Travelers are drawn to cities when voyaging abroad. These bustling hubs of commerce and culture give visitors the most bang for their buck, providing a crash course in foreign flavor. While urban capitals — and their savvy tourism offices — are easier to navigate than their rural counterparts, it can be daunting to decide what to do, see, and eat when faced with near-infinite choices. We’re here to help with the latter: the edible. As experts in all things food and drink, let us be your gastronomic guide.
To better serve you, we focused on the most visited cities around the globe. Thanks to MasterCard’s Global Destination Index, we determined the top 10 cities. London gets top billing, thanks to the abundance of attractions and ease of getting around the English-speaking city. Half of the destinations are in Asia, with Seoul at ninth place and Bangkok at second.
These 10 cities welcome up to 19 million tourists each year, with visitor spending reaching $20 billion. That’s a lot of dollars dropped on dolmas, dim sum, and dosas. To guide you through these metropolitan melting pots, we delved into our archives. From breakfast to dessert, we’ve got your culinary itinerary for these cosmopolitan capitals.
#10 Hong Kong
Though this bustling cosmopolitan city brims with food from around the globe, the core cuisine is Chinese. Start your day with dim sum; seek out an old-fashioned spot with rolling carts for authentic fun. Two-Michelin-starred chef Kam Fu Cheng insists on seafood to take advantage of Hong Kong’s teeming waterfront; try sampan-style crab stir-fried with ginger and garlic. Take a break between meals at a traditional tea hall, a holdover from the former British rule, to sip milk tea, a creamy mix of black tea, evaporated milk, and sugar. Dine as locals do at a cha chaan teng, the diner-style eateries popular for everyday meals. Often open 24 hours, these places are perfect for noshing on iconic Hong Kong bakery foods like pineapple buns and egg tarts.
Start your Seoul visit with a shared favorite for Koreans and Americans: barbecue. Two standouts from the dizzying carnivorous choices are bulgogi (ribeye) and galbi (short ribs), both deliciously doused in a soy, ginger, garlic, green onion, and sesame marinade. For an immunity and digestive boost, enjoy kimchi, one of the fermented vegetable offerings that comprise Korea’s signature side dishes. Visit Noryangjin Fish Market for the freshest hwae: raw fish sprinkled with raw garlic, green pepper, and vinegared red pepper paste. To navigate Seoul’s dizzying array of food, keep in mind that the city is divided into “towns” that specialize in specific foods. Jeon Town boasts stalls selling savory pancakes of the same name, for instance. Take a shot of soju, Korea’s national tipple; this neutral spirit can be enjoyed chilled and neat or shaken in your cocktail of choice.