Food South America Santiago Mercado

Top 5 Cities in South America for Foodies


Hot colours Many students choose their next travel destination based on cultural attractions, affordability, or even weather, but if you’re a true food lover you know that sometimes, excellent cuisine is the biggest draw of all. And if you’re studying in South America, you’re about to start your next foodie adventure! This continent is known for its tropical produce and indigenous specialties. With innovative and refined restaurants cropping up in many cities, it now offers an incredible combination of exotic and sophisticated dining. Check out these five cities for South America’s best eats!

Food South America Santiago Mercado

Santiago, Chile 
Santiago is the perfect destination for the true gourmand. The city is surrounded by abundant fields and orchards, and its cuisine features tons of locally grown produce, from olives to papayas and everything in between. Work up an appetite in the classroom then explore Santiago’s real specialty, seafood, caught fresh at the nearby coastline. Mercado Central, the largest market in town (and shown in the photo above), offers a bounty of salmon, sea urchin, abalone, and any other fish you can imagine. Chile is also known for its excellent selection of local wines, and if you’re studying there in the spring make sure to check out the Fiesta del Vino de Pirque. Get caught up in wine tasting, dancing, and debauchery at this harvest festival (and practicing your Spanish too, of course!).

Lima, Peru
Adventurous eaters spending a semester in Peru should be sure to visit Lima, where they will find a wide variety of interesting dishes to whet their palate. Lima’s coastal location is the perfect spot to enjoy the national dish, ceviche. This dish, made of fresh raw fish marinated in lime juice and chili or spices, is the perfect tangy, refreshing, and slightly spicy treat for any hardworking student. If you’re REALLY daring or trying to “Wow” your Facebook friends back home, indulge in some cuy, which is barbecued or fried guinea pig that has been eaten in Peru for over four thousand years. You can’t find food like this in your old run-of-the-mill university cafeteria!

Pastel do Bigode, Ipanema Street Market
Sao Paulo, Brazil
With a growing community of world-renowned chefs and upscale restaurants, Sao Paulo offers an incredible variety of distinct cuisines. When you’re not hitting the books, you’ll be able to try traditional Brazilian delicacies as well as African, European, and even Japanese dishes. Settle in for a platter of steaming couscous and roasted vegetables at a Moroccan restaurant or explore the many street food stalls that fill the city. One specialty is pastel (shown above), a delicious deep-fried dumpling filled with anything from ground meat and cheese to fresh guava jam. For college students who suffer from a sweet-tooth, be sure to try caldo de cana, the pure sweet juice of sugar cane.

Bueno Aires, Argentina
Often called Paris of the South, Buenos Aires offers delectable traditional cuisine with a sophisticated European flair. Argentina is world-renowned for its beef, so carnivore’s especially should consider studying in Buenos Aires. Although you may want to experiment with interesting dishes like kidney or blood sausage, you’re best-bet standby will be a platter of parilla. This carne asada, or grilled steak, is a simple preparation that allows the rich and succulent meat to shine. Be sure to try the classic Argentine dessert alfajores – shortbread cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche. Students who visit Argentina will have their tastebuds spoiled, just be sure to tango in-between so you don’t bring home extra souvenir pounds.

south america food ecuador

Quito, Ecuador
Head to Quito if you’re looking for a taste of truly traditional South American cuisine. You’ll find many Ecuadorian staples, including beans, rice, plantains, yuca, and fresh fish, prepared simply yet deliciously. The real highlight in Quito is the fresh fruit, sold from street carts around town, the perfect afternoon snack before a heavy-duty study session. Savor the best mangos and dragon fruit you’ve ever eaten, or try something even more exotic – guanabana (shown above) is a prickly green fruit that tastes like a mix of strawberry, pineapple, and coconut. #Yum!

Enticed by these South American specialties? Spend your study abroad trip exploring the continent for yourself! Choose one country and learn all of its culinary secrets or travel among these five cities, tasting as many different delicacies as you can.

Do you decide where to travel based on food? Where do you plan on traveling when you’re studying in South America? Let us know in the comments!

Photo sources: Carston ten Brink via Flickr, Almonroth via Wikipedia, Keetr via Flickr, Tim Gage via Flickr


Hannah is a student at Scripps College and the current Editorial Intern at Go Overseas. She’s looking forward to studying in Paris this fall, and loves baking and playing field hockey in her free time.

5 thoughts on “Top 5 Cities in South America for Foodies

  1. Megan

    Nom nom nom! I would say this post is a success because now I’m hungry. Not quite hangry, but definitely hungry.

    Meet me in Ecuador?!

  2. Paul Jones

    Glad to see Lima on the list. It could be said that Lima is the best of all cities in South America for foodies. Although you will find ceviche in Lima, you’ll be hard pressed to find cuy, as this is eaten only in the highlands, like in Cusco City or Puno.

  3. Naomi

    I definitely decide my next travels on food! South American food is amazing, with Peruvian being my favourite. So much amazing, fresh and most importantly spicy flavour!

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