For some travelers, food is just another way to get to know a new city, much like famous landmarks and shopping streets. For others, however, the food alone is worth booking a trip to the city for. That means breakfasts that involve exploring new cafes, lunch reservations at top-notch fine-dining restaurants, and dinners at buzzing late-night food streets that come to life in the dark.
For all of the foodies at heart, these cities should be on the bucket list this year. Ranked among the top ten food cities of 2023, these dining destinations will fill the hearts and bellies of anybody willing to give it a taste.
10 Albuquerque, New Mexico
While Alburquerque was once predominantly defined by its roadside eateries along Route 66, the city has since seen a rise in local businesses with new pop-ups, farmer’s markets, breweries, restaurants, and coffee shops that are now among some of the country’s best.
Although most come to Alburquerque for the city’s red and green chiles and spicy Mexican food, they’ll find that there’s much in the city to stay back for, where the Nob Hill neighborhood in particular, is quietly emerging as an exciting culinary destination.
9 Manila, Philippines
Meat skewers on a grill
Banana ketchup and balut — fertilized egg embryos — are the first things that come to mind when thinking of Filipino food but a younger generation of chefs in Manila is pushing the boundaries of Filipino food whilst still paying homage to the classics of its street food.
With a population of 13 million and a food-loving working class that’s predominantly filled with younger crowds willing to devour what’s being dished out, Manila is quickly transforming not just the food scene of the capital city, but also Filipino food in general.
8 Guatemala City, Guatemala
Guatemala City is a mix of two kinds of foods: old-world Mayan food put forth by Indigenous cooks of the country, and budding eateries that celebrate concepts like third-wave coffees that are signs of the new world.
Those hoping to get the full experience of Guatemalan food may want to go with enough time to explore both sides of the city for there are many a crisp tostada to eat on the streets, tasting menus at modern gastronomy restaurants to try, and cerveza (beers) to wash it all down with.
7 Halland, Sweden
Where some cities have been culinary heavyweights for years, the last decade has put several emerging cities on the culinary map. Halland began its ascent when Äng — a restaurant in the tiny village of Ästad — became the first one in the city to be awarded a Michelin star in 2021.
The year after, Knystaforsen become the second Halland-based restaurant to win a Michelin star.
Today, the abundance of fresh produce from the city’s coastline, rivers, forests, and open fields for grazing has given rise to a wealth of restaurants that focus on serving locally sourced ingredients which in turn, has begun to attract food lovers from all over the globe.
6 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Asia has long been the hotspot of a thriving culinary scene, especially when it comes to street food, and Ho Chi Minh City embodies the best of it.
Motorbikes transform into moving popup carts that sell freshly caught seafood in hidden alleyways, the smell of grilled pork from com tam shops perpetually wafts through the air, and a hot bowl of pho or a banh mi is never too far away.
Regardless of whether visitors dine at experimental restaurants or street markets, a day of eating in Ho Chi Minh City almost always ends with beers on plastic chairs in the streets with locals.
5 Dakar, Senegal
There’s a greatly valued term in Senegal called teranga which means good hospitality, and its capital city Dakar strives to embody the term. A city where three cuisines meet in the kitchen — Wolof, French, and North African — Dakar is an enlightening dining experience for foodies.
Beignets and baguettes are sold right next to roasted Senegalese meats called dibi and spicy peanut stews called mafé. Senegal’s extensive coastline means that Dakar is also famous for traditional seafood dishes like thiéboudienne or fish with rice
4 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur may have plenty of extravagant fine dining restaurants but at its heart, it’s a city of food markets. While most cities have a couple of streets famous for cheap but delicious food, Kuala Lumpur has more than a dozen — some of which only function only at night.
From Nasi Goreng and satay at the busy Jalan Alor night market to noodles at Hutong Lot 10 that’s located in the basement of a shopping center away from the sun, Kuala Lumpur is a dream for those who love street food and have bellies hungry enough to devour just how much of it the Malaysian city has to offer.
3 Fukuoka, Japan
Japan s a country of great culinary delicacies but Fukuoka — the country’s sixth largest city — has made a name for itself as the ramen capital of Japan. Not only is it the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen, but Fukuoka is also famous for its yatai — food stalls that open in the evening and serve cheap ramen, toriyaki, and yakitori well into the morning.
In 2019, the Michelin Guide also awarded Fukuoka several stars and the city is currently home to two three-Michelin-star restaurants, 10 two-Michelin-star restaurants, and 46 one-Micheline-star restaurants.
2 Sardinia, Italy
It’s hard to imagine an Italian city not making its way onto a ranking of the top food cities in the world. Surprisingly, however, it’s the island of Sardinia that’s made it to Eater’s list of top food cities in 2023, leaving the likes of Rome, Bologna, and Sicily far behind.
Sardinia is famous for young chefs pushing the boundaries of local food, family restaurants that have been dishing out handmade pasta for generations, and dairy farms that make a stunning variety of cheese from salted sheep’s milk.
Sardinian food though Italian, is a cuisine in itself that’s defined by the region’s peasant roots, its access to fresh produce, and the community’s strong emphasis on tradition.
1 Kolkata, India
The eateries of Kolkata have always played an important role in the history of what was once the capital of British India. From being the pioneer of club culture — and consequently club food — in India and the only city in the country that has a Chinatown, to cafes that served as safehouses for secret political gatherings over icy milk-based sherberts and pastries, Kolkata has always been a mishmash of old eateries serving food from different cultures.
Over the years, however, the city has also undergone a fresh transformation and emerged with its own culinary identity. What hasn’t changed though, is Kolkata’s chenna-based mishti (sweetmeats) that decades-old sweetshops still dish out for those with a sweet tooth.