The Cities with the Best Food Diversity & Experience
Data study paints a vivid picture of both traditional and modern foodie destinations. London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Dubai, and Barcelona lead the index, offering both high quality and diversity of food experiences.
At Holidu, we understand food is at the heart and soul of the visitor’s experience while travelling. With employees hailing from all four corners of the globe, we’re constantly debating where you can find the most delicious culinary delights.
Every city is fundamentally different, so it’s no mean feat comparing a Ceviche in Lima 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. Therefore, we commissioned this comprehensive study to explore the richness of culinary landscapes in 75 cities. These cities were selected based on their strong presence in multiple ratings directories, acknowledging both renowned food hubs and emerging gastronomic destinations.
We then considered which criteria are paramount to food lovers, focusing on both quality—using international recognition as a proxy—and the diversity of culinary offerings. Our study paints a vivid picture of global culinary landscapes, where the Michelin-starred restaurants of Tokyo, the iconic pastries of Paris, and the fusion cuisines of New York can be compared and celebrated alongside the vibrant tapas culture of Barcelona. Every city, whether renowned for fine dining like London or bursting with diverse flavours like Dubai, has its unique gastronomic paradise. To achieve this, we explored several facets of the culinary experience, considering factors such as Michelin stars, world-class restaurants, cuisine variety, visitor safety, and the overall foodie experience. We paid attention to details like waterfront dining in Barcelona and the street food culture that adds vibrancy to the culinary scene of many cities.
“Whether you’ve always dreamed of trying monjayaki on a hidden street of Tokyo or dining on machboos at a Bedouin feast in the Dubai desert, this study is the ultimate foodie bucket list.” comments Sarah Siddle, Senior PR Manager at Holidu. “Every delicious destination in this index can offer inspiration to food industry professionals such as ourselves, as well as burgeoning chefs, gastronomes and globetrotters.”
Instructions for journalists
The table below reveals the results. All scores range from 50 to 100, with 100 being the best possible score. You can filter each factor from highest to lowest and vice versa by clicking on the icon above each column. For a full explanation of how each factor was calculated, please see the methodology at the bottom of the page.
The index for The Food City Destination Index analyses and compares 75 global cities from three perspectives: global recognition, cuisine diversity and visitor experience.
The cities in the index were included by reviewing the highest rated restaurants as determined by recognized restaurant ratings directories and selecting cities with a population of at least 500,000.
It uses listings data from restaurant directories as well as a manual tagging effort to create the scores.
The manual tagging process involved the systematic categorization of neighbourhoods based on specific visual characteristics contributing to the dining experience, such as riverside views, historical architecture, or skyline vistas. To ensure consistency and objectivity in the classification, two independent researchers conducted the tagging independently, identifying relevant descriptors for each area. Following this, a comparative review was conducted to align and consolidate the tags.
Scored factors are made up of one or more indicators that were scored and averaged. The following equation was used for scoring:
z-Score = x – mean(X)Standard deviation(X)in short x – μσ
For columns where a low value is better, the score is inverted such that a high score is always better:
z-Scoreinverted = -1*x – mean(X)Standard deviation(X) in short -1 *x – μσ
Data is normalised to a [50-100] scale, with 100 being the best score. The higher the score, the better the city ranks for that factor in comparison to the other cities in the index. The formula used is min-max normalisation:
score = (100-50) *x – min(X)max(X) – min(X)+50
The final score was determined by calculating the sum of the weighted average score of all of the indicators. Below you can find a detailed description of each factor within the study, and the sources used.
Detailed factor notes
Michelin Stars & World-Class Restaurants
International recognition represents validation from globally renowned and trusted restaurant ratings guides. It also has inherent value for the culinary sector and the city itself, enhancing the city’s attractiveness to food enthusiasts, influencing tourism, and boosting the restaurant infrastructure.
The stars awarded by the Michelin Guide are arguably the most well-known recognition for restaurant excellence, internationally, and the number of stars awarded is a common metric for recognizing cities as global leaders of cuisine. In the table, the factor Michelin Stars presents the total number of Michelin stars awarded to restaurants in the city – for instance, if a city has a single two-star restaurant and three one-star restaurants, the total number of Michelin stars would be five.
The Michelin Guide is complemented with three further indications of global recognition. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, La Liste and TripAdvisor ensure global coverage – the Michelin Guide does not cover many incredible foodie destinations, such as Lima in Peru, Mexico City and Sydney in Australia. These sources also contribute unique perspectives: an industry insider perspective from The World’s 50 Best; a compilation of local and regional guides from La Liste and a tourist perspective from TripAdvisor.
In the factor “World-Class Restaurants (Score)”, the historical importance of gastronomical leaders Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, New York, and London is still evident, but trendsetters Copenhagen, Barcelona, Lima and Dubai are better represented; as are Latin American cities such as Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Bogotá.
The international recognition score for each city is constructed from several underlying indexes, designed to balance the breadth of coverage against the concentration of top-tier establishments.
- Restaurant Tier Index: For each guide, restaurant ratings were converted to a tier system. For example, three-star Michelin restaurants were classified as Tier 1, two-star as Tier 2, and one-star as Tier 3. Similar tier systems were applied to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, La Liste, and TripAdvisor Visitors’ Choice rankings. Each restaurant was assigned the highest tier achieved across all guides. Counts of restaurants in each tier were then minmax-normalised to construct scores for Tiers 3-1, Tiers 2-1, and Tier 1, with the final Restaurant Tier Index score constructed from a weighted average of these three scores.
- City Tier Index: Each city was assigned a score from 0 to 4 based on the highest tier achieved by any restaurant in the city.
The final international recognition score for each city is then calculated as the average of the minmax-normalised scores of each underlying index.
Sources: TripAdvisor, World’s 50 Best Restaurants, La Liste, Michelin Guide
Cuisine Variety (Score)
The variety of different cuisines at different price points in the city. Access to a wide variety of restaurant experiences at all price points presents residents and visitors with the ability to enjoy gastronomical exploration for any occasion. Cities with a history of immigration, or those that have become popular expat destinations, often excel in this aspect, as reflected in the high scores of cities like London, New York, Paris, Dubai, and Toronto.
Cuisines were first grouped into clusters based on geographical and historical ties. The clusters are as follows:
- East Asian
- Eastern European
- Latin American
- Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
- Northern European
- South Asian
- South Eastern Asian
- West and Central Asian
- Western And South European
Each city’s Cuisine Variety score is then calculated as an average of the Cuisine Cluster Scores for each cuisine cluster. These Cuisine Cluster Scores are calculated using three underlying indexes:
High-End Index: Based on the absolute number of high-end restaurants as they are typically destination locations where people are willing to travel.
- Low-End Index: Based on the per capita numbers of low-end restaurants as they often serve locals and cater to daily dining needs.
- Mid-Range Index: Based on a combination of both absolute and per capita numbers because these restaurants serve a dual purpose. A high absolute number suggests a vibrant culinary scene, while a high per capita number indicates ease of access and diversity for residents.
The Cuisine Cluster Scores are presented for each cluster in the table under Cuisine Availability.
Sources: TripAdvisor, La Liste, Restaurant Websites
Visitor Safety (Score)
The sense of safety in a city plays a pivotal role in determining the overall quality of restaurant experiences for both locals and visitors. For residents, feeling safe allows them to seamlessly integrate dining out into social activities without concern for security. For tourists, safety concerns can limit the exploration of diverse culinary offerings, restricting them to areas perceived as secure.
Understanding that the perception of safety often matters more than actual safety, and focusing on concerns related to harassment and violent crime, this aspect is assessed through the following:
- Perception Index: Based on crowd-sourced web surveys such as Numbeo, reflecting public opinion and personal experiences. Scores are averaged over the last five years, with more weight given to recent data.
- Crime Statistics Index: Utilises the most recent UN homicide and gun crime statistics. While these represent objective measures, they are given less weight compared to the perception index, as they may not always align with public sentiment.
The final Visitor Safety score for each city is calculated as a weighted average of the normalised scores of these two underlying indexes, providing a balanced view of both subjective perceptions and objective crime data.
Sources: Crowd-sourced web surveys (e.g., Numbeo), UN homicide and gun crime statistics.
Foodie Experience (Score)
The culinary experience in a city transcends the mere act of dining; it encompasses a whole spectrum of activities, environments, and sensory engagements that enhance the enjoyment of food. This holistic approach to dining is vital in determining the best city for restaurants as it reflects how gastronomy is interwoven with culture, landscape, and community interaction.
- Activity Index: This encompasses guided food tours, hands-on cooking experiences, tastings, and visits to where ingredients are produced. These activities provide an in-depth connection to the local culinary culture, putting restaurant visits in a broader context and creating engaging experiences. This aspect of the score is assessed through the number of food-related tours and activities advertised in travel guides, reflecting both diversity and richness.
- Visual Experience Index: Dining in visually stimulating environments such as waterfronts, mountainsides, historical architecture, and other picturesque locales adds an aesthetic dimension to the food experience. These environments not only enhance culinary enjoyment but also offer visually impressive moments perfect for photography and social sharing. This aspect of the score is derived from manually tagging neighbourhoods with descriptors like riverside dining, skyline views, etc. The tagging for each neighbourhood was done independently by two researchers and then compared and aligned. Restaurants in these areas are given a score based on the number of tags attributed to them. The log of the standardised index for each tag is used to emphasise diversity in experiences over the sheer quantity of any specific tag.
The final Foodie Experience score for each city is constructed by averaging the standardised scores of the two indexes.
Sources: TripAdvisor, Manual tagging.
Cuisine Availability (Score)
The final section of the table presents the individual Cuisine Cluster Scores as described under Cuisine Diversity above. A high score indicates the high availability of restaurants serving this type of cuisine at low-end, mid-range and high-end price points and takes into account both absolute and per capita counts of restaurants.