Why Spanish Cuisine is the Best in Europe


Spanish food is the best in the world. I came to this conclusion through visits to each of these countries, and living in two of them. Each cuisine is delicious, but Spanish food has the right level of sophistication, incredible diversity among its unique regions.

Spain has the best food in the world. Here’s why.

As we all await the end of COVID with latent exuberance and a huge pent-up sigh of relief, travel is near the top of the post-COVID to-do list for most people. Is that you? Do you like food? And are you considering Europe as a destination in the near or even distant future? Then this is for you!

My fiancé helped me realize the need to balance serious writing with an occasional fun piece. While I really enjoy exploring big-picture topics and curating insights I think you will find useful or even transformative, this one is just for the fun of it, solely for your enjoyment and mine. Here we go…

Three countries in Europe are widely known for their excellent cuisine: France, Spain, and Italy. Yet, each is quite distinct.

Let’s begin with the most important point: I enjoy them all. In fact, I really love to eat, which includes trying new cuisines. Though taste is subjective, nearly everyone enjoys these foods.

Still, not all food is created equal, and a clear preference has emerged for me. Disclaimer: While I visited Italy for a few days, and lived in France for 3 months, I have lived nearly a year and a half of my life in Spain. Familiarity breeds fondness, so perhaps time has been a great influence on my food preference. However, either I would come to the same conclusion if this were not true, or I would like to think that is the case.

Either way, here is my assessment of the best food in Europe (if not the world). It is based on three criteria to distinguish one incredible cuisine from another: Sophistication, Diversity, and Equality (or Consistency).

(To enjoy the cuisine in person, plan your next vacation. Receive free updates on flight discounts from your local airport!)


Let’s begin with French cuisine, which finds its most recognizable roots in 17th Century culinary arts, on which La Varenne penned the foundational cookbook. His art was known as “Haute,” and inspires many of the dishes we quickly identify as French. As one culinary arts school defines it this way:

“Haute cuisine put less emphasis on the quantity of food, and instead focuses on moderate portions with high-quality ingredients. Translated to “high cuisine,” this movement was in some ways inherently bourgeoisie, which is perhaps why many famous French chefs worked for noble clientele.”

In other words, French cuisine is highly sophisticated, taking great care to source, prepare, and serve food as an art rather than as a means to an end. It is a wonderful dining experience.

In contrast, Italian food is deeply rooted in what is known as “la cucina povera,” as it evolved from the basic dishes made by common people who could not afford a long list of ingredients. Therefore, most Italian cuisine is made with just a few simple ingredients. This often includes a combination of pasta, cheese, tomato sauces, spices, or bits of pork.

While often fresh just like its French counterpart, it is in a way the opposite in that rather than seeking a unique creation or presentation, Italians take great care in re-creating a quality dish “the right way”. As one travel writer describes,

“Romans are extremely opinionated about food, so chefs who alter traditional recipes can expect to be the subject of intense debates. You’ll find these dishes at trattorias all over Rome.”

As this writer also states, and I agree, “When prepared correctly with fresh ingredients, these humble dishes taste downright sublime”.

Finally, Spanish food comes from the country’s many and diverse regions, which have contributed to the country’s popular array of dishes.

Just as with French and Italian cooks, the Spanish take great care in preparing a dish.

For example, during the first couple days after I moved to Madrid a few years ago, I was wandering the streets exploring. Suddenly, I found my appetite roaring, and rushed to the nearest open restaurant. While it was barely more than a tiny shop with a few tables, I was thankful it served American food options with photos, since I had not yet learned more than a few words of Spanish. While I expected a watered-down version of a burger and fries, I was delighted to discover the plate that emerged in front of me was a tasteful elaboration on nearly every American burger I have eaten in my lifetime.

The Spanish do not go to the lengths of fanciful preparation as do the French. However, they do take great care to combine multiple ingredients in a way that sets Spanish dishes well apart from more standard creations in other culinary traditions.

Remember, food is subjective. So, what is my preference? I enjoy food that is distinct, yet also puts more attention on satisfying the person eating it than in the art itself.

Conclusion: Spanish food offers the perfect balance of combining multiple ingredients for maximum effect, without getting too fancy. While French food is a must-eat experience, and Italian food is a reliable delight, I find Spanish food as the best bet for a consistently enjoyable dining experience.


All three countries have diverse regions, and each of those regions has its own distinct culinary tradition.

The culinary traditions in France vary widely by region, such as the crepes of Brittany, the bouillabaisse and ratatouille of the south, and the German influences in Alsace-Lorraine.

Italian food also differs by region. Due to the widespread poverty in many parts of Italy throughout much of its history, there was limited trade among regions. Therefore, local ingredients were used almost exclusively.

Despite the varied ingredients, many of the dishes are recognizable as Italian based on their use of few ingredients, bread or pasta base, and meticulous preparation in order to meet the expectations diners have for a particular dish. Perhaps the most distinct cuisine is in the north around Milan, where rice dishes like Risotto are the primary choice.

In Spain, as in the other two, regional varieties of food have permeated other areas, especially in larger cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla. Yet, traveling to each of those regions, the difference is clear.

Valencians take pride in their world-famous paella (pictured above), central Spain features a wide selection of “cocidos” or stews, and Andalucía prides itself in tapas and its orchard-fresh olives. Galicia and the Basque country offer some of the most robust and delectable cuisines in the world, including fresh seafood. Galicia also offers fresh produce and other types of meat, while Basque food features their own version of tapas with a bit of a French flair given its proximity to the northern neighbor.

Conclusion: I truly enjoy a diversity in my food, and love that I can enjoy unique options in each region throughout these countries. Of these, Spain seems to have the widest variety from one region to the next, which gives it a slight advantage.


Eating at a fine restaurant in France is certainly worth the experience. But most of us cannot afford to travel the world and eat at all the best restaurants. For all of the other breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, we tend to stop and eat in places we find along our winding hike through town.

Since French cuisine generally involves an array of ingredients and a well-honed knack for the culinary arts, it follows that smaller-scale cafes and restaurants lag behind the quality of food found in fine dining establishments. Perhaps there are other reasons for this disparity, but a few fellow travelers have noted the same experience.

Unlike in France, restaurants in Italy seem to have far more in common no matter the establishment’s status or prices. This is likely because Italian cuisine follows basic rules, with limited ingredients, and predetermined expectations of what certain meals should look like and taste like. This makes is easier for the mom-and-pop café to serve quality food that is not too far removed from its pricier neighbor. While the latter may use fresher ingredients, a bit of flair, and a ritzier dining environment, the quality is often present in either case.

Though Spanish food often involves more ingredients like in France, and a bit more sophistication than in Italy, I have found that the consistency in food quality is often minimal between restaurant tiers. Since all three countries take great care in their cooking, there must be another explanation

My theory is twofold. First, ingredients in most Spanish regions are more common and affordable than in France, which means greater access to these for a wider range of establishments.

Second, while the French cultural pride in cooking seems to be stronger, the nature of French cooking sets a higher bar. Since Spanish meals are also simpler, perhaps they have greater confidence that their care will produce a quality result. In other words, more achievable results and more accessible ingredients means not only consistent quality ingredients among restaurants, but also more experience cooking that leads to more refined ability to cook such achievable meals to perfection.

For example, when I wandered into the small Madrid café mentioned above, they cooked me more than just another burger. The extra ingredients were simple, but produced a profound effect that made me immediately grateful for the care the chef took to make it. I have had similar experiences in San Sebastian, Ronda, Granada, and elsewhere in Spain.

The exception, of course, is eating at a Michelin restaurant — such as the one my fiancé lovingly brought me to for my birthday). Here, there will always be a sizable gap in food quality and dining experience.

Conclusion: Both Italian and Spanish restaurants offer a beautiful consistency. This means that the next time you’re walking down an Italian strada or a Spanish calle, you may just find stopping in that hole-in-the wall restaurant will leave you pleasantly surprised.

*Planning your next vacation? To find the most affordable flights, receive free updates on flight discounts from your local airport!

Travel. Eat. Repeat

Spanish food is the best in the world. I came to this conclusion through visits to each of these countries, and living in two of them.

Each cuisine is delicious, but Spanish food has the right level of sophistication, incredible diversity among its unique regions, and offers the greatest consistency in quality from high end restaurants down to your corner pub or mom and pop restaurant.

If you’re on your way to Europe in the future, make a stop in each of these countries. But make sure Spain is on the list — not only for its beaches, history, and quality of life, but also for its food!

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Enjoy reading this? Also check out a shorter piece asking the question: Why travel?



Mike Weppler
Global Perspectives on Today and Tomorrow

To live a life worth imitating: Son, Husband, Father. Passion for developing leaders + elevating families, organizations, & the discourse of US/Global affairs