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There are a fair amount of ‘best vegan cities’ lists on the interwebs, most of which are all interesting and worth a read. That being said, here at Green Queen, we love data and we love to use data to make decisions. While we did find a couple of lists that used data, they were all from a single source, thereby offering a limited context. We put together a list where we consider multiple data sources, to offer the best possible results. We wanted to get an idea of the best cities from multiple criteria: good for visitors good (travel), good for vegan restaurant density (plant-based dining scene), good for vegan-friendliness at omni restaurants (accessibility), good for people who live in the city (community).
A few notes about the list
We ended up with the list of 10 cities below, all of which ranked in the top 20 for most of the data sources we looked at. We highlighted some key dishes to try for each city but we stopped short of making restaurant recommendations because there are too many good ones and it wouldn’t be fair.
No matter how much data you have, your analysis is only as good as the raw stats. The reality is there are some inherent biases in the data for a variety of reasons. Africa is not represented. South America is almost not represented and Asia is definitely under-represented. North America and Europe are undoubtedly over-represented and as a Hong Kong-based, Asian media company, we are obviously not thrilled about this. There are a few reasons we can think of:
- Reviews are going to be more numerous in more tourist-friendly, world-renowned cities.
- Vegan communities outside of the U.S./Canada, the Pacific and Europe are still very much in their infancy and obviously review language plays a part in the over-representation of English-speaking and English-fluent populations.
- Asia does have some very exciting vegan-friendly cities, and if we were doing an Asia only list then we would absolutely be including Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai in the top ten. Perhaps we have our next challenge.
- Actually it’s a travesty that Indian cities, arguable some of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in the world, are not included but our view is that vegan reviews and consumer feedback loops are still nascent in India and South Asia in general.
- Since we used data sources that are looking at quantity, it’s currently true that European and North American cities are winning in terms of number of vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly options being accessible. We expect to change dramatically over the next five years.
It’s not a perfect list but it’s a list with a great deal of data behind it so without further ado, the top ten best cities for vegans from across the globe.
Note: there are not ranked in a particular order; they each stood out in our analysis on multiple factors and they all earned their place in the top ten so we celebrate them all equally.
For more information about our data sources and their methodology, please scroll to the bottom of the article.
1. Tel Aviv, Israel (aka Tel Aviv-Yafo)
Population: 435,855 (2016)
Famous tourist attractions: Beit Hatfutsot, Eretz Israel Museum, Jaffa Port, Carmel Market, Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Vegan dishes to try: Israeli food is a vegan diner’s paradise and we have met many a reader who told us Tel Aviv was hands down their favourite city to eat in thanks to a range of already-vegan mezze like hummus (hope this chickpea based spread needs no intro), muhammara (red pepper and walnut dip) and baba ghanoush (eggplant tahini dip), stuffed grape leaves, and don’t forget to try the famous breakfast Sabich Sandwich, a pita filled with falafel, hummus and tahini sauce (normally also with egg but can easily be omitted).
2. Toronto, Canada
Population: 2.93 million (2017)
Famous tourist attractions: CN Tower, High Park, Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, Art Gallery of Ontario
Vegan dishes to try: Toronto is a melting pot of cuisines and you can enjoy everything from vegan Mexican to Malaysian to Ethiopian to meatless shawarma but don’t forget to try vegan poutine (the Canadian dish of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds), egg-free diner pancakes with maple syrup and vegan nanaimo bars (the popular confectionery bar made with chocolate, ganache, custard and wafers).
3. London, United Kingdom
Population: 8.982 million (2019)
Famous tourist attractions: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, Hyde Park, The British Museum, the National Gallery
Vegan dishes to try: Think it’s fair to say that London has, in recent years, become the world’s most exciting dining destinations for vegans; from vegan markets to entire vegan supermarket ranges to vegan butchers and vegan cheese shops, you can truly taste any global dish you fancy but obviously it’s worth checking out some English classics like a full English breakfast (minus eggs and meat), fishless fish and chips, butter chicken (without the bird) and a late-night kebab (sans lamb).
4. New York City, NY, United States
Population: 8.399 million (2018)
Famous tourist attractions: Grand Central Station, Central Park, Museum of Modern Art, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square
Vegan dishes to try: You can’t visit the Big Apple without having a bagel and luckily, most NYC bagel shops now offer a whole range of flavoured vegan cream cheese to top yours with. The city is also home to some impressive upscale vegan cuisine if that’s your fancy but equally, vegan American classics like pizza, burgers, hot dogs and sushi rolls and bakeries can be found in almost every neighbourhood.
5. Berlin, Germany
Population: 3.645 million (2019)
Famous tourist attractions: Reichstag Building, Berlin Wall Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz, Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral, Berliner Fernsehturm
Vegan dishes to try: Continental Europeans swear Berlin is their favourite vegan-friendly city and we can see why. You can find pretty the plant-based version of pretty much any food you can think of in the German capital, with a range of cuisines on offer from Turkish to Tibetan. Still, don’t miss out on classics like vegan currywurst (curried sausages), Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets), sauerkraut (pickled cabbage- naturally vegan) and black forest cake (chocolate and cherries cake).
6. Los Angeles, CA, United States
Population: 3.99 million (2018)
Famous tourist attractions: Hollywood Sign, Disneyland Park, Universal Studios Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory, TCL Chinese Theatre
Vegan dishes to try: LA has plenty of variety on the vegan front and lots of versions of popular US foods like burgers (California is in fact home to both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods), BUT our vote would be for you to discover the plant-based Latinx food scene. Immigrants have made LA the best place to get a taco save for Mexico, not to mention arepas (ground maize patties), anticuchos (traditionally meat skewers), pupusas (cornmeal flatbread) and empanadas (pastry turnovers).
7. Madrid, Spain
Population: 3.223 million (2018)
Famous tourist attractions: Buen Retiro Park, Royal Palace of Madrid, Plaza Mayor, Museo Nacional del Prado
Vegan dishes to try: From seitan al ajillo (instead of the traditional prawns) to lentil albondigas (meatballs) to plant-based tortilla (in Spain a tortilla is a type of dense egg omelette) to croquetas (deep-fried), there’s no shortage of scrumptious animal-free versions of Spanish classic in the country’s handsome capital.
8. Melbourne, Australia
Population: 4.936 million (2018)
Famous tourist attractions: Federation Square, National Gallery of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Vegan dishes to try: It’s hard to pick a selection of key dishes as Melbournian food is less of a type of cuisine and more of an incredible smorgasbord of world cuisines. From Polish to Vietnamese to Szechuan to Lebanese to Greek, vegans can travel the whole world in this one city!
9. Mexico City, Mexico
Population: 8.855 million (2015)
Famous tourist attractions: Templo Mayor and the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlán (techincally outside of the city), the Frida Kahlo Museum, Catedral Metropolitana de México, Palacio National
Vegan dishes to try: A great deal of Mexican cuisine is plant-based anyway from salsas to guacamole to tortillas to the world-famous mole poblano sauce (made from spices, chillies and chocolate), so it’s very easy to skip meat, dairy wherever you are (hello veg tacos) and worst comes to worst, you can just enjoy corn chips and dips everywhere. Other must-trys include enmolladas (rolled corn tortillas with cheese), pozole (a tomato and corn soup), and tortas (Mexican sandwiches).
10. Bangkok, Thailand
Population: 8.281 million (2010)
Famous tourist attractions: The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, WAt Arun, Chatuchak Market, Chao Phraya River
Vegan dishes to try: Thai food easily lends itself to with the exception of one ingredient that it’s almost everything: fish sauce. This is why you will need to seek out vegan-classified or vegan-friendly establishments to enjoy the world-renowned superstars of Thai cuisine such as green curry, red curry, som tam (green papaya salad), po pia (fresh spring rolls), pad thai (stir-fried rice noodles) and khao pad (fried rice).
About our data sources
- We worked with a abillionveg, the Singapore-based global reviews app that has taken the plant-based world by storm and collects feedback from users all over the world. A key difference between abillionveg and other review apps is that they focus on gathering information about individual menu items/dishes and products, rather than whole establishments. They shared two separate lists with us from their data insights portal: 1) top 30 cities ranked by number of reviews on vegan dishes and 2) top 30 cities ranked by vegan-friendliness of restaurants, rated by abillionveg members on a scale of: Not Friendly, Friendly, Very Friendly. The data spans over 150,000 dish reviews posted on the abillionveg platform up to 20 Oct 2020.
- We also looked at a list of the top 100 cities for vegans as ranked by Scenic, a cruise ship company, which to be frank, we were not thrilled about (cruises are not our thing) but we included them because their source data is TripAdvisor listings. Here’s how they describe their methodology: “We selected the cities for this study using Euromonitor’s Top City Destinations 2019 as a starting point, expanding this with worldwide cities famous for gastronomy, capital cities, and those with high international visitor numbers. For each city destination, we analysed TripAdvisor listings to ascertain the number of restaurants within those cities marked as catering to a vegan diet.We then ranked each of these cities from top to bottom (places 1 to 100), based on how well they cater to this diet (calculated by the average number of restaurants catering to vegans.) We then used our dataset to determine the most and least accommodating cities around the world for vegan diets.
- We additionally used Happy Cow‘s 2019 best vegan cities list because the app is definitely the most widely used vegan restaurant review app internationally. Their list is determined by four main factors: “the number of vegan restaurants in a five-mile radius in the most vegan restaurant-dense area in each city, the number of vegan/vegetarian/veg-option restaurants in the same five-mile radius, vegan restaurant count to population density, and our impression of the over-all vegan-friendliness of the city (availability of festivals, meet-ups, & community).”
- We further incorporated Vegan Word‘s list of cities ranked by vegan restaurants per capital, in the author’s own words “the number of 100% vegan restaurants listed on HappyCow per 100,000 people in the city.” As she clarifies, it’s “not a foolproof method of measuring a city’s vegan credentials” but we appreciated the measure of vegan restaurant density as it speaks to accessibility.
Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.