Fellow foodies, rejoice! The hospitality and tourism industries are back in full swing following the pandemic, and it’s time to plan your next culinary adventure. But before you start setting your sights on far-flung destinations abroad, make sure you don’t neglect the array of amazing cultural hotspots we have right here on our doorstep. Not only can staycations be more convenient and less expensive than trips abroad, but they’re also a great way to discover hidden gems you might never have heard of.
If you’re hoping to expand your culinary horizons and experience some of the best food our country has to offer, we’ve created a shortlist of the top foodie destinations in the UK. We’ve ranked 30 of the most populous cities in the country, based on everything from the number of Michelin-recognised restaurants to the availability of food tours, farmers’ markets, and local breweries. So, all you need to do is pick your favourite and pack your bags!
From English classics like Cornish pasties and Yorkshire puddings to the unlikely birthplace of the chicken tikka masala, here’s our rundown of the top UK cities you won’t want to miss.
|City||Michelin recognised restaurants||Food tours||Farmers markets||Score|
|Newcastle upon Tyne||15||4||6||51|
|Kingston upon Hull||0||0||1||11|
|City||Local delicacies / unusual ingredients||Local vineyards||Local breweries||Local distilleries||Score|
|Newcastle upon Tyne||4||0||20||2||51|
|Kingston upon Hull||1||0||7||2||11|
The UK’s Top 10 Foodie Cities
Perhaps unsurprisingly, England’s capital city cinched the top spot in our list of culinary destinations. With a staggering 371 restaurants either in the Michelin Guide or receiving a coveted Michelin star, London is a veritable haven for those into fine dining. Not only this, but as it’s home to bustling boroughs and a wide range of different cultures, you’ll never be short of new cuisines to expand your horizons with.
However, proving that there’s just as much culture on offer in the north of England, Manchester and Newcastle also stood out as attractive foodie hotspots in our top ten. So, whether you’re in search of some Manchester caviar (otherwise known as mushy peas) or a pastry lover hoping to visit the birthplace of Greggs, these two cities should be on your list.
Scotland also proved to be an excellent destination for food lovers, with Edinburgh hot on London’s heels in second place and Glasgow following closely at number five. Here you’ll not only be spoiled for choice in terms of national delicacies (think haggis, neeps and tatties, and deep-fried Mars bars), but you can also turn up the heat by visiting one of Glasgow’s many award-winning curry houses.
As you can see, no matter what food you’re into, with a little planning you can have the perfect culinary staycation right here in the UK. For instance, if you’re craving hearty comfort food, these often reign supreme in northern cities. So, why not head to Bolton for their local delicacy, a pasty barm? Consisting of a buttered bread roll (also known as a barm cake) filled with a meat or vegetarian pasty, this carb lover’s dream was officially named the city’s favourite food in 2010. Alternatively, for seafood fanatics, cities on the south coast such as Southampton, Portsmouth, and Bournemouth make use of the UK’s island status and offer some of the best fresh fish in the country.
Our chef’s favourite foodie destinations
The UK’s food scene is incredibly diverse, so there’s bound to be a city that appeals to your taste. To help you decide on your next staycation, we caught up with Irini Tzortzoglou — one of our professional chefs here at The Cookaway — to find out what she looks for in a culinary destination.
Irini, the proud winner of MasterChef 2019, splits her time between the UK and Greece. Describing Greece as a foodie haven in itself, she nonetheless admits that she doesn’t often have to travel far for great food in the UK. “I am very fortunate to live in Cumbria for a large part of the year, which has the highest concentration of Michelin-star restaurants outside London and some pretty amazing gastro pubs, too.”
When planning her own foodie holidays, however, Irini advises looking to areas with rich culinary traditions and amazing raw ingredients. “These places tend to attract the best chefs anyway, so I never go wrong in my choices.”
In terms of a favourite meal, she’s always on the lookout for great fish: “I have a passion for seafood and love going to Scotland for that. And, not a very long drive from Cartmel, the Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby is where I run to when I’ve missed a good plate of fish and chips!”
Irini also believes that there is still a lot of work to be done regarding sustainability in the culinary industry, specifically raising awareness that the way we shop and eat needs to change. “I do feel guilty that in my cuisine, inevitably some produce like the extraordinary extra virgin olive oil I use comes from Crete. But when it comes to fresh ingredients, I try to buy seasonal, local, and directly from the producers as much as possible.” So, visiting farmer’s markets or attending local food tours right here in our UK cities not only allows you to sample amazing British-grown food, but also supports small, regional businesses that source their ingredients more sustainably than major chains.
Use our interactive table to help plan your next foodie staycation, and you may just discover some hidden gems right here on your doorstep. In the meantime, if the thought of traditional UK dishes has your mouth watering, why not try our British recipe boxes to have your own high-end cooking experience from home? Or, try our newly released Scottish recipe boxes where you’ll find delectable ingredients like tender Scottish venison.
For regular updates on all things good food, be sure to check out our blog.We used resources including Trip Advisor, the Michelin Guide, city council websites, regional newspapers, and the directories listed below to calculate the number of foodie destinations in 30 of the UK’s most populous cities. We then created the table above to determine which cities have the most attractions for foodies planning staycations in the UK.
The full dataset can be found here