Vegetarian food in Europe – our vegetarian survival guide

posted in: Destinations, Europe, Travel | 52

When we went to Europe recently, we had the same kind of emotions that every vegetarian goes through when traveling far and wide. The biggest anxiety was what if we don’t get proper vegetarian food in Europe? How we will survive a long trip with limited option of Vegetarian food in Europe? Will we get any vegetarian food in Europe and that also easily? And a number of other such questions haunted us. We did a lot of research online, packed a few ready to eat items, prayed, wished ourselves luck and went ahead. And to our delight, it was not at all bad. We sailed through just fine. And at times, we did treat ourselves as well. Surprised? Read on to know our top tips to have a seamless food time in Europe being a vegetarian. And how we found different types of vegetarian food in Europe. The better you are prepared, the better off you will be. And that also on a budget.

Traveling to Europe with a baby or kid
A typical breakfast spread to be expected at a hotel in Europe

Try these vegetarian food in Europe

I must admit that vegetarian food in Europe are limited when it comes to options available. There might be one or two vegetarian recipes in a restaurant or café menu compared to a plethora of non vegetarian recipes of all  kinds. And there are pure vegetarian restaurants and vegan options also available – but they are hard to find and expensive as well. So, while they might be suitable for occasionally treating yourself. But you can’t rely on them for all your meals. We did find a few options of vegetarian food in Europe that were common at certain places, and we stuck to them. Although this didn’t give us much choice in terms of variety but we were still glad to find vegetarian food all across that were good with out pocket as well as stomach. And these being :

Pizza

In Italy, Pizza margarita option is present in almost all the pizza shops and cafes. A large slice, where two slices is good enough for one person, comes at 2 to 2.5 euros. Sometimes, vegetarian pizza slices with mushroom, capsicum etc. were also available at few shops. We had pizzas in almost all the towns we visited in Italy, including Rome, Florence and Venice.

Having a Pizza in Venice
Having a Pizza in Venice

Pasta

Again, an Italian delicacy that you can find in every other restaurant or café. Although, veg options are very limited. Sometimes, no veg options are present. But mostly when we inquired, they were happy to customize and make a veg pasta for us , leaving behind the meat components. And we were equally happy with this option. One serving of pasta costed anywhere between 5-8 euros and was more than sufficient for one person.

Burger

Most of the towns in Europe have chains like Burger King and Mac Donald’s. They had just one veg burger option wherever we went. But we were again more than happy with this option. Since, these outlets could be found easily at every other street. So, whenever we were in crunch of time, we headed to one and sometimes also got our meals packed. A veg burger cost between 2-4 euros in these outlets. Burgers came to our rescue, particularly during our 4 days in Switzerland.

Traveling to Europe with a baby or kid
little one enjoying an afternoon meal of vegan burger and ice cream with us

Fries

Fries are yet another food item that you could find almost everywhere in Europe. Portions of fries are very large there – more than enough for a single person’s meal. And one portion costs anywhere between 4-7 euros. As we moved from west to east Europe, we found fries to be more abundant. Particularly around Belgium and it’s neighboring countries. They complemented our meal needs whenever required

Sandwich

Ready to eat cold vegetarian sandwich is available in most of the grocery stores and bakeries. It costs euro 2-3 most of the time. Not a very appetizing option for Indian taste bud, but a good choice when you don’t have anything else around. My daughter actually Liked them.

Sweets & Desserts

It would be a sin to be in Europe and not to have sweets. There are so many sweet options, vegetarian and safe. Croissants, cream croissants, chocolate, gelatinous and ice creams to name a few.

Venice hop on hop off trip
Our mouth watering dessert platter end of the day in Italy

Indian, Chinese and Thai food in Europe

There are Indian, Chinese and Thai food restaurants in almost every town in Europe. You will need to hunt for them, they will be a little costly but you can satisfy your taste bud at times. We had an Indian vegetarian meal platter once. And we ordered customized vegetarian noodles from a Thai shop at one occasion which was very tasty.

Carry some packaged food with you

We know, you should travel light, pack as little as possible. And food only adds to the burden. But carrying a few items doesn’t hurt. For instance, we carried a small packet of oats, and had them for dinner occasionally with milk, when we were sort of veg options. This was filling, satisfying and extremely economical. However, we won’t suggest you to carry oats, since you can get them easily at a grocery shop there. Also, we carried a few packets of Khakhra which were extremely useful at times. And a few packets of ready to heat and eat food – pretty much that’s it.

Grocery shop whenever possible

Grocery shops are all over, convenient and easy to locate. You can find either raw ingredients and make your own meals or you can pick ready to heat and eat stuff like sandwich and pizza. We profusely shopped for pasteurized milk packs which we and our daughter could consume without needing to boil. A 1 liter container came in the range of 1.8-2.3 euros and lasted a day for all of us together. We prepared coffee and also had oats with the milk at times. We also bought cheese dips to have khakhra with, bread packets to have for dinner at times with other stuff. Bread packets came for less than a euro. Cheese slices, cut salad packages and croissants with jams are other options. You could hunt the grocery shop and might find lots of other vegetarian options which are very economical as well.

Choose accommodations where you have option to cook

Vegetarian food in Europe
Our apartment kitchen in Florence

We stayed at a mix of hotels and flats. We must say, food options were much better at flat. The breakfast was very limited at the flat when compared with the breakfast spread at the hotel. But then, there was a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave, induction cooker, utensils, refrigerator and water heater kettle which meant we could grocery shop as mentioned in the above section. While staying in the flat, each dinner cost us just around 3-5 euros for all 3 of us!!!! We brought home milk and a packet of bread along with cheese slices, heated a ready to eat curry package and we had curry, bread, cheese for dinner. Followed by cup soups. Like we did during our stay at Palazzo Dei Ciompi in Florence.

If staying in hotel, leverage on the breakfast

If you don’t have an option to stay in a flat or serviced apartment, and you are going to stay in hotel, well, you might not be able to prepare dinners as mentioned above. But then you have the option of a lavish breakfast. Most of the hotels in Europe across the cities and smaller towns that we visited, had a good breakfast spread. And there were lots of veg options there. These included, several kind of oat meals and muesli along with milk, bread toast with butter, cheese slices, jam, cut cucumber, tomato etc, which means essentially you can make your own veg sandwich, croissants with jam and chocolate spreads, cupcakes, hot coffee, hot chocolate, crackers, fruits and fruit juices etc. etc. So, basically when at hotel, you can have a very lavish breakfast. What we want to say is stretch your belly a little and park something extra there, just in case you find it difficult to locate veg food options during the day

Rely on fruits

You get good quality fresh fruits in all local markets and supermarkets across Europe. We relied a lot on bananas, apples, pears etc. during our trip. They were not costly and they were quiet nutritional as well as energizing. Particularly the bananas are quiet large. So much so that one proved enough for my lunch 🙂

A fruit market in Venice
A fruit market in Venice

Carry some energy food all the time with you

Bars of chocolate, dry fruits, pack of yogurt, energy and nutrition bars etc. were my energy boosters when proper veg food options were not around. Carry some with you all the time to satisfy those sudden pans of hunger or carving.

Install happy cow

I was really happy with the happy cow app. Someone had recommended in their blog and I stumbled upon it while researching for vegetarian food options. I installed the free version of the app. It was really helpful. Only thing is it needs WIFI connection. Which you will anyways have in your accommodation and also on most of the airports, train stations, cafes and restaurants. The app searches for 1) vegan restaurants 2) vegetarian restaurants 3) restaurants with vegetarian and vegan options along with the non-vegetarian options 4) grocery shops nearby. It can search based on either your current location or specific to a city.

Some general tips

  1. Pack your food in advance for the next meal as soon as you spot some veg option suitable for you. As, you might not get one all the time
  2. In Italy, pizza and pasta options are in abundant
  3. In central and eastern Europe, fries and burgers are easily available
  4. Bread, cheese, curd, jam and croissants are available all across
  5. Prepare some meals on your own in your apartment. It is fun as well as the most economical option
  6. Carry some ready to eat food with you, don’t overload and leave items that you will easily get there. Carry something that you like and that you might not get there easily.
Vegetarian Food In Europe | Vegetarian survival guide in Europe | Vegetarian Breakfast
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52 Responses

  1. I have to say I really love this post! All those foods in Europe are incredibly yummy! I love the fresh fruit markets and fresh juices, especially in spain and of course the gelato and pizza of Europe! I even found a pizza in Rome that more resembled a cake!
    Great post and you got me dreaming of Europe again!

  2. Great writeup! Never needed to eat Vegan food but these are some places you have mentioned here and I am definitely going to one of these places!

  3. Glad to see so many options are available for vegetarians in Europe. This guide will be helpful for sure. Thank you 🙂

  4. Great list for vegetarians! I’m not vegetarian but I like having the option once in a while. I find that it’s much easier to find vegan and vegetarian options in Europe than in Asia

  5. These are such good tips. I’m not a veggie, but I’ve often wondered when travelling through Europe how vegetarians cope, especially in Central/Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. But you are right, Italy is so good for veggies, especially Naples where the Margherita Pizza Neopolitan Style is king! I’m going to pass this to my veggie friends.

    • Oh I do want to visit Naples next. Great you told me about the Margherita Pizza . Not going to miss it.

  6. Looking for veggie food in Europe used to be a challenge until a few years ago. Luckily, now Vegetarian and vegan meals are rising in popularity (because of health reasons) all over the world and Europe is no exception. There are some outstanding food choices available in most cities, beyond the usual food we tend to resort to.

    • You are right. Still, they are not that abundant. Hope the trend continues and more varieties get added for vegetarians and vegans to enjoy

  7. This is great for me as I have plans to visit Europe next year! I’m also vegetarian so it’s good to know the options available to me. I love pizza and pasta so I might be in heaven when in Italy. The Happy Cow App is also a good one!

  8. Okay, so now I know about the Happy Cow app. I guess there is a business case here for couchsurfers in Europe who can position themselves on the veg food options.

    • 🙂 Definitely. The options are increasing for vegetarians but not at a great speed. Still the choices are limited. And thus, not one but several business cases can be spun around from this need

  9. Europe is full of fantastic places to eat – even for vegetarians. I’ve not hard of Happy Cow – really cool app. My partner is veggie only so I’m sure he’ll appreciate it!

    • Surely! The app shows Vegetarian options available city wise even if offline. And when connected to wifi, you can see options available right in your neighborhood. And what’s more, it all comes in the basic version which is absolutely free.

  10. yucatanguide

    I am surprised that you had trouble finding veg food in Europe. Did you mean vegan? It is always smart to plan ahead and carry some essentials as you did. The Happy Cow app sounds very useful.

    • No, it was not vegan. As I said, I could get vegetarian food, but mostly the options on the menu list used to be quiet limited

  11. Now here’s a post that is ever so helpful for vegetarian travellers. I am usually bombarded with questions about vegetarian food in Europe by friends and clients alike.

    Each point has been backed up with experience and that goes to show that its immensely helpful.

    Post saved for future reference.

  12. interesting post about veg options in Europe, surely follow your tips when planning my trip

  13. It is true that in many European countries, the main meals are still meat-based. However, an ever-increasing number of vegetarian (and even vegan!) places is popping up and every restaurant should offer vegetarian choices as well.
    Yet, Pasta, Burger, Pizza and Fries are not the most healthy options Even though I’m not a strict vegetarian, I sometimes often like to go for nice salad options with goat cheese or tomato-mozzarella cheese.

    I didn’t know about Happy Cow, sound like an essential travel companion for vegetarians!

    • You are right. The only pain is the limited options on the menu for vegetarians. But purely vegan outlets are slowly coming out, so, I guess scenario might change in next couple of years a lot. I know pizza, pasta and burger are not the best ones when it comes to health. That is why we tried to balance that off with a lot of fruits, dry fruits and self cooked meals 🙂

  14. Neha has the best guide ever. I’m sure veggies out there would find this post detailed and informative. Being a veggy can be pretty hard but here you have it, you survived in Europe even with the little one. Thanks for the informative post.

  15. I used to be a vegetarian before moving to Korea! After seeing these amazing pictures I miss my European food…

    • Oh..is it? I can imagine how difficult it would be to survive as a vegetarian in Korea 🙂

  16. finaciofotografia

    In a few countries it is not easy to be vegetarian but thanks God that in most of Europe it is easy to find in most restaurants at least one veg meal. But the best for me it is to cook our own meal in the hostel as you suggest 🙂

  17. Wow! It is a good thing that you were able to find some really good food to eat while in Europe. Pizza and pasta are absolutely yummy. Someday I would like to try them too. I think the accommodation is good. It gives you a chance to cook what suits to your taste.

    • Right Steven. If the accommodation gives you a chance to cook your own food, it’s always an advantage

  18. Alexander Popkov

    Well, there is lots of vegetarian food in Europe! 🙂 I think almost every restaurant offers it.

    • Not really! Yes in big cities, but in smaller ones, you have to really dig to find it. And it also depends on what you mean by vegetarian food. For us Indians, is it no egg, no meat, no chicken, no animal/bird meat of any form

  19. As someone working in a hotel, knowing this kind of information is essential for guests who are looking for this. This is very informative!

  20. That is such a comprehensive post for vegetarians ! I think I would like to try some options myself. Happy cow – that is such an interesting name for an app ! I love trying out local fruits and vegetables and if there is an option of making a quick meal, I am up for it. Great post again Neha.

    • Thank you Swati. Definitely, I will recommend you to try happy cow. It is a free app and it was of great help to us at times

  21. I’m not a vegetarian, but it’s cool to know that there are options for everyone! Carrying energy food may be one useful option. It never hurt to have ready-to-eat snacks for an energy burst when you’re out exploring, right? And preparing your meals at your accommodation (if permitted) sounds really wise! Great tips! 🙂

  22. Being vegetarian myself I cherished your post on vegetarian food in Europe. And delighted to know about happy cow app.

  23. Lovely blog, loved the ideas and thank you for sharing your experiance. I found very easy to find vegetarian food in Europe and really tasty too. I loved going to the farmers markets for fruits and snacks.

    • Thanks Yogita. Yes, that’s why I said, you should know where to look for your veg options 🙂

  24. cheerstoawonderfulworld

    Interesting that you consider vegetarian food to be difficult to find in Europe. I personally think it’s a shame to rely on the big fast food chains, when European cuisine has so much to offer. I’d like to add to your tips that you can find a vegetarian options in 90% of European restaurants and bakeries and supermarkets are great for easy and cheap veggie snacks.

    • Can’t totally agree. Many a times, we ended in restaurants that didn’t have any veg options. Although we were in the main cities. It might as well be because the definition of ‘vegetarian’ that varies from region to region. In India, vegetarian is no egg, no meat, no chicken and a lot of other nos… 🙂

  25. yogawinetravel

    Great tips! I’m not vegetarian but eat very little red meat, and I’ve found that Europe has great options. I especially love the fresh food markets, we always try to pick up lots of fruit and it’s always such a bargain.

  26. hi
    such a thoughtful article , well presented and bought out with clarity of thought , comprehensively done 🙂

    rgds

    sumit

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