07/28/2014 11:13 am ET | Updated Sep 27, 2014

9 Restaurants Worth a Day Trip in Europe

Everyone knows that European capitals like Paris, London, and Rome are brimming with world-class gastronomy, but some of the world's best restaurants lie outside the city limits. Located in mountain hamlets, industrial suburbs, historic villages, and underappreciated provincial capitals, these 9 spots (all found on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list for 2014) offer destination-worthy dining experiences. From an experimental New Nordic lodge in the wilds of central Sweden to a castle retreat in the Swiss Alps, these restaurants prove that sometimes you have to leave the cities behind to find the most daring, delicious dishes in Europe.

by Nicholas DeRenzo

  • El Celler de Can Roca
    Photo Credit: El Celler de Can Roca: Lemmon Cloud by Renée Suen 孫詩敏 Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs LicenseWhere: Girona, Spain Ranked the world's best restaurant in 2013, El Celler de Can Roca boasts buzzy molecular gastronomy techniques, artful plating, and a dazzlingly epic tasting menu. But at its heart, it's something much simpler: one family's ode to their home, Spain's Catalunya region. Each of the Roca brothers has a dedicated role: Joan is the chef, Josep is the sommelier, and Jordi is the pastry chef. While the presentations are avant-garde—dessert-inspired perfumes, bonsai trees studded with caramelized olives—the flavors of the Iberian Peninsula always shine through. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Girona Guide
  • Mirazur
    Photo Credit: José Luis López de ZubiriaWhere: Menton, France At Mirazur, Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco aims to serve his ingredients with as little intrusion as possible. From his enviable perch on the Côte d'Azur, near the French-Italian border, it's hard to blame him for his culinary minimalism. The freshest Mediterranean seafood is mere minutes away, and his on-site garden yields more than 100 varieties of fruits, herbs, and vegetables. His approach is clearly working: Colagreco was the first non-French chef to be named newcomer of the year by the Gault Millau guide. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Menton Guide
  • Vendôme
    Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Leading Hotels of the WorldWhere: Bergisch Gladbach, Germany Set in a cottage on the grounds of Schloss Bensberg, a 1711 palace-hotel, Vendôme is widely considered the nation's best restaurant. Joachim Wissler may be a pioneer of neue deutsche Küche, or new German cuisine, but the restaurant's name reveals Wissler's outward-facing approach, with French, Italian, and sometimes Asian inspirations peppering the menu. You'll find, for example, classic venison with brown ale, sour sweet cherry, pistachios, and chanterelles—which feels straight out of the Black Forest—next to a fusion dish, such as foie gras with apples, miso, and lychee. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Cologne Guide
  • Fäviken
    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fäviken Magasinet Where: Järpen, Sweden Chef Magnus Nilsson could perhaps be mistaken for a Viking, with his flowing blonde mane and his predilection for hunting and foraging among the rustic wilds of his 20,000-acre estate in rural Sweden. Nilsson has spent his career elevating indigenous Scandinavian ingredients—semi-decomposed birch leaves, moose marrow—to the level of haute cuisine, and a trip to Fäviken, one of the world's most isolated restaurants, serves as the ultimate showcase. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Sweden Guide
  • Vila Joya
    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Vila Joya Hotel and RestaurantWhere: Albufeira, Portugal Perched on a lush cliff overlooking the Algarve coast, Vila Joya, a posh beach resort and spa, houses Portugal's finest restaurant, one of only a two two-Michelin-star spots in the country. Though chef Dieter Koschina hails from Austria, he shows a deep reverence for local ingredients, which you'll often find done up with Northern European techniques. The country's bacalhau (dried and salted cod), for example, comes served confit style with beet coulis and yogurt. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Albufeira Guide
  • De Librije
    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Restaurant De LibrijeWhere: Zwolle, Netherlands Chef Jonnie Boer and his wife, sommelier Therese, grew up a stone's throw from their restaurant, De Librije, in historic Zwolle. Their childhoods were spent getting acquainted with the area's local bounty, often through playful exploration—catching pike-perch, gathering herbs, foraging for mushrooms. Their reverence for the Dutch landscape is equally matched by their connection to its history: The restaurant occupies a 15th-century Dominican abbey library, while their sister hotel, opened in 2008, sits inside the city's converted women’s prison. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Netherlands Guide
  • Schloss Schauenstein
    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Schloss SchauensteinWhere: Fürstenau, Switzerland Chef Andreas Caminada just might rank as the king of Swiss cuisine—appropriate considering that he operates out of a luxurious 18th-century castle, Schloss Schauenstein. Though his restaurant is decidedly off the beaten path, tucked away in one of the world's smallest cities in the middle of the Swiss Alps, Caminada has a strong presence on the international food scene. In fact, he earned his third Michelin star by the age of 33, making him the youngest three-starred chef in all of Europe. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Graubünden Guide
  • Hof Van Cleve
    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hof Van Cleve Where: Kruishoutem, Belgium Chef Peter Goossens elevates the simple spoils of Belgium—such as eel, sea aster, dune asparagus, and endive—to modern masterpieces on his multi-course tasting menus, "Freshness of Nature" and the vegetarian "Field, Garden and Woods." Belgian designers and artists created the furnishings, linens, and glassware you'll find in the dining room at Hof van Cleve, and meals end with a visit from roving carts, stuffed with two of the country's most famous products: chocolate and cheese. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Belgium Guide
  • The Fat Duck
    Photo Credit: Ashley Palmer-Watts Where: Bray, United Kingdom The town of Bray may be quiet, but Heston Blumenthal's surreal culinary experiments are anything but; in fact, some even come complete with soundtracks. Take, for example, his "Sound of the Sea" dish, served with an iPod playing crashing waves. Other multisensory experiences include the brain-tricking bacon-and-egg ice cream and an Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired mock turtle soup that involves dissolving a "pocket watch" (gold-leaf-covered, freeze-dried beef stock) in a cup of broth "tea." Note: The Fat Duck will temporarily relocate to Melbourne for six months during renovations back home in Bray. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's England Guide

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