for one serving.
My research for kabura zushi led me to this shop – Shijimaya Honpo Yayoi. It was a bit of a walk from the downtown area so you may want to find a kabura zushi shop closer to central Kanazawa.
Shijimaya Honpo Yayoi
Address: Yayoi 1-17-28, Kanazawa 921-8541 Ishikawa Prefecture Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, daily What to Order: Kabura zushi Expect to Pay: About JPY 972 for one serving
If you’d like a special meal in Kanazawa, one that’s representative of the local cuisine, then you should definitely have Kaga ryori. It refers to a multi-course dining experience made with locally sourced ingredients.
I was confused by the experience at first because Kaga ryori seemed no different from kaiseki. Kaga ryori means “Kaga cuisine”, with the name Kaga being in reference to an ancient province of Japan.
I asked my Japanese friend and he confirmed that Kaga ryori is indeed a type of kaiseki. Kaiseki refers to a traditional multi-course meal made up of a sequence of artfully prepared dishes.
The Kaga ryori we had at Shogyotei consisted of a nine-course meal that was as much a feast for the eyes as it was for the stomach. We started with this lovely basket of bite-sized morsels made with locally sourced fish, vegetables, and other ingredients.
Like kaiseki, Kaga ryori courses are always beautifully presented. This course consisted of raw shrimp caught from the Sea of Japan.
This course consisted of udon noodles in a clear broth topped with thin slices of beef and chopped green onion.
We enjoyed our Kaga ryori meal in this private room at Shogyotei. It had a horigotatsu which is a type of low Japanese table with a recessed floor so you could stretch your legs underneath.
We were taken to Shogyotei on a press trip with JR Central and from what I understand, they’re one of the best restaurants in Kanazawa for kaga ryori. Gourmet food lovers need to enjoy a meal here.
Address: 1-38-30 Higashiyama, Kanazawa 920-0831 Ishikawa Prefecture Operating Hours: 11:30AM-3PM, 5-10PM, daily What to Order: Kaga ryori Expect to Pay: Starts at about JPY 6,000
It rained almost everyday when I was in Ishikawa. It gave me a serious craving for ramen so I had lunch at this Kanazawa restaurant that offers miso ramen. Originally from Sapporo, miso ramen is a type of ramen made with fermented soybean paste.
On their menu, Kagura lists their ramen as “aged miso” ramen. Based on what I’ve read, commercially available miso is typically aged for 6 months to 2 years. The longer it ages, the deeper and more pronounced its flavor gets.
As you can tell from the picture below, the broth looks fairly dark. I’m not an expert but I’m guessing Kagura uses miso that’s been aged for a considerable amount of time.
This wasn’t the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had, but it hit the spot and gave me a nice break from all the sushi I’d been eating. It contained two hefty slices of chashu pork, two wontons, half a ramen egg, nori, and some microgreens.
Address: 1 Chome-20-10 Teramachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 921-8033, Japan Operating Hours: 11:30AM-2:15PM, 5:30-8PM, Tue-Sat / 11:30AM-2:15PM, Sun (closed Mondays) What to Order: Ramen Expect to Pay: About JPY 1,000
10. Gyokusen-Inmaru Garden
A tea ceremony is one of the most quintessential cultural experiences you can have in Japan. Called chado in Japanese, it involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha or green tea to guests.
So important is chado to Japanese culture that it’s considered one of the three classical arts of refinement, the other two being kodo (incense appreciation) and kado (flower arrangement). They even have a term for the artful way in which the tea ceremony is performed – otemae.
Chado can be both formal and informal. Formal tea ceremonies are called chaji and typically include a full-course kaiseki meal that can last for up to four hours.
Informal tea gatherings are called chakai. This is what you can expect from the teahouse at Gyokusen-Inmaru Garden.
Pictured below is my serving of matcha and wagashi, a Japanese traditional confection typically served with green tea. Wagashi comes in many forms and can be made with a diverse array of ingredients and preparation methods.
The type of wagashi served at tea ceremonies is called namagashi. It’s made with rice flour and a sweet bean paste filling artfully shaped to reflect the season.
What makes this tea ceremony special is the view. You sip your tea on tatami mats in a room that overlooks Gyokusen-Inmaru Garden. It’s a small but lovely garden located on the grounds of Kanazawa Castle.
Address: 8-3 Koshomachi, Kanazawa 920-0932 Ishikawa Prefecture Operating Hours: 9AM-4PM, daily What to Order: Tea ceremony Expect to Pay: About JPY 730
To help you find these Kanazawa restaurants, I’ve pinned them all on an interactive map. Click on the link to open the map in a new window.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN KANAZAWA
I think it goes without saying – if you love sushi like I do, then you’re going to love Kanazawa. The fish is always fresh, there’s a lot of variety, and it’s cheaper than in most other Japanese cities.
You can find good sushi almost anywhere in Japan but it’s often on the expensive side so I find myself holding back. Not so much in Kanazawa.
As good as the sushi is, don’t forget to try the other Kanazawa food specialties as well, especially Kaga ryori. It’s an interesting meal that’s just as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate.
The Kaga ryori I had at Shogyotei didn’t have it but look out for jibuni. It’s typically one of the courses served during the meal. It’s a traditional Kanazawa food of stewed duck coated in flour and served with vegetables and wheat gluten in a thick soup.
Lastly, if you plan on visiting Kanazawa and exploring more of the Chubu region, then you may want to get a Takayama Hokuriku Pass. It’ll give you unlimited access to JR trains in the Chubu region (and part of the Kansai region) for five consecutive days. Check out our 5-day Chubu itinerary to help you plan your trip.
Some of the links in this Kanazawa food guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get 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. Arigato gozaimasu!
Budapest is cool. You won’t know it when you first arrive but spend 24 hours there and you’ll soon realize what a hip and trendy city Budapest really is.
Within minutes of arriving in Budapest, you’ll notice its flamboyant architecture. Often called the “Paris of the East”, you can’t help but appreciate what a beautiful city it is, built on either side of the Danube River with grand buildings and centuries-old thermal baths. Seeing that side of Budapest sort of conditions your mind to expect an historical, though perhaps unexciting experience.
But nothing can be further from the truth.
Spend a day exploring the Pest side and you’ll quickly realize that there is so much more to Budapest than its gargoyles and complex past. Its classical facade belies an energy and grit that we didn’t feel in other European cities.
The cool fonts on storefronts, the funky boutiques, the innovative restaurant scene, and exciting bar concepts reveal an edgy side to Budapest often overshadowed by its gothic exterior.
It’s funny, only after our trip did I start reading about this cool side of Budapest. Many people describe it as one of the most exciting cities in Europe.
Visit Budapest and you’ll know exactly what they mean.
VISIT BUDAPEST QUICK LINKS
This Budapest travel guide is long. For your convenience, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.
Top-rated hotels in District I, one of the best areas to stay for first-time visitors to Budapest.
Luxury: Hilton Budapest
Midrange: Ékszerdoboz A Budai Vár Alatt
Budget: BudaHome Apartments
Walking Tour: 3-Hour Grand City Tour and Castle Walk
Széchenyi Baths: Széchenyi Spa Full Day Entrance
Food Tour: Hungarian Cuisine Tasting Experience
Travel Insurance with COVID cover (WFFF readers get 5% off)
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TRAVEL GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Budapest Travel Restrictions
Budapest at a Glance
Best Time to Visit Budapest
Traveling to Budapest
Where to Exchange Currency
Best Areas to Stay in Budapest
Places to Visit in Budapest
Things to Do in Budapest
Day Trips from Budapest
Where to Eat in Budapest
Points of Interest in Budapest (Map)
How to Get Around in Budapest
How Many Days to Stay / Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Travel Tips
BUDAPEST TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Because of the current global situation, Budapest travel guidelines change almost everyday. Our friends at Booking.com created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.
Before planning a trip to Budapest, be sure to check Booking.com for information on travel restrictions to Hungary. If you do decide to visit Budapest, then you may want to seriously consider getting travel insurance with COVID coverage.
Depending on your passport, you may need a visa and other travel documents to visit Budapest. Check out iVisa.com to learn about Budapest travel requirements and to apply for a visa (if necessary).
BUDAPEST AT A GLANCE
Budapest is the capital of Hungary and its most populous city. It consists of three towns – Buda, Obuda, and Pest – which were unified in 1873 and given the name Budapest.
The part of Budapest located on the western bank of the Danube River is referred to as Buda while the area to its east is Pest. Obuda forms part of District III on the Buda side, one of 23 in Budapest.
Buda is the hillier side of Budapest and where you’ll find Buda Castle (Royal Palace), while Pest is relatively flat and home to numerous stately buildings like the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian State Opera House.
Collectively, this central area on either side of the Danube River is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a first-time visitor, this is where you’ll be spending most of your time in Budapest.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BUDAPEST
The best time to visit Budapest is in early fall (Sept-Oct) or late spring (Apr-May). These are shoulder seasons in Budapest with ideal weather.
MAR-MAY: Spring is one of the best times to visit Budapest. The weather is pleasant and there are a few festivals you can attend, particularly in May. Noteworthy festivals for food lovers include the Gourmet Festival, Rosalia Festival, and Budapest Beer Week.
JUN-AUG: Summer is peak tourist season in Budapest. It’s the hottest and busiest season of the year so it may not be the best time to go to Budapest. Plus, hotel room rates will be at their highest.
SEPT-NOV: Like spring, autumn is the best time to visit Budapest. The summer heat and crowds have dissipated and visitors will be treated to fall colors and a host of festivals. The Budapest Wine Festival and Jewish Cultural Festival take place in September while October is highlighted by Oktoberfest.
DEC-FEB: Budapest experiences cold winters. Snowfall is common so it’s one of the most picturesque times of the year to go to Budapest, if you can tolerate cold weather. Christmas is peak season in Budapest so expect thicker crowds and higher hotel prices.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Budapest
For more on the weather in Budapest, 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 BUDAPEST
Budapest is located in the heart of central Europe. We flew to Budapest from Athens but there are many ways to get there depending on where you are.
There are many flights that go to Budapest from different cities in Europe. You can do a search on a flight aggregator like Skyscanner to find cheap flights to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD).
Budapest Airport is located about 16 km southeast of the city center. You can make your way to downtown Budapest in one of the following ways.
This is what I did. It’s the cheapest way to get into downtown Budapest from the airport. The 100E bus costs HUF 1,500 and will take you directly into Budapest (Kalvin ter, Astoria, and Deak ter) in 30-45 mins. It runs every 20 mins with the last bus leaving the airport at 1:20AM.
Before exiting the arrival terminal, there’s a booth on the far left side where you can purchase tickets to the 100E bus. I believe there’s a ticket dispenser next to the bus stop as well. You’ll need to purchase your ticket before boarding the bus.
It’s worth noting that there’s a cheaper and more frequent bus, the 200E. However, it doesn’t take you all the way to the center of Budapest. You’ll need to get off at Ferihegy rail station then transfer to a train to Nyugati Station. It won’t cost much less so I don’t think it’s worth the hassle.
If you’re looking for a convenient but cost-effective way of getting to your hotel from the airport, then the miniBUD shared shuttle service is perhaps the best option. It’ll take you directly to your hotel.
However, since this miniBUD shuttle is a shared service, then it may take longer than the 100E bus depending on how many stops it needs to make.
If that isn’t a problem, then you can book tickets in advance through the miniBUD website or Get Your Guide. I believe the cost varies depending on how many people you have in your group so be sure to check both sites to find the better deal.
Another option is to go by flibco shuttle bus. It’ll take you from Budapest Airport to designated spots in the downtown area. You can book flibco shuttle bus tickets on Bookaway.
This is more expensive but it’s the most convenient way of getting from the airport to your hotel in downtown Budapest. You can book a private transfer through Get Your Guide.
Taxis should cost about the same as private transfers, perhaps a little less. Only the Fotaxi company is authorized to provide unreserved taxis at Budapest Airport so be sure to book one only from the official taxi stand outside the arrival terminal.
Budapest has three international railway stations and is well-connected by train to many central European cities. We didn’t take a train to go to Budapest but we did take one from Budapest to Prague. You can search for train routes to Budapest on Trainline.
Traveling by bus is one of the cheapest ways to get around. You can search for bus routes to Budapest on Bookaway.
Traveling by car is a great way to explore Budapest and many parts of Europe. It gives you the freedom to stop wherever you want, whenever you want.
If you’re looking to rent a car and driving to Budapest, then you can rent one on Rentalcars.com.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
Hungary is a member of the European Union (EU) but the country’s unit of currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF).
I withdrew HUF from an ATM so I didn’t have to exchange currency in Budapest, but if you do need to exchange currency, then I read that Correct Change in the Pest side is a good place to do it.
Personally, I prefer withdrawing from ATMs. Rates are competitive and I don’t have to bring as much foreign currency with me.
If you plan on using your ATM card abroad, then it’s a good idea to inform your bank beforehand. That way you don’t run into any issues. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.
NOTE: Some ATMs may ask if you’d like to proceed “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion. Proceeding with conversion authorizes the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion for you, usually at unfavorable rates.
BEST AREAS TO STAY IN BUDAPEST
Budapest has 23 districts. If it’s your first time in the city, then I think districts I, V, VI, VII, VIII are the best areas to stay. If you look at a map of Budapest, then you’ll understand why.
They’re right in the heart of Budapest, on either side of the Danube River, and put you close to many of the city’s top tourist attractions.
Listed below are five of these recommended districts along with a color-coded map to help you understand where they are. Follow the link to view a live version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)
BLUE – District I (Varkerulet) RED – District V (Belvaros) GREEN – District VI (Terezvaros) PURPLE – District VII (Erzsebetvaros) ORANGE – District VIII (Jozsefvaros)
District I or Varkerulet is the Castle District and the only district on this list located on the Buda side. It’s home to Buda Castle (Royal Palace), Matthias Church, and the Fisherman’s Bastion which are among the most visited tourist attractions in Budapest.
Some people say that District I is the best area to stay in Budapest for first-time visitors. If you like historical attractions, then District I is definitely for you. You can search for hotels in District I on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Varkerulet:
Luxury: Hilton Budapest
Midrange: Ékszerdoboz A Budai Vár Alatt
Budget: BudaHome Apartments
District V or Belvaros is the area directly opposite the Castle District on the other side of the Danube River. It’s where you’ll find arguably the most impressive building in Budapest – the Hungarian Parliament Building.
District V is also home to the Shoes on the Danube memorial and St. Stephen’s Basilica. If you stay here, then it’s easy to reach Széchenyi Chain Bridge and walk to the Castle District. You can search for accommodations in District V on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Belvaros:
Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest
Midrange: Anabelle Bed and Breakfast
Budget: Central Market Hall Zen Hostel
District VI or Terezvaros is where you’ll find Andrassy Avenue, an upscale boulevard of Neo-Renaissance mansions often referred to as the Beverly Hills of Budapest.
It’s also home to the Hungarian State Opera House, the House of Terror, and Nyugati Railway Station which is one of the main train terminals in Budapest.
We stayed at a big and beautiful 3-bedroom Budapestay Apartment on Liszt Ferenc Square. Budapestay Apartments is a series of modern self-catering apartments on Liszt Ferenc Square and Andrassy Avenue.
Liszt Ferenc Square is a great area to stay at in Budapest. Right outside the building is a series of restaurants and bars so you never have to go far to get a bite to eat. Oktogon metro station is nearby as well.
If you’d like to stay in District VI, then you can search for listings on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Terezvaros:
Luxury: Mystery Hotel Budapest
Midrange: Heroes’ Residence
Budget: Avenue Hostel
District VII or Erzsebetvaros is the historic Jewish Quarter. It’s home to many interesting restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and the city’s famed ruin bars. It’s also where you’ll find the Dohany Street Synagogue which is the largest synagogue in Europe.
For me, Erzsebetvaros is one of the coolest areas to stay in Budapest. I loved its energy at night and its vibrant and exciting restaurant scene.
District VII was where we spent most of our time when we weren’t sightseeing in Budapest. You can search for accommodations here on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the Jewish Quarter:
Luxury: Corinthia Budapest
Midrange: Tempo Life Apartman
Budget: Baroque Hostel & Coworking
We didn’t get to explore District VIII as much but Jozsefvaros is described as one of the coolest and edgiest neighborhoods in Budapest. It’s an up-and-coming area that’s home to a trendy restaurant scene, ruin bars, galleries, and second-hand shops. It’s also where you’ll find the Hungarian National Museum.
Jozsefvaros has been called one of the hottest districts in Europe. This is definitely where we’ll be staying on our next trip to Budapest. You can search for accommodations in District VIII on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Jozsefvaros:
Luxury: Úttö Luxury Suites
Midrange: Cherry Residence, Palace Quarter
Budget: Locomotive Hostel
You can also book hotels and home stays in Budapest using the handy map below.
PLACES TO VISIT IN BUDAPEST
1. Castle Quarter
The Castle Quarter or Varnegyed is one of the main tourist areas in Budapest. Located on top of Castle Hill in District I on the Buda side, it’s the oldest part of Budapest and where you’ll find Buda Castle (Royal Palace), Matthias Church, and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
You can easily explore the Castle Quarter on your own but if you’d like to go on a guided walking tour, then you can book one on Get Your Guide.
Matthias Church is one of the most famous churches in Hungary. Built in the 11th century, it was used as a coronation church by Hungarian kings and a mosque by Ottoman Turks before becoming a Roman Catholic church.
St. Stephen’s Basilica on the Pest side is more grand but Matthias Church is the more beautiful building, noted for its gothic style and colorful roof covered in diamond-patterned tiles.
Admission: HUF 2,500 Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr
Just a few steps from Matthias Church is the Fisherman’s Bastion, a fortification and viewing platform offering some of the best views of Budapest and the Danube River.
Does the Fisherman’s Bastion remind you of anything? Some people believe that it served as the inspiration for the Walt Disney logo.
Admission: FREE (lower terraces), HUF 1,000 (upper towers) Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins
Buda Castle (Royal Palace)
Built in the 13th century, the original Buda Castle or Royal Palace suffered considerable damage during the Turkish occupation so much of what you see today is a reconstruction. It’s an impressive building that now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
You’ll need to pay admission to enter either museum but you can explore the area around the Royal Palace for free.
Admission: HUF 3,400 (Hungarian National Gallery), HUF 2,400 (Budapest History Museum) Estimated Time to Spend: Between 2-5 hrs
The Castle Quarter is located on top of Castle Hill (Varhegy) so walking will be very difficult. To get to the top, you can either ride the funicular, take the hop-on hop-off shuttle, or go on a guided tour.
We went with the castle shuttle which would drop us off at various points so we could explore the Castle Quarter on our own.
2. Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building is impressive. There are many stunning buildings in Budapest but few if any are more jaw-dropping than the Hungarian Parliament building.
Built in 1902 along the Danube River, the Hungarian Parliament is the third-largest parliament building in the world. It boasts 691 interior rooms, 10 courtyards, and 12.5 miles of staircase. On display in its domed Hexagonal Hall is the Crown of St. Stephen, the royal Hungarian crown that commemorates the first Christian king of Hungary.
We admired it only from the outside but if you’d like to go in, then you can buy tickets on the Hungarian National Assembly website or book a guided tour. Based on what I’ve read, Hungarian Parliament tours are popular so it’s a good idea to book tickets in advance.
Photo by Matteo Gabrieli via Shutterstock
Admission: HUF 5,000 (EU citizens), HUF 10,000 (non-EU citizens) Estimated Time to Spend: About 45 mins
3. Shoes on the Danube Bank
Located along the Danube, just a short walk from the Hungarian Parliament building is this haunting memorial dedicated to the Jews executed by the Hungarian Nazi Party during World War II.
Shoes on the Danube Bank depicts cast-iron shoes in different styles and sizes to represent the thousands of Jews shot by the Arrow Cross Party during World War II. Shoes were a valuable commodity during the war so victims were made to remove them before being shot into the Danube River.
Admission: FREE Estimated Time to Spend: About 15 mins
4. St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the biggest church in Budapest. Located just a short walk from the Hungarian State Opera House, it’s home to the mummified hand of Stephen I – Hungary’s first king – and is considered the most sacred Catholic church in the country.
You can easily visit on your own, but if you have a keen interest in Catholic churches, then perhaps you’d like to visit St. Stephen’s Basilica on this guided tour.
Admission: HUF 200 (church), HUF 1,200 (dome) Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr
5. Great Synagogue
The Dohany Street Synagogue is the biggest synagogue in Europe. It was built in 1859 and contains a mixture of Byzantine, Gothic, and Romantic architectural styles.
Aside from the synagogue itself, inside the complex is the Heroes’ Temple, the Jewish Museum, a graveyard, and a memorial site. You can pay for admission at the gate or book a guided tour that stops at the Great Synagogue.
Photo by Boris Stroujko via Shutterstock
Admission: HUF 5,000 Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs
6. Great Market Hall
Just a short walk from the Hungarian National Museum is the Great Market Hall, the biggest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. Housed within a gorgeous 19th century building, inside the market are dozens of food and souvenir stalls spread out over two floors.
Admission: FREE Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr
7. House of Terror
The House of Terror is a museum located along Andrassy Avenue, in a building that served as the former headquarters of both the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party (Hungary’s Nazi Party) and the AVO/AVH Communist Terrorist Organizations.
The House of Terror museum features exhibits recounting the history and atrocities committed by the Hungarian Nazi party, much of them taking place within this very building.
Photo by Bartlomiej K. Kwieciszewski via Shutterstock
Admission: HUF 4,000 Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs
THINGS TO DO IN BUDAPEST
1. Soak at Széchenyi Baths
Soaking in a thermal bath is one of the most popular things to do in Budapest. There are several thermal bath facilities in the city but Széchenyi Baths is by far the most popular. Chances are, you’ve seen pictures and videos of it on social media.
Széchenyi Baths is the largest medicinal bath facility in Europe. Located in Budapest City Park, it features fifteen indoor thermal pools and three outdoor pools, including one with a whirlpool. The water in these thermal pools reach temperatures of up to 40°C (104°F). They’re rich in minerals and are said to be good for various ailments like joint pain, arthritis, and poor blood flow.
Check out the Széchenyi Baths website for a list of bath services and prices. You can purchase bath packages on the spot or in advance through Get Your Guide.
If you have a lot of time to spare, then you might want to spend the whole day at City Park, the largest green park in Budapest. Aside from Széchenyi Baths, Budapest City Park home to many other attractions like Heroes’ Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, the Museum of Fine Arts, a botanical garden, and a large public ice skating rink in winter.
Photo by Anna Dunlop via Shutterstock
Admission: Starts at HUF 9,400 per person Estimated Time to Spend: At least 2 hrs
2. Go on a Danube River Cruise
If you like boats, then going on a Danube River cruise is a must.
Locals commute on the river everyday so we were content catching a ferry from Boraros ter H (Petofi hid) terminal to the Hungarian Parliament Building (just before Margaret Island). But if you’d like to go on a proper cruise, then you can book one on Get Your Guide.
Pictured below is Boraros ter H (Petofi hid) ferry terminal. We took the D12 ferry from here and got off at Kossuth Lajos ter M to visit the Hungarian Parliament building.
3. Party at a Ruin Bar
Ruin pubs have become synonymous with the Budapest nightlife scene. Called romkocsma in Hungarian, a ruin pub is basically a drinking establishment located inside an abandoned building.
Pictured below is the Szimpla Kert ruin bar in the Jewish Quarter. It’s the original ruin bar and considered the city’s most iconic. You can refer to this article for more on Budapest’s famed ruin bars.
4. Go on a City Sightseeing Tour
We explored Budapest on our own but there are plenty of city sightseeing and walking tours you can go on.
A Segway tour is perhaps one of the most fun ways of exploring Budapest. A couple people in our group did a segway tour in virtually every European city we visited, including Budapest. You can book a Segway tour on Get Your Guide.
Photo by Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock
Segways are fun but they’re relatively slow and don’t cover as much ground. If you’d like to explore a larger area in Budapest, then it may be better to go on a bike tour.
Photo by CAN KAYA via Shutterstock
Hop On Hop Off Tour
This isn’t as much fun as the previous two but it’s the quickest and most efficient way of seeing as much as you can of a city in a limited amount of time.
These double-decker buses ply set routes and take you to popular tourist attractions in Budapest like the Hungarian Parliament building, the Castle District, and the Great Synagogue.
You can hop on and off as often as you like for the duration of your pass. Typically available in 24-, 48-, and 72-hr tickets, you can purchase hop-on hop-off passes in advance through Get Your Guide. Some even include a Danube River cruise.
Photo by Nazar Skladanyi via Shutterstock
5. Drink Tokaji
Tokaji or Tokay refers to wines grown in the Tokaj region of Hungary. The region is known for producing sweet dessert wines affected by noble rot, which is a type of mold (botrytis cinerea) that develops on the grapes. When the mold dries out under the sun, it concentrates the grape’s sugars giving the wine its distinct flavor.
Like Portugal’s Port wine, Tokaji has been given Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. For wine to carry the Tokaji name, it needs to be produced in the Tokaj region using specific varieties of grape.
There are many wine bars where you can try Tokaji in Budapest, two of the most recommended being Kadarka and Veritas. Both are located in District VII.
If you’d like to learn more about Tokaji, then you may be interested in going on a guided day tour to Hungary’s Tokaj wine region.
DAY TRIPS FROM BUDAPEST
1. Memento Park
Memento Park is still located in Budapest. However, it’s well outside the city center in District XXII, about an hour’s commute on public transportation from District I.
Unless you have a keen interest in Hungary’s communist period, then it isn’t a priority for most first-time visitors. Visit this city park only if you’ve seen the top tourist attractions and you have enough time left in Budapest.
Memento Park is an open-air museum with large statues dedicated to Hungary’s communist era. There are statues of popular communist figures like Marx, Lenin, and Engels, as well as several Hungarian communist leaders.
You can visit Memento Park on your own using public transportation or you can go as part of a communist-themed tour.
Photo by VanderWolf Images via Shutterstock
Admission: HUF 3,000 Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs
2. Danube Bend & Szentendre
The Danube Bend refers to a curve in the Danube River near the castle town of Visegrad. This curve is often described as the most beautiful section of the Danube, home to several historical riverside towns like Visegrad, Nagymaros, Vac, and Esztergom.
You can easily explore the towns along the Danube Bend using public transportation, or you can go on a guided tour. The majority of Danube Bend tours will make stops at Visegrad, Esztergom, and Szentendre, a lovely artist’s village with roots in Serbian culture.
Located about 25 km north of the city center, Szentendre is the most visited riverside town from Budapest. In fact, there are many guided day tours that focus solely on Szentendre.
Photo by LeicherOliver via Shutterstock
3. The Puszta
The Puszta region is a vast wilderness of shrubs and grassland in the Great Hungarian Plain. Meaning “barren” or “empty” in Hungarian, it describes an area of about 52,000 sq km characterized by treeless pastures, steppes, meadows, and wetlands.
Large ranches with shows displaying Hungarian horsemanship are the main draw in the Puszta. It’s where the ancient Magyars honed and refined their horse culture for over two millennia. You can book guided tours to the Puszta on Get Your Guide.
Photo by Karl Allen Lugmayer via Shutterstock
4. Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe. Located about 80 km southwest of Budapest, it’s a popular tourist destination known for its volcanic mountains, vineyards, historic villages, and thermal spa resorts.
There are a number of Lake Balaton day tours you can book through Get Your Guide. Many of them include wine tastings and cruises on the lake.
Photo by ZGPhotography via Shutterstock
Do you like sampling the local cuisine when you travel? If you do, then be sure to check out our list of traditional Hungarian dishes that you need to try on your next trip to Budapest.
WHERE TO EAT IN BUDAPEST
Budapest has a great restaurant scene. It’s got amazing street food and interesting food halls to go with its wealth of traditional restaurants serving tasty Hungarian cuisine. Check out our food guide for a list of some of the best restaurants in Budapest.
Thirteen may be too many for most people so I’ve listed five of our favorites below. Be sure to click through to the full food guide for more pictures and information.
1. Bambi Eszpresszo
This was where I had my very first meal in Budapest. The thought of having sausages and beer in what was described as a genuine communist-era neighborhood bar was so intriguing to me.
The moment you walk in and see its doily tablecloths and grizzled groups of regulars, you’ll know that Bambi Eszpresszo is the real deal. It looks like a time capsule.
I had black coffee, a pint of Dreher beer, and Hungarian virsli sausages that were among the best sausages I’ve ever tasted in my life. If we lived in Budapest, then I’d be a regular here too.
2. Bors GasztroBar
This was one of my favorite restaurants in Budapest. Bors GasztroBar is a small takeaway restaurant that serves modern interpretations of Hungarian street food.
Located in the Jewish Quarter, just north of the Hungarian National Museum and a few doors down from Szimpla Kert, Bors GasztroBar offers an inspired menu of soups, stews, salads, and pasta dishes, but their baguette sandwiches are their bread and butter.
We had a soup and the French Lady, a signature baguette sandwich made with chicken breast, raspberry onion jam, and edamer cheese. Both were fantastic.
Bors GasztroBar is popular so expect a line when you get there. It’s definitely worth the wait.
3. Langos Burger
Langos Burger is a street food stall at Karavan, a food park located just a couple of spaces away from Szimpla Kert. They offer just two things on their menu – langos and langos burgers.
A langos is a traditional Hungarian dish of deep-fried dough topped with any number of ingredients. We had our langos covered in a forest of fresh arugula and sheep cheese. It was delicious – crisp on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside, like a doughnut.
As its name suggests, a langos burger is a beef, pork, or chicken patty sandwiched between two langos “buns”. We had the beef served with arugula, sheep cheese, and grilled paprika and it was very tasty as well.
In 2018, Langos Burger was voted one of the ten best street food stalls in Europe by a panel of chefs and food writers. Don’t miss it.
4. Stand25 Bisztro
If you’d like a refined but unpretentious meal in Budapest, then make reservations at Stand25 Bisztro, a Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee that offers 2- or 3-course menus featuring modern interpretations of traditional Hungarian food.
Stand25 Bisztro is headed by the chef duo of Szullo Szabina and Tamas Szell, the same chefs behind the one-Michelin star Stand restaurant on the Pest side. Stand25 seems to be the more relaxed bistro version of the upscale Stand restaurant.
Pictured below is a delicious meatloaf dish made with Mangalica pork, which is an Hungarian breed of domestic pig. Prized for its fatty marbled meat, it’s often referred to as the “Kobe beef of pork”.
5. Molnar’s Kurtoskalacs
Kurtoskalacs refers to a traditional Hungarian and Romanian dessert. Known as spit cakes or chimney cakes, they’re made by wrapping yeast dough around baking spits then roasting them over charcoal.
While roasting, the cakes are basted with melted butter to create a shiny caramelized crust. When cooked, the cakes are dusted with ground walnut or powdered cinnamon, though other ingredients can be used.
Crisp on the outside but soft and buttery on the inside, these kurtoskalacs are absolutely delicious. We enjoyed them so much we wound up getting a second serving filled with soft serve ice cream. Wow!
POINTS OF INTEREST IN BUDAPEST
To help you better understand where everything is, I’ve pinned the places recommended in this Budapest travel guide on this map. Follow the link to open the live map in a new window.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN BUDAPEST
Getting around Budapest is easy. It’s a very walkable city but it also has an extensive metro, tram, bus, and ferry system. You can use the Bolt app to book rides and the city has a bike sharing system called BuBi Bike.
I enjoy walking so I got around mostly on foot, but I did use the tram, metro, bus, and ferry at some point during our trip. Transportation was never a problem.
If you plan on going sightseeing and using public transportation often, then a Budapest Card may be a good investment.
I’ll discuss the different modes of transportation in more detail below but I suggest downloading the Google Maps app (iOS | Android) if you haven’t already. It’s accurate and reliable and will tell you all the possible ways to get from point A to point B using any city’s public transportation system.
Budapest’s public transportation system is extensive and efficient. It’s comprised of the metro, trams, buses, the suburban railway, and ferries. I’ll describe each mode of transportation in more detail but listed below are a few key points to remember.
To use public transportation in Budapest, you’ll need to purchase single tickets at HUF 350 each. They’re available in blocks of ten for HUF 3,000. We bought ours at the airport arrival terminal but tickets can be purchased from ticket offices at most metro stations and from BKK Ticket vending machines. You can also purchase single tickets on buses but they’ll cost HUF 450 each.
As soon as you board, it’s important to validate your ticket. Once it’s validated, it’ll be good for 80 mins during the day and 120 mins at night.
Single tickets are valid only for single uninterrupted trips WITHOUT transfer on trams, buses, and the suburban railway. Transfers are allowed only on the metro. If you need to make a transfer during your journey, then you can purchase a transfer ticket (instead of a single ticket) for HUF 530.
Budapest travel cards that give you an unlimited number of trips for 24 hrs, 72 hrs, and 1 week are also available. These are different from the Budapest Card. You can read more about Budapest travel cards and other types of tickets on the BKK website.
The Budapest Metro consists of 4 lines – M1 (yellow), M2 (red), M3 (blue), and M4 (green). Lines operate daily from 4:30AM till 11:30PM. As described above, transferring between metro lines using single tickets is allowed. Follow the link for a Budapest Metro map.
Budapest’s tram system is more extensive than the metro with over 30 lines operating on almost 160 km (100 miles) of track. I used these yellow trams more often than the metro as they provided a more scenic way of getting around the city.
Follow the link for a map showing the tram, metro, and suburban railway system in Budapest. Most tram lines operate from 4:30AM till 12:30AM.
There are two types of buses in Budapest – regular buses and trolley buses which are electric buses attached to overhead cables. Depending on where you are and where you need to go, buses may be more convenient than trams or the metro.
In our case, Google Maps advised us to catch a trolley bus from Széchenyi Baths back to our hotel. With Google Maps, you don’t need to have a city’s public transportation system memorized which is why it’s such a valuable travel tool.
HEV (Suburban Railway)
The HEV is Budapest’s suburban railway network. You can use it to reach the city’s outer limits and beyond, like on a day trip to Szentendre for example. Single tickets are valid within the city limits but you’ll need an extension ticket to go beyond.
BKK Boat (Ferry) – Service Temporarily Suspended (Jan 2023)
Single boat tickets cost HUF 750 each. It may not be the most efficient means of transport but it’s a great way of experiencing the Danube without paying for a river cruise.
In our case, we took the scenic Tram 2 which runs along the Pest waterfront to Boraros ter H (Petofi hid) ferry terminal. From there, we took a ferry to Kossuth Lajos ter M to visit the Hungarian Parliament building.
Bolt / Taxi
Bolt is the Uber of Budapest but instead of unmarked cars, it uses taxis. If you need to book a ride safely in Budapest, then this is your best option. You can download Bolt on iTunes or Google Play.
I read that you should never hail cabs in Budapest because some taxi drivers are out to scam tourists. If you need to catch a taxi, then go only with a reputable company like Fotaxi. You should call them to send a taxi your way but if you can, then it’s best to book one with Bolt.
BuBi Bikes is Budapest’s bike sharing system. To use these lime green bikes, you’ll be charged a one-time fee of HUF 120. This gives you three free minutes of use, after which you’ll be charged HUF 40 per minute.
You can purchase your BuBi Bike ticket with a bank card using the touchscreen terminal at docking stations. However, MOL Bubi app reviews are poor so it may be better to purchase it through the MOL Bubi website instead.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / BUDAPEST TRAVEL ITINERARY
We enjoyed Budapest so much that we want to go back and stay for at least a month. Obviously, not everyone has a month, but there’s so much to see and experience in Budapest that first-time visitors should stay for a minimum of three days.
Three full days will give you enough time to see the top attractions in Budapest and explore the city’s many cool neighborhoods.
Here’s an abridged version of our Budapest travel itinerary which suggests what you can do with 3 days in Budapest. Be sure to click through to the full travel itinerary for more details.
DAY ONE • Andrassy Avenue • St. Stephen’s Basilica • Great Synagogue • Budapest City Park • Heroes’ Square • Széchenyi Baths • Szimpla Kert
DAY TWO • Széchenyi Chain Bridge • Matthias Church • Fisherman’s Bastion • Buda Castle (Royal Palace) • Hungarian State Opera House • House of Terror • Mazel Tov
DAY THREE • Great Market Hall • Danube River Cruise • Margaret Island • Hungarian Parliament Building • Shoes on the Danube Bank • Gozsdu Udvar
BUDAPEST TRAVEL TIPS
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel
I’ve been using Sygic Travel for many years now. It’s a trip planning app that allows you to pin points of interest on a map then group them together by location to create as efficient an itinerary as possible. You can download it for free on iOS or Android.
2. Stay Connected in Budapest
Having a reliable internet connection is a must these days, even more so when you’re away on a trip. You’ll need it to navigate, do research, and stay connected on social media. Having access to Google Maps alone justifies the cost.
We brought Pokefi devices with us so we didn’t need to rent any in Europe. But if you want to stay connected in Budapest, then you can purchase an eSIM through Klook.
3. Validate and Keep Your Ticket
Always remember to validate your ticket as soon as you board public transportation or enter a metro station. Inspectors may ask you to present your ticket so be sure to keep it with you for the entire duration of your journey. Getting caught without a validated ticket will result in a hefty fine.
4. Get a Budapest Card
If you plan on using public transportation often and visiting many of the city’s top attractions, then a Budapest Card may be a worthwhile investment.
It’s valid for 1-5 days and will entitle you to unlimited travel on public transportation along with a slew of benefits like free entry to museums, walking tours, luggage storage, and discounts at thermal baths and restaurants.
You can purchase the Budapest Card on Get Your Guide. Check out the Budapest Card website for more information.
5. Check for Budapest travel deals
There are many ecommerce websites that offer deals on tours and other travel-related services. For your trip to Budapest, I suggest checking out Get Your Guide. It’s a leading travel booking platform that offers a wide selection of deals on walking tours, transfers, and more.
6. Rent a Car
Transportation in Europe is easy and efficient, but one of the best ways to explore the continent is by renting a car. It gives you the most freedom.
We didn’t rent one in Hungary but we did rent cars in Spain and Santorini. It gave us the freedom to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted.
If you’re considering renting a car to explore Hungary and central Europe, then you can do so through Rentalcars.com.
7. Get Travel Insurance
We don’t always get travel insurance. It depends on where we’re going, what we’ll be doing, and how long we’ll be away for. For this trip to Europe, it was a necessity.
Whenever we do feel the need for insurance, we get it from SafetyWing or Heymondo. They’re both popular travel insurance companies used by many digital nomads. You can follow the links to get a free quote from SafetyWing or Heymondo. Get 5% off on Heymondo when using our link.
8. Bring the Right Power Adapter
Hungary 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 hardly an expert on Budapest but I do hope that you find this travel guide useful. I’m only sharing some of the things I learned from our trip. If you have any questions or suggestions, then please leave them in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time in Budapest, the jaw-dropping Hungarian city fittingly known as the Paris of the East!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Budapest. For a complete list of our travel gear, have a look inside our backpack. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon and other affiliate links.)
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