Vegan-Friendly Travel Destinations for 2019

The last couple weeks or so I’ve been feeling particularly stir-crazy.  The weather here has not been great and it’s been forcing me to stay indoors more than usual.  Adding to the wet milieu is a general irritation with urban living – the incessant noise, construction, and chaos of life in a city of 3 million people.  During the long hours of rain-induced confinement, facing a less than inspiring view through the tiny windows of my basement apartment, I find that all my focus and attention is dedicated to traveling, and planning for my next potential destination.

I’ll be taking a trip to France in August, but that still seems very far away, and in the interim, I thought I’d try to alleviate my restlessness by putting together this list of places that I’m hoping to visit soon.

For me, trying new restaurants and local food is one of the greatest joys and motivations for traveling.  At one time, being vegan meant that any culinary adventures we’re restricted to a handful of cities – but thankfully that’s no longer the case!   Cities across the globe have undergone a massive transformation in the last few years, as they adapt to the increasing demand for plant-based food, with vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and grocery stores popping up in some very surprising locations.

Edinburgh, Scotland
How did Scotland, a country whose national dish is a pudding made from animal lungs and other organs, become an up and coming vegan hot spot?  Edinburgh, Scotland’s illustrious, centuries-old capital, has well over 200 restaurants entries on Happy Cow.  If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, check out Vegan in Edinburgh, for a comprehensive and very visual tour of all the cities many plant-based options.  Topping my list of places to try are Harmonium, a Bar+Kitchen with an impressively large menu that includes a tasty sounded Surf N Turf option,  and Beetroot Savage, a yoga studio and cafe that serves an all-day breakfast, smoothies, sweets, and a vegan cheese plate, reputed to be the one of the best in the country.

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Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw seems to be one of the more inconspicuous European capitals. It may not have the renown and popularity of places like Paris, London, and Berlin, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less charming, scenic and enthralling.  Warsaw has a rich, though sometimes turbulent, history to explore, a diverse art scene, a compelling mixture of old and new architecture and a thriving food scene, which includes a whopping 49 completely vegan restaurants.  In 2018, Warsaw placed #7 in Happy Cow’s “Top Vegan-Friendly Cities In the World.”  Polish vegan burger chain, Krowarzywa has even been voted best burger in Warsaw in several online polls, beating out its many meaty counterparts!

polishburger

Paris, France
France is one of the irrefutable culinary champions, but their food has always had a reputation for relying heavily on animal products.  Meat, butter, dairy, and eggs are fundamentals.  Despite this, veganism appears to have made huge in-roads in the country, and its glamorous and legendary capital is no exception.  In fact, by all accounts, with Paris’ thriving vegan scene, you’ll be able to indulge in many plant-based versions of all your favourite French Delicacies.  I’ll be able to report back in more detail after my trip in August, but for now, I’m drooling over photos of vegan croissants from Cloud Cakes.

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Brasilia, Brazil
While the landlocked Brazilian capital often takes a back seat to the more glamorous and scenic coastal cities like Rio, it has a substantial vegan scene with a diverse selection of cuisines to choose from.  A lot of it looks to be rich and hearty food.  There are also several places that offer a veganized version of traditional Brazilian dishes, so you won’t feel left out on the local food culture.  Brasilia’s even got your sweet tooth covered too with Cannelle Doces Especias, a vegan bakery that serves ice cream, chocolates, cakes, and pies!

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Ho Chi Ming City, Vietnam
A lot has changed in the sprawling and densely populated Vietnamese city since the Fall of Saigon in 1975.  The city and country has emerged out of one of the darkest and most brutal conflicts in our recent history, to become one of Asia’s economic and cultural powerhouses, as well as a popular tourist destination.  There is also a huge amount of vegan options in the city, covering a broad array of cuisines as well as Vietnamese classics and all the Pho you can handle. Happy Cow has 83 restaurants listed as completely vegan!
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Oia, Santorini, Greece
Santorini has one vegan restaurant, Katharos Lounge, and a handful of other veg-friendly eateries, but the fact that Katharos Lounge exists here at all is extraordinary.  While it’s a popular tourist destination, Santorini is still a small community, with a population of around 15 000.  Visiting Santorini has always been on my bucket list, so I was thrilled to learn of this restaurants existence. The food looks to be spectacular too.  They serve a traditional meze style menu, with a large variety of appetizer-like plates, and it all sounds delicious.  Phyllo rolls, Strapachada, Gnocchi, smoky harissa cauliflower steaks – what more could you ask for? A beautiful cliffside patio to watch the sunset?  Yes, they have that too!
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Rome, Italy
Does anybody need any extra incentive to visit one of the world’s most legendary cities?  If such attractions as the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Roman Forum or the Sistine Chapel aren’t enough to convince you to plan a trip to Rome, then how about some Carbonaro and a vegan tiramisu at Rifugio Romano, or a vegan brioche with figs and cream from Breaking Bread Bistrot?  Rome has embraced veganism wholeheartedly, adding their immense culinary prowess to the plant-based revolution.

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Helsinki, Finland
Finland’s demure and vibrant capital is the perfect destination for those seeking both urban amenities and proximity to nature.  The Finnish have a special spiritual affinity for nature and it shows even in their urban areas.  A third of Helsinki is covered in green areas, and there are innumerable stunning sanctuaries to escape to in the vicinity.  You’ll have no trouble finding vegan options either. One of my fave vegan chains, Loving Hut, has a location here, and Bun2bun, a plant-based Finish burger chain that uses Beyond Meat patties, also has two locations.
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Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is the only city in North America on this list but I included it for very good reasons.  It’s proximity to Toronto (under 2 hours by plane) makes it a more realistic and affordable destination for a quick getaway and the vegan food scene is booming!  From upscale dining at Matthew Kenney’s Althea, to classic deep dish pizza at The Chicago House of Za, the windy city has something for all appetites and budgets.

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Auckland, New Zealand
Much like Helsinki, New Zealand largest city offers a good balance of vibrant city life and natural beauty.  New Zealand is well known for outdoor activities, and with a diverse terrain consisting of mountains, beaches, and lakes, there will be no shortage of physical fun to keep you occupied.  When you’re done swimming, biking, and hiking you’ll want a hearty meal.  Auckland has close to 40 vegan and vegetarian restaurants to choose from with every kind of cuisine you could hope for, including baked goods.

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