There is perhaps no better way to explore a culture than through food and drink. From the sweet treats at Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont to the savory flavors of Japan’s noodle dishes, here are 10 places around the world to treat your taste buds:
Through a glass tunnel you can watch a bottling plant, decelerated for easier comprehension, and then taste some 60 global Coca-Cola products. The site also has advertisements from 1905 onward and a Pop Culture gallery. While most exhibits are solidly promotional, one covers 1985’s doomed “New Coke” launch. Travel tip: The self-guided tours last 1.5-2 hours.
Covering bread’s 6,000-year impact on human history, this museum features no actual bread, but rather the tools used to make it. It includes a gallery of bread artworks by Picasso and others, and has exhibits celebrating bread’s religious significance. Travel tip: Open daily, the museum is in the 16th-century Salzstadel in Ulm’s old city. A local specialty is Ulmer zuckerbrot (sugar bread).
Watch as giant machines mix and stir the basic ingredients, add chunks and swirls of fruit, caramel, or nuts, and fill the 1-pint containers with finished ice cream, which heads for the spiral hardener and the final freezing. Then taste-test the flavors of the day. Before leaving, you can wander the Flavor Graveyard, where a selection of the less successful flavors are memorialized. Travel tip: The factory is open daily except major holidays. The tour lasts 30 minutes, with free samples at the end. The site also includes a picnic area and shop.
Yokohama City, Japan
This lively museum-cum-historical theme park celebrates everything to do with raumen, the popular Japanese noodle and broth dish. Displays include one on the history of noodle-making and collections of raumen-related utensils and dishes, while the lower floors house a re-creation of Tokyo streets in 1958 — the year that instant noodles were created — with shops, bars, and raumen restaurants each featuring dishes from different parts of Japan. Travel tip: Close to JR Shin-Yokohama station, 15-45 minutes from central Tokyo, depending on method of transportation.
The city of Szeged in southeast Hungary is a leading producer of salami and paprika. The Pick company opened its salami factory here in 1869, and paprika has been produced in the city since the mid-18th century. The Pick factory houses a museum explaining the history and manufacture of both. Travel tip: The museum is open afternoons, Tuesdays through Saturdays, except public holidays and Christmas. For guided tours in English, reserve a week ahead.
So vital is Calabria’s chili (peperoncino) that it appears even in desserts like crostata del diavolo (devil’s tart). The museum in Maiera’s ducal palace was founded by Calabria’s chili society and display paintings and examples of around 150 chili varieties. Travel tip: The museum is open seasonally, so check ahead. To reach Maiera, take a Naples-Diamante train (2.5-3.5 hours), then a bus or taxi. September sees Diamante’s Peperoncino Festival.
Founded in 1986, the museum houses a collection of 5,000 mustards from around the world, together with memorabilia such as antique mustard pots and old advertisements, and displays explaining how mustard is made. In the shop you can sample as many of the featured mustards and buy your favorites. Travel tip: The museum began in Mount Horeb, but is now located in Middleton and is open daily except major holidays.
Vevey hosts food-giant Nestle’s global headquarters. Overlooking Lake Geneva, the Alimentarium covers Nestle’s history since 1867 but also has sections on cooking, eating, the history of food production, the senses and food, and the digestion process. Travel tip: The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, and has a special section for kids. Book ahead for English-language guided tours. Vevey is an hour by train from Geneva.
This fun-sized museum offers plentiful chances to taste — and sniff — chocolate and to trace various stages in its production. Explore chocolate’s history form its origins in Aztec culture to more recent developments, such as the invention of praline in Belgium in the 20th century and even cocoa’s cosmetic uses. Travel tip: A 17-th century building off Brussels’s Grand Place hosts the museum. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays, and daily in July and August, except on public holidays.
London has long majored in tea-trading, while its 17th-century coffeehouses were important wheeling-and-dealing locations for the city’s insurance and commodity brokers. Bramah’s explains London’s role in the history of tea and coffee and has a tearoom serving ice cream teas — a pot of tea and scones spread with thick cream and jam. Travel tip: Open daily except December 25-26.
This list originally appeared in National Geographic’s
Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe. The story was updated with a new headline in November 2018.