Europe is home to nearly 3 million people who follow a vegan diet as of 2023, and the numbers are increasing rapidly. Cities such as London, Edinburgh, and Berlin have long been established as vegan-friendly destinations with a wide selection of restaurants offering plant-based dishes. There’s even a plant-based restaurant in an amusement park in Gothenburg, Sweden.
I lived in Spain and Italy in 2015-2016 and visited many countries around Europe and found it challenging to find plant-based dishes. Ahead of my first trip back to Europe last year, I anticipated that finding vegan-friendly food would be difficult. Fortunately, vegan food culture has become much more mainstream since I had last been to Europe.
While some destinations were a disappointment regarding the plant-based offerings, others stood out—some of which were quite unexpected. Here are my top five European vegan cities where you can enjoy vegan versions of local specialties, sweet treats made without animal products, and much more.
Sustainability is a core component of life for many Swedish people and for some omitting animal products from their diet is a continuation of their dedication to environmental stewardship. Sweden’s capital has no shortage of fantastic vegan eateries. ChouChou is where you’ll be able to try vegan versions of traditional dishes including Skagen faux-shrimp toast with caviar made from seaweed. For lunch, go to the riverside Hermans Vegan Restaurant which has been offering a plant-based buffet for over three decades, and try a local kombucha with your meal. At VÄXTHUSET, indulge in a five-course vegan-tasting menu of innovative dishes layered with flavor and texture. For something light, head to The Green Queen for healthy salads.
Slovenia’s beautiful river-front historic capital city has an exciting up-and-coming vegan scene. Gostilna Vida is a gorgeous vegetarian cafe with many vegan dishes. It’s a great spot if you’re craving plant-based brunch dishes such as smoothie bowls and avocado toast. For a traditional Slovenian bistro with all-vegan fare, dine at Green One and try a seasonal stew. Veganika is a bistro serving hearty international dishes including soba ramen and vegan burgers. At Gaudi&Naan you can try vegan versions of Slovenian favorites like sarme, a stuffed cabbage dish.
Amid the stunning art deco buildings sprinkled throughout this picturesque Baltic city, you’ll find a handful of vegan-friendly restaurants. For coffee and baked goods look no further than Kozy Eats. If you’re gluten-free and vegan, have lunch at Nirvana Raw where they prepare animal-free versions of typically Latvian fare. If you’re after plant-based meat and decadent vegan desserts, grab dinner at Mazā Terapija. For a fix of Indian food, the Hare Krishna Temple Riga has buffet-style dining available at Rāma with various vegan-friendly curries.
When I lived in Madrid in 2015-2016 I found it extremely challenging to find plant-based food. I speak Spanish and on many occasions when I’d order something marked as vegetarian on a menu it would be served with ham. Fortunately, Spain’s capital city has drastically changed and is now a vegan haven for those who follow a plant-based diet. I was thrilled to find my favorite gluten-free cafe, Celicioso, offers several flavors of vegan cupcakes. I was elated to find a vegan version of tortilla de papa and bocadillo de calamares (a sandwich of vegan fried squid) at Santa y Pura. Pizzi & Dixie is a vegan Italian restaurant with incredible pizza and pasta all made without animal products—the gnocchi are a must-try. To get your vegan cheese fix, dine at Vega and order the vegan burrata.
Avoiding dairy in Italy may seem like an impossible feat, but it’s easier than ever to travel as a vegan in Italy thanks to dedicated plant-based restaurants and a handful of classic Italian dishes that are inherently plant-based—including pizza. Originally from Naples, the first pizza was a simple marinara with tomato sauce, garlic, and green herbs, such as oregano and basil with dough made of flour, water, yeast, and salt. The historic city of Bologna has many offerings for plant-based visitors who want to enjoy traditional Italian cuisine.
Grab an outdoor table at Uno Caffè Olistic and enjoy a vegan brioche and cappuccino to start your day. Be sure to have a meal at the fully vegan Botanica Lab and save room for dessert as they have a vegan crème brulée which is hard to come by. Although Regina Sofia in the city center isn’t a vegan restaurant, they offer the aforementioned marinara pizza and even have gluten-free crust available. While Pan8 is also not strictly vegan, you can choose your ingredients to build your dream plant-based panini with options including pistachio cream, artichokes, and more, or choose from the preset vegan options with plant-based meats and cheeses. Many gelato shops will have vegan-friendly options but the best chocolate gelato is from Venchi—get a scoop or two and enjoy it while taking in the sites of the stunning Piazza Maggiore.