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One of our favorite things to do on our travels is to visit local bakeries and sample regional pastries. Flaky crusts, interesting fillings and exotic flavors make for a tasty pastry for us.

Although this list is not definitive, here are some of the most delicious pastries in Europe. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and let’s get started.

Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

1. Crescent

France

We start with the croissant, one of the most famous pastries in the world. Whether he is actually from France is up for debate. What is not debatable is the puff pastry which has become a mythical French delicacy.

Perfect for enjoying at a sidewalk café or on the go, these buttery, flaky, multi-layered pastries abound in France. We like croissants with a slight crunch when biting into them, followed by little flakes of crust flying all over you and onto the table. Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris, serves delicious croissants.

Pastel de Belém, a Portuguese pastry, one of the tastiest pastries in Europe.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

2. Pastel of Belem

Portugal

The original Pastel de Belém can only be found in Lisbon. It was created by the monks of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Many churches and monasteries used egg whites to starch religious vestments, leaving extra yolks. By using yellows wisely, Pastel de Belém was born. The monks sold the cream pastries to help fund the monastery, but when the monastery closed in 1834 they sold the recipe and the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém opened next to the monastery.

If these are the only tarts directly derived from the monastic recipe of Belém, other versions of the cream tart, called the pastel de nata, flourish throughout Portugal. They are all delicious and each is slightly different. We enjoyed doing a “nata crawl” all over town to try as many as we could. The Belém bakery provides small sachets of cinnamon and icing sugar to sprinkle. Add one bica (what Lisbon locals call an espresso) and you’ll fit in like a native.

3.Churros

Spain

This is another pastry with an interesting and curious history. Various stories attribute their invention to Portuguese sailors, Spanish shepherds and the Chinese. Fried dough tubes can be thin, knotted, long, spiral or straight. The varieties are endless.

But wherever they come from, we think the Spaniards perfected them. They traditionally enjoy crispy golden churros dipped in rich chocolate for breakfast. Many corners in Spain and Portugal have a stand offering this warm, delicious and satisfying treat.

Schneeball in Heidelberg, Germany, one of the tastiest pastries in Europe.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

4. Schneeball

Germany

Although schneeball is known to originate from Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany, many German cities now offer this unique pastry. We tried our first schneeball in Heidelberg and seek them out every time we visit Germany.

Once only served on special occasions, schneeballen are now available year-round. They consist of strips of shortcrust pastry arranged into a ball which is then fried until golden brown. Original schneeball recipes coat the dough in powdered sugar. These days, creative bakers offer many flavors and fillings, savory and sweet. When visiting Heidelberg, check out Diller Schneeballentraume, for over 20 types of schneeballen.

5. Bombolone

Italy

It’s not your father’s donut. the bomb (bomboloni, plural) is believed to have originated in Austria, which once ruled parts of Italy. Although it is a donut filled with yeast jelly, the bombolone is completely round and filled from the top.

Popular in Tuscany, these delicious puffs of joy can also be found in other parts of Italy. Many bakers use their own approach to textures and fillings and some restaurants offer several fillings to choose from. Bomboloni toppings can include custard, jam, or cream, so trying several is the best way to enjoy these flavor bombs.

Loukoumades, a Greek pastry.  One of the tastiest pastries in Europe.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

6. Loukoumades

Greece

These sweet crunchy puffs have a history that dates back to ancient Greece. Loukoumades or “honey vouchers” were given as rewards to winners of the Olympic games. Small balls or rings of dough are fried in oil then dipped in honey or sugar syrup with rose water.

Bakeries and street vendors all over Greece offer fresh loukoumades. In Athens, Krinos makes them fresh to taste on the plate. They are very addictive and irresistible, especially when crispy and freshly made. Warning: Eating loukoumades will result in very sticky fingers, but it’s worth it.

7. Cannoli

Italy

The history of Sicilian cannoli is really fun, and like many other pastries, it can’t really be authenticated. Was it a debauched symbol of fertility created by the harem of a Moorish sultan to please and honor him? Or was it created by the nuns of a convent in Caltanissetta? Anyway, those crispy cylindrical tubes filled with ricotta cream cheese (only sheep’s ricotta for the real cannolo) and decorated with candied fruit, pistachios or chocolate had stood the test of the time.

A visit to Sicily can score the real deal with a “PAT” (traditional food products) denomination signifying its stature as a traditional agro-food product from Italy.

Traditional portuguese pastry from Sintra called Travesseiros
rfranca / Shutterstock.com

8. Travesseiros

Portugal

It’s worth the half hour drive to Sintra from Lisbon just to try the local pastries called travesseiros. The word literally means “pillow” in Portuguese. These delicious little cushions are crispy layers of puff pastry filled with sweet almond and egg cream and covered in sugar.

They are available in other Portuguese towns, but in Sintra the locals will tell you that theirs are the original and the best.

One of Sintra’s best-known spots, Casa Piriquita, has won praise from Phil Rosenthal for its delicious travesseiros. The family bakery has been around since 1862. Their travesseiros filling is said to include a secret ingredient, making it an even more unique and special treat. As a bonus, the crispy Portuguese cheesecake pies called queijadas are another local favorite

9. Baklava

Turkey

We laugh every time we see baklava on a menu. Years ago a very young waiter told us he had bak-LAVA (he pronounced it like volcano lava) although it is actually pronounced BAK-la-va and we call it that ever since. Another pastry with a mixed heritage, baklava is widely considered a Turkish invention that was later spread throughout the Mediterranean by Greek traders. Turkey, Lebanon, Greece, Morocco and many other countries in the region have a version of baklava.

What makes it so special? Thin layered phyllo dough with butter, nuts, sugar and spices that is sliced ​​and covered in syrup, which is left to soak through all the layers of phyllo dough. Country-to-country variations include the type of nut (pistachios and walnuts are popular) and syrup made with honey or sugar, and with or without flower water. Shapes and sizes may also vary.

Many places across Turkey and Greece serve this traditional pastry. Our advice is to find a local favorite little spot, like we did in Turkey – The Old Greek House Restaurant and Hotel just outside Cappadocia. With someone’s grandmother who baked, it was the best baklava we’ve ever had.

Marillenknöedel (from Austria), one of the tastiest pastries in Europe.
Osterreich Werbung / Wolfgang Schardt

10. Marillenknoedel

Austria

A stroll down any street in Vienna will give you plenty of places to enjoy an exquisite cake or pastry and a coffee. The beauty of the environment along with the delicious bites have made this coffee culture world famous.

Two of the best-known Austrian delicacies are Sacher Torte, an apricot-filled chocolate cake, and Kaiserschmarren, or grated pancakes. But have you heard of marillenknodel? These ravioli stuffed with apricot jam and topped with sugar are a very popular local favorite.

Luckily, the Wachau region of Austria has the perfect climate for growing sweet and juicy apricots, originally imported from China. Another global taste connection.

Macarons (from France), one of the tastiest pastries in Europe.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

11. Macaroons

France

Not to be confused with the tasty macaroon (coconut and almond cookie), the macarons is a quintessential French patisserie with, as you may have already guessed, a mixed history. Was it Arab troops who brought them across Italy and Spain or did Carmelite nuns looking for safe accommodation during the French Revolution used their pastries to pay for their journey ?

Perhaps it was the invention of the baker Claude Gerber or Pierre Desfontaines of the famous Lauderée macaron patisserie? We may never know. But these delicate and light two-meringue style cookies make a perfect sandwich when filled with jams, chocolate or buttercream. They are slightly chewy and it is difficult to eat just one. They are now available in just about every flavor imaginable. Foie gras? Cheetos? Bloody Mary? We have seen them all.

We hope you enjoyed our tour of European pastries as much as we enjoyed tasting them.

Pro Tip: A bakery with a long queue is likely a local hot spot. See what everyone is buying and buy it. Locals often shop at multiple bakeries for the best items from each.

Many European countries are famous for their cuisine and are happy to serve visitors their delicious specialties: