A Vegetarian Foodie’s Adventures Across Europe – Part I

My sister just got back yesterday from Cheonan in South Korea after a 2-week work trip. So we were discussing her experiences in South Korea since it was her first trip there. One of the biggest problems she faced while she was there, was food. She is also a vegetarian like me. After surviving by having only fruits for dinner for the first three days, she finally gave in and found the nearest Indian restaurant. She had no other go and could not survive only on fruits.
Being frequent travellers, we still try to eat local food, whenever we are visiting a new place. Compared to her, I was definitely lucky when it came to finding vegetarian, non-Indian food in Europe. But I had my moments of starvation too. I also accidentally ate non-vegetarian food but more on that later.
vegetarian food in Portugal
Sinatra Palace’s Kitchen

Tips to find vegetarian food in Portugal

I eat eggs while she is not particularly fond of them (Yes, most vegetarians in India do not eat egg as well). I am definitely thankful that I eat them since I remember eating only omelettes for 3 days in Algarve, Portugal (there are numerous Indian restaurants in Algarve by the way).
Do you want to know the best travel hack for finding vegetarian food in Europe? Go to Google and search for ‘Vegetarian Restaurants near me”. This saved me multiple times and I found some hidden gems because of this.
After my first few days in Europe, I realised that I could not have three full meals by European standards. I ended up wasting a lot of food and this is when I decided to eat only 2 full meals every day. The portion size is comparatively bigger and there is a limit to how much cheese and cream your stomach can handle in a single day. That did not mean I would starve the whole day. Every day I would stock myself with some fruits and yoghurts before I ventured out roaming. If my hunger was still not satisfied with these, I would find something to eat that would last me till dinnertime. 
One of the biggest advantages of being in Europe is that all hotels (95% of them) offer an all-inclusive cold buffet breakfast with your room charges. Some offer hot meals too. Even though breakfast is not included in most hostel’s room charges, you can easily buy them at the reception for 4-10 Euros. I made sure that I had a heavy breakfast every day before I left the hotel.
Since food comprises of a good chunk of the travelling expenses, many people wanted to know how much I spent every day on food. That varied from place to place. One of the cheapest meals you can find in many places around Europe is a Falafel. They cost less than 5 euros in most places for the vegetarian option
Alternatively, if you want to go spend a quiet evening at one of the many roadside cafes around Europe, you need to shell out something in the range of 15-25 Euros. So for this amount, you will get an appetiser, a main course, a dessert and a cocktail/mocktail in most cities (Remember that I used to eat only 2 meals every day and hence I used to have a heavy dinner). In the more expensive cities like Paris, I ended up paying around 20 + Euros for a plate of pasta. 
 
A Vegetarian Foodie's Adventures Across Europe - Part I - Travel, Books and Food
Omeletes and Algarve
 
Another good thing about all these places is that the menu is often hand written on a board outside the café and you need not enter the place if they do not offer any vegetarian options or are too expensive. Most places also offer free wifi and you can log in to their network while you wait for the food.
It is always best to talk with the locals to find out the best things to eat and the best places to find them. I love hotel receptionists since some of them gave me some really good recommendations.
So let me start by recounting some of the best and worst food experiences during my trip to Europe. I will be splitting this into multiple parts since I definitely cannot finish all the cities in one part. I will start with vegetarian food in Portugal.

Lisbon – Portugal:

Since Lisbon was my first stop, I took it really slow. I was still getting used to my jet lag and hence did not want to experiment too much when it came to food.
I mostly ate different types of pastas. Since I was staying close to Baixa/ Chaido, there were numerous places that were just walking distance from my hotel. 
A Vegetarian Foodie's Adventures Across Europe - Part I - Travel, Books and Food
Lisbon and Ice Creams
Anyone who goes to Lisbon knows this. Don’t forget to get those delicious egg custard tarts (Pastel De Nata) from Pasteis De Belem
Since I went during Summer, there were quite a bit of ice cream shops around the place. If you are off to Sintra, then don’t forget to have the Queijadas, another sweet pastry that is usually found in Sintra.
I think you would have got the general idea by now. I did eat a lot of pastries while I was in Lisbon. I even went searching for the best chocolate cake in Lisbon. I had just fallen and I wanted something to cheer me up. I saw that this place Landeau was close by and went ahead and had a piece of chocolate cake. I am not sure if it is the best chocolate cake in the world since I am yet to try out all the chocolate cakes in the world (how I wish) but that definitely was one delicious piece of chocolate cake. You don’t need any more pick me ups other than this.
A Vegetarian Foodie's Adventures Across Europe - Part I - Travel, Books and Food
Best Chocolate Cake in the world?
I also tried the Ginjinha which is a Portugese Liqueur made out of cherries. But let me say that I did not like this that much. If you want to go out drinking, then Bairro Alto neighbourhood is quite popular with both locals and tourists alike.
Try to find one of those non-touristy restaurants around the place where you are staying where they play Fado (a music genre popular in Portugal). You will not know how time flies by when you are sitting in one of these restaurants. 

Algarve – Portugal

Since this is a beach destination, it reminded me of Goa. Every beach has similar shacks and you get the similar stuff to eat and drink. Unfortunately, the vegetarian options are limited and I had to alternate between eating a lot of vegetarian sandwiches and Omelettes. This is a heaven for people who love eating fish (I don’t since in my part of the world, fish is also considered as non-vegetarian).
A Vegetarian Foodie's Adventures Across Europe - Part I - Travel, Books and Food
Specially made for me
Thankfully, the hotel I was staying in had an excellent chef and he made sure that I had something new and vegetarian to eat every night. It was quite decently priced and I was thankful of the thoughtfulness of the hotel staff there.
A Vegetarian Foodie's Adventures Across Europe - Part I - Travel, Books and Food
Specially made for me
Since I did a lot of swimming around here, I did eat 3 meals here every day.
So that is it for today. So I will continue with my foodie adventures next week. So what else did I eat over the next few weeks in Europe? Stay tuned to find out. Also, check out the similar post I wrote about USA.

Any vegetarians heading out to Singapore, please do check out this post by a fellow vegetarian. 

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33 Comments

  1. These days we have more and more vegetarian / vegan places opening in Zagreb. However, I believe I would struggle a lot to find a good place while traveling. Luckily, you tried some great dishes – pasteis de nata were my favorite desserts in whole Portugal!

  2. Vegetarian food is often hard to find when traveling. I know because I also look for it. I will use your Google hack next time. The best vegetarian food I’ve had in the world though – is in India.

  3. I remember watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and he mentioned how difficult it would be to travel the world as a vegetarian given that most cultures eat meat. I think more and more places are starting to offer it, but it’s still not as widespread in many parts of the world. Looks like you found some gems!

  4. It is so hard travelling with certain dietary requirements. I have a wheat allergy and you always have to be so careful! Glad you managed to find a few gems thanks to google

    1. It is hard traveling with dietary requirements. Hopefully your allergy is not too bad. In my case, since I have been a vegetarian for 11+ years, I prefer to stick to it. But I did accidentally eat non-veg food, once even in India.

  5. I am a non-vegetarian but I know the struggle of finding veg food because my hubby is one who had to start eating eggs to survive in some places. In Europe, we too ended up finding Falafel and ice-creams most conveniently. We have not been to Portugal so I think this will come handy there.

  6. I am really surprised to hear that there were so few vegetarian options in Portugal. I personally could never be vegetarian so never looked that closely at menus when I was there, but am sure there were always options in most restaurants. I guess though that there is probably not much variety in the options there are though.

  7. We usually prefer to eat vegetarian food when we travel tough we are non-vegetarians . And in Europe we too managed to get vegetarian food most of the times. When in Portugal we remember eating a lot of chestnuts 🙂

  8. This is great insight and information. I love in Europe and I am always happy to see lots of different choices for people who are vegan or vegetarian. I can imagine how tough it must be if you only eat certain things and cannot find food!

  9. Look at those food in the photos, they are very enticing. But i personally love the ice cream. It looks really full of flavor. yummy!!!!

  10. We know the struggle of finding vegan / vegetarian food too! Luckily, we actually find it pretty easy here in Europe. 🙂
    You could try using HappyCow app / website from time to time – it focuses on vegan restaurants, but has a ton of vegetarian options too! That’s how we usually find places to eat out here. 🙂

  11. This is one aspect of travel that I’m definitely most worried about, but I’ve found that there’s always something vegetarian in local cuisine (even if it’s a side dish). I would probably have to do a lot of research to eat in Portugal by the sound of it though, I’m dairy and gluten intolerant and vegetarian (no fish for me either). I haven’t been to Europe since I became dairy and gluten intolerant, but I’ve found that the Yelp app helps quite a lot whenever I’ve traveled around North America. Did you always have to google to find vegetarian options during your Europe trip, or was it fairly easy to walk into whatever restaurant looked good and have a couple of options?

  12. What a delicious post! I love the idea of making food tours a regular part of travel. What a fantastic way to experience a city/culture!

  13. I just stumbled upon your blog and as a vegetarian (the not-even-eggs kind) who just returned from a month long trip to Spain, I totally understand the struggle! I learnt the hard way that what we Indians mean by vegetarian is actually different from the definition there. I was served a “vegetarian sandwich” with generous helpings of tuna. I soon stopped using that word and started reading out my list of ‘no pescado, no pollo…’ etc. whenever I needed to. I wanted a lot to try as much local food as I could but it was always an uphill battle. The most forgettable meal I’ve had was a plate of pickled olives at a tapas bar for dinner. The most memorable one, also at a tapas bar, was Salmorejo. But I gradually gave up on trying to find local options and started looking for Mediterranean and Italian restaurants where I was sure to find at least some vegetarian food.

    The ‘vegetarian restaurants near me’ approach is useful but I always end up with fancy vegan, organic etc. places which cost a bomb without feeling worth it. I prefer this service called HappyCow (they’re basically the Yelp/Zomato for vegetarian restaurants). Has served me really well pretty much anywhere I’ve gone in the world.

    1. As mentioned in another post, I am yet to use HappyCow. I loved the fact that Spanish food had so many vegetarian options but I am not sure if I would have survived for a month there. Did not try out the Salmorejo though.

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