by Annabel Fenwick Elliott, The Telegraph, November 1, 2017
Veganism – a term which once evoked the notion of soggy lentils, hemp jumpers, dodgy tattoos and smelly armpits.
These days, however, it’s a lifestyle that’s been embraced by everyone from Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman to Beyonce to Miley Cyrus. In short, it rarely gets the sneery side-eye, it’s widely celebrated. Trendy even.
As for the UK, recent statistics from The Vegan Society suggest that more than half a million Britons are now vegan - that means no meat, no dairy, no honey and no eggs. And while it’s never been easier to lead a plant-based diet here, it’s a notorious struggle for vegans on holiday. So where’s your best bet these days?
In aid of World Vegan Day, animal rights organisation PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) analysed cities around Europe based on factors including the prevalence of vegan restaurants and clothes stores - strict vegans don't wear fur, leather, wool or silk - to come up with a definitive list of the most vegan-friendly destinations.
The charity joined forces with HappyCow, an app-based destination guide which lists vegan and vegetarian eateries near you - the Yelp, if you will, for meat and dairy-free travellers - to arrive at its top 11...
1. Berlin, Germany
HappyCow listings: 471
At the forefront of the movement in terms of dining options, Berlin boasts an impressive 471 restaurants to cater for vegans – don't visit without dining at Kopps. It also has the world’s first street dedicated to all things animal product-free, Schivelbeiner Strasse, otherwise known as Vegan Avenue, which is lined with restaurants, bars, cafes and clothes stores. Berlin is also home to the world’s largest vegan grocery store chain (Veganz). Germany, incidentally, launched more vegan food products than any other country last year, according to Mintel. Fancy a culinary tour of Berlin’s finest vegan haunts? Fork and Walk will be your guide.
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
HappyCow listings: 243
In terms of the number of vegan eateries in relation to population size, Amsterdam actually took the top prize in August as being Europe’s most vegan-friendly city, according to holiday lettings company Holidu. It’s a city famed for its Dutch Weed Burger (made from seaweed, not marijuana as the name suggests); with other popular spots including Mr and Ms Watson - famed for its artisan vegan cheese, the moodily lit and achingly hip Jackson Dubois and Meatless District.
3. London, UK
HappyCow listings: 177
Our very own capital took third place in the rankings with 177 restaurant listings. London is home to plant-based blogger Ella Woodward, who has been building a steady empire since her vegan cookery books took the world by storm in 2015, with three delis open and her products all over the national supermarkets. London also hosts VegFest, the biggest vegan event in Europe, which counted a record 14,000 attendees this year. And in September, we welcomed our first weekly vegan food market, Broadway Vegan Market, open every Saturday from 10am to 4pm at London Fields, comprising and of 30 stalls – a vegan ‘butcher’ among them.
4. Hamburg, Germany
HappyCow listings: 149
Back to Germany again, this time to Hamburg where its Vincent Vegan food trucks (CO2 neutral, of course) are doing a roaring trade and have just opened their first standalone restaurant. In other news, the owner of the city’s most popular vegan restaurant, Happenpappen, has now started a culinary school.
5. Milan, Italy
HappyCow listings: 136
It may be one of the world's fashion capitals, with grand shopping avenues spewing fur and leather at every turn, but Milan hosts a surprising number of options for those not partial to the procurement of animal skins, one example being a home decor shop, Be Eco, that’s entirely vegan. Popular high-end restaurants here include Joia and Mantra Raw, while less pricey eateries Alhambra and Universo Vegano won’t fail to impress either. Milan also hosts the MiVeg vegan festival, which last year drew 10,000 guests.
6. Edinburgh, Scotland
HappyCow listings: 120
Last year’s winner of PETA’s Most Vegan-Friendly City, Edinburgh’s dairy-free delights include the highly-rated Novapizza Vegetarian Kitchen, a much-hyped ‘burger’ joint called Holy Cow, and David Bann, an upmarket gourmet restaurant.
7. Gothenburg, Sweden
HappyCow listings: 66
It may not have as high a number of restaurants as some of its European contenders, but 66 still equates to a good selection, Open New Doors being among the best (and most Instagram-worthy). Gothenburg also has a cruelty-free hair and beauty salon, Eco Linné, as well as swish vegan fashion boutique chain, THRIVE where you won’t come across any wool, silk or leather.
8. Ghent, Belgium
HappyCow listings: 58
Here, you’ll find the somewhat ludicrously-named Aanaajaanaa, which as a place of hospitality traces its heritage all the way back to 1525, and is now a modest all-vegan B&B. Ghent also holds a place in history as being the first European city to introduce a meat-free day – it’s Thursday, in case you were wondering.
9. Strasbourg, France
HappyCow listings: 47
France, as a nation, is particularly dedicated to its fromage. But head to Strasbourg and you'll find Velicious, the city's first 100 per cent vegan restaurant. In turn, an increasing number of its mainstream restaurants are now introducing dairy-free alternatives to their menus, Pizz’arome being one of them.
10. Groningen, Netherlands
HappyCow listings: 28
BlaBla, Groningen’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, recently bowed to client demand and has started serving fully vegan options, while other stand-out establishments include Cho Fah eathai, De Herbivoor and Gustatio.
11. Naples, Italy
HappyCow listings: 26
If Naples is famous for one thing, it’s pizza – rich, stretchy cheese being the integral topping. But perhaps surprisingly, several of its mainstream pizzerias - Sorbillo, for instance - are now serving up vegan options. Other recent arrivals include a newly-opened vegan butcher’s shop, as well as two restaurants: Sbuccia e Bevi and O’Grin.