It’s 2am. You’ve spent the night sinking bottles of pinot in a tiny French bar or embracing sweaty armpits in a basement nightclub in Berlin. Numb in all 10 toes and covered in a sticky film of sweat and Belvedere, you stumble into the fresh European night with a gaggle of new friends (or, if you’re lucky, a local lover). What a time to be alive! Visions of soft pillows are dancing through your head, but first – FOOD.
Back home, you know every Maccas in a three-kilometre radius. But here, in a strange new city on the other side of the planet, things are different. Where do you go? What should you eat? And with what money? You’ve already blown most of your Euros on beer and bus tickets. Never fear, friend – we’ve got your back. Presenting our handy city guide to Europe’s tastiest, cheapest, carbiest, greasiest late-night street eats. Warning: extreme mouth watering may occur.
Zapiekanka – Krakov, Poland
Forget borscht or pierogies – the zapiekanka is Krakov’s most popular cheap snack. A long baguette topped with grilled mushrooms, onions, cheese and ketchup – and anything else your stomach desires – the ‘zap’ is basically a pizza-slash-sandwich hybrid. Have you ever heard of anything more beautiful? The best place to grab a late-night zap is the rotunda at Plac Nowy Square, in the middle of the old Jewish district. A zapiekanka should set you back around 10 zlotys (just a few dollars). Prepare for long lines and just rewards.
Credit: Otwarte Klatki
Currywurst – Berlin, Germany
You can’t go to Berlin – party queen of the world – and not try a currywurst. It’s like going to NYC and skipping a hot dog. Currywurst is fat pork sausage that is steamed, fried, and served with hot chips and a special curry ketchup. The snack became popular amongst construction workers when they were rebuilding the city after World War II. According to tradition, every candidate for Burgermeister (mayor) of Berlin has their photo taken at a currywurst stand. Why kiss babies when you can eat a delicious sausage instead!
You’ll find currywurst vendors all over the city (including those selling vegan options), but one of the most famous is Curry 36 in Kreuzberg. The queues are pretty epic any time of the day or night, but it’s always worth it.
Langos – Budapest, Hungary
If you think Berlin’s nightlife is crazy, wait til you get to Budapest. In the early 2000s, people starting turning abandoned buildings in the city’s dilapidated Jewish Quarter into edgy underground bars and clubs known as ‘ruin pubs’. Chances are you’ll find yourself at one of these establishments at some point during your stay, so naturally, you’ll be needing some greasy grub to soak up all those shots of palinka (Hungarian fruit brandy). Enter langos.
Langos is a deep-fried flat bread often smothered in garlic spread or cheese and sour cream. It’s not fancy, but the extensive langos buffet at Retro Bufe in the Arany Janos metro station (open til 6am on weekends) is a local favourite. A langos from here won’t cost you much dough (get it?), but it will clog your arteries.
Credit: Kathryn Burrington
Crepes – Paris, France
They seem almost too classy to be a booze-soaking, late-night-wandering snack, but this is Paris after all, darlings. In the city of love, crepes are always a good idea, no matter the time of day or night. Whether you want sucre (sweet) or sale (salty), you’ll find vendors selling these affordable pockets of deliciousness throughout the city, but for the most choice, head to the Boulevard du Montparnasse. Here you’ll find creperie after creperie, selling everything from plain sugar to Nutella and strawberry or a classic ham, egg and cheese galette. Even better – you’ll rarely pay over five or six euros. Bon appetit!
Doner kebab – Istanbul, Turkey
This one probably comes as no surprise. Kebabs may have become a favourite late-night snack all over the world, but nowhere makes ‘em as good as Turkey. Juicy, smoky meat is shorn straight from the rotisserie, smothered in sauce, spiked with chilli and then topped with thick-cut chips. Haloumi is a great vego option.
You’ll find street-side stalls and restaurants selling late-night kebabs all over the city, from the tangled streets of Beyoglu to the tourist district over the Bosphoros. If you find yourself on Istiklal Caddesi (Istanbul’s chaotic shopping boulevard) in the wee hours of the morning, you should also grab some fresh mussels with lemon from the big vats lining the street (charged per shell).
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