Southeast Asia Lands Three Destinations in ‘World’s Best Cities for Food’ Top 10 List

ASTIR Restaurant, Portal Nous | Image Credit: Mallorca Magic
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Regional destinations in Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia were featured as some of the world’s best foodie-focused cities!

Some travellers choose their city holidays based on the destination’s cultural offerings, shortlisting the best museums and galleries to visit. Others are drawn to cities with lively nightlife or those hosting festivals and events. For some, it may be the location – perhaps a seaside city, or one that’s near specific attractions.

However, for many vacationers, the highlight of any trip is the food. These travellers wake up on the first day of their trip excited for all the culinary delights awaiting them, from sprawling markets offering local delicacies to late-night street food and independent restaurants serving memorable dishes. Whether it’s local dishes being enjoyed for the first time or international favourites being savoured in a new place or in a different way, food definitely features highly when it comes to enjoyable travel.

A highlight of many vacations has to be the food | Image Credit:

Time Out had these gourmand travelers in mind when the global media organization created a new ranking of the world’s best foodie cities.

To compile the ranking, Time Out surveyed thousands of city dwellers worldwide, quizzing locals on the food options in their city, with a focus on quality and affordability. Time Out editors then reviewed the results, highlighting the highest-scoring city for each country.

A traditional sea bass ceviche dish prepared by Peruvian chef Roberto Madrid at his restaurant Aroma de Mar in Lima, ranked #3 | Image Credit: Getty Images via AFP

“Food is everything when traveling,” Time Out’s travel editor Grace Beard said in an interview with CNN Travel. “A good (or bad) meal can make or break a trip – it’s usually one of the things we remember most.”

She also noted that “affordability played as much a role as quality in creating this ranking,” with editors seeking cities where delicious, quality meals are accessible to travellers on a wide range of budgets.

This additional focus on affordability likely explains why renowned global culinary capitals like Paris, New York, Tokyo, and London are not at the top of the list, ceding ground to secondary cities such as Lyon, Osaka, and Liverpool. However, in the top 20’s sole entry from ‘Down Under,’ Sydney, whose rising prices are increasingly mentioned in travel reviews, still managed to slip in at number 17.

The camera eats first! | Image Credit: The Foodellers

The top US city on Time Out’s ranking was Portland, Oregon, at number 10. According to Time Out, Portland is another must-visit spot for pizza lovers, with Mexican pizza – a pizza topped with taco ingredients – named by locals as the city’s best-value dish.

In the UK, Liverpool came in at number 11, just missing the top 10. Time Out highlighted the city’s signature dish of Scouse, a rich stew usually made with beef or lamb, and new foodie ventures such as Manifest, a restaurant named in the Michelin Guide.

Number 11-ranked Liverpool even has a local ‘Foodie Passport‘ on offer for its regular Liverpool Restaurant Week! | Image Credit: Good News Liverpool


Topping the list is the Italian city of Naples, often believed to be the birthplace of pizza. Unsurprisingly, the cheesy delights of pizza margherita are highlighted as the city’s “must-eat dish.” But it goes beyond pizza! Other notable mentions include the sumptuous pasta dish Neapolitan ragù and the sweet sfogliatella.


For those eager to sample authentic pizza in Naples, Time Out suggests heading to Pizzeria Santa Maradona in the city’s Spanish Quarter.

Pizza as street food? Welcome to Naples! | Image Credit: Italy Foodies

Santa Maradona’s owner Andrea Viviani told CNN Travel it was a “pleasure” to be spotlighted by Time Out, although he added that “considering Naples only as a food destination is truly a waste.”

“Food is certainly an important part of our culture, but Naples is much, much more,” said Viviani. “The idea of Santa Maradona is precisely this: to convey all the facets of Naples.”

While Viviani hopes travelers coming to Naples will enjoy more than just the food, he added that it’s exciting that many travelers come to the city with “a great desire to learn about our tradition and taste our fantastic pizzas.”

Now THAT’S a pizza oven! | Image Credit: Deliveroo


Here in Southeast Asia, three cities scored not only quite well, they all placed in the top 10. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Bangkok, and our own Kuala Lumpur were all named among the world’s best cities for food.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Ranked #4)

Ho Chi Minh City, still generally called Saigon by locals, is a vibrant culinary destination, offering a tantalising blend of flavours reflective of its rich history and cultural heritage. The city’s bustling streets are lined with food stalls serving up iconic Vietnamese dishes such as pho, banh mi, and fresh spring rolls. Ho Chi Minh City is also renowned for its seafood, which is often grilled to perfection and served with tangy dipping sauces.

With its unique baguette-like roll paying homage to Vietnam’s French colonial heritage, the banh mi sandwich is one of Saigon’s must-try treats | Image Credit: Saigonwalks

The Ben Thanh Street Food Market is a must-visit for food enthusiasts, where you can sample a wide array of local delicacies. Additionally, the city’s burgeoning café culture is not to be missed, with numerous coffee shops offering Vietnamese iced coffee and an array of innovative desserts. This combination of street food, traditional dishes, international fare, and modern culinary innovations makes Saigon a paradise for food lovers.

Bring your appetite! | Image Credit: Saigon Local Tour

Bangkok, Thailand (Ranked #6)

Many Malaysian residents love visiting Thailand for its food, so this ranking should not surprise many. Bangkok is celebrated for its dynamic street food scene, where vendors offer everything from spicy pad Thai and green curry to mango sticky rice and fresh coconut ice cream. The city’s night markets, such as the bustling Chatuchak and Rot Fai Markets, are perfect for foodies looking to explore an array of Thai flavours. in Bangkok, street food reigns supreme.

Street food in Bangkok seldom disappoints | Image Credit: Discover Events

But Bangkok is also home to numerous high-end restaurants that elevate traditional Thai cuisine (and plenty of international dishes, too) with modern twists, lending credence to the city’s status as a global culinary hub. The capital’s vibrant Chinatown is another culinary hotspot, brimming with vendors selling delectable dim sum, roast duck, and exotic fruits. Whether you’re dining at a Michelin-starred establishment or a humble street stall, Bangkok always promises a memorable gastronomic adventure.

Bangkok is a foodie’s paradise | Image Credit: Travel Squire

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Ranked #7)

And finally we come to our very own Kuala Lumpur, which ranks seventh on Time Out’s list, celebrated for its diverse and vibrant food scene. The city offers a blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines just as a starting point, then adds on fusion creations, foods from indigenous peoples, and a growing international dining scene, all creating a unique gastronomic experience.

From chicken rice to many different styles of laksa, KL offers visitors plenty of choices | Image Credit: Runaway Ann

Visitors can explore bustling street food markets like Jalan Alor and Kampung Baru, where dishes such as nasi lemak, satay, chicken rice, and char kway teow are local favourites. The city also boasts high-end dining options, with restaurants like Dewakan, Bijan, DC Restaurant, and Nadodi pushing the boundaries of Malaysian and global cuisine alike. For food lovers, Kuala Lumpur is an absolute culinary paradise offering a rich tapestry of flavors and gastronomic traditions.

Malaysia finally caught the eye of the Michelin Guide, with KL and Penang restaurants getting the nod in 2023 and 2024 | Image Credit: Michelin Guide


  1. Naples, Italy
  2. Johannesburg, South Africa
  3. Lima, Peru
  4. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  5. Beijing, China
  6. Bangkok, Thailand
  7. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  8. Mumbai, India
  9. Dubai, UAE
  10. Portland, USA
  11. Liverpool, UK
  12. Medellín, Colombia
  13. Seville, Spain
  14. Porto, Portugal
  15. Marrakech, Morocco
  16. Lyon, France
  17. Sydney, Australia
  18. Montreal, Canada
  19. Osaka, Japan
  20. Copenhagen, Denmark
Wherever your travels take you, be sure to occasionally lead with your stomach! | Image Credit: Sydney LinkedIn

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