San Sebastián, a resort town of less than 200,000 inhabitants located on Spain’s Bay of Biscay, was ranked the number one foodie destination among 100 cities worldwide in a new study by Caterwings, a U.K. catering company.
Widely recognized and visited for its beaches and bay front promenade, San Sebastian is also the home to many innovative chefs, though the Basque city doesn’t always appear prominently on listings for culinary travel destinations.
But San Sebastian bests even the great world culinary destinations based on 15 criteria that Caterwings culled from its global research.
The city earned an 8.09 for first place, followed by Tokyo at a 7.98 and New York at 7.81. San Sebastián scored highest on input from food critics and ratings for its high-end restaurants. Some other lesser known cities in the overall top ten included Lima, Peru at eighth; and Munich, Germany at tenth.
Ranked strictly on high-end restaurants, San Sebastian took the top slot again, followed by Tokyo and Paris.
Manuel Queiroz, CEO of Caterwings called the findings “the ultimate foodie bucket list. Every delicious destination in this index can offer inspiration to food industry professionals such as ourselves, as well as burgeoning chefs, gastronomes and globetrotters.”
As more travelers embark on gastronomic adventures, helping guide them to less traveled destinations that will satisfy their palette can feel as daunting as pairing the right wine and main entrée.
“Every city is fundamentally different, so it’s no mean feat comparing an oyster omelet in Penang to a salt beef bagel in New York. However, with food tourism as one of the fastest growing travel trends, cities all over the world are now vying for the accolade of best food destination,” Caterwings said, unveiling the results of its research.
When grading cities for affordability by visitors, Caterwings ranked Hanoi, Vietnam first; Kiev, Ukraine second; and Chiang Mai, Thailand third. Not a single traditional culinary destination could be found in the top ten for affordability.
Caterwings looked at 15 “paramount” criteria for 100 acclaimed foodie cities worldwide, to determine the best locations for food lovers.
“For instance, we know that many foodies would be infinitely happier with freshly prepared fish beside the seaside than going to a Michelin star restaurant. Therefore, the number of highly rated chefs and eateries is equally as important as the number of mouth-watering street food options available. For this reason, we focused on both the quality and the variety of cuisine on offer,” Caterwings said.
Cities with a higher percentage of fast food outlets to restaurants fared more poorly overall, for example.
The U.K.-based catering company pulled together data from a variety of sources to come up with its list, including opinions about quality from 20,000 food journalists and restaurant critics and the number of restaurants in a city found through Google searches for breadth of offerings.
It was also important that good food be both accessible and affordable, “so we calculated how many hours a person on minimum wage would have to work in order to afford a two-person dinner in a restaurant.” They also looked at the availability of vegetarian/vegan options, the quality of street food, and the percentage of fast food chains as compared to restaurants.
When it came to ranking cities by diversity of cuisine, Caterwings graded Dubai, United Arab Emirates tops; followed by Mumbai, India; and Seoul, South Korea.