Row of houses in Amsterdam

Foodie city breaks by train

From an overnight trip to Glasgow to a leisurely journey to Barcelona (complete with lunch at an opulent station restaurant), check out our guide to the best train-friendly foodie city breaks

Want to travel by train on your next foodie holiday? Looking for a gourmet getaway but don’t want to fly? Check out our ideas below for some inspiration for holiday planning, then have a look at our vineyard breaks for a foodie staycation to keep you going in the meantime. Please check with specific venues for the most up-to-date opening information and foreign travel advisory at gov.uk.

Toulouse

Why go?

There’s a vibrant pop-up restaurant scene along the city’s riverbank in summer, and markets around almost every corner (don’t miss the sprawling Saint-Aubin farmers’ market on Sunday mornings). Join a Taste of Toulouse tour to learn how to eat and food-shop like the French – you’ll go to the city’s Victor Hugo covered market for real French bread (which should be golden, with blisters on its base caused by the stone floor of a traditional oven), Les Choux d’Eléonore for sticky choux pastries, then one of the city’s best charcuterie stalls, Maison Garcia, for Toulouse sausage.

An alley in the heart of the old city of Toulouse
An alley in the heart of the old city of Toulouse

Where to stay?

Hôtel Albert 1er is the first eco-label hotel in Toulouse and an advocate of slow tourism, encouraging guests to explore on foot or by bike along mapped-out trails. It’s round the corner from the Place du Capitole, and breakfast entails an organic spread of freshly baked breads, cheese, free-range eggs and fruit.

olive tip

When you arrive at Toulouse train station, walk down Rue de Bayard for 10 minutes or so to reach Criollo Chocolatier. It’s the place to go for pralines, with flavours ranging from dry fig to balsamic vinegar, bay leaf, lime zest and red pepper.

How to do it

Catch the train from London St Pancras to Toulouse Matabiau, with one change in Paris (you need to hop from the Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse), in less than eight hours. Single fares from London to Toulouse start at around £80 (raileurope.co.uk).


Milan

Why go?

To taste risotto “alla Milanese” (with saffron and bone marrow) cooked by chef Cesare Battisti of Ratanà restaurant. It’s also worth trying tacos stuffed with wild Nero di Parma pork belly at Tipografia Alimentare, and pâte de fruit in edible bonbon wrappers at Pasticceria & Dessert, a pastry shop in the tranquil Piazzale Bacone. Fancy an ice cream? Head to Gelato Giusto, where flavours range from creamy fior di latte to velvety Tonda Gentile Romana hazelnut – if it’s available, order a scoop of the refreshing Uva Fragola grape.

A man holding a black bowl filled with yellow risotto
Risotto with saffron at Ratanà, Milan

Where to stay?

The four-bedroom La Favia guesthouse is an urban hideaway tucked inside a refurbished 19th-century building. On sunny mornings, start the day with breakfast in the rooftop garden – eggs cooked to order, homemade jams and juice squeezed from oranges grown in the owners’ citrus grove.

olive tip

Rossi & Grassi deli is a 10-minute walk from the Milano Porta Garibaldi train station, so head there before your return journey to pack a picnic of artisan cheese, dried porcini, artichoke lentils and homemade pasta.

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, then take the metro to Paris Gare de Lyon, where the train for Milan’s Porta Garibaldi leaves. The total journey time is around 10.5 hours. Single fares from London to Milan start at around £140 (trainline.com).


Berlin

Why go?

The beating heart of Berlin’s food scene is the magnificent Markthalle Neun – don’t miss the traditional German meats and brilliant burgers at innovative butcher Kumpel & Keule. For the best pho in town head to Madame Ngo, in Charlottenburg, where bone broths are cooked all day to give an intense and authentic flavour. Iconic department store KaDeWe has a seriously impressive food court, and no trip to Berlin would be complete without sampling the halawet el jibn (rolls of semolina dough filled with white cheese and rosewater) at Syrian sweet shop, Damaskus Konditorei.

Bao buns on a green table
KaDeWe, Berlin

Where to stay?

The pared-back Michelberger Hotel includes a 24-hour bar and café, while its plant-forward restaurant champions local producers and natural wines.

olive tip

From Berlin’s main train station, catch the number 142 bus to the Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz stop (a 10-minute journey) to reach artisan bakery, Zeit für Brot. Here you’ll find more than 20 varieties of sourdough for sale, plus legendary cinnamon buns.

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Bruxelles-Midi, then take the ICE to Berlin via a change in Cologne. The total journey time is around 9.5 hours, with single fares from London to Berlin starting at around £100 (trainline.com).


Amsterdam

Why go?

The Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk are long foodie streets with sustainable shops, organic delis and a farmers’ market on the Haarlemmerplein each Wednesday. If you’re celebrating a special occasion book in for the chef’s tasting menu at Daalder (arguably the finest food you’ll find in Amsterdam – chef patron Dennis Huwaë’s salted caramel ice cream sandwich take on the stroopwafel is divine). Hop aboard the free ferry to the Noord for lunch at Pllek, a beach bar housed in an old shipping container. For plump, crispy fries served in red-and white checked paper cones, head to Frites uit Zuyd and have them with a punchy piccalilli mayonnaise.

Row of houses in Amsterdam
House on the Damrak, near the Amsterdam Central railway station

Where to stay?

The Dylan is a boutique hotel that pairs luxurious living with Michelin-starred dining. 40 individual bedrooms range from large elegant suites to cosy but minimalist rooms up in the eaves, and the hotel’s Restaurant Vinkeles serves black truffle braised in its own jus, with truffle butter and toast.

olive tip

Catch a metro from Amsterdam Centraal station to Wibaustraat (an eight-minute journey). Nearby is Hartog’s Bakery, where you can try a wholewheat version of sugar-scented oliebollen (a Dutch take on the beignet, served dusted with icing sugar and sometimes studded with currants).

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras direct to Amsterdam-Centraal and you’ll arrive in less than four hours (from the start of 2020 it’s also been possible to catch a direct train back from Amsterdam to London instead of changing in Brussels). Single fares from London to Amsterdam start from around £40 (eurostar.com).


Paris

Why go?

To kick off the weekend with an apertif at Les Enfants Perdu, an elegant neighbourhood bistro whose vintage wooden bar is lined with liqueurs and a gigantic coffee machine. It’s also great for a weekend brunch (olive and cheese muffins, eggs cocotte, tiny parcels of cheese- and herb-filled pasta and house hot chocolate are all included). Eat deftly executed classics at Le Pantruche, including braised ris de veau (sweetbreads) and Grand Marnier soufflé. La Guinguette d’Angèle is the place for a casual lunch of lentils on pesto rice with smoked tofu. Try a Rhubarbe cocktail at bar Artisan, made with rhubarb-infused vodka, grapefruit juice, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe and elderflower cordial.

Paris cityscape with Eiffel Tower at sunset
Paris cityscape with Eiffel Tower at sunset

Where to stay?

The Hoxton, in Sentier, is an elegant 18-century building turned hip hideaway with more than 150 bedrooms and a cosy cocktail bar. Or, Hotel Henriette is a family-friendly boutique hotel on the Rive Gauche, with 32 individually designed bedrooms and a private courtyard.

olive tip

It’s a pretty quick journey on the Eurostar from London, but chances are you’ll be hungry when you reach Paris Gare du Nord. A 20-minute walk west along Rue Condorcet takes you to Le Dépanneur, a trendy and fun neighbourhood diner that sells gourmet burgers, Brooklyn beer, milkshakes and cheesecake.

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras International direct to Paris Gare du Nord in 2 hours, 45 minutes. Single fares from London to Paris start from £46 (eurostar.com).


Antwerp

Why go?

Belgium’s port-side city is an ideal weekend break for foodies. For the best vegetarian food, head to Graanmarkt 13; part concept store, part apartment, it has a trendy restaurant in the basement, where chef Seppe Nobels serves carpaccio of portobello mushroom with walnuts, mustard seeds and fermented garlic. We also love the laid-back calm at Café de Kat, a mustard-tiled Belgian café bar where you can sip Beligan beer and listen to jazz crackling through tin speakers. For an authentic sweet treat, head to Domestic Bakkerij and buy a bokkepootjes (goat’s feet), a chocolate-dipped meringue and almond biscuit that resembles a little hoof.

Frites with mayonnaise

Where to stay?

Hotel Pilar, on one of Zuid’s most lively squares, is a lesson in contemporary design. The bedrooms all boast unique features (the ‘classic’ rooms have concrete ceilings and black freestanding baths) and the hotel’s food bar spans the whole of the ground floor, dominated by a huge counter where cocktails, coffees and breakfasts are prepared.

olive tip

Start as you mean to go on, with a visit to Frites Atelier (just a 15-minute walk from Antwerp Centraal train station). Watch the chefs pour bowls of freshly fried golden chips and assemble gourmet toppings, including sweet and nutty mimolette cheese with truffle mayo. You can even choose from five varieties of mayo, from classic to curry and Béarnaise.

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Antwerp’s stunning art nouveau railway station, Central, via a quick (same station) change in Brussels. The total journey time is 3.5 hours and single fares from London to Antwerp start from around £55 (raileurope.co.uk). 


Rotterdam

Why go?

The illuminated artwork that wraps around the walls and ceiling of the city’s Markethal is a sight to behold. As is the covered market beneath it, home to more than 100 food stalls – look out for Madame Cocos and its warm coconut pastries. Try a ‘Burgeresse’ burger with truffle mayo at Ter Marsch & Co, or go meat-free (noodles with kimchi, shiitake and tempeh) at sustainable hotspot Op Het Dak, which has turned a disused rooftop into a kitchen garden and bee farm. Visser & Ko gets Rotterdam’s morning sun: soak it up at one of the al fresco tables, with a view of the city’s old harbour.

A colourful blue and yellow stall in a street food market selling coconut pastries
Madame Cocos stall, Rotterdam

Where to stay?

Suite Hotel Pincoffs, located near the Erasmus Bridge, is a light and airy boutique hotel, with a swish lounge bar adorned with cast-iron pillars, antique cabinets and Chesterfield sofas. Sign up to the hotel’s Saturday Culinary Experience for an overnight stay with breakfast, plus a tasting menu dinner at nearby Michelin-starred restaurant, FG.

olive tip

Your first meal in Rotterdam should be at Restaurant De Jong, a 10-minute walk from Rotterdam-Centraal train station. Fittingly, it’s set in a former train tunnel, and is made cosy with vintage lights. The menu revolves around whichever vegetables are in season – in springtime, try the buttery white local asparagus.

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras direct to Rotterdam-Centraal in 3 hours, 16 minutes. Single fares from London to Rotterdam start from around £40 (eurostar.com). 


Lyon

Why go?

The city’s best food producers, from bakers to wine merchants, can all be found at Halles de Lyon – start by nibbling on rosette (cured sausage) from the Sibilia stall. Book a table at Les Frangins and order the Captain Jack burger (the beef is marinated in Jack Daniel’s), indulge in fine vegetarian dining at Culina Hortus, or head to Terrasse de l’Antiquaille, high on Fourvière hill, for views of a twinkling Lyon as you dine. Terre Adélice sells an impressive range of handmade ice-creams (pick basil, lavender, smoky bacon or Armagnac), and savour a real, handmade, oh-so-buttery croissant at Partisan Boulanger.

Chef Adrien Zedda takes a break at the bar of the kitchen of his culinary gourmet vegetarian restaurant Culina Hortus in Lyon
Chef Adrien Zedda takes a break at his restaurant, Culina Hortus in Lyon

Where to stay

The defiantly quirky Collège Hotel, in the Vieux Lyon district, features an art deco facade and back-to-school interiors – there are giant wooden pots filled with giant wooden colouring pencils at reception. Many of the bedrooms come with private balconies, and the downstairs restaurant is reminiscent of a school refectory.

olive tip

Arriving by train? Stroll north up Rue Garibaldi for 20-minutes-or-so to reach Bernachon, one of the rare French chocolatiers that makes its own chocolate. The aroma of cocoa envelopes its boutique and adjoining tearoom, luring clients towards extraordinary chocolate eclairs or the signature Gâteau President.

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Lille Europe then make an easy same-station switch onto a TGV to Lyon Part-Dieu. The total journey time is around 5.5 hours, with single fares from London to Lyon starting at around £60 (raileurope.co.uk). 


Glasgow

Why go?

It’s worth visiting Glasgow for The Ubiquitous Chip alone. A Glaswegian institution that’s been feeding the city since the 1970s (try the venison haggis), the restaurant’s main room is a covered courtyard with an original cobbled floor, bare brick walls and a fun, tropical vibe. At Ox & Finch, local venison carpaccio is perfectly seared and served with creamy Scottish crowdie with hazelnuts. Skip dessert and instead head to Tantrum Doughnuts, where the pillowy beauties are fried in rapeseed oil in small batches, then filled or topped with homemade custards, fondants and jams (choose pistachio custard or classic raspberry).

Ashton Lane, Glasgow
Ashton Lane, Glasgow

Where to stay

Kimpton Blythswood Square, set in a Georgian townhouse, is the nearest thing Glasgow has to a ‘true’ boutique hotel. Expect polished marble floors, velvet banquettes, trailing ferns, soothing grey-tone bedrooms, a glitzy spa and a restaurant, Bo & Birdy. If you’re on a more modest budget, choose Citizen M for its stylish, affordable bedrooms, complete with wall-to-wall windows.

olive tip

Arriving by train? Glasgow’s Central Station is just a five-minute walk from Mikaku, a restaurant inspired by Tokyo’s izakaya bars. Start with miso broth (which can be ordered extra spicy) pepped up with pork, before tucking into panko-coated lotus root skewers and lemon pepper chicken wings.

How to do it

Catch a train from London Euston direct to Glasgow Central and you’ll arrive in around 4.5 hours. Single fares from London to Glasgow start at around £30 (nationalrail.co.uk). Or, splash out on a sleeper ticket and travel while you snooze; single fares start at £48 for a seated ticket or £97.50 for a berth in a couchette (sleeper.scot).


Barcelona

Why go?

For the tapas. At El Xampanyet, you can drink the bar’s own-brand cava, eat blistered padrón peppers and soak up the loud, chaotic atmosphere. Or pop into old-school Bar La Plata to eat the same four tapa it’s been serving since opening in 1945 – piles of little fried fish, glistening anchovy montaditos, a simple tomato salad, and Catalan butifarra sausage. Let your waiter guide you through the impressive collection of natural wines at bookshop-turned-restaurant Pepa Pla, or join locals in the queue for Granja M Viader, which serves velvety hot chocolate with churros.
Barcelona, Pulperia, crowded tapas bar
Barcelona, Pulperia, crowded tapas bar

Where to stay?

Check into hip Casa Bonay, a renovated mansion where traditional hydraulic floor tiles are mixed with Gaudí’s iconic paving stones, adding a hint of edginess to its ground floor lounges, coffee bars and restaurant. Or pick Hotel Brummell for a rooftop pool, bright and modern rooms and vending machines stuffed with wine and snacks.

olive tip

Travelling to Barcelona from London involves a connection at Paris Gare de Lyon. Make the most of the time between trains by booking for lunch at Le Train Bleu, a station restaurant that’s as opulent as it is iconic. The building dates back to 1900 and is adorned with vintage frescoes, shimmering chandeliers and pew-like oak banquettes; soak it all up while enjoying plates of lobster, gratin dauphinois and roast leg of lamb, carved at the table.

How to do it

Catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord (from £46 one-way), transfer to Paris Gare de Lyon then, from there, catch the double-deck TGV Duplex to Barcelona (from €39 one-way). The total journey time is just over 10 hours, meaning the beachside Catalan city is easily reachable in a day (raileurope.co.uk).


Written by Charlotte Morgan, March 2020

Image credits: Hans Peter van Velthoven; Getty images | Armand Tamboly/robertharding; Getty images | George Pachantouris; Getty images | Alexander Spatari; Getty images | Holger Leue; Getty images | Jeff Pachoud; Getty images | Sam Mellish; Getty images | Jeff Greenberg; Getty images

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