Day 1 – Brussels
What better place to start a food tour of Europe than the Belgian capital, home to the European Parliament? Any visit to Brussels should kick off in the Grand Place, a medieval square which has remained largely unchanged for 500 years. Take a seat at one of the many pavement cafes, order a coffee, and plan your next move. Before you leave the square, visit the town hall, one of the finest Gothic buildings in the whole of Western Europe.
13:00 – Mussels in Brussels
Lunch in Brussels can only mean one thing, and that's mussels and chips. Moules frites, served with mayonnaise instead of ketchup, is Belgium's national dish and the best place to sample it is at Chez Leon, just off the Grand Place. Although Chez Leon is most famous for mussels, there's plenty of other menu options, and their sweet waffles are particularly good.
15:00 – A spot of shopping
Belgium is also famous for its chocolate, so why not shop for some sweet treats to sustain you through the rest of your culinary adventure? There are dozens of chocolate shops in the narrow streets around the Grand Place. You could easily spend an enjoyable afternoon wandering from one place to the next, sampling the wares at each. One of the best is Passion Chocolat in Rue Brodenbroek, where you can see the expert chocolatiers at work before selecting handmade delicacies to take away.
19:00 – Contemporary Belgian style
One of Brussels' best brasseries is Belga Queen, with an emphasis on modern architecture and contemporary Belgian cooking. Menus change according to the season, and rather than a paper menu you'll be presented with a tablet to select your order. Opt for the seasonal Brewers' Menu if you want to experience the best the restaurant has to offer.
Day 2 – Paris
Paris is the natural starting point for a culinary tour of France, and it's very easy to get to from Brussels. Direct trains from Brussels to Paris take only 1h 25m on the fastest service, and there are departures every 40 minutes on average. With such convenient service, you could easily be in Paris for a late breakfast if you leave early. Paris is the spiritual home of fine dining and cuisine which has inspired much of the world. With limited time in Paris, choose the French capital's absolute best, and make a mental note of other places to return to later.
10:00 – Breakfast a la Paris
Is there anything better than croissants and coffee for a Parisian breakfast? After you arrive at the Gare du Nord station, take the short walk to Rue de Maubeuge and the Boulangerie Banette. Pick up some buttery, flaky, freshly-baked croissants to munch on as you start to explore what one of Europe's greatest cities has to offer. Although the Eiffel Tower is the Paris skyline's most obvious spot for a panoramic view, there's perhaps a better perspective from the top of Sacré-Coeur, if you're prepared to climb the 300 steps to the top of its Basilica.
13:00 – Local lunching
For lunch, steer clear of the main areas frequented by visitors. Eat like the locals instead. The prix fixe, or fixed-price lunch, is a French tradition offering Michelin-star standard cuisine at a price which won't break the bank. One of the best deals at lunch is at Auguste, where the three-course lunch menu costs as little as €39. Book your table and head over to Rue de Bourgogne, near Les Invalides.
19:00 – Hit the streets
At the other end of the culinary range from your fine dining lunch experience is street food, which Paris has in wonderful abundance. One of the best areas for street food is Rue des Rosiers, in the 4th district. There's a distinct Middle Eastern flavour to the fare here, with tiny shops churning out delicious falafel, bagels, and hot meat sandwiches at any time of the day and night.
Day 3 – Frankfurt
Another day, another country. Direct trains from Paris Gare de l'Est station to Frankfurt, Germany's business hub, take just 3h 40m. Take the first-morning departure from Paris to Frankfurt, and you could easily be in Germany in time for lunch, or a late breakfast. Grab some freshly baked pastries in Paris before you board, and eat them as Eastern France whizzes past your window.
13:00 – German favourites
We firmly believe that the best way to get to know a city is on foot, so once you step off the high-speed ICE train in Frankfurt, walk towards the city centre, using the 200-metre tall Main Tower as a landmark. The perfect German lunch on the go is the traditional Frankfurter Wurstchen, pork sausage served in a roll and garnished with sauerkraut. If you're still feeling hungry, pick up a pretzel from a bakery, or a slice of Frankfurt Crown Cake, a tall sponge cake with buttercream and jam, covered in candied nuts.
19:00 – Frankfurt's finest dishes
The Klosterhof restaurant has been keeping the residents of Frankfurt filled with hearty German dishes since 1936. The restaurant's signature dish is beef roulade served with red cabbage and mashed potatoes, washed down with some great German beer. If you're keen to go even more traditional, what about something like the pig's head in jellied broth? Whatever you choose, you'll certainly be charmed by the warm welcome. If the weather's nice, eat outside in the beer garden.
Day 4 – Zurich
Trains from Frankfurt to Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, take just over 4 hours, with a change in Basel. Leave the station and walk straight down Bahnhofstrasse, the city's main shopping street. The street ends at Lake Zurich, so sit and enjoy some stunning views down the lake and beyond to the Alps. If you want to see more of the scenery and lakeside villages, book a round-trip cruise before returning to the city for lunch.
13:00 – Enjoy the local cuisine
Back up on Bahnhofstrasse is the Zeughauskeller, a Zurich institution. The restaurant is housed in a 500-year-old former armoury, and you can still see the swords and spears adorning the walls. This isn't a stuffy fine dining restaurant – diners are seated at long benches, and if it's busy you could end up sharing a table and making some new friends. The house speciality is the schnitzel or breaded pork cutlet. Try it with a Swiss rosti potato cake, or if you want something a bit lighter, the cold platters of locally-cured meats and cheeses are equally excellent.
19:00 – Dip into some fondue
After a hearty, filling lunch of sausage, schnitzel, and rosti, you might struggle to eat another meal later in the evening. However, it would be a shame to move on from Switzerland without trying some fondue. One of Zurich's highest-rated spots for this Swiss mainstay is Le Dezaley, where diners can share some classic cheese fondue, with chunks of fresh crusty bread and potatoes. If you prefer something on the lighter side, check out Langstrasse, where there are plenty of small restaurants serving Thai, Korean, and Middle Eastern snack food.
Day 5 – Milan
All of Europe's best culinary tours must include a stop in Italy, and ours is no exception. The most accessible Italian city from Switzerland is Milan, just 3h 40m away on the fastest trains. Trains from Zurich to Milan follow the Bernina Express route through St Moritz and the Alps to Tirano. It's one of Europe's most spectacular rail journeys, so make sure you select a window seat for the incredible views.
13:00 – Authentic pizza
Although pizza is associated more with Naples, it's also the perfect light lunch in Milan. Pizzium has two branches in central Milan, dishing up delicious pizza cooked to perfection in wood-fired ovens. You can't go wrong with a basic margherita, but if you fancy something a bit different, other toppings include black salami, aubergine, and yellow tomatoes. If you're more on the go, explore the Eataly food market by Piazza XXV Aprile, where you can shop from gourmet food producers, or have a quick bite in little pop-up restaurants. Work off your lunch with a stroll around the city's main sites, from the cathedral to the spectacular Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall.
19:00 – Indulge in Italian specialities
The other dish Milan is famous for is risotto alla milanese, and one of the best places to try it is at Trattoria Milanese in Via Santa Marta, close to the Duomo. The restaurant isn't the fanciest, but the kitchen produces all the things Milan does best – osso buco, pasta, and lots of creamy risotto. Leave space for dessert, though, as you'll want to try gelato, the ice cream which is a national obsession in Italy. One of the best parlours is Terra Gelato, very close to the station. It's open daily until midnight for anyone with a late-night sweet craving.
Cheap train tickets make planning a food tour of Europe straightforward, and provide excellent value for money. Why stick to exploring the food scene in just one European city when you could visit several in a matter of days? We've got all the information, routes, and fares to create a holiday to remember, so find out more on our Trains in Europe page.