If you travel with your stomach first, add these cities to your bucket list.
Some people travel for adventure or for art or for architecture. Personally, I travel for food. And IMO, affordable, authentic street food can be way more satisfying than any expensive, exclusive restaurant. So, here are 16 incredible cities for anyone who travels stomach-first.
Traveling to Mexico City is an exercise in stamina for your stomach. Everywhere you go, the city wafts with the smells of flame-grilled meats and blue corn masa tortillas sizzling on the griddle, and just about every other block is lined with street carts and vendors dishing out everything from tlacoyos and tacos to tamales.
Jenni’s Street Quesadillas in the Roma Norte neighborhood for famous fresh blue corn tortillas smothered in melted cheese and squash blossoms (it’ll only set you back about $1). And for the best esquites you’ve ever tasted, look for a nondescript little stand on a street corner by Reforma 222 shopping mall. There, you can fill up on a heaping cup of corn tossed with mayo, cotija cheese, lime, and chipotle pepper for less than 50 cents.
While you’re in CDMX, make sure to sample al pastor tacos, thinly sliced marinated pork shaved from a spit and served with white onion, pineapple, and cilantro. While it’s hard to go wrong at any taqueira,
El Vilsito (Colonia Narvarte ), Taqueria el Greco (Condesa), and El Turix (Polanco) are three top spots for pork-filled tacos.
Singapore is like two sides of a coin: on the one hand it’s glitzy and pristine. but on the other it’s chaotic and dazzling — just look at the busy night markets filled with hawker stalls like the Chinatown Street Market. Singaporean cuisine is a blend of flavors and dishes from other countries: China, India, Malaysia
, even Europe.
Prepare to eat lots and lots of rice, noodles, and seafood, but whatever you do, don’t miss Hainanese chicken rice, char kway teow (stir fried, flat rice noodles), roti prata (a flaky fried bread served with butter) and laksa (noodles in creamy coconut broth).
At first glance, Paris might not be an obvious top street food city, but if you know where to look, the city offers everything from crêpe stands to open air markets like the Marché des Enfants Rouges. In the heart of the old Jewish Quarter,
L’As du Falafel doles out pita sandwiches stuffed to the brim with crispy falafel, fried eggplant and pickled vegetables, all smothered in tahini and spicy sauce.
Over in the 11th arrondissement,
Chez Aline is home to some of the best sandwiches in the city — simple combinations like jambon, feta, and pesto on freshly baked baguette. And in the Latin Quarter, you’ll find life-changing savory and sweet crepes (around $5 a piece) from the tiny shop, Au P’tit Grec. And of course, a flaky croissant or freshly baked baguette from one of the city’s many boulangeries is just as delicious as any fancy meal on earth, but if there’s one spot to seek out it’s Du Pain et des Idées located by Canal St Martin.
If you walk through Djema al Fna, Marrakesh’s main square, around sundown, you’ll be intoxicated by sights, sounds, and smells. There are snake charmers and monkeys, henna tattoo artists, storytellers, and stalls upon stalls of food selling fragrant spices, bowls of snail soup, fresh squeezed orange juice, and pyramids of sweet nuts coated in honey.
Other dishes include harira, a traditional tomato and chickpea soup and tagine, a slow cooked stew of couscous, vegetables, and meat. But the crown jewel of Marrakesh’s street food scene can be found in Mechoui Alley where lamb is slow cooked underground for days at a time in clay ovens until it’s tender, sprinkled with cumin and salt, and served with pita.
Taiwan is often overlooked, but it’s an incredible destination with a sprawling urban city (Taipei) and lots of natural beauty (beaches, hot springs, and mountains, for starters). But if you visit Taiwan for one thing, it should be the food. Eating is a national past time, and you’ll see that first hand if you visit one of the 30 night markets in Taipei alone.
Make sure to try Xiao Long Bao (the original Din Tai Fung is in Taipei and 10 plump soup dumplings will set you back about $5), eggs enveloped in scallion pancakes, spicy fried chicken tossed in salt, pepper, and basil leaves, and umami-packed beef noodle soup. If you’re not sure where to begin, Nanjichang night market is a local favorite, while Ningxia and Raohe are two of the more manageable options for tourists just dipping their toes into Taiwanese street food culture.
If there’s one city that could be crowned street food capital of the world, it might just be Bangkok. There’s perhaps no other city where you could eat as well on a tight budget — where tiny hawker stalls deserve Michelin stars (and in fact, many have them). But in a city that is home to over half a million street food stalls, it can be tough to choose where to eat.
At the street-side restaurant
Raan Jay Fai, the eponymous female chef wears goggles as she cooks crab omelettes, stir-fries, and curries over a blazing flame. Then there’s Kuay Jub Mr. Joe, famous for the crispiest pork belly in Bangkok ($4), which can be served over a piping bowl of noodle soup. Chakki, located in Bangkok’s Chinatown, is the place to go for deep fried noodles with meat in a thick gravy. And of course there’s Thipsamai for what’s commonly lauded as the best pad Thai in the city.
Rio de Janiero, Brazil
As soon as you touch town in Rio, you’ll notice a different kind of energy, and this vibrance also manifests itself in the street food. The cuisine is a blend of African, European, and indigenous cultures, and you can find the iconic dishes at the Sunday markets, hole-in-the-wall shops, and carts along the busy streets to Ipanema and Copacabana.
Fill up on colorful açai bowls made with tropical fruits, pão de queijo (a chewy, cheesy bread made of cassava flour), cod dumplings, pastéis, and coxinha, deep fried pastries filled with shredded chicken and cheese.
It’s easy to associate Berlin street food with döner kebabs and currywurst, but there’s so much more to it. An extremely international city, Berlin’s cheap eats are inspired by global cuisines and flavors all around the world. Just about every week, you’ll find some new pop-up like
Bite Club at Badeschiff and Street Food Thursday in Markthalle Neun, where eclectic vendors come together to sell drool-worthy dishes like gourmet burgers, tacos, tapas, and craft beer.
Then there’s Thaipark, a decades-old tradition held on weekends during the warm weather months. You’ll find over 100 Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and other Asian vendors cooking up food from their home countries like shrimp pad Thai ($6), sticky rice with mango ($2), and chicken satay skiewers ($2). And finally theres’ Boxhagener Platz, a flea, farmer’s and street food market where you can chow down on things like falafel, charcuterie, bruschetta and more.
When you think of Tokyo, you might be inclined to think of fine dining and expensive restaurants. And while you can easily blow a whole paycheck on an omakase meal, Tokyo is also heaven on earth for affordable, street food. The maze of streets and buildings that make up Tsukiji Market is a feast for all the senses, especially the stomach.
As you get lost in the alleys you’ll pass ramen stalls (a heaping bowl will set you back about $5), shelves of fresh onigiri, vendors grilling skewers of chicken yakitori and thinly sliced wagyu beef over a flame, and tiny sushi bars where hungry locals sling back pieces of fatty tuna nigiri for breakfast. This is a microcosm for the whole city. Incredible food is everywhere you look. In fact, 7-Elevens on every street corner serve the best $2 egg salad sandwich you’ll ever eat.
Mumbai is a melting pot of different cultures and flavors. Here, you can find not only international cuisines, but also regional dishes from Punjab and southern India to Goa. The city also never sleeps, which means delicious street food is available all the time, whether it’s a hot cup of chai, crispy, pani puri, or chaat.
Make your way to Khau Galli, Mumbai’s biggest and best neighborhood for street food, where every street offers something a bit different. On the block named Mahim Khau Galli there are rows of vendors grilling things like rotis with lamb and chicken tandoori. Nearby, Mohammed Ali Road is known for kebabs and biryani. Along
Tardeo Khau Galli you’ll find samosas, vada pav (fried potato dumplings on a bun) and pav bhaji (mashed vegetable stew served on a bun).
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv is known for its food, but in addition to great restaurants, you can eat extremely well for cheap in this vibrant beach city on the Mediterranean Sea. Walk through Shuk HaCarmel, the city’s largest market where you can buy everything from olives and spices to halva.
Once you’ve tried a plate of the creamy hummus topped with whole chickpeas and paprika ($6) from
Hummus Abu Hassan, you’ll never be able to eat the store bought stuff again. At Levinsky Burekas try one of the famous Middle Eastern pastries plucked right from the oven, and of course, you’ll want to get a falafel sandwich from HaKosem. Biting into one of the fluffy pitas filled with fried chickpea balls, chopped Israeli salad, and tahini is the true definition of a religious experience.
You can avoid high end restaurants entirely and still eat like a king in Shanghai, China’s most populated city. The food stalls along Xiangyang Road are great for a quick breakfast of jianbing (egg crêpes filled with veggies) and
on South Yunnan Road Food Street you’ll find tons of hot pot and noodles.
Huanghe Road is the dumpling capital: try the small, gently pan fried soup dumplings at
Yang’s (4 pieces for around $3) and the more traditional, delicate crab xiao long bao at Jia Jia Tang Bao. On Qibao Old Street, vendors sell all sorts of steamed buns and dim sum and in Tianzifang, snack stalls on every black sell all of the best cheap eats like rice cakes, grilled meat skewers, and egg tarts.
Lagos is the most populated city in Africa. It’s a fast-paced, constantly moving commercial hub with a thriving street food scene to match. Grilled spicy beef skewers called suya and akara — delightfully greasy and crunchy fritters made from beans — can be found on street corners throughout the city.
There’s puff puff, a favorite West African snack that are similar to French beignets, and there are plantains that are roasted on hot charcoals and served with nuts. These snacks are even sold on busy roadsides and can be delivered right to your car window during rush hour.
Ontherunphoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto, Getty Images
The island of Oahu, home to the capital city of Honolulu, is the cultural hub of Hawaii. The cuisine is influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, and Hawaiian culture, and that’s most obvious when you look at the affordable eats and snack foods served at roadside shacks and food trucks all across the island. Fuel up for the day on loco moco from
For lunch grab a heaping portion of shrimp scampi over rice from Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck or pop into Ono Seafood for a giant scoop of the freshest tuna poke you’ve ever tasted ($13). There’s Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken, where huli chicken roasts over coals on in a parking lot. And of course, no trip to Oahu is complete without trying a fried spam musubi, a few açai bowls or a refreshing shaved ice.
Seoul, South Korea
You can’t talk about Seoul without mentioning street food. A huge part of the culture in this culinary-minded city is the cheap food sold by tiny stalls on busy city streets and in crowded subway stations. The most famous spot for street food is Gwangjang Market, a traditional market where seemingly endless rows of carts sell everything from bindaetteok (mung bean cakes) to pajeon (savory vegetable pancakes) and kimbap (the Korean take on sushi rolls).
Myeongdong Street is the place to go for tteokbokki, spicy rice cakes that bathe in a pool of chili sauce, and there are several markets around the city like Tongin Market, Dongdaemun Night Market and Namdaemun Market where you can taste Seoul’s iconic dishes like Korean fried chicken, mandu (dumplings), and small banchan style dishes.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
In a country known for delicious food, Ho Chi Minh City (commonly known as Saigon) is Vietnam’s culinary jewel. In this wonderfully chaotic city where cooking and eating is a way of communicating and connecting, you can never be far from authentic, cheap, and most importantly, spectacular food.
On Vinh Khánh Street (seafood street), there are rows of outdoor grills cooking crabs, cockles, and sizzling seafood hot pot. In district 1, Chợ Bến Thành is an authentic market where you can sample all the classic dishes like spring rolls and banh mi, and more. Nearby, seek out
Banh Xeo 46A for savory egg crêpes filled with shrimp and vegetables ($3) and Pho Bo Vien, a hole-in-the-wall for quality pho.
Did I leave out your favorite street food city? Where is it and what should travelers eat there?