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A foodies guide to fine dining in Europe

Le Cheval Blanc restaurant

The Michelin Guide’s star system is turning 90 years old this year, an impressive milestone in the history of worldwide fine dining.

In 1900 André and Édouard Michelin, founders of one of the biggest tyre manufacturers in the world, created a book of tips for road travellers including refuelling spots and places to stay. Restaurant and hotel reviews soon followed, and the book eventually grew into the Michelin Guide of today.

Europe is home to over 470 restaurants with one, two or three Michelin stars each, making European cities attractive holiday destinations for British food lovers.

To help those planning a foodie holiday, Escape Travel Card has put together a list of the top dining destinations in Europe based on the most popular locations for restaurant spend among its customer base.

Le Cheval Blanc restaurant
Le Cheval Blanc restaurant in Basle holds three coveted Michelin stars

The Escape Travel Card makes the perfect travelling accessory for holidaymakers who want to indulge their love of gastronomy, as the card can be used in restaurants all over the world that accept MasterCard – and if the bill comes to €50, the card user will pay €50 as there are no transaction fees on purchases so the user will pay nothing on top of their bill.

Joanne Briggs, from Escape, said: “We’ve seen a huge increase in restaurant spend by holidaying cardholders over the last three years. The rise in fame of Michelin star restaurants across mainland Europe has opened up a whole new reason for food lovers to plan a holiday; the promise of new and exciting dining experiences.

“Creating a holiday based around opportunities to sample the traditional cuisine or visit award-winning restaurants is the perfect way for holidaymakers to fully immerse themselves in the local culture, and we’ve been able to identify some of the top culinary hotspots in Europe using our customer data.

“From some of the better-known destinations with reputations for cuisine to some surprising new ones, our list offers gourmands the perfect holiday inspiration.”

Escape Travel Card’s Top European Dining Destinations

Copenhagen – Scandinavian style combines hearty comfort food with precision and great attention to detail. Copenhagen is home to the world-famous two-Michelin star restaurant, Noma, headed up by top chef René Redzepi. This vibrant coastal city is the perfect destination for travellers looking for a combination of culture, history and world-class food. Visitors can also sample the city’s famous Smørrebrød, a traditional open sandwich topped with smoked salmon, boiled eggs and sliced radishes; a must-try for all.

Basel – Travellers looking for a mix of fine dining and exciting street food should look no further than Switzerland’s city of Basel this summer. The city’s well-known Le Cheval Blanc restaurant has been awarded three Michelin stars in the 2016 Michelin Guide and boasts a bold menu featuring French, Mediterranean and Asian influences. This historical city is also home to the Basel Street Food Festival, a refreshingly low-cost option in a relatively expensive destination. Sample everything from gold-flecked pulled pork buns to cinnamon apple strudels with vanilla sauce.

Osteria Francescana
Italy’s Osteria Francescana has three Michelin stars to its name

Modena – Italy is well known for its cuisine, but Modena is often overlooked as a foodie destination. Birthplace of the famous balsamic vinegar of Modena, this beautiful city is also home to Osteria Francescana, a restaurant with three Michelin stars owned by world-famous chef, Massimo Bottura. Here, he deconstructs traditional Italian dishes and turns them into completely different eating experiences. Modena also offers many other exciting gastronomical adventures such as balsamic vinegar tours and pasta making classes.

Provence-Côte d’Azur – The Provencal region of France is the origin of many classic dishes from Bouillabaisse to Ratatouille, making it the ideal place for a foodie road trip to sample as many of these dishes as possible. Or, for the finer things in life, visitors can head to the charming hilltop village La Cadière d’Azur and sample the vibrant Mediterranean-style menu at the Jean-François Bérard, a Michelin-starred restaurant contained within the luxurious Hotel Bérard.

San Sebastian – Sometimes referred to as the world’s top food spot, San Sebastian in Spain’s northern Basque region has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world. Not only that, but this region is also famous for the quality of its everyday food and, in particular, its abundance of Pintxos bars. Pintxos are the Basque equivalent of tapas and are the perfect way to sample the local ingredients, such as scallops, roasted vegetables and bread, in delicate, snackable portions at affordable prices.