Flipping from Plate to Place: Around the World in Five Pancakes with Booking.com
How do you eat yours? With lemon and sugar, or butter and maple syrup? Whether known as Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, for many around the world one Tuesday in February is flippin’ exciting. Pancake Day this year falls on February 13 and, being such a widespread tradition, there are many different variations and customs which exist worldwide that are all bound in batter. With that in mind, and for the more than three quarters (78%)* of travelers who want to try new foods and cuisines while on vacation in 2024, Booking.com is sharing the tastiest pancakes and traditions from around the world that are well worth traveling for.
English pancakes are made in the same way as French crêpes but are slightly thicker and traditionally topped with lemon juice and sugar. During Lent, Christians would give up rich foods such as butter, eggs, sugar and fat and Shrove Tuesday was the last chance to eat them. In the UK, gigantic ‘Shrovetide’ football matches have been an annual Pancake Day tradition since the late-1800s and Alnwick, a quaint castle-crowned town in north-east England, is where the action still happens. On Shrove Tuesday, hundreds of spectators flock to the grounds of Alnwick Castle and the Duke of Northumberland kicks off the game by throwing the football into the waiting crowd – and while the match usually takes place between rival parishes, anyone can get involved. Off the pitch, Alnwick is home to many farmers markets selling local produce including meats, cheeses and baked goods, and no trip to Northumberland would be complete without a visit to its breathtaking coastline. Book the Northumberland Tour App for a self-guided tour that takes travelers off the beaten track to discover hidden gems.
Where to stay: The gorgeous Fairfield House near the tiny village of Warkworth makes a great base to explore Northumberland’s beautiful coastline, and is just a 12km drive away from Alnwick Castle. This rural Victorian home nestled amongst lush gardens is a haven for a restful break, with refined rooms and antique-style decor. A full English breakfast and pancakes are available for breakfast and served in a dining room which overlooks the terraced garden.
Go bigger and better with an okonomiyaki pancake in Japan. The Hiroshima version layers batter, shredded cabbage and pork, with optional toppings of squid, octopus, yakisoba noodles, cheese and even a fried egg. The friendly city of Hiroshima in southwestern Japan, known for its complicated history, is also a picturesque paradise for foodies. Leafy downtown is full of restaurants serving up their own versions of okonomiyaki and includes a small area known as Okonomimura (Okonomiyaki Village) which is devoted to these savory pancakes. For travelers looking to sample other delicacies, a Hiroshima Food Tour with a Local Foodie is another must-have addition to a trip menu, with stops including a traditional tea ceremony and momiji manjū, maple-leaf shaped cakes. Outside of its thriving food scene, explore Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and its moving message of peace as the first city in history to suffer a nuclear attack.
Where to stay: In a prime location just a short walk from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Okonomiyaki Village, Hiroshima no Yado Aioi offers a unique and modern ryokan stay. Each room is equipped with authentic tatami floors (thick, woven straw mats), futon beds and short-legged tables, while a traditional onsen bath with panoramic views of the city is available to guests. What’s more, this ryokan offers kaiseki-style dining, a Japanese multi-course dinner, made using the freshest, locally sourced ingredients.
The classic French crêpe, a whisper-thin pancake, is now loved and imitated all over the world. In France, Pancake Day is known as Mardi Gras, which translates to ‘Fat Tuesday,’ and fatty foods are eaten, with the French favoring eating crêpes on La Chandeleur, a traditional holiday celebrated on February 2. Accordingly to folklore, crêpes originated in Brittany, France’s northwesternmost region, back in the 13th century when someone accidentally dropped thin porridge on a hot stovetop. Crêpes have come a long way since, and are now an iconic staple dish in French gastronomy. Visitors to Sougéal, a commune in Brittany, will be
enchanted by the natural beauty of this quaint town – and, of course, by the many local crêperies in the area. Nearby, on the tidal island of Mont-Saint-Michel, travelers can explore more French history and be transported back to the Middle Ages on a Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey Audio Tour with this symbol of French national pride that rises dramatically from the sea.
Where to stay: With its own rich history evident in its renovated charm, the Agritourisme Abaé B&B is just a short drive from local crêperies and Mont-Saint-Michel. Surrounded by verdant greenery, the historic building features exposed stonework, preserved fireplaces and original beams, and its friendly owners offer double and family rooms and a hearty breakfast. For those embarking on a day trip, this B&B also provides delicious packed lunches, including vegetarian options.
Typical Ethiopian food is based around injera, a spongy, slightly sour pancake made from a grain called teff and laid on a flat dish and topped with curry. The result is a meal where the injera pancakes are both a plate and – when the edges are folded over – cutlery, as it's also used to scoop up sauces and stews. Shiro wot stew is made with roasted ground chickpeas, split peas and a distinctive seasoning blend of chili peppers and spices, and while meat is available most Ethiopian food is vegan as avoiding animal products is important for its large community of Orthodox Christians. Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city of Ethiopia is a hive of activity and arguably the best place in the country to sample Ethiopian food. Travelers will find some of the city’s best restaurants all competing to produce the best injera. To explore more of the local cuisines and learn about the city's vibrant history, book a Guided City Food Tour which kicks off with a caffeine injection in the Bole Atlas neighborhood with a world-famous Ethiopian brew.
Where to stay: The fountain-encircled Sheraton Addis, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Addis Ababa sits on a hilltop in the heart of the city with stunning views and acres of open space. This five-star stay features suites with separate living rooms and villas with private plunge pools. Beyond the accommodation, the hotel offers an outdoor pool with underwater music, a soothing spa, a hip nightclub and several gourmet restaurants offering Ethiopian specialties. Better yet, guests can feel assured that this luxury hotel is supporting the local area, as it invests a percentage of its revenue back into community projects.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the most easterly province of Canada, travelers can tuck into classic pancakes with a twist. At first glance, Canadian pancakes served with famous maple syrup don’t appear that different from the fluffy batter-based stacks favored in the USA. Yet Newfoundlanders have an age-old tradition of hiding small coins and charms in the pancakes that foreshadow the finder’s future, with items that predict spouses to prospects of wealth. Newfoundland and Labrador’s icebergs and puffins have attracted travelers for decades. Yet its colorful seaside capital, St.John’s, has recently become a popular culinary destination with its diverse food scene ranging from creative takes on traditional cuisine to the freshest seafood and wild game. To learn more about its rich history, and explorer John Cabot who first sailed into the city’s harbor, The Best of St. John’s Walking Tour comes highly recommended.
Where to stay: For foodies and history lovers enthralled by St. John’s past, the historic Ryan Mansion is just a short walk away from a raft of restaurants. On a tree-lined street in the heritage district, this boutique hotel echoes the opulence of a bygone era and features a grand staircase built by those who crafted the staircase on the Titanic. All guest rooms at this luxury stay feature antique furnishings, a fireplace and designer linen, as well as heated marble bathroom floors and two-person tubs. A Titanic-themed dinner event is available on request.
*Travel Predictions 2024 research commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who plan to travel for business or leisure in the next 12-24 months. In total, 27,730 respondents across 33 countries and territories were polled (including 1008 from Argentina, 1012 from Australia, 505 from Austria, 1001 from Belgium, 1002 from Brazil, 1009 from Canada, 1009 from China, 1002 from Colombia, 508 from Croatia, 504 from Denmark, 1011 from France, 1011 from Germany, 1016 from Hong Kong, 1004 from India, 510 from Ireland, 504 from Israel, 1014 from Italy, 1004 from Japan, 1009 from Mexico, 1014 from The Netherlands, 1015 from New Zealand, 500 from Portugal, 502 from Singapore, 1010 from South Korea, 1009 from Spain, 502 from Sweden, 507 from Switzerland, 504 from Taiwan, 1003 from Thailand, 502 from the UAE, 1007 from the UK, 1005 from the US and 1007 from Vietnam). Respondents completed an online survey in July 2023.