Road trips: Europe’s best food and drink events

Road trips: Europe’s best food and drink events
Europe is home to some of the world’s greatest and most diverse consumables – from paella to pizza and sherry to champagne, it’s got it all.

Food tourism is a growing global trend, especially amongst younger globetrotters. So why not join them to revel in gastronomic greatness while enjoying a road trip to some of Europe’s most delicious destinations?  

To give you food for thought, here are some of our favourite European food and drink road trips you can really get your teeth into.

Events

Destinations

Road trip tips

 

The best food and drink events in Europe

France: Fête de la Gastronomie, France (19-22 March 2020)

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Blue mussels in bouillabaisse, one of the culinary delights you might find here.

 

Called the French Cuisine Festival, this event celebrates the very best of French food and is held in different locations across the country every year since UNESCO declared France’s gastronomy an “intangible cultural heritage.”

Showcasing local delicacies throughout the land, the festival invites foodies from across Europe to taste a brand-new side of French cuisine, sampling the very best in food, wine and French joie de vivre.

Germany: Berlin International Beer Festival, Berlin (2-4 August 2019)

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Some traditional German beer mats, you'll need one to rest your stein on.

 

Think the only German beer festival worth visiting is Oktoberfest? Think again. Every August, a strip of central Berlin is taken over by this three-day celebration of the country’s national drink, with plenty of beer, live music and bratwurst.

With 350 breweries from 90 countries serving up over 2,400 different beers, there’s an intimidating amount of the world’s best booze to choose from.

It should go without saying, but just make sure you’ve fully sobered up before even thinking about driving back to the UK!

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UK: The Big Feastival, Kingham (23-25 August 2019)

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This place has so much more than just good nosh. Image source.

 

If you’re looking for something closer to home, why not hit The Big Feastival in the Cotswolds? Held on the farm of Alex James (Blur bassist and famous cheese-maker), it’s a food/music festival that’s way more than just coffee (and TV).

Along with loads of family entertainment, the Big Feastival hosts sessions with world-famous chefs (including Raymond Blanc and Elizabeth Haigh), street food trucks a-plenty and even a food and drink market for once you’ve been inspired.

Ireland: West Waterford Festival of Food, Dungarvan (17-19 April 2020)

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You can find the best of local and Irish food here. Image Source.

 

One of Ireland’s best-loved food festivals, the West Waterford Festival of Food has been attracting foodies, families and everyone in between to the sleepy harbour town of Dungarvan for over a decade.

Covering three days, it features cooking workshops, demonstrations and the chance to talk to local producers while you try the best local dishes southern Ireland has to offer.

Belgium: The Taste of Antwerp, Antwerp (TBC May 2020)

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Antwerp at dusk, soon to be filled with hungry revellers.

 

There’s more to Belgian cuisine than chips, chocolate and waffles, and one way to explore the best food and drink Belgium has to offer is to take the short drive down to the port city of Antwerp.

Antwerpen Proeft, as it’s called by locals, sees the city’s waterfront taken over by all sorts of food trucks, chef demonstrations and local producers meaning you’ll get to sample a wide range of modern Belgian cooking.

UK: Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Speyside (29 April – 4 May 2020)

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2019's lineup for the festival.

 

There are plenty of whisky festivals held across Scotland, from Glasgow to Inverness, but perhaps the most popular is the Spirit of Speyside, held every year across several Cairngorm locations.

A whole host of events take place over one weekend, and you’ll have your pick from mixology sessions, distillery tours or even a steam train ride with spirits – just make sure you book a taxi to take you back to your hotel.

The best food and drink destinations in Europe

France: Lyon

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When Lyon is renowned even within France for it's cuisine and produce, you know it's a big deal.

 

Hailed as France’s culinary capital and easily-accessed via a relatively simple drive down from Calais, Lyon is a must-visit when it comes to exploring everything French cuisine has to offer. 

Whether you’re after the hearty local food served at traditional Lyonnaise Bouchons or looking to dip your fork into the world of Michelin-starred restaurants (the city has 20), you’ll find something for every palate here.

Italy: Bologna

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Don't try ordering spag bol, it's strictly Tagliatelle al Ragu here - or pappardelle as above.

 

When it comes to cities within easy driving distance of Calais that really showcase the best of Italian food, it’s hard to look further than Bologna – the home of the famous Bolognese sauce we so enjoy with lasagne and spaghetti.

But when you arrive in the city, you’ll discover there’s much more to this place than its sauce. Try tagliatelle al Ragu or local favourite tortellini al brodo (pasta stuffed with cheese and meat bobbing around in a savoury broth), and wash it down with a local red wine. Delizioso!

It won’t take you long to find out how it got its nickname of “la grassa” (the fat one)...

Spain: San Sebastian 

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The beautiful Concha Bay with Santa Clara Island in San Sebastian.

 

Where can you taste Spain’s best pintxos (large tapas), sip on excellent red wines from La Rioja region and enjoy one of Europe’s most elegant beach resorts? San Sebastian, that’s where. 

Located just over the border from France, upmarket San Sebastian (AKA Donostia) was named the “best food destination in the world” in 2017 by Caterwings, and with its excellent small snacks and seafood it’s easy to see why.

France: Saint-Emilion

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Where vineyard runs into city, there's no place like Bordeaux.

 

No list of the best food and drink road trips across Europe is complete without a quick mention of one of France’s excellent wine regions, and our favourite spot is the quaint medieval village of Saint-Emilion in the Bordeaux region.

With over 2.4 million cases of wine produced in Saint-Emilion every year, it’s the perfect place to book yourself into a wine tour or two before heading back to town for an evening dining al fresco on the village’s cobbled streets.  

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Tips for your European food road trip

What do I need to remember before driving in Europe?

Driving in other European countries is different from in the UK, so before setting off make sure you prepare yourself (and your car) for the laws and requirements in every country you pass through. 

These range from carrying Crit’Air clean air stickers in France to warning triangles when driving through Belgium, so make sure you do your research and stay on the right side of the law. 

The RAC Driving in France kit will help you meet some of these laws in France, but you should always research the specific requirements for you and your car if driving in a different country.

What do I need to remember before I start my road trip?

Before heading off on any long journey, it’s always important to carry out some essential maintenance checks at home to ensure your car is in tip-top condition and you’ll get to your destination and back safely. 

The RAC encourages drivers to remember the acronym ‘FORCES’ when carrying out car checks: Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, and Screenwash. Check our tips for avoiding a breakdown for more information on FORCES.

You should also remember to take along a few road trip essentials for the journey; including a first aid kit, additional engine oil and water, mobile phone charger and snacks and games, especially if you’re travelling with children.

Do I need European breakdown cover to drive in Europe?

Wherever you’re heading across Europe, RAC has great value European breakdown cover options that give you comprehensive cover if you break down on your way, offering roadside assistance and a 24/7 English-speaking helpline.

What happens if I break down abroad?

Depending on the level of your European breakdown cover, the RAC will pay towards any garage labour costs, onward travel expenses and accommodation fees – something to consider if you’ve got a booking to make. 

To find out everything you need to know about breaking down on the continent, and to get the right quote that meets your needs, check out our complete guide to RAC European breakdown cover.

Want more travel inspiration? Check out our other guides here…

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