Breakfast in Europe

As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, what that breakfast looks like, tastes like, and when it’s served varies from culture to culture.

Across Europe, you’ll find tempting breakfast offerings, and there may be others you’ll hesitant to try. Keep an open mind and palate—even if you don’t love everything you try, you never know what delights you could discover unless you taste for yourself!

Southern Europe

If your tour takes you to France, Italy, Romania, or Spain, you'll find that breakfast foods don't vary anywhere near as much as they do in the Americas or even other parts of Europe. In Southern Europe, you’ll get espresso or “café con leche” (coffee with milk, but this is usually a long-pour espresso with milk) along with a piece of toasted bread. Your bread may be served with olive oil or butter and jam, depending on where you are, and how much each unique eatery caters to Westerners. This type of breakfast in Southern Europe is served as early as 7 a.m. to feed day laborers and workers who begin to fill cafes and pubs before heading off to work. However, a little later, around 9:30 a.m., breakfast in this part of Europe will also include tortilla. This isn’t the tortilla you may be used to for burritos and tacos, rather it’s a hybrid of an omelet and a quiche containing egg, potatoes, onion, tomato, and perhaps garlic depending on where you are. Served at room-temperature and delicious!

The United Kingdom

Breakfast in the England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales is a veritable feast compared to most other European countries' breakfasts. You’ll typically receive a cup of coffee or tea to drink and maybe a small glass of orange juice. You may also be served a small glass, or tiny metal pitcher, of whole or unpasteurized milk. This is to pour in your coffee or tea. Breakfast food served in these countries is, again, very different from an American breakfast. But, it’s also a buffet of delights, including sunny side up eggs, bangers (fried sausages), beans, baked tomatoes, a side of bacon, and a small piece of white bread toast with butter. In some parts of the U.K., you may be served haggis for breakfast. This a dish of sheep heart, liver, and lungs in an oatmeal base with onions and spices, encased in sheep stomach. Don’t be too quick to turn up your nose, the way breakfast haggis is prepared by locals makes it very different—and much tastier—than what you may have experienced in North America.

Western and Central Europe

In Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland, breakfast changes once again. Prepare for cold meats and cheeses, loads of warm, freshly baked breads, and an assortment of preserves and jams. Freshly churned butter is a staple in Western and Central Europe, so expect to see plenty of it on your breakfast table whether you’re eating at your hotel or in a restaurant. The further north you go, the more likely you are to run into a delectable breakfast treat known as a “griddle cakes” to Americans. These are about the size of a small burrito, and made sort of like French crepes, but a tad flakier. These are stuffed with cheese or a combination of meats and cheeses. Griddle cakes are not to be missed if you find yourself at an eatery that serves them. Wonderful coffee, espresso, and cappuccinos are also served in this part of Europe as part of breakfast, along with a glass of still or sparkling water.

No matter where you find yourself in Europe, try the breakfast. If you are vegan or vegetarian, explain this to the wait staff. They will gladly prepare you a dish that contains just the fruit, vegetable, and bread parts of breakfast (or include the cheeses and eggs if you’re an ovo-lacto vegetarian). No matter what you think your tastes are, be open to the experience of European breakfasts—it’s a rare opportunity to taste what different cultures are waking up to every day!

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