Anthony Bourdain was a world-famous chef and traveller, who had us both laughing and shocked at his strong opinions and foul mouth. With each episode of Parts Unknown and No Reservations, he had fans craving adventure of their own.
For 12 seasons of Parts Unknown, he did exactly that. He explored unknown cultures, and cultures that were stereotyped and rooted in fear. He embraced what made each country unique and celebrated what others viewed as “weird.”
Bourdain challenged travellers from all around the world to be curious, and seek adventure beyond what is laid out for us by the media. Go beyond what is popular and see what is not always talked about. He did more than just enjoy the famous dishes each location was known for; He explored beyond barriers, and connected with people through food.
Bourdain rationalizes his desire for travelling outside of his comfort zone - “If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
We can all learn something from Bourdain. He listened to and learned from locals and was kind to people he had just met. He embraced the beauty in the world.
The 15 places that were on Anthony Bourdain’s bucket list, go beyond solely just delicious food, but the entire food experience itself.
In an interview with Reader’s Digest, he explains, “Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meals occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.” You’ll understand the 10 places he would never set foot in after.
25 Bourdain Bucket List: Turkey
Turkey is unique. With bazaars (markets) at every corner you turn, there is always something to bargain for.
Lunch is an adventure, and is unlike any other meal. Because of all the markets in close proximity to one another, you are always on the move. There is a specific stall for every part of your meal, that will keep your feet moving and your stomach growling for more.
Bourdain admired this type of culture, because you were able to interact with so many different hardworking locals, in just an hour. In order to eat, you had to step out of your comfort zone and communicate with people, who not always spoke your language.
24 Bourdain Bucket List: Australia
For those adventuring down under, Bourdain could recommended the perfect restaurant in every city.
Bourdain admired the high level of skill that the chefs and cooks carried. He was never let down by the food, nor the people when he was visiting Australia. He compared Sydney, Australia to cities like New York City and Tokyo because of how extremely busy restaurants are. Always. This fast-paced, high-volume city does not disappoint.
It is flashy, it is slick, and you won’t be disappointed.
23 Bourdain Bucket List: Rome
Bourdain’s number one rule for dining in Rome, according to Eater was, “Wherever the concierge tells you to go: Don’t go there.” Rome is a place to discover on your own two feet. And, it is easy.
Every place is booming with people, both locals and tourists. From holes in the wall to fancy high priced restaurants, you will never be challenged to find good food while in Italy.
The culture in Italy is something Americans should aspire to follow. He compared family life from Rome to New York, saying that in Italy, everyone is happy to see families with their children eating together. Family is very important, and taking your time to share a meal is highly valued.
22 Bourdain Bucket List: Seattle
While our stomachs grumble reading about spaghetti in Rome and Paella and Valencia, Bourdain was not disappointed to visit Seattle and indulge in their coffee culture.
Coffee to Seattle is pasta to Rome. Seattle is home to world-famous coffee roasters. Does Starbucks ring a bell?
In 90s television shows like Friends, we realize how evident the culture is that surrounds coffee. Where people meet daily to talk about their day, reminisce on old times, and dream of the future, coffee is the centre of these conversations.
21 Bourdain Bucket List: Peru
In Peru, Bourdain successfully intersects his two worlds of food and travel. He learned how chocolate is made, and the socioeconomic impact that chocolate has on the world.
And for all you chocolate lovers out there, Bourdain explained on this episode how chocolate is made: “The trees produce pods, you split open the pods and take out the beans, the buy sundries the beans, and roasts them. After roasting, the beans are extracted from their shell and ground up, producing chocolate liquor. Mix this concentration with milk, sugar, cocoa butter, and you get what we call commercial chocolate.”
20 Bourdain Bucket List: Thailand
The delicious and diverse food is what put Thailand at the top of Bourdain’s bucket list.
A meal is never just a meal- it is the whole experience of who you are eating with and where you are enjoying the food.
Bourdain recalled his trip to Bangkok where he filmed No Reservations, where he had the local experience of grocery shopping along the Amphawa Floating Market on the Mae Klong River. He indulged in multi-course meals, ranging from green papaya salad, different styles of pork, and deep-fried shrimp cakes.
19 Bourdain Bucket List: Vietnam
Vietnam is at the top of many backpackers bucket lists, and it's not surprising that it was one of Bourdain’s favourite destinations.
What makes Vietnam so special is being able to visit all the areas in which your food is grown. Visiting rice fields is a cultural experience in Vietnam, and one of the most challenging tasks to participate in. To be part of this and work alongside locals, was special to Bourdain.
What set Bourdain apart from other travellers was his ability to connect and interact with locals. With a language or cultural barrier, he united with people through their food.
18 Bourdain Bucket List: Tokyo, Japan
Worldwide, Tokyo is one of the most popular major cities, that any dedicated traveller will eventually have to cross off their bucket list.
On both No Reservations and Parts Unknown, Tokyo was the most frequently visited city Bourdain had visited.
What Bourdain admired the most about Japanese culture was the discipline locals invested in for martial arts. It is interesting that in both shows, Bourdain focuses less on the food and more on the overall cultural experience.
Bourdain desired to have this level of precision and focus for his culinary practice. It is something to truly be admired.
17 Bourdain Bucket List: Beirut
Bourdain valued Beirut, even during the struggling times they were undergoing while he was visiting. The purpose of his trip was to recognize a community that was trying to regain a positive reputation and showcase their beautiful culture and food.
He spoke about Beirut as being a magical place, and wanted to use this city that was rebuilding from political troubles to uphold their culture. He visited again during a safer time to demonstrate that food can tell a story, and it can be more powerful than what we read in the news.
16 Bourdain Bucket List: Laos
Laos is remarkable. Even as one of the poorest countries in South East Asia, their culture is plenty rich. Between venturing down the Mekong and Nam Ngum rivers or enjoying the Phosy-Market, there is something in Laos for every type of traveller.
This small country is filled with delicious food, mountains, and communities that are built around the many rivers.
Bourdain explains why he wanted to visit Laos, and why it was the top of his list for so long during the episode on Parts Unknown, "From the first time I heard of Laos, I was hooked and filled with a desire to see the place. Once a storybook kingdom of misty mountains and opium."
15 Bourdain Bucket List: Lyon, France
Lyon is routed in a rich, historic culture, especially around the culinary arts.
During Parts Unknown, Bourdain states that his meal in Lyon was not one of the greatest meals, but the greatest meal of his life.
He dined at La Maison Troisgros. This restaurant is so special because the owners of the restaurant are recognized as leading the “La Nouvelle Cuisine” movement back in the 1960s. The historical relevance was what made this meal so special, and being able to share a meal with the owner and his family, as well.
14 Bourdain Bucket List: Nicaragua
While it is not particularly safe to visit Nicaragua now, Bourdain noted how moved he was by the people while visiting the capital city.
What he finds so remarkable is that people who had nothing were still willing to share not only their food, but their stories.
The cultural and cuisine experience was not similar to previous cities in Central America, and what he enjoyed was that people made do with what they had. Some of the most delicious meals he had came from hole-in-the-wall diners.
Nicaragua proved Bourdain’s point to be accurate that you do not have to eat in a fancy restaurant and break the bank to have a good meal.
13 Bourdain Bucket List: Spain
Unlike the other countries on this list, Bourdain travelled to Spain with very high expectations for their food, and was not disappointed. Bourdain focused less on learning about the locals, culture, and traditions, and solely on food.
Spain is significantly spoken about in the media, especially for their cuisine. Travellers venture through Spain to experience the one of a kind Paella dishes and every type of tapas that you can imagine.
It is no wonder why Bourdain loved visiting Spain and travelled throughout the country, not solely visiting one city. The real food experience varies from the Basque Country, Catalonia, and the capital, Madrid.
12 Bourdain Bucket List: Tangie, Morocco
Bourdain recommended Morocco for those risk takers who do not fear the unknown and are looking for a wild trip.
He visited Tangie, Morocco, which is notorious for very laid back, little care in the world type attitude. Vastly different from other cities in Morocco and even majority of the countries in Northern Africa, Bourdain appreciated the lively culture and welcoming locals.
Due to the city's proximity to Spain, many of the dishes have originated from Spanish culture and have similar ingredients. Bourdain spoke very highly of the cuisine, and noted it as one of his favourite places to visit.
11 Bourdain Bucket List: Mozambique
We bet you weren’t expecting to see this country on the list!
What surprises many people about Mozambique it consists of a multitude of different cultures. Arabic, Indian, Swahili, and Portuguese all have substantial influence on Mozambique, whether it be their food, language, or overall culture.
Mozambique was on Bourdain’s bucket list because of how positively surprised he was with the food, recognizing it as the most delicious food in the entire continent.
10 Bourdain Bucket List: Iran
Bourdain was pleasantly surprised with visiting Iran, and highly recommended it to US tourists. Disappointingly, the media paints a negative picture in the Middle East, and many tourists are too cautious to travel to that region. However, Bourdain instilled confidence in curious travellers about how highly he recommended visiting here.
He shared delicious, home-cooked meals with strangers that became friends. Putting Iran on Bourdain’s top places to visit comes as a surprise, to even Bourdain himself, as he admitted, “I am so confused, it wasn’t supposed it be like this."
“I was really knocked sideways by how well I was treated in Iran and how delicious the food was and how hospitable ordinary people were to us,” Bourdain recalled to Business Insider UK, “Iran does not look, does not feel the way I expected.”
9 Bourdain Bucket List: Oman
As you read through this list, you are probably familiar with all the countries so far listed. And, you can probably point them all out on a map- or the general area.
However, Oman is not recognized as being a popular tourist spot, but Bourdain spoke very highly of visiting here. Not only for their rich food, but because of their tolerance and acceptance towards different cultures and religions of tourists.
While filming Parts Unknown, Bourdain travelled through the capital city, Muscat, and spent time on the mountainside.
8 Bourdain Bucket List: Libya
Bourdain noted that Libya was one of the most dangerous destinations he had visited. However, with the support from his network at CNN, he was safely able to visit these countries and experience the culture the rest of the world is so curious about.
He explained on numerous occasions that without his show or having the status that he had, he would not even have considered exploring countries like this. Due to the negative perception in the media, there are many countries on his bucket list that wouldn’t make it on the list for you and me.
7 Bourdain Bucket List: Jerusalem
Considering his personal faith, visiting Jerusalem was a significantly special trip for Bourdain.
Bourdain spoke openly and honestly about his trip to Jerusalem. He speaks more about how food exceeds expectations of ethnicity and religion. People are united with the cultural significance of sharing a meal together, and that is powerful.
Bourdain reflected on his trip and a meal he shared with a family, “Both of them cook with pride, eat with passion, love their kids, love the land in which they live or the land they dream of returning to..."
6 Bourdain Bucket List: Copenhagen
Any true Bourdain fan would question why Copenhagen is on this list. Bourdain had admitted time and time again that he does not favour Scandinavian countries- but something changed his mind when he visited Denmark.
Bourdain was the kind of guy who wanted to travel through countries that would shock him. He wanted to betray the media and question why certain places weren’t more well known. Each country has something special about them, and he wanted to be the one to find out what it was.
He was pleasantly surprised with Copenhagen, and agreed with the common statement that it is the happiest place on earth. He was more than pleasantly surprised. He was downright shocked.
5 Avoided: Switzerland
Are you as shocked as we are?! We had to read this a few times to see if we had our sources correct. Switzerland is world renowned for being one of the most beautiful, safest, and magical countries. And Bourdain refused to ever even step foot in it!
He claimed to have had a morbid fear. He blames it on some terrible childhood experience watching the Sound of Music, that he could not even come to terms with talking about.
It is hard to resist having wanderlust for a country like Switzerland. Even with the high price tag of travelling through, it is worth saving your money for.
4 Avoided: Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The Most Magical Place on Earth would definitely not have made it on Bourdain’s bucket list.
It is too heavily commercialized. Bourdain preferred to go to places off the beaten track, and destinations that he wanted to find good in the bad. Going to the most popular place on Earth had no appeal to Bourdain.
Additionally, Bourdain stuck true to his beliefs that because something is at a high price, does not mean it is good. There is no set price on what good food should be, but do not always depend on more being better.
3 Avoided: Wales, UK
Wales definitely could not have been a top priority on Bourdain’s bucket list.
In the UK, the most popular destinations include London, Stonehenge, Oxford, and Edinburgh. Even being in close proximity to the cities aforementioned, there is nothing special about Wales that would draw people in, especially Bourdain.
While the culture lacks, it makes up for in castles. Seriously. The most notable part of visiting Wales are the castles - all 600 of them.
In comparison to the countries listed off in Bourdain’s bucket list, Wales cannot compete with the overall experience of an exciting culture, beautiful language, or delicious cuisine.
2 Avoided: Antigua and Barbuda
Located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, many tourists visit Antigua and Barbuda for a typical beach vacation. However, the beaches are really the only attractive qualities that this small country offers.
Bourdain would not be excited to visit this country, nor have it on his bucket list, because of the lack of an overall cultural experience.
Antigua and Barbuda have one of the world’s highest obesity rates, with popular dishes named “goat water” and “fungie.” While Bourdain was adventurous when it came to food, we don’t think we would be willing to tough it out with these popular dishes.
1 Avoided: NK
For reasons more obvious than not, Bourdain refused to ever visit NK, even if he was able to.
One of the main reasons why, was documented by TMZ. Bourdain believed that food united people and wanted to go to places where he would be able to share in the comfort.
However, Bourdain, along with most other people, was not a fan of the country's leader. TMZ teased Bourdain by telling him that the leader was a foodie and he would have loved to have Bourdain visit.
References, TMZ, Eater, CNN