7 tricky European cities for vegans

Struggling to avoid animal products abroad? If you can manage in these cities, you can manage anywhere, writes strict vegan Rosie Driffill.

Hummus may be catching on across Europe, but eating well as a vegan isn’t just about getting your basic needs met. On holiday, as at home, a little variety doesn’t go amiss, but choice is seldom the order of the day when it comes to vegan grub. One might be forgiven for snubbing seaside towns, cities with sub-zero winters and, well, anywhere where folks will flesh out their menus with as much meat and fish as tradition dictates.

In my personal experience, places like these tend to show the least mercy to the travelling vegan. But before you forgo any destination in favour of playing it safe, consider the following survival tips that won’t see you starve…

1. Naples

The Bay of Naples, where fresh fish and locally-sourced mozzarella are on hand to satisfy the non-meat eater, doesn’t have a great deal in the way of vegan food. Save from removing the cheese from an otherwise vegetable heavy – and rather humdrum – ensemble, chefs’ means of accommodating the vegan diet are satisfactory at best. It’s also typical for Neapolitan waiters to pass comment on your dish of choice, or, when requesting something suitable for vegans, to stare and cry oddio! or perché!?

How to get by: If you don’t want incredulous waiters to scoff while you… scoff, it’s worth doing a little planning before ordering a pecorino salad without the pecorino. In terms of eating out, some of the few vegetarian restaurants like Sorriso Integrale (Piazza Bellini) do serve up tasty vegan options, while specialist pizzerias like Da Michele (Via Cesare Sersale) offer pizza alla marinara, whose three ingredients – tomatoes, garlic and oregano – make for a delicious vegan bite. Lunches on the go can be managed if you stop by any small deli and stock up – most sell fresh baguettes and interesting fillings like olives, oil-soaked artichokes and sliced aubergine.

Need to cool down? While cities such as Florence and Venice have embraced soya ice cream like it was going out of fashion, only Caffe Augusto on the nearby isle of Capri serves up soy gelato.

2. Dundee

To say Dundee was the worst town in Scotland for vegans would be unfair, but for its size, the range of options isn’t great. Where stodgy meats and butter-soaked pastries are plentiful when winter creeps in, you’ll be hard pressed to find a roasted vegetable wrap atop the bakery stands. Small cafes and take-away stands won’t have much in the way of vegan dishes, unless you’re prepared to eat baked beans for the duration of your stay. And as for soya milk – forget it. Unless you fancy being branded a hippy and chuckled at shrilly, stick to black coffee.

How to get by: Vegetarian B&B Alberta Guesthouse (Forfar Road) makes for a good base, as vegan breakfasts, complete with mushrooms, tomatoes, toast with soy butter, potato waffles, beans and Linda McCartney sausages, can be easily adapted from the vegetarian version. As far as lunch and dinner goes, look to specialist stores, such as The Health Food Store (Commercial Street), for bags of tortillas, pulses, and dairy-free dips, as well as vegan cheese and cereal bars. When dining out, try Italian restaurant Bellini Dundee (Commercial Street): for vegans, starters such as focaccia ai pomodorini e oregano (focaccia with tomatoes and oregano), and mains like penne arrabiata (without the spicy sausage) are both tasty and filling.

Want to chow down on some haggis? The vegetarian version is becoming more widely available, but most recipes require eggs as a binding agent. Try asking Drouthy’s (Perth Road) if they’ll adapt their vegetarian version to suit a vegan diet – some places are willing to prepare an alternative if you request it in advance. Failing that, they do rustle up a lovely hummus and roasted red pepper sandwich…

3. Riga

When it comes to choosing a city break, the chilly Latvian capital might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but among vegans, it’s likely to fall even lower on the must-see list. As in many former Soviet countries bordering Russia, it can be tricky to order a meal without meat, let alone without dairy: here, mayonnaise, sour cream and butter find their way into almost everything. A friend of mine once visited Riga and tried to get by on a lactose-free diet; he lived, but he ate that many pistachios in place of proper meals he noticed an outbreak of calluses on his fingers from all the shelling.

How to get by: To avoid nut-induced repetitive strain injury, make the most of the vegan/vegetarian restaurants available. According to happycow.net this blowy Baltic city has one of the former and four of the latter, meaning a varied diet is possible on your trip but not exactly cheap. If you want something on-the-go, street food is not to be snubbed: a piping mug of borscht soup (without the almost inevitable drizzle of cream – make sure you utter a well-timed ‘nyet!) or a doughy piroshky with a cabbage or berry filling are great for tiding you over.

4. Scarborough

After trawling round this seaside town for what seemed like hours in search of vegetarian chips (most chips are fried in beef dripping, not vegetable oil), I wonder if my inclusion of Scarborough is more a nod to my aching, frozen limbs than a warranted feature. On a serious note, British seaside towns are awash with fish terrines and battered meats, but don’t always cater well for people on vegan diets (coeliacs might struggle too – chips are often coated in gluten as a result of their being fried in the same oil used for fish batter).

How to get by: To its credit, Scarborough has a fantastic all-vegan restaurant and take-away called C-A-L-F (62 Eastborough Road near the seafront). Diners will find bagels, hot meals and a range of sandwiches, not to mention indulgent vegan desserts. Cafe Venus (Ramshill Road) serves vegan options as well. However, the fried food, chewy candy and ice cream remain largely the preserve of the omnivore; only Small Fry on North Street serves chips in vegetable oil. For picnic food, try stocking up in Fairchild’s Green Shop (Victorian Road), where you’ll find organic and locally sourced fruit, vegetables, jams, spreads and juice.

5. Faro

The number of vegetarians in Portugal was estimated at 200,000 in 2012, a figure somewhat dwarfed by the number of British who claimed to be vegetarians that same year: about 4 million. In a country where veganism is still in its neonatal stages, finding a restaurant outside the capital that caters specifically for vegans isn’t exactly child’s play. In the southern city of Faro, you’ll be hard pushed to find anything on the menu that doesn’t have a face: where meat doesn’t reign supreme, you can bet it’ll be ‘catch of the day’ scrawled across the restaurant’s chalkboards.

How to get by: Restaurants Gengibre E Canela (Rua Santo Antonio) and O Ribatejano (Rua de S. Luis) both serve vegan dishes; try the former for a spiced tofu and courgette ensemble followed by a vegan chocolate mousse to finish, and the latter for raviolis with quinoa and millet. For something quick to take to the beach, take advantage of the North African influence on local gastronomy and opt for something legume-y; Faro is full of take-away cafes stocked to the nines with tubs of hummus, olives, pita and falafel, so make like a Moroccan and go all out on the finger food.

6. La Rochelle

For a sprawling seaside metropolis, La Rochelle, on the west coast of France, has surprisingly few vegan/vegetarian restaurants. Only ‘veg-friendly’ options exist, though it wouldn’t hurt to be cautious as a vegan: where the salads may not contain cheese, they’re leafy exterior is bound to belie some buttery or honey-glazed truth. From La Rochelle to St Jean Dangely to the east, simple cuisine relies on stoic centrepieces made up of meat, fish or cheese.

How to get by: A stay at the Vieux Monastere (Rue St Martin) will set you up for the day: providing nutritionally-balanced vegan meals, this rustic countryside retreat is known for its flesh-free ethos. When taking lunch in the city, go for breads and oils, fries and fruit salads; for dinner, best to opt for pizzas without the cheese, pasta with tomato-based sauces and… Chinese food. Le Jardin des Saisons (Boulevard Joffre), for example, serves up delicious rice-based dishes with locally-sourced, seasonable vegetables, most without even a whiff of fish sauce.

7. Århus

Probably owing to Århus’ large student population, vegan restaurants do exist: Rabar (Vester Alle 15), for example, serves all manner of vegan delights from sushi to ice cream. There’s not much scope for vegan dining in general, however, and a balanced, relatively cheap diet will require some good prior research.

How to get by: While not exactly famed for their love of vegan cuisine, Danes are big on organic produce. Even in the cheapest grocery stores, there’s enough supply to meet one of the biggest demands for organic fare in Europe, so stocking up on fresh snacks is a doddle. Larger supermarkets do sell soy milk, soy yoghurts, vegan cheese and tofu, not to mention hummus, seitan and millet, but they don’t come cheap.

Lucky, then, that Århus has a huge ‘dumpster living’ culture complete with Facebook groups and organised ‘dives’ (it’s even possible to arrange for a car to pick you up and transport your ware home post-forage)! And if, after all that, you need something to slake your thirst, rest assured – Danish Carlsberg is vegan friendly.

15 Of The Best European Destinations To Visit This November

Travelling to Europe in November is the best of both worlds, not only will you get to see famous destinations without hordes of tourists, you won’t have to endure hot, humid weather. Many destinations in Europe are not yet in the heart of winter come November, so you can still enjoy a spot of sunshine also knowing that costs are cheaper as you’re travelling during low season. Check out MyBaggage.com’s guide to the 15 European destinations that need to be on your to-do list.

Athens

Forget the crowds and warm Greek summers, the best time to see Athens is in November. Mild temperatures with highs of up to 18 degrees will make sightseeing pleasant and bearable. There will be no ques to worry about and you’ll be able to spend your time taking in the Acropolis, exploring museums and taking in the sights of the city. Make sure to try some baklava, take in a street art sightseeing tour and explore the many open flea markets in Athens to bag yourself a bargain.

Madrid

The warm summers in Madrid can make visiting unbearable, so November offers the perfect excuse to enjoy the Spanish Capital. The perfect city for any art buff, spend your time exploring an area dubbed the golden triangle, where some of the most impressive museums are located. When you’re not soaking in a Picasso, tuck into churros and warm hot chocolate for brunch, enjoy tapas and paella for dinner and be sure to hit the thriving nightlife scene.

Naples

Naples is often overlooked as an Italian destination; however, it has plenty to offer, even in the month of November. This is low season so you can expect lower prices, fewer crowds and comfortable mild weather, perfect for exploring.

There is so much to see and do in Naples from exploring the archaeological treasure of Pompei or Herculaneum to tucking into a slice of pizza in the city where it was born. There are also plenty of castles, churches, piazzas and ancient catacombs.

Lisbon

Give the summer crowds a miss and explore Lisbon in November. Enjoy roasted chestnuts, visit one of the best food markets in the neighborhood of Mouraria and treat yourself to a well-deserved coffee and pastry break, enjoying the best Portuguese tarts the country has to offer.

Expect mild weather with highs of 18 degrees, but always prepare for rain or colder days and make sure to wear layers and bring an umbrella.

The Canary Islands

Maybe you’re after some much-needed winter sun? Look no further than the Canary Islands. A favourite amongst holidaymakers for decades, these seven islands each other a unique experience for any tourist. With guaranteed sunshine and highs of 23 degrees, good food, culture and plenty of sights to explore this is a firm favourite for anyone looking for a European break in November. Each island has its own individual draw, we’ve outlined what makes each so special below.

Lanzarote

A popular island with tourists, Lanzarote has resorts and self-catering options. A volcanic island that offers great opportunities for anyone wishing to explore volcanoes, relax on its pristine beaches or go on a camel trek in its national park. Expect whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and culture.

Gran Canaria

Choose Gran Canaria if you want to relax by the beach. This island boasts 60km of beaches, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Check out the sand dunes, reward yourself with some rest and relaxation at one of the many spas or explore the national park in the west of the island.

Fuerteventura

Beating Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura has over 150km of beaches. It is a windsurfers paradise and the island also offer many other watersport activities. Beaches are the main draw, so if you want to spend your trip catching some rays and soaking up the winter sun then this is the place for you.

Tenerife

If golf is your thing, then Tenerife is the island for you! Boasting eight golf courses and guaranteed sunshine it makes for the perfect golf destination in November. For nature enthusiasts, you can enjoy whale watching or challenge yourself to a walk in the Tiede national park with Spain’s highest mountain. Accommodation is a mix of resorts and self-catering options.

La Palma

A smaller island that is less developed tourist wise, La Palma is known for being a national starlight reserve. The island is a stargazer’s paradise, no trip to La Palma would be complete with a tour to the Muchachos Observatories, located 2,420m above sea level, it offers unrivalled views of the night sky. This island also offers black sandy beaches, a quaint capital city and offshore diving. Unlike the main four islands, you are more likely to rent a holiday home or stay in a bed and breakfast, as there are few resorts.

La Gomera

This magical island is a world biosphere reserve. Boasting ancient laurel forests and the pre-Hispanic whistling language of Silbo. La Gomera is an island that just keeps on giving. Like La Palma, there are few resorts, expect to look for a holiday home or smaller run hotels.

El Hierro

The little island of El Hierro is 100% sustainable making it an eco-travellers dream destination. The island offers everyone free wifi so you’ll never be cut off. This is the smallest of the Canary Islands but offers plenty of sun, sea and sand. Explore the rich biosphere at its national parks, have a go at diving and marvel at the underwater marine life and just sit back and relax and let island life take over.

Istanbul

November is the best month to visit Istanbul just before the winter weather arrives. This is the low season and you will enjoy fewer crowds, cheaper prices and pleasant temperatures with highs of 21 degrees and an average temperature of 15. Spend your days wandering through the Grand Bazar, exploring the city’s museums and visiting the famous Hagia Sophia.  After all, that walking treats yourself to a traditional Turkish bath and then hit the town and take in the many restaurants and bars that this city has to offer.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Move over Amsterdam, Ljubljana is the quirky capital city in Europe that you need to visit this year. Named Europe’s greenest city, Ljubljana offers canals, coffee shops, castles, winter markets and plenty of culture and history.

If you are into good cuisine, you will be spoilt for choice. Indulge at Restaurant Strelec or Gostilna Na Grudo, located in the castle. Both offer authentic Slovenian cuisine with breathtaking views of the city. If you want to enjoy a glass of red, there is a growing wine culture, with local craft breweries and a brewer’s union. It’s rumoured that the Italians come to Ljubljana for foodie tours, which is a seal of approval.

Visiting in November means the weather will be chilly with an average temperature of 9 degrees. But there truly is nothing more magical than taking in the sight of snowy mountain backdrops whilst exploring the city’s Christmas markets with a hot chocolate in hand. If you fancy a day trip out of the city Lake Bled is the best bet, this exquisite alpine lake is overlooked by an island church complete with castle fit for a fairytale.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Visiting the Bay of Kotor during the summer months means hordes of tourists, warm humid weather and high prices. If you really want to discover this fantastic location, check it out during low season in November, not only will you have the luxury of exploring most of the sights yourself you will benefit from cheap costs and perfect weather for exploring with highs of 17 degrees.

Spend your holiday exploring the old town, hiking to the viewpoint above the city or exploring the coast and views of the Adriatic Sea. If you want to take in some history Kotor offers old city barracks and plenty of cobbled passageways to while away time getting lost in. If you fancy getting out of the city there are plenty of attractions close by, such as a stunning Roman Villa from 2AD in Risan, featuring complete mosaics and Our Lady of the Rocks, which is a 15th-century island church located in Perast.