Looking for travel inspiration for 2020? Want to know which countries to visit on holiday? From UK staycations to wellness retreats in the French Alps, these are the top trips to take in 2020.
Central Europe and the Caucasus
We’ve long been fans of Europe’s foodie heartlands here at olive, whether that’s warming up with paprika-laced stews in Budapest, travelling vicariously to Warsaw via @foodren’s recipe for Polish gingerbread biscuits (rifle through your back catalogue and you’ll find it in the Christmas 2017 issue), or revelling in a dish of meltingly tender roebuck with twice-smoked apple sauce, buttery bread soufflé and birch syrup at chef Ana Roš’ destination restaurant, Hiša Franko, in Slovenia.
We predict that more people will be discovering Central Europe’s culinary corners in 2020 (if you haven’t yet been there, we suggest you start in Ljubljana), and continuing further east, to the Caucasus and beyond. Sharp-eyed readers will remember the @edentravels feature we ran on the Black Sea in the Christmas 2018 issue and her descriptions of the heirloom recipes that blend the best of Georgian, Russian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Romanian and Ukranian food culture (shout out to that deliciously lemony ‘Bankers’ fish soup). It’s the last two countries in that list that our money is on for enjoying the largest surge in visitor numbers. The forthcoming publication of Irina Georgescu’s cookbook, Carpathia: Food From the Heart of Romania (look out for Irina’s upcoming feature in the magazine), and Olia Hercules’ next release, Summer Kitchens (a much-anticipated window onto regional cooking culture in the Ukraine), will no doubt tempt more of us to visit those two countries.
Turns out we holidaymakers like to immerse ourselves in new places, whether that be picking botanicals for DIY gin in Skye, or joining an Italian food photography workshop in Sardinia. Expect even the most mainstream travel brands to embrace the experiential travel trend this coming year; Ramada by Wyndham recently launched its own series of local insider experiences for guests, called Discovering Red. The aim is to encourage travellers to better explore their destination – in Germany’s Flensburg, for example, you can discover the town’s 300-year-old rum-making history on a distillery tour, then taste Flensburg’s best rums in the comfort of the hotel bar.
Elsewhere, this immersive approach has already taken off. In Saint Lucia, for instance, guests at Boucan (Hotel Chocolat’s hotel) are encouraged to visit the adjoining 250-year-old cocoa plantation, with bean to bar tours that literally walk guests through the production process. And the very purpose of Salt, a new community-centred, food-focussed, environmentally savvy resort on the east coast of Mauritius, is to provide authentic experiences for “culturally curious” travellers. Cocktails at the bar come with background stories relating to the island’s heritage, and everything from supper with a Mauritian family to fishing trips with a local fisherman can be arranged.
No, this isn’t a bad joke about the return of Top Gun to our screens after a three-decade gap (the sequel will be released in July), but the much-welcomed rise of cheese tourism. We’ve had brewery tours, distillery tours, farm tours and vineyard tours, but now it’s the turn of dairy tourism. Bucking the vegan trend, an increasing number of cheesemakers and creameries are opening their doors to visitors keen to seek out the finest, regional, small-batch artisan cheeses.
We’re big fans of cult cheese shops that host tastings and wine-, beer- or cider-pairing events, such as Edinburgh’s IJ Mellis and London’s Mons Cheesemongers. And cheese-focused bars (don’t miss Palmer Street Bottle in Frome), exclusive dairy tours (we’re thinking of you, Quicke’s) and cheese-making courses such as that at The School of Artisan Food are also guaranteed ways to our hearts. As are festivals (such as Westcombe’s annual Beer and Cheese Festival), pop-up cheese events (have you been to the London Cheese Project or one of Homage2Fromage’s tastings yet?) and even whole holidays arranged around cheese, courtesy of the folk at Cheese Journeys. Not sure where to get on board with this latest turophile trend? Make yourself a cheese toastie and sit down to read about our visit to one of Somerset’s most inspiring cheese-makers.
Another trend powered by climate change concerns is that of eliminating air travel from our holidays, or at least rationing ourselves; the mantra many of us are adopting is to fly less and to stay longer when we do to cut down on carbon emissions. Getting further afield means embracing train and ferry travel, easy enough to weekend break destinations just across the Channel such as Amsterdam, Paris and Utrecht.
If you want to plan a longer flight-free holiday it’s now surprisingly easy to reach many short-haul destinations from the UK, including the Mediterranean; take the train to the French, Spanish or Italian coasts and then catch a ferry across the sea, especially in summer when many operators put on faster vessels. You can get to Corsica, for instance, in a few hours from Nice, ditto Ibiza from Valencia. It’s usually still quicker and cheaper to fly, of course, but much less fun. To plan a rail and ferry journey from the UK, see seat61.com, and to book tickets try RailEurope for trains and Direct Ferries for trains.
It’s always been a popular holiday destination, but Greece is set for a renewed influx in 2020. Head to Athens for street food (join the queue at hole-in-the-wall, O Kostas, for the best souvlaki), fresh Greek mountain oregano from the city’s Central Market, fish steamed in assyrtiko wine at new-wave bistro, Vizene, and scented tsoureki (brioche) from Afoi Asimakopouloi, a pastry shop that uses its own milk and butter in every bake.
Or, step away from the crowds and discover new flavours in the country’s Pelion peninsula. Visit Six Keys hotel in Afyssos for one of the country’s best high-end restaurants, where Greek chef Ioannis Baxevanis uses foraged ingredients in dishes such as sea urchin with chives and tarama mousse. On the east coast, there’s even a b&b devoted to mushrooms – guests at Amanita are guided through local beech and chestnut forests to find their own penny bun, black porcini, parasol and Caesar mushrooms.
The country’s islands are also super hot right now. The bigger, showier destinations like Santorini and Mykonos will continue to pull in the crowds, but for the best food we recommend seeking out the smaller islands. Take Ithaca, for example. There you can beach-hop by boat, swim in dazzling cobalt waters, and graze your way through meltingly soft feta, local olives, just-caught fish and lemon tart. The Levendis Estate is one of our favourite places to stay, stocked as it is with local thyme honey, own-recipe muesli, tapenade made from homegrown olives, and plenty of sparkling coves nearby for swimming. Or sail to the island of Syros to recuperate at The Good Life, an aptly named organic retreat where you can help yourself to plums, peaches and lemons from an on-site farm. Check out our guide to the 10 best Greek island retreats for foodies to learn what else Greece’s enchanting archipelagos have to offer, from freshly picked figs on an organic farm in Syros to home-cooked zucchini pie in Corfu.
From rustic off-grid cabins to bijoux one-room hotels and tiny tropical villas, finding time for two shouldn’t be difficult in 2020 with the rise of micro-retreats. Luckily for us, it’s easy to find romantic escapes that put an emphasis on good food. The Shack at Sheepwash Bay on Tasmania’s Bruny Island, for example, is as secluded as it gets, but the owners still deliver freshly baked sourdough to your door – enjoy it alongside fresh oysters foraged from the rocky waterfront right outside.
If your fantasies, instead, involve relaxing under the stars in a hot tub made from a vintage Land Rover, book a stay at converted 50s caravan, the Bluebird Penthouse, in Devon’s High Bickerton (if you, like us, think Devon will be big in 2020, check out our foodie guide to the land of cream teas here). Or go completely off-grid at Arnor the Rangers Hut, a rustic wooden cabin hidden within an 130-year-old Scottish forest. The welcome basket of prosecco, tablet (of the fudge-y kind), Shore Puffs (locally made seaweed puffs) and Inverness Coffee Roasting Co. coffee would make a perfect picnic to eat while stargazing.
Foodie wellness breaks
Instead of sunburnt and bloated, choose to return rested and rejuvenated from your next holiday. We’re not fans of dieting or ‘skinny’ anything at olive, but nourishing the body through good food, fitness and beautiful surroundings can only be a good thing. From alpine hiking in Piedmont, with frequent gourmet picnic stops, to surfing, yoga and tiger nut muffins on a Drift retreat in Jersey, we’ve plenty of healthy holiday ideas for foodies right here.
Among them is a Mountain Therapy holiday in the French Alps that encourages guests to challenge that fondue-and-flaming-san-bucas apres-ski stereotype. Participants stay in a cosy, snow-dusted eco lodge and spend their time taking part in ‘snowga’ classes (yoga in the snow), relaxing in a wood-fired hot tub, striding out with some Nordic walking, and eating energising menus free from refined carbohydrates and sugar.
We’ve reviewed Pig hotels in Devon and Kent, and on both occasions have been impressed by the kitchen gardens, farm-to-fork restaurants and all-round happy atmosphere. Which is why we can’t wait for the next piglet, The Pig at Harlyn Bay, to open near Padstow in June 2020. It’s indicative of an ever-blossoming food scene in Cornwall, which has kept the county in the spotlight for many summers. Fowey is especially in vogue – it may be small, but you’ll still find fresh crab and dill butter sarnies, warm monkey muffins and pizzas topped with squid, mussels and anchovies. Brand new to the town is fashionable Fitzroy, a riverside restaurant with black-framed sash windows and an art deco typeface. Fill your table with fried sprats, ray wing with chicken butter sauce, raw sea bass with chilli and cucumber, and red napa cabbage with plum and sesame.
We’ve travelled the whole of West Cornwall to find the best eating and drinking spots for you, including raw chocolate ‘pie’ in St Ives, squid ink linguine in Penzance, steaming bowls of Thai fish stew at a cinema café in Newyln, and curried rice pudding in Marazion. And, if you’ve travelled all that way, why not hop over to the Isles of Scilly while you’re there? Its five inhabited islands promise sparkling turquoise seas, silver-sand beaches, a slow-lane atmosphere, porcelain-white crab and (in season) some of the best strawberries you’ll ever taste.
The seven wonders of the world didn’t get their reputations for nothing. But in this era of Instagram-insatiability many of the world’s biggest tourism destinations are struggling. To cope with overtourism – numbers of visitors far greater than their inherent infrastructure allows for – Thailand’s Maya Bay has been closed to visitors indefinitely, the Faroes are closing temporarily for “maintenance” in April and cities such as Venice and Barcelona that are especially challenged by cruise ship visitors are either introducing or raising tourist taxes (not just to deter tourists but to help fund the infrasturtcure and waste management services needed to host them).
A more mainstream awareness of these issues means there’s likely to be a return to tourists actively choosing to venture off the beaten path in 2020, and a rash of #undertourism posts on Instagram. On our wish list? A tour of Ireland’s cider trail in County Armargh, a trip to Germany’s answer to the Hamptons and an exploration of cafe culture in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
Time to dust-off your school French, because it looks like we’ll all be dreaming of crossing the Channel in 2020. Rick Stein’s Secret France, which aired on BBC2 in November, studied each region in turn, showcasing everything from salt cod in Uzes (a foodie town that we think will be big next year – check out our guide to Uzes here) to garden-fresh sorrel soup made in family kitchens across Burgundy. Book-wise, look out for Simply Stellar French Recipes, a new French cookbook from Jean Imbert (with a foreword written by Jamie Oliver) that includes a recipe for slow-cooked blanquette with roast carrots. Felicity Cloake is another Francophile, who recently toured France on bike in search of definitive versions of classic French dishes (you can listen to her olive magazine podcast on the subject here).
Others, like chef Alex Jackson, owner of a French bistro in Hoxton, are putting a more modern spin on French cuisine. Alex’s new cookbook, Sardine (named after his restaurant), focuses on cooking from Provence and the Languedoc. What’s refreshing is the way his fuss-free recipes reinvent classics, from a tuna, potato, egg and pepper sandwich that puts a harissa-spiked twist on pan bagnat to roast bone marrow ‘boats’ packed with snails and persillade, and panna cotta with cherries poached in pastis. If that doesn’t have you jumping on the nearest cross-Channel ferry, you’re made of stronger-willed stuff than us.
Holidays aren’t just for summer. Wrapping up warm and setting off on a wintry coastal walk is a revitalising way to start the year, especially if it’s at a blustery seaside resort like Ventnor on the Isle of Wight (The Royal hotel serves an elegant afternoon tea all-year-round). Devon is particularly romantic when it’s chilly out, and you’ll find better deals on decadent rooms outside the school holidays or summer months. The Cary Arms, squeezed inside the curve of Babbacombe bay, dates back to the 1800s and feels custom-designed to embrace its beachfront views. Book one of its beach huts for undisturbed panoramas of the moody English Channel, and take a trip on the nearby art deco Babbacombe funicular railway (open throughout winter). Aberdovey, a picturesque estuary village in Snowdonia on the west coast of Wales, has miles of wind-whipped sand and dunes to explore, all deserted outside the peak summer months. Take a stroll, then hunker down at the Trefeddian Hotel with buttered bara brith, homemade Welsh cakes and a pot of tea.
Still one of the lesser-visited Nordic destinations, Finland will surely get its moment in the spotlight this year. Though ethnically and linguistically distinct from the other Nordic nations, geographically the country is Scandinavian through-and-through (with the hygge credentials to match). If you’ve eaten cinnamon buns in Stockholm, drunk Mikkeler in Copenhagen and licked rye bread ice cream in Reykjavik, then it’s time to hop to Helsinki to sip some Finnish salmon and potato soup (‘lohikietto’ is pretty easy to make at home, too).
In Finland’s seaside capital, you can grab everything from colourful ceramic plates piled high with pickled cauliflower and lemon labneh, to croissants filled with huge wedges of brie and strawberries. Stroll 10 minutes or so round Töölönlahti Bay to its eastern shore, and you’ll come across a beautiful blue clapboard house. Tucked behind it, set back from the water’s edge, is a tiny blue shed that’s home to a charming café that sells Finnish blueberry ice cream. Or hop on a little ferry from the southern shore of Helsinki to reach Skiffer, a restaurant and party spot that sells chorizo and crayfish pizzas so large that they curl up at either end like a Viking longboat.
Fancy something equally Nordic, but more booze-based? We’ve also rounded-up the world’s best beer-based experiences, which includes a brewery-to-brewery road trip along the Norwegian coast.
Sunshine-seekers will find solace in Turkey next year, too. In October, olive travel editor Rhiannon Batten and digital editor Alex Crossley devoted a podcast to why Istanbul is so hot right now (it’s the city’s appealing mash-up between old and new – traditional tea houses and kebab shops nudge up against hip restaurants and cafés – that make it so interesting), and the Club Marvy resort in Izmir is a great example of an easy, family-friendly, sunshine-soaked destination that caters better than the norm for foodies.
Despite the resort stretching across 16 hectares of hillside and beach, the majority of ingredients cooked at its restaurants are plucked from owner Ece Tonbul’s mother’s organic 200-hectare farm. The breakfasts are particularly good – feast on flaky boyos breads, hummus, sticky honey, fresh cheese and sundried tomato dips, alongside made-to-order eggs and Turkish tea and coffee. There’s a waterpark and a busy list of activities to keep small people occupied, while adults can make the most of pre-dinner G&Ts laced with pomegranate seeds.
Make way, Paris, Rome and New York – next year is all about letting the little guys shine. We spent much of 2019 unearthing lesser-known foodie towns so that you can visit them in style. Starting with the UK (we’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: it’s all about staycations), Dundee is high on our wish-list. Check out our tips for where to eat and drink in the Scottish city (home to the £80-million, ship-like V&A Dundee design museum), including chef Jamie Scott’s The Newport, which he opened after winning MasterChef: The Professionals. Margate is also getting the attention it deserves (olive editor Laura Rowe swears by Peter’s Fish Factory for the best fish ’n’ chips), following the arrival of The Turner Gallery and the revival of Dreamland, a vintage-style theme park. Check out our foodie guide to Margate for loads more inspiration, and don’t miss our Whitstable foodie guide if you’re exploring more of Kent.
Across the pond, swap New York or Boston for little league places like Maine’s Kennebunkport. With its placid dock, iconic colonial weatherboard houses (some on stilts) and lobster restaurants, this is a place that lives up to a tourist’s American dream. Visit during autumn, when coastal Maine shines with vibrant orange, red and yellow foliage, and stay at the White Barn Inn – during ‘the fall’, this charming hotel puts on a mighty display of pumpkins and squashes, wraps corn husks around fences and decorates trees with twinkly fairy lights. Or Rhode Island’s Newport is the place to go for a glitzy hub of bobbing yachts, age-old wharfs and boardwalks. Stay at Grace Vanderbilt to enjoy yoga classes on the rooftop and a Gatsby-style restaurant.
It’s really time to give Malmö a go, if you’re into Sweden but have already explored Stockholm. Just a short hop over the bridge from Copehangen, Malmö is a foodie’s paradise thanks to local coffee shops, hip bars and artisan food shops stocking some of the Skåne region’s finest produce. Special mention goes to Noir Kaffekultur coffee shop and its sauna-smoked sourdough baguettes.
Or visit Gothenburg, also in West Sweden, for giant cinnamon buns and fresh lemon sole at the city’s fish market. Sticking to the fresh fish theme, try traditional sushi crafted using the freshest Scandinavian fish at HOZE. With only six seats at the counter, this minimalist sushi bar is mighty difficult to get into. If you’re lucky enough to secure a spot, you’ll sample a traditional omakase menu that makes the most of foraged elderflowers, unripe strawberries, spruce shoots and scallops.
Eating less meat has been a core trend of 2019, encouraging us all to live a more sustainable and planet-friendly life. If you’re leading a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, or trying to choose plant-based more often, we’ve got thousands of vegetarian and vegan recipes on our website, olivemagazine.com). In 2020 we reckon it’s going to be a whole lot easier to find plant-based eats on holiday, too. From the UK’s first 100 per cent vegan hotel, in Scotland’s pretty Pitlochry (read our review of Saorsa 1875), to a Goan hotel that serves homemade tofu and makes smoothies from nut milk, you can read all about the world’s best veggie and vegan hotels here. Even in Paris, where steak frites reign supreme, you can eat at excellent vegetarian restaurants (read our veggie Paris guide here), including Jah Jah by Le Tricycle, which blends reggae vibes with flavourful, rainbow-hued ingredients. Don’t miss its raw rolls with carrots, beets and Dakatine peanut dipping sauce.
There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian cookery courses to join if you feel your meat-free kitchen skills need a reboot (we love the idea of heading to the Devonshire countryside for a day of vegetarian cooking at River Cottage), and Malmö (we’re all about Malmö – can you tell?) has so many meat-free restaurants that we’ve devoted a whole feature to the best plant-based spots in this edgy city. We’ve also got meat-free guides to Vancouver and New York, and you can even go on an all-vegan skiing holiday, should you wish – companies such as Ski Beat are now offering vegan menus for chalet guests.
Never has it been so fashionable to holiday at home. Staycations cut down on travel time, reduce carbon footprints, support local economies and eliminate tiresome problems like jet lag. Back in August this year, we wrote a whole feature on the best foodie towns to visit in the UK; dive in if you’re seeking a food adventure closer to home this year. The croissants at Bostock Bakery in North Berwick, for example, are so good that NOMA’s René Redzepi sent his pastry chef from Copenhagen to learn from Bostock’s Ross Baxter. And in the Lancashire market town of Clitheroe, you’ll find a heaving cheese counter at Holmes Mill, Clitheroe’s monumental new food hall. We’ve also noticed Kent’s coastal towns smartening up, as they lure in a hip London crowd steering south on fast trains. Deal is the buzzy new kid on the block, and is home to one of our favourite chippies – Middle Street Fish Bar.
The UK self-catering industry is also booming, helped by the ever-increasing popularity of sites like Airbnb. We narrowed UK holiday cottages down to our favourites earlier this year, including Loch an Eilein cottage in The Cairngorms with its double-fronted wood-burning stove and charming window seat looking out onto a neighbouring loch. In the craggy Lakeland fells, above Coniston, you can bed down in Beatrix Potter’s old home, Yew Tree Farm, and eat at her original dining table. And if you’re heading to Mounmouthshire, The Piggery is a cosy, traditional farmyard cottage with its own hens (that’s breakfast sorted) and an orchard outside the door.
Step out of your comfort zone in 2020 – it’s one of our New Year’s resolutions! From off-grid glampsites in Cornwall to glass-roofed ‘dens’ in Wales and rustic hideaways in the West Country, we suggest that you spend 2020 cuddled-up in a cosy British cabin. Start at Kudhva, an off-grid glampsite near Trebarwith Strand. Four futuristic cabins on stilts are hidden amongst willow groves and dense woodland, and each one has its own firepit – stoke your own barbecue, and drink locally made wines, beers and gins from nearby Hilltop Farm Shop. For something really memorable, drive an hour south of Edinburgh (check out the best places to eat and drink in the Scottish capital here), park up at Berwickshire’s Cove Harbour, chuck your bags in a wheelbarrow and walk through a little tunnel to The Blue Cabin by the Sea, a cornflower-blue bolthole that’s tucked into the grasses above a tiny beach. With its TV, wi-fi, dishwasher and underfloor heating it’s not technically off-grid but it feels the part. You can also buy crabs and lobsters direct from fishermen, who head out from this spot every week day.
Japan threw a memorable Rugby World Cup in 2019 (warm hospitality, good-natured sportsmanship and inventive play from a team that reached the quarter-final) and Tokyo is the host for next year’s Olympic Games, so expect a fresh surge of interest in the country next summer. Chef Tim Anderson shared his enthusiasm for Tokyo in an olive magazine podcast earlier this year (have a listen to discover the city’s secret ramen bars), and we’ve picked our own top 10 places to eat in Japan’s capital. It’s not just sushi (although Kyubey is the place to go for that) – Tokyo is also great for cocktails (head to Gen Yamamoto for smart concoctions made from Hokkaidan grapes or sweet potato shochu) and syrupy espressos, from devoted joints such as Bear Pond Espresso.
Already in Tokyo? Think about venturing further west when you’re done, to explore Kyoto and Osaka. For a great introduction to Kyoto and its yuzu sake, high-end kaiseki dinners and ramen vending machines, check out our podcast episode here. One of Kyoto’s favourite dishes, yakitori (basically skewered chicken), has reached British shores in a big way, so get cooking our miso-glazed yakitori or salmon version with brown rice as soon as the new year hits. We’ve even got a guide to yakitori, written by the experts at Jidori restaurant in North East London, if you want to prepare for the trend.
Bake Off star and regular olive contributor Edd Kimber loves Osaka, the second biggest Japanese city after Tokyo. It’s often referred to as the kitchen of Japan – so much so that there is even a local maxim, kuidaore, which means to eat yourself into bankruptcy. Check out Edd’s foodie guide to Osaka, which includes the best places to go for takoyaki (molten balls filled with chunks of octopus) and fish-shaped waffles called taiyaki.
Slow food travel
We challenge you not to feel zen after a stay at Oman’s Six Senses Zighy Bay, a destination resort in the country’s Musandam Peninsula. Set among date palms, pomegranate and fig trees, Six Senses welcomes guests with a date smoothie made from the fruits of the resort’s own palms. Chill in your private majlis (a shady outdoor lounging area), wander around the vast kitchen garden, take a farm tour or just swim in the sea then walk barefoot along the beach for dinner at the Shua Shak. This breezy Bedouin-style restaurant is set under a simple palm-leaf canopy and serves a simple set menu that ends with pistachio-flecked kanafeh and starts with a mezze-style spread of hummus, baba ganoush, pickles, olives, flatbread and filo-wrapped, deep-fried Akawi cheese, a feta-like cheese first made in Palestine but now produced across the Middle East. It’s the main course that everyone comes for though, shuwa: flaky lamb that’s been marinated for 24 hours in olive oil, date syrup, bay leaves, onion, garlic, carrot, cinnamon, anise, cumin and rosemary, then wrapped in banana leaves and foil and cooked on coals in a pit under the sand for seven hours. Despite being served within a luxury resort the lamb dish is a true taste of Omani food culture.
Food that’s deeply rooted in place, made with care and unique to the destination is what we’ve long been all about at olive – whether that’s tasting the most exquisite handmade pastries in Paris, visiting a co-operative in Morocco that specialises in hand-rolled couscous, learning about sobrasada on a cooking class in Mallorca, tracking down the best falafels in Beirut, tasting woody wild mountain tea in Taiwan or hanging out with pasta grannies in Sardinia. We reckon that 2020 will be the year that everyone else catches on to the diversity and sheer greedy joy of #slowfoodtravel.
Words by Rhiannon Batten and Charlotte Morgan