Finding Food in Europe, as a Gluten-Free Vegan Traveller!

Hey Love Bees! 🐝

With over 55 vegan restaurants, Berlin is said to be the vegan capital of the world – however, as I recently discovered on my backpacking trip, not everywhere in Europe is quite so vegan-friendly!

As a gluten-intolerant vegan traveller, finding food can be a challenge – and there were times during my recent trip that I went hungry, lived on nothing but giant watermelons, and ate slimy, cold peas from a tin. 😂

These occasions were rare though, and for the most part I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing range of vegan (and gluten-free) food, that I was able to find on my travels. 

Raw Vegan Crackers and Hummus
 
Eating Vegan in The Netherlands 

When I first arrived in The Netherlands I was caught in the grip of my social anxiety, and the busy, bustling labyrinth of Amsterdam really threw me into a tailspin! 

For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to find my bearings, and I wandered around in circles, looking for somewhere to eat. 
 
There were some vegan-friendly cafes listed on Happy Cow (an app for finding vegan eateries) however many didn’t offer gluten-free options, and other’s had bad reviews, including some from vegans who’d been served animal products!
 
Feeling nervous, and not wanting to risk any mix-ups, I decided to search for a convenience store instead.
 
Eventually, I stumbled upon a Holland and Barratt, and inside they had an amazing range of Schar products (which are gluten-free, but not all vegan). With none of the ingredients listed in English though, I struggled to know what to buy. 
 
After a while, a shop assistant came over to help, but when I told her that I was looking for something that was both vegan and gluten free, her eyes grew wide and she looked at me as if I were an alien! 😂
 
Thankfully, I eventually found some gluten-free pasta and gnocchi, and later on, when I made my way down to Rotterdam, the food situation improved!
 
In Rotterdam, there was an Albert Heijn supermarket just up the road from my hostel, which stocked lots of fresh fruit and veg, as well as a good selection Alpro products.  
 
There was also a health-food supermarket called EkoPlaza , which (although rather pricey) stocked an extensive range of vegan and gluten free products, ranging from crackers, snack bars and baked goods, to fresh produce and drinks. 
 
It was there that I bought my first ever tub of Dutch hummus – and from then-on, I was hooked! During my time in Rotterdam (and later Utrecht) I tried several other brands of vegan hummus, and all had the most amazing, creamy texture – like no hummus I’ve ever tasted! 
 
 
Vegan Restaurant Prague
 
Eating Vegan in Prague, The Czech Republic

In Prague, I stayed in a vegan villa, alongside many other travellers and volunteers. It was wonderful to meet other like-minded people, and in the kitchen, they made and sold raw vegan desserts and Kombucha!

The city itself had a great vegan scene, with tons of vegan cafes and restaurants.

One place I really loved was called Vegan’s, which I stumbled upon by accident, when I was sightseeing up at the castle! I looked down across the beautiful city, and to my surprise, I saw a massive sign that read ‘Vegan Restaurant’. My heart skipped with joy, and when I later discovered that they also did gluten free meals, I just knew I had to go there!

It wasn’t cheap, but the food was delicious, and if you book in advance (I didn’t) you can sit out on their terrace, which offers some breathtaking views across the city.

There were many vegan foods to be found in various supermarkets there too, however, I’d recommend avoiding the convenience stores in the city centre, as they were extremely overpriced. (In one, I was charged over £7 for a drink and a few bananas – and I didn’t realise until afterwards, as I was still getting used to the currency! Eek!)

 
Eating Vegan in Hungary
 
Eating Vegan in Hungary

The first place I visited in Hungary, was beautiful Budapest! With its incredible vibe, breathtaking views and amazing vegan food, I quickly fell in love with the city, and it’s somewhere I’m definitely going to return to! 

There were signs for vegan food everywhere, and loads of places listed on Happy Cow. There were also various vegan options in the convenience stores, as well as a massive indoor market selling an abundance of fresh fruits and veg. (The produce was piled so high, that the vendors were hidden from sight!)

My favourite place to eat in Budapest was an extremely trendy burger joint called Toekmag Vegan Street Food. They served the most delicious, freshly-made veggie burgers in soft, gluten-free buns, and although their food was extremely cheap, it was actually very high quality! The burgers weren’t greasy either, and they were made from fresh, wholesome ingredients.

After leaving Budapest, I switched the vibrant cityscape for a tranquil village at Lake Balaton. 

Here, the local Hungarians spoke little English and finding gluten-free and vegan food was difficult. They did have a small fruit market there though, which sold some incredible pieces of watermelon – so I feasted on these for several days! 

Loving Hut, Ljubljana
 
Eating Vegan in Slovenia

Slovenia is definitely the most peaceful, uplifting and beautiful country I’ve ever been to.

The Slovenian people seemed lovely, the colour of the water was like nothing I’ve ever seen (in places it was literally emerald green!) and the capital city, Ljubljana, felt very safe, sweet and innocent. 

Ljubljana was also home to some amazing vegan food, and I was very blessed to stay at the beautiful Hostel Vrba which had a wonderful kitchen for cooking in.

The nearby Mercator supermarket also stocked a good range of gluten-free pasta, as well as Playmil vegan chocolate, vegan cream of mushroom soup, and some lovely fresh produce as well. (Their Italian apricots were absolutely out of this world!) 

I also went to the Ljubljana branch of Loving Hut which was situated in the perfect location, just across the road from the train station. The food was super cheap (it was a buffet, priced by weight) and there were lots of gluten-free options, with any allergens in the dishes, listed up on the board. 

Later, I travelled to Lake Bohinj, where finding suitable food was much harder.

The hostel I stayed in didn’t have a kitchen and the local supermarket didn’t stock many vegan and gluten-free foods.

I did manage to get some rice cakes though, which I ate with cherry tomatoes – until the sourness of the tomatoes began to play havoc with my wisdom teeth, which had just started coming through!  

Eventually, the effect of eating so few calories (whilst doing so much walking) caught up with me, and I could feel myself starting to crash.

Until then, I’d been eating relatively healthily, but I’d got to the point where I was just craving some calorie-dense food!

Reluctantly, I bought I huge bag of salted nachos and some salsa (the only things I could find!) and I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The salt made me blow out like a puffer fish, and I felt guilty for eating such crap, but at the same time it quelled my hunger and stopped me from feeling so faint! 

My room mate also had trouble preparing her food without a kitchen, but thankfully she’d discovered the genius method of cooking pasta in a Thermos flask! (You fill the flask with pasta and boiling water, lay it on its side for 10 minutes, and incredibly, it actually cooks it!).

From now on, when I travel or go camping, I’ll be sure to take my Thermos! 👍🏼

Vegan Curry Noodles
 
Eating Vegan in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina 

Before I set off on my travels, Bosnia was the country where I was most worried about finding food. 

In the war-torn city of Mostar, there were no vegan or vegetarian restaurants, and although I saw a few convenience stores being mentioned on Happy Cow, it sounded as if they didn’t sell many vegan products. 

Within minutes of arriving there however, I met another vegan traveller who excitedly showed me all the vegan products she’d just bought! She’d found vegan burgers and even vegan Nutella – and when I later popped down to the huge, modern shopping mall, I found a selection of vegan products myself!

They even had gluten-free Schar products, as well as a good range of world foods, from various brands that I recognised. 

I was excited to find rice noodles too, as they’re quick and easy to prepare, and are ideal for situations where the cooking facilities aren’t great. I also bought some hot curry powder, as well as coconut cream – which I used to make hot ‘n creamy curried noodles!

I made pasta sauce as well, using fresh mushrooms, coconut cream and some of the powdered mushroom soup, that I’d previously bought in Slovenia! 

During my stay in Mostar, I also enjoyed eating lots of fresh fruit and veg and drinking gallons of Bosnian coffee, with new friends, at the wonderful hostel I stayed in!

Although I didn’t end up going there, there was a shop selling Alpro products too – which I’ll be sure to check out next time! 

 Eating Vegan in Austria
 
Eating Vegan in Austria and Germany

Austria and Germany were without a doubt the very best countries I visited, for finding both vegan and gluten-free food!

There were signs for vegan food everywhere, and all the convenience stores and supermarkets I went in, had extensive ranges of gluten-free and cruelty-free foods.

Even Mozarts birthplace in Salzburg – which is now a very posh Spar – sold some delicious vegan chocolate!

One of the most common vegan brands that I saw in both countries was called Veganz, and they offered a huge range of products from chocolate, snack bars and kale and coconut chips, to spreads and even mock meats. (The salted caramel coconut chips were the best!!) 

Overall, Germany definitely trumped Austria with their huge range of cruelty-free food, and I have to admit, that it was even better than the UK!

Out of all the countries I visited, they also seemed to have the best understanding of exactly what it means to be vegan and gluten-free!

What are your experiences with finding food whilst travelling? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any recommendations, for the best places to eat around the world! 💜

 

HappyCow's Compassionate Healthy Eating Guide

If you’re vegan and travelling in Europe (or anywhere else, come to that!) I’d highly suggest using Happy Cow. You can use the website for free to locate nearby vegan cafes, restaurants and stores, or you can purchase the app (like I did) which makes it easier to find places on your phone.

If you can’t eat gluten (or have other allergies, intolerances or even dietary preferences) it may also be helpful to print off some cards listing the foods you cannot eat, which have been translated into the local language. These can be handed to your server or chef to help them better understand your needs.

 

  • All opinions in this post are my own, and all products mentioned were paid for with my own money! 

 

 

21 Comments

21 Comments on Finding Food in Europe, as a Gluten-Free Vegan Traveller!

  1. Although I am not vegan I am a vegetarian who will occasionally have a day of being a pescatarian. I live in the U.S., which I feel is one of the most difficult places to find healthy food. I am very much into non-GMO but our overly robust government is in the back pockets of big business (particularly a pesticide company beginning with the letter “M”), so healthy food is difficult here. I have downloaded an app on my phone to assist me in finding non-GMO food. I feel GMO and other chemical has contributed to my suffering from ME/CFS. When I begin my life on the road I intend to travel to the warmer areas of the country during the winter and the cooler states in the summer. In this way I am hoping to be able to shop at farmer’s markets and produce stands all year round in the hopes of finding fresh, live, locally grown food. – Michelle

    • Ohh, that’s a brilliant idea! Buying fresh, seasonal produce is the best! 🙂

      I once went to the farmer’s market in San Luis Obispo and I was completely blown away by the wonderful variety of fruits and veggies they had! Sadly, the farmer’s market here is more about selling live animals, than fresh fruit ‘n veg! 🙁

      Yay! That’s awesome you have an app to avoid GMO! I heard that a bill was passed last year, saying GM products in the US have to be labelled now – has that come into effect yet? They have to be labelled here, but I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed any signs labelling any food as such..which is actually kinda weird! xx

  2. We’re vegetarian but my OH can’t eat dairy or wheat so often we’re vegan. It’s not easy but I actually quite like the challenge of finding food that works for us abroad, doing my research before we travel. We thought the supermarkets in the Netherlands were great for vegan food. Love this post.

  3. So glad you managed to find so many incredible places, we’ve spent the last year dairy free because of allergies so I know how difficult it can be to find great places to eat when you are trying to avoid food groups.

    • Yes, it did pass and the foods are labeled. There are some products that it is best to double check, however. I feel that it should be the GMO foods that should have the labels. Why should natural real food require a label and fake chemical food not?

  4. Glad u managed to find some vegan and gluten free food whilst ur away its a shame it can be so tricky.

    • Thank you! Yeah, I wish more places did vegan and gluten-free options! When I first stopped eating gluten (over 10 years ago now) it was SO much more difficult to find food though – so things are definitely improving! 😀 xxx

  5. Kara says:

    Happy Cow looks like a great website. My friend is Coeliac and I know really struggles when abroad

    • Yes!! I’m totally obsessed with Happy Cow! 😀 I do wish it was a little easier to find gluten-free places on there though, as I had to read through the reviews to see if people were mentioning gluten-free options! xx

  6. How amazing that you could find so many places to cater for you – also….the size of that watermelon? lol

  7. Hannah says:

    Looks like there is some good food. Im not a vegan although i used to be veggie. Would often struggle finding good veggie food

  8. Glad you managed to find some suitable places. the Happy Cow sounds like a handy resource to have!

  9. I’m glad you managed to find some food you could eat in the end. It must have a been a nightmare. I have issues with lactose and even in the UK it can be difficult to cater for when out and about let alone abroad!

    • Thank you! 🙂 Yeah, it can definitely be a bit of a nightmare! Before I became vegan I had issues with lactose (and eggs, gluten and soy too) and I found it SO hard to explain to people! I’d show up to restaurants with this long list of things I couldn’t eat! Lol – Becoming vegan actually simplified it for me! 😀 xx

  10. Yaya says:

    This post is a gem! I’ve been a pescetarian for a little over a month and am pretty much aiming for being fully vegan + eating fresh fish. It’s so difficult to find places to eat whilst travelling. I’ve recently been to Spain and though the fish is abundant meat and other animal products are so ingrained in the culture. Am downloading Happy Cow after this comment!

    • Yay! I hope you find it helpful and congrats on the move towards being vegan! <3 I can totally imagine how difficult it must be to find places to eat in parts of Spain! I'm planning to go there next year and I'm hoping it won't be too much of a challenge! I've heard there's a great vegan scene in Barcelona though - which is somewhere I definitely want to check out! 🙂 xxx

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