From Eastern European flavours to intense Italian indulgences and French fine dining, eating out in Europe has so much to offer every traveller.

Eating out in Europe

Petite portions

In Europe the portion sizes are generally much smaller than you would find in the USA, for example. Feel free to order a small appetizer or starter, followed by a main dish and dessert. The smaller sized dishes are a blessing and not a curse, so don’t be disappointed. The slight restraint on serving size means you have room to everything, so there’s no need for restraint when ordering!

Eating out in Europe

Laid-back service

I can’t speak for the entirety of Europe here, but in the southern region of the continent no one is in a rush. You will order your drink, then a starter, and then you’ll be able to relax, chat and drink wine with family and friends for as much as an hour or two if you’d like, before the server asks if you’re ready for your main meal. Eating out in Europe is a sociable affair. It’s as much about enjoying the atmosphere and chance to reconnect as it is about the food.

Eating out in Europe

Top tips for tipping

In Europe, you don’t have to tip, but you can and it will be happily received. There’s no hard and fast rule and each place will have different expectations when it comes to how much you give. Servers in Europe tend to be paid a bit above minimum wage, but be aware that not all of the tips go straight to them.  

Eating out in Europe

Drinks are expensive

When you’re eating out in Europe and order a drink at a restaurant like Coca Cola or Sprite, you’ll receive a small bottle that seems to carry an extortionate price tag for the size. And if you’re looking for a venue that offers free refills, much like you’ll find in the USA, you’d be better off spending your time searching for a unicorn, unless you head into a chain you could eat at anywhere in the world. Ordering water often involves buying a pricey bottle, too. If you don’t drink soda with ice usually, remember to mention it when ordering.

Breakfasts are charming

When eating out in Europe for the first meal of the day, don’t expect to find lots of breakfast chains or diners plucked from a 1950’s movie set (you’ll want to visit the USA for that). 

Instead, expect to wander the characterful streets of your chosen town or city, looking out for small cafes serving the likes of salmon or avocado toast. Freshly baked pastries – think croissants, brioche and pain-au-chocolat, will also tempt many a traveller. Most restaurants won’t open until 11am – the time many places stop serving breakfast – so cafes, bakeries and even food-serving pubs and bars are your best bets for breakfast.

Eating out in Europe

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eating out in europe

Do you have any questions about eating out in Europe?

16 COMMENTS

  1. You’re totally right about getting tiny glass bottles of drinks for a ridiculous price in Europe! I do love the small portions especially in Spain as it just means you can order loads!

  2. Great idea for a post !! I still always like tipping for service no matter what country I’m in but I do remember how happy some waiters are when they receive a tip cause it’s normally not expected in mainland Europe anyways.

  3. There is definitely a cultural adjustment when dining out in Europe. Meals are so much more relaxed there, and as much as I enjoy that, I do find myself getting frustrated when I want to get back out exploring and can’t find anyone to pay.

  4. Spot on the money with so many of these observations. Even after living in Munich for almost 2 years, I still find myself rushing through some meals before the waiter/waitress has a chance to ask if we need another drink. But, like the smaller portions, this is a blessing and a curse. It does really irk me when they take far too long to come by again, but it is absolutely no issue to just flag them down and ask for what you need, that’s the norm. At the same time, it does force me to slow down, and enjoy the meal and the atmosphere – which is certainly great in those famous Bavarian beer halls!

    Speaking of drink prices – beer is often cheaper than a bottle of water in restaurants in Munich… so stick to the good stuff! It goes better with food anyway 🙂 cheers!

    PS – is there any adjustment, in particular, you found the hardest to get used to?

  5. I love this guide, it’s completely spot on! It’s nice to chill out and enjoy eating out, usually we are all in such a rush to get in and out we forget about what dining out is all about!

  6. If I wasn’t hungry before reading this, I am now! I much prefer eating out in Europe than doing it here in the U.S. The emphasis on enjoying your company as well as your meal, and really taking the time to savor a little bit of everything. Plus, wine is way more affordable! It’s so nice to be able to order a glass or even a whole bottle…after all, you have plenty of time to finish it up!

  7. Reading this definitely made me drool! I find the best gems to eat while travelling around Europe is from local vendors – from currywurst to Turkish street food! Love the local taste!

  8. It’s been many years since I visited Europe, but hope to go again one day. These tips will surely come in handy. I love that the portion sizes are smaller in Europe. I always throw so much food away in the USA because I usually can’t eat it all!

  9. Dead on about the laid back service. The main thing we noticed eating out in Germany a few months ago was that dinner was an experience. In the States I feel like servers are trying to turn tables super quickly–to get more tips obvs– instead of letting you linger and enjoy the experience.

  10. Love the article! I think many European countries have a lot to offer food-wise, and you can definitely recognize their strong culinary history. And currently living in Amsterdam, I have to say breakfast places are the best- we’re quite spoiled when it comes to cute cafes serving delicious buttery pastries 🙂

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