TAKE A FOOD TOUR!
Good food tours introduce you to the best local bites and leave you with a full belly.
The best and often, most popular food tours, do much more than that. They act as a prism to view the history, culture, and tradition of a destination. They unravel the mysteries of the most exotic cuisines, lead you through a labyrinth of back streets to hidden eateries you’d never find on your own, and introduce you to the fascinating people and stories behind the food.
Great food tour guides are local insiders focused on familiarizing you with dishes that are hyper-local, authentic and culturally significant.
If you only have a short time in a city, taking a food tour gives you an opportunity to taste a wide variety of food in a short timeframe. If your trip is longer, you’ll also benefit from learning where to eat and shop, and how to order with confidence for the duration of your stay.
25 TRAVEL BLOGGERS REVEAL THEIR FAVORITE FOOD TOURS
Food tours are as diverse as the people who enjoy them.
The best food tours are moveable feasts but the mode of transportation varies from walking to riding in a tuk-tuk to everything in between. Some of the most popular food tours last just a few hours but there are also day tours, night tours, and extended tours that go on for several days or even weeks. There are tours that focus on specific neighborhoods and there are specialty tours, like pizza tours in Naples or chocolate tasting tours in Belgium.
We asked 25 travel bloggers to inspire you with a glimpse inside their all-time favorite food tours.
Whether foraging in the Australian Outback or sampling street food in Vietnam, all 25 agree that the best way to experience a place with all your senses is to get off the tourist track and take a food tour.
They also agree that there’s a lot more to a food tour than just eating.
The best food tours are as rich in history and culture as they are in calories. Here are a few non-edible gems we’ve gleaned during our own culinary travels:
- How to order Cicchetti like a boss.
- The first solid food mothers give their bambinos in Italy.
- One simple trick the working class in Mexico uses to stretch their pesos.
- Which famous lover used the dark secluded taverns of Venice to rendezvous with his married conquests.
Read on for more inspiration or click on one of the headings to jump straight to the section that most interests you.
ASIA | AUSTRALIA | CENTRAL AMERICA | EUROPE | NORTH AMERICA
Hong Kong, China
My favorite food tour was the Sham Shui Po tour with Hong Kong Foodie Tours. Despite having family roots in Hong Kong, the tour really impressed me with the food selection and information provided.
This popular food tour started with a typical Hong Kong breakfast of a pineapple bun with hot milk tea. Our next stop featured another typical, but more traditional, Hong Kong breakfast of steamed rice rolls (cheong fun). We enjoyed some braised goose and pork knuckle with rice from a meat shop and stopped for a bowl of shrimp roe noodles in a tiny shop filled to the brim with locals enjoying their lunch. For dessert, we tasted a typical Hong Kong dessert of tofu pudding and received a selection of almond, sesame and peanut cookies to go.
I was pleasantly surprised that the experience was more than just eating. Our tour guide talked about the history of Hong Kong and how the neighborhood we were in developed into what it is today. Along the way, we wandered through the wet market stopping to see how noodles were made, examined a traditional medicine shop, and visited with a master knife maker.
For first timers in Hong Kong, the dining out experience can be overwhelming and this tour gives you a great introduction to what it is like to eat at more traditional establishments in a guided environment. Our guide ensured everyone was comfortable throughout the tour and provided extras that you wouldn’t have thought to bring along with you like tissue paper. We went to places that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have found – like that shrimp roe noodle place.
I enjoyed exploring the neighborhood of Sham Shui Po with Hong Kong Foodie Tours, an area most visitors to Hong Kong are not likely to visit. I had a great time learning about the area and digging into a variety of dishes. I left the tour full of new knowledge and full of delicious food.
Strolling through the busy streets of Tokyo was a food filled dream. For a foodie like myself, hopping from restaurant to food cart to market, all in the name of good eats, was the most incredible way to see the city. Though it was easy to discover new food on my own, nothing compared to the experience I had on an Oishii Food Tour.
Oishii (oh-ee-shee) means ‘yummy’ in Japanese, and perfectly describes everything about this tour. Naoko, the bubbly and knowledgeable owner and tour guide, showed us hidden eateries, taught us about the neighborhood, and introduced us to foods we would have never tried otherwise.
This food tour was different than any other food tour I have been on. Each of the five stops was to a sit-down restaurant where we ate almost a full meal. Yes, over the course of four hours we had just about five full meals! Yakitori, raw fish, sake, okonomiyaki, stingray, fried noodles, a bowl of udon, and traditional Japanese ice cream rounded out the dishes we tried.
The highlight for me was discovering a hidden food town called Ebisu Yokocho. A yokocho is a tightly packed food alley filled with many different tiny restaurants. From the outside, I would have never guessed the amazing food world on the inside. Stepping through the ordinary door transported us to a whole new space. A place filled with savory smells, sizzling food and a whole lot of people.
For nearly four hours we explored the vibrant food culture of the Ebisu neighborhood. We ate (a lot!), and learned all about Japanese food, language, and life.
“Grab a piece that looks amazing to you at the moment.” Sun Chung, my tour guide says. There are three of us plus Sun tonight, gathered around a small feast of various fresh vegetables, herbs, dressings and leaves for wrapping. While my mushrooms and onions grill in the center of the table, I start filling purple kale with kimchee, slaw, and tofu.
“Don’t make it a burrito,” he cautions as I overstuff my crunchy greenish wrap with one of everything. If this is stop number one, I have no idea how I’m gonna make it to the end of this walking tour, but I presently don’t care. It’s so delicious I want to savor it all.
The Korean Night Dining Tour in Seoul is one of Ongo Food Tours many food-centric offerings, which also include cooking classes, back at their kitchens. Tonight’s culinary odyssey begins in the Insadong neighborhood, famous for some of the oldest restaurants still serving in Seoul, a few over 100 years old.
From there we chill in a Korean Traditional Pub, Poorun Jonak, and drink Makgulli, a rice wine that farmers mix with green tea. We snack on silky stacks of steamed tofu and more kimchee, that miracle of a fermented digestive aid.
Our third stop is a strip mall type of restaurant where we sit on the floor and enjoy goong joong ddokobbokki, a royal dish with rice cakes, vegetables, sweet potato noodles and dumplings. It’s sweet. Sun explains that during the dynasty times it was considered lower class to eat spicy foods, so dishes prepared for royalty were always sweeter.
Happy to be wearing a dress with non-binding seams at this point, I follow Sun through Kwan Jang Market for the fourth and final meal. The market is a huge, 100+-year-old food court, with halls of food stands snaking off in every direction. We close in on an older woman griddling up golden mung bean pancakes. I’m surprised at just how much I can eat.
This was one of my favorite food tours by far; it weaves together history, tradition, an intimate glimpse into the local night dining, and some killer food. Also? They easily accommodate vegetarian or food restrictions – just let them know when you sign up.
Food is half the reason I was dying to get back to Thailand. I love all the curries, meats on sticks, and other street foods that bombard you on literally every corner, especially in Bangkok.
I visited Thailand three years ago and took an amazing walking food tour of Bangrak, the historic district of the city, with Bangkok Food Tours, and I knew that when I returned I had to do another one! So a few weeks ago, I took the most unique food tour I’ve taken yet: a midnight food tour by tuk-tuk. Along with our guide Phang and our individual tuk-tuk drivers, we were chauffeured around different Bangkok neighborhoods to visit spots I could’ve never found myself, each of them packed with locals eating dinner.
Not only did we sample some awesome foods like a famous chicken rice dish, traditional pad thai from a forty-year-old restaurant, and a stir-fried rice noodle dish with a runny egg cooked on a grill in an alley, but we also saw a bustling flower market and Wat Pho all lit up at night. Then we had a beer at a rooftop bar overlooking the river, which would’ve been pretty romantic if I hadn’t been flying solo. Along the way, we grabbed some street food snacks like dried squid and grilled pork marinated in sweetened condensed milk.
Our guide gave us lots of culinary insight into Thai cuisines, like how the people of Thailand never actually ate noodles or pork until the Chinese introduced them. And I had a great time being driven through Bangkok’s crazy traffic in our tiny tuk-tuk to sample all kinds of food joints I never would’ve discovered otherwise.
With a vast array of fresh ingredients, flavourful spices and diverse dining experiences, Thailand is a true foodie destination. As a first-timer in Asia, I found knowing where to begin to be a challenge. Joining a food tour while in Bangkok seemed like an ideal way to dive fork-first into Thailand’s exciting food scene. I chose Bangkok Food Tour’s nighttime tuk-tuk tour due to its excellent reputation and unique take on after dark dining.
I met up with my tour group and we quickly bonded over our shared love of eating regional specialties with distinct flavors. We were divided into pairs and jumped into four waiting tuk-tuks. Over the next four hours, we visited three restaurants, one bar, one market and one cultural attraction. Along the way, we ate brimming bowls of Khao Mun Gai, Guay Tiew Kua Gai, and Pad Thai. We sampled fresh longong fruit, took a quiet walk around Wat Pho and enjoyed a cold Chang beer with a spectacular view.
As someone with a keen interest in the environmental and historical context of food, I was intrigued by our local guide’s insights into the cultural importance of each dish. She explained that Khao Mun Gai, also known as Hainanese chicken and rice, is a delicious example of Chinese-Thai fusion that is the result of a large and longstanding Chinese population in Thailand. When trying Pad Thai we learned that traditionally each individual uses condiments to customize their dish to their preferred level of sweet, salty, spicy and sour. It was a Thai classic that many of us had eaten before, but never appreciated so thoroughly.
My favorite dish of the night, Guay Tiew Kua Gai, was showcased as an example of Thai street food. We were even treated to a view of the chef frying the dish over a charcoal burner in the alley behind the restaurant. The rich, smoky, salty flavors of the thick noodles and chicken fried in pork fat had me vowing to eat it again and again.
Eating is truly a national pastime in Thailand and my nighttime food tour provided me with the confidence to order and enjoy three classic Thai dishes.
One of the best food tours we’ve been on was in Hanoi, a city we’ve been to so many times before. It’s one thing to take a food tour in a brand new city, where you don’t know the cuisine. But, when you consider yourself a bit of an expert, it’s an entirely different story.
I was surprised at how our Hanoi street food tour turned out. First, it was around Tet, the celebration of the Vietnamese lunar new year, so there was an excitement in the air. We drank fresh Bia hoi, while learning from our Vietnamese guide, who taught us about the Tet traditions. Most important, we tried several new and unique dishes, including a version of street side BBQ. We didn’t even know that was an option in Hanoi.
Showing us unique dishes and food experiences, made this Hanoi street food tour one of the best we’ve been on!
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
When it came to eating street food in Southeast Asia, I’m ashamed to say that I was a little hesitant. Whether it was the language barrier or the new (to me) foods, I didn’t know where to start. As such, when we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, we signed up for the XO Foodie Tour, letting experts guide us through the local treats. Each person gets their own driver/guide, zipping them from district to district, trying new dishes. Food aside, getting to experience Saigon traffic with someone who knows what they’re doing is quite the thrill!
Stopping at a local hot pot shop, we cooked our own meat, while sipping on a cold beer. Barbecued frog is actually quite delicious if you can get past the idea of poor Kermit in your mouth. Duck egg embryo is saved for last and not for the faint of heart. If you don’t finish it, your tour guides will, as it’s quite the specialty in Saigon.
All in all, we had an absolute blast, learning not just about food, but about what makes each district in HCMC so unique.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
I met Tiffany in Saigon, Vietnam through a great company called ‘With Locals’ that connects people and cultures through food and unique experiences. For a small price, Tiffany took me on a tour of a local market where she taught me a lot about the local produce, culture and food traditions. We took our purchases back to her beautiful home and prepared a feast of traditional Southern Vietnamese recipes.
I couldn’t recommend using this service any more highly; not only are you supporting locals, but you’re getting a truly authentic, hands on, and personalized experience. You can read about my experience and find Tiffany’s recipes on my blog Lonely Palate!
I absolutely love food tours and have done quite a few over the years, including one for cyclists in Vancouver, a Caribbean cuisine in St Kitts, cheese and wine in Italy and street food in London. However, the most unusual and memorable was foraging in the Australian Outback in the Northern Territory.
One day, having seen the sunrise over Uluru (Ayers Rock) at dawn from the back of a camel, I spent a couple of hours in the Aussie bush discovering how the Aboriginal people survived out here. We followed a local guide through spiky spinifex grass in the searing heat, finding honey ants, seeds to make damper (Aboriginal bread), quandong (desert peach) and the pretty Grevillea ‘honey gem’ plant.
It was eye-opening to see how possible it was to survive in this unforgiving landscape, but I still wouldn’t fancy my chances if I got lost in the outback! Read about it here.
I went on a Coffee Tour with Hola Panama Travel when I was in Boquete, land of rainbows. Our tour guide, Gabriel, took us to a small Finca (or coffee plantation). He explained the process coffee goes through, from berry to roasted bean that we grind up to drink. He also showed us the various plant life on the Finca, all planted to protect the delicate coffee plants. A white goat named Blancecita followed us around the farm, nibbling her way through. At the end, we got to drink freshly roasted coffee, the smoothest I think I’ve ever had!
Prague, Czech Republic
In Prague, I went on the Prague Food Tour, guided by Mirka on a tasting tour through Prague’s Old and New Towns. Rather than just sampling what I assumed to be traditional Czech foods like dumplings, sausage, and beer, the tour actually included some really original and unique Czech foods. A “sauerkraut soup” inside a bell-tower and an open-faced sandwich (“chlebíčky”) with beetroot and goat cheese were particularly surprising.
Of course, the traditional Czech meal of braised beef with dumplings in a cream sauce was on the food tour menu. But having it at the historic Cafe Louvre was really special. The Cafe has been open since 1902 and it’s the very same place where famous 20th-century thinkers Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein have spent time, playing chess or enjoying some of the very same cuisines.
What makes this food tour so special isn’t just the food, it’s the history that you pick up along the way. Of course, the food is pretty good too 😉
One of the best decisions we made on our trip to Budapest, Hungary was to book a culinary walking tour with the company, Taste Hungary.
Some of the highlights were exploring the city’s stunning Great Market Hall; learning what to eat in Budapest (lamb, pork, cured meats, game meats, wild mushrooms, fois gras (if that’s your thing), pickles, anything covered in paprika); learning about how the country’s turbulent history, including the rise and fall of Communism, affected eating habits and the domestic food market; discovering a new favorite wine, “tokaji”, a topaz-colored Hungarian wine made from–yes–rotting grapes; and perhaps my favorite street food in the world, “lángos”–hot and dripping fried dough topped with sour cream, garlic, and cheese!
We had a very small group, just me, my husband, two lovely New Yorkers, and our Budapest-born and raised guide, Julia. It was a very well-structured event if a bit too much food–we even got to take home leftovers!
My only regret was that we scheduled this popular food tour on the last day of our trip, I wish we had done it sooner so that I would have known what dishes we should look for! I highly recommend it for any food lover heading to Budapest.
Not known as a culinary destination, Budapest, Hungary offers a surprising number of culinary delights and the best way to experience it is on a Budapest food tour. Hungary is more than just goulash and paprika. Starting in the grand Central Market hall, we savored the sweet and savory langos (a kind of street food pizza) that fills the stomachs of locals and travelers alike.
The best part about Hungarian food is the magnificent use of meats, especially pork. The real find is the Mangalica – a rare pig breed native to the region that is absolutely delicious. The highlight of our Taste Hungary walking tour was a place called the Downtown Pig Feast, which is exactly what it sounds like. It is part butcher shop and part stand-up lunch counter and all kinds of delicious!
A food tour in Hungary is a feast for the senses and is an amazing way to experience both the culture and history of the country.
Living in Italy we’ve been to Rome a dozen times but always toting family & friends around to see the Greatest Hits: Colosseum, Pantheon, Vatican, Spanish Steps… you know the drill. So on a recent winter weekend to Rome, we decided to get off the beaten path and finally explore beyond the tourist ring. Up & out early on a gorgeous January morning, we joined the Eating Italy, Taste of Testaccio Food Tour. We started the day as Romans do – with a strong caffè and flaky cornetto.
Our guide called himself “Father Doug” but I called him John Oliver, a quick-witted Englishman with a rich knowledge of food, history & one-liners who led our group thru the heart of Rome.
Stopping at the family owned Volpetti we sampled cured meat and local cheese. For most tourists this would be a highlight – elbow to elbow with locals, just like the packed anchovies under salt, all vying for a spot in line at the counter, mesmerized by the hundred of kilos of cured meat hanging overhead. Next stop….
The unassuming, yet locally famous Tavola Calda that serves some of the best pizza I’ve eaten at Volpetti Più! My absolute favorite was the pizza Bianco with mozzarella, squash blossoms, and anchovies – AMAZING.
Back to eating! The Testaccio Market, now this is where the locals shop. We could have spent the entire tour here! After the prerequisite bruschetta & buffalo mozzarella, we got to the good stuff…
I love living in Italy because each region, province, village, and home has their specialty! And when in Rome – eat suppli, and preferably with a cold local craft beer. (I’ve eaten my fair share of suppli and these were THE BEST – no grease, the rice perfectly cooked & just damn good.) The Chef of Food Box recently opened a stall at the market after wild success with his food truck. (I’m craving these as I write this…)
And after all that food…it was time for lunch followed by gelato At Giolitti, an artisanal gelato shop since 1914 (with a whip cream machine whipping it up since 1936). It was literally the icing on the cake. This is legit. Good ole’ “John Oliver” aka “Father Doug” offered great information for tourists on finding the real deal gelato, I was happy to hear him warning travelers on how to spot impostors! I went classico and ordered pistachio & caffè, settled into my chair, and watched the locals pass.
One of my favorite food tours is the Eating Italy Food Tour in Rome, Italy. The food, of course, is sensational (it’s Italy, after all) and our guide, Kenny, was one of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides I’ve ever had, who introduced me to a completely off-the-beaten-path neighborhood in Rome. It’s no surprise that Kenny’s tour company is now the largest food tour operation in Italy.
Venice’s cuisine has a bad reputation. Trust me. You want to have an insider like Walks of Italy show you where to find the good stuff!
Our Venice Food Tour began at the Rialto Markets, the heart (and belly) of Venice. First stop: the produce market, or Erbaria, an open-air arcade filled with stalls displaying a remarkable variety of vibrant fruit and vegetables, many of which, like the tiny purple Sant’Erasmo artichokes, Bassano white asparagus, and radicchio from Treviso, are unique to the Veneto region.
Where the Ebaria is bright and cheerful, the vibe at the fish market, the Pescaria, is more shock and awe. If you’re used to buying seafood on a shrink-wrapped styrofoam tray in your local grocery store then be ready to have your mind blown.
Once we’d had our fill of the markets, our guide took us to some of the best Cicchetti bars in town. We ate panini filled with silky Prosciutto di Parma, its salty-sweet flavor enhanced by a thick slather of black truffle-infused Robiola cheese, fried calamari, meatballs with white polenta, and mozzarella in carrozza (greasy little deep-fried sandwiches filled with mozzarella and anchovies). We also nibbled on two of the most popular Venetian-style crostini. The first, baccalà mantecato is Venice’s version of a tuna salad sandwich. Made from dried salt cod that’s been soaked, poached, and whipped with cream and garlic then smeared on toast, it tastes mild, light, and surprisingly, not the least bit fishy. I can’t say the same, however, for the sarde en saor (sweet and sour sardines pickled with vinegar, onion, raisins and pine nuts.)
Throughout the tour, our charming guide, Mosè, entertained us with tales of the city’s colorful past. With famous citizens like Casanova and Marco Polo, this is a city with a tantalizing story to tell! Sitting at a corner table in a dark bàcaro where Venetians have eaten for over 600 years, sipping Spritz and eating bar snacks, listening to a local insider with a lovely Italian accent, is the best way I know to take it all in.
A favorite food tour of ours happens to be a tour that wasn’t initially planned with a food focus. Creative Holidays Malta runs painting and photography tours/trips in the impressive destination of Malta. However, from the very first meal inside the 300-year old stone building of Commando Restaurant, it was obvious that food was going to become an (unexpected) focus.
Over the next few days, in-between seeing sights like Valetta, the Hagar Qim Megalithic Temples, and the Azure Window we ate everything from pastizzi (savoury pastries usually filled with ricotta or mushy peas), Hobz Biz-Zejt (thick slices of Maltese bread with kunserva, a sweet tomato paste, spread on top), and imqaret (date pastries). We dined in some amazing locations, including Xlendi Bay where a plate full of fresh fish brought directly to your table helps you select from the “catch of the day”.
Relaxing with a bottle of Kinnie and a bag of Twistees at Marsaxlokk Village while listening to jokes and stories from our tour guide, Vincent DeBono (note: a super tour guide full of knowledge, but also great at knowing how to keep photographers happy) was a great memory to make. We even rounded off the “tour” with a visit to the Qbajjar Salt Pans, which date back to the Roman times and are still in use.
Who knew Dutch food was so delicious!?
I did a fantastic food tour of Amsterdam with Eating Amsterdam Food Tours. I spent four hours wandering around Amsterdam with a fantastic small group led by Evelyn. We explored the Jordaan district of Amsterdam by foot and sampled many local Dutch treats like pickled herring, honey licorice, and apple pie along our way. The bitterballen enjoyed alongside a cool glass of beer, were a highlight.
Our children loved the poffertjes – tiny, fluffy pancakes were served with golden syrup, powdered sugar and a dollop of creamy butter. Yum!
We love Amsterdam. We discovered and joined a popular food tour of this city and had a fantastic time.
Our food guide was Astrid and our hungry group of six people met and set off to get a taste of Amsterdam. ‘Febo’ is a chain of Dutch walk-up fast food restaurants of the automatic type. You can see in the tiny windows the food available and the price is visible just next to it. You select the hot treat that you desire and add your small change to the vending machine and pull the window open to take out your treat and away you go. The food is similar to deep fried croquette with different fillings to little hamburgers. Locals love it!
Next, we went to a cute little natural yogurt café to taste the finest of what this country always does very well, dairy products. The yogurt was so fresh with a creamy texture, it felt like it should be full fat, but we’re told it was low in fat. Winning! This delightful yogurt was served in a small glass cup, accompanied with some sweet raspberries and crushed ginger flavored biscuits. Bliss.
A little further down the little road and we arrived at what might be my favorite treat of the tour. Astrid explained that the sandwich that we were going to try was heavily inspired by Suriname, a country on the Northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. Great for us as we haven’t really tried any Surinamese food. The sandwich was filled with braised pork, a spicy sauce and pickled vegetables which were packed with flavor.
Our guide then led us through the markets, passing by artisan food producers, local farmers, and artists in this bustling little marketplace.
I recognized a sweet aroma in the air of sugar, caramel, and cinnamon, and sure enough, Astrid stopped us right in front of the freshest and I think the best stroopwafels in the city.
Stroopwafel is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. Yum!. Next, we popped over to say hello to a Cheese Vendor and enjoyed about 5 different kinds of cheese. Some old, some new and some even flavored with rosemary and colored blue.
The next stop was another favorite of mine. We were taken through a little shop which opened into a beautiful little courtyard of a lovely Indonesian lady who was cooking for us today. Amsterdam is heavily influenced by Indonesian cooking and I was excited to be part of this experience.
The table was set with beautiful cutlery and the setting was perfect. There is no way that we would find this place on our own.
We were served a bowl of a delicious soup with fresh herbs and condiments such as fried shallots to add if desired. I’m not sure about everybody else but I was immediately transported to Bali in Indonesia upon tasting this little gem. This dish was definitely cooked with love!
She also served us a chicken skewer with some home-made satay sauce, sambal olek, and crunchy fresh ginger paste. A salad of tomatoes, red onion, fresh mint, chili was served with some prawn crackers. We finished with some fresh mint tea and continued on our way.
Now, what would be a Street Food Tour through Amsterdam without trying the famous pickled herring?
Yes, we did get to try this local favorite served with diced onion and pickles on the side. The texture of this raw fish reminded me of smoked salmon, yet it didn’t smell overly fishy at all. Looks can be deceiving on this one and surprisingly we really enjoyed it.
Astrid also ordered us ‘kibbeling’, which is deep fried cod (fish) cheeks served with a dipping sauce.
Wandering further through the cobbled stoned streets of this pretty city, we stop at an obviously very popular Fries Stall. Astrid explained that this is the best in the city and locals are known to bicycle 20min from the other side of the city just to get these chips with mayonnaise because they are the best. She explains that the secret is because they are twice cooked! I love learning culinary secrets!
It was recommended to get the fries with mayonnaise and Satay sauce so of course, we do as the locals do and order it this way. Served with finely diced onion on top, they were so good.
Last but not least we were introduced to this cute little bake shop that only bakes one product, amazing chocolate biscuits. It was the perfect sweet snack to end the day.
One of my favorite things about the tour is that we got to meet some local people who love what they do and are so passionate about their food.
Did you know that a 19th-century Portuguese gentleman could order fast food at a drive-thru restaurant in Lisbon? Well, perhaps it was really more of a “ride-thru” restaurant…
I learned this and more on Inside Lisbon’s Food & Wine Walk. The tour began in Rossio Square, where 6 other international travelers and I met our friendly food guide, Claudia. At the tiny Tendinha tavern on the south side of the square, we tasted savory codfish croquettes with a light Vinho Verde wine from the vineyards of northern Portugal. The dried, salted cod in the croquettes is a staple of the Portuguese diet and a legacy of the Portuguese sailors who survived on it during long sea voyages. The young “green” wine has a low alcohol content, which was a plus since our 3-hour walking tour was just beginning!
From Rossio Square, we ambled up along the charming Rua do Carmo shopping boulevard in the Chiado neighborhood. We passed fruit vendors, bakeries and coffee houses, but our destination was a cozy wine bar called “Grapes & Bites” on a quiet side street in Bairro Alto. Here we sampled tapas and white wine before heading back down to the lower town.
In the Baixa district, Claudia introduced us to Portuguese market shopping at Manteigaria Silva, a traditional small grocery store. I sampled and purchased quince marmalade, a sweet red paste that is compressed and sold in small bricks or cracker-sized individual packets. We sipped tawny port below a hanging curtain of curing hams and wandered through artful stacks of dried, salted cod.
Back on the street, it was time to taste ginjinha, a sour cherry liqueur served either with or without cherries. We drank outside the A Ginjinha bar, which is barely more than a storefront and counter. Claudia encouraged us to nibble the cherries and to try the liqueur later from an edible chocolate cup. (It’s better than a chocolate-covered cherry!)
Our final food stop was the Casa do Alentejo Restaurante, a former Moorish palace decorated inside with elaborate tiles and soaring archways. Over red wine and hot platters of Portuguese chouriço, a smoky red-brown pork sausage made with paprika, Claudia answered all our questions and gave us restaurant recommendations for enjoying more Portuguese culinary delights in Lisbon.
Sometimes it can be hard imaging having an authentic food experience in Barcelona. The city has become infamous for mass tourism, with locals practically moved out of the city’s most central and historic neighborhoods and streets and plazas lined with bright billboards advertising food that probably has seen not much more preparation that a microwave. Yes, despite the number of times I visited Barcelona I resigned myself to the fact that true Catalan traditions were hardly paid attention to in the city. Then I got the chance to explore the village-like neighborhood of Gracia with Devour Barcelona Food Tours.
Timeless traditions meet trendy in this neighborhood that was once a village outside of Barcelona, and is now a place – perhaps begrudgingly associated with the city – but one where locals fiercely remain, as those from Gracia are proud to call their neighborhood home, and those were the people we visited throughout the morning.
Supporting family businesses is part of Devour Barcelona’s mission, so we visited a pastry store run by a man who came on holiday to Barcelona from Syria, but ended up staying, getting himself both a wife and a pastry store (not necessarily in that order) in less than two months, an olive oil store owned by a lady who quit her corporate career to follow her dreams of flavours, and the sisters who owned a bar passed down from their mother, but not any old bar – one that used to be a gypsy hanging and even host weddings. I loved the feeling that every place on the tour has been carefully selected to tell Gracia’s story to us.
Local traditions were paid attention to as we moved around the Mercat de Abaceria trying stuffed olives, delicious cheeses, and the real-deal Iberian ham. Stories were told as we tried the bomba, a classic Barcelona tapa invented in the city during the civil war, and perhaps the spiciest – or only spicy – food in existence, and friends were made – thanks to our guide Renee bringing everyone together – as we clinked glasses with cava. Food is the catalyst for many things, but for learning about the traditions and the culture of a place with friendly faces – including the guide, establishments, and fellow travelers, is the best thing of all.
One of the best ways to experience a new city is through its food and wherever we go, I sign up for a food tour of the city as soon as we arrive. In my experience, it’s hard to go wrong with these tours although there are some differences in the number of places you visit, how much food you taste, the size of the group and the kind of information you get. Some of the tours are more structured and you even get a printout or a post-tour email listing the places you visited with links and information about them, others are more informal and you need to take your own notes and images to be able to write about the tour later.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite among them, as each tour has elements that are favorites on my food tour experiences.
One tour leader I particularly connected with and stayed in touch with, perhaps more than others, is Suzie of Tours in Valencia, Spain. Suzi leads tours in Valencia in several languages covering tapas tastings, paella making and gastronomic tours and since we were there off-season (that’s when we usually travel), we had a private tapas tour in Valencia one evening visiting interesting local establishments that most tourists wouldn’t find on their own. Suzi is much younger than us but we connected instantly. We tasted tapas and pinchos, drank local sangria and a special horchata drink at a local Horchateria El Siglio. Just talking about it makes me want to go there again right now.
I recently went on two food tours in Rome that I would like to mention, one with Context Travel, led by a private chef Chiara, and the other with Eating Italy where we tasted so much food that I could barely take another bite (that’s a good thing, in case you wonder). Eating Italy also provided a brochure listing all the places we visited on the tour.
Whether you pick one of these tours or find another on your own, participating in a food tour will enhance your travel experience significantly.
Nowadays, finding new food tours is just a normal part of my travel experience. That’s why when I recently found myself in Stockholm for just a scant 36 hours, I knew that a great food tour necessarily had to be a part of the trip.As with most food tours, I learned a lot about what Swedes eat and why, but I also learned a lot about the city. The Stockholm tour with Food Tours Stockholm was one of the best-run food tours I’ve been on, led by a local food writer and cookbook author, her expertise in all things Swedish cuisine made a big difference, not just in my enjoyment of the food and city, but my understanding of the culture behind it.
Of the several tours offered, I opted for the Nordic Experience walk so that I could learn more about the very traditional side to Swedish cuisine. I’d traveled to Sweden before, but my foodie knowledge of the country was very limited, a deficiency in my education that was quickly corrected. From meats and cheeses to traditional Swedish meatballs, we tried a little bit of everything that afternoon.
Of course, my favorite Swedish food custom is Fika, that time in the afternoon when you sit down with coffee, some cake or sweets and catch up with friends. It’s a tradition that I wish more countries would adopt and is yet another reason to fall in love not just with Stockholm, but Sweden itself.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Fort Lauderdale isn’t on the top of everyone’s foodie must-visit list, but there are plenty of delicious options popping up all over the city. One of the highlights of my recent trip, taking the Las Olas Food Tour, opened my eyes to some of the exciting food opportunities in the city. During the tour, we sampled Italian (pizza), Japanese (sushi), Greek (roast lamb), and the sweet side of life (ice cream!).
We also explored the history and culture of the restaurants that we sampled along Las Olas Boulevard. One of the stops along the tour was an art gallery, where we spoke with the curator of the local and world-famous art on display (and for sale). We also stood along the Tarpon River near the Historic Stranahan House Museum and learned about the origins of Fort Lauderdale dating back to colonization. The tour provided context for why Las Olas has become one of the hottest streets to explore in Fort Lauderdale (it hasn’t always been that way), and how many of the buildings have much farther histories than as restaurants.
The walking tour did a nice job of spreading out the food stops with these historical points of interest — it didn’t ever feel like I had eaten so much I was uncomfortable walking, and I learned so much more than I would have done just eating in each place independently.
Seattle, Washington, USA
One can’t miss place in Seattle is Pike Place Market. It’s been around for over 100 years and there is so much to see, learn and, of course, taste. Wandering it on your own is a must, but if you really want to get to know the market taking a guided tour is the best way to do so. Savor Seattle is the premier tour to experience the market.
Our guide Nick not only knew the detailed history of the market and about the individual places we stopped, but he seemed to be on a first-name basis with everyone who worked in the market. We stopped at some of the famous stalls like Pike Place Fish but also ones I wouldn’t have likely visited on my own such as BB Ranch.
Not only will you get to taste and learn at spots like Beecher’s Cheese, you’ll learn about all the places you want to come back and explore later on. You’ll get to chat with the vendors and get to know who they are and what makes Pike Place Market special from the people who spend each day in it.
Overall, the tour includes seven different spots, all of which we tasted a couple things. It takes about 2 1/2 hours and tickets run $43. Well worth the experience. You’ll also get a discount card that you can use at 50 different places around the market for the days following your tour.
Here are the answers to the items at the top of the post:
- How to order Cicchetti like a boss? Point to what you want and offer to pay, then be prepared to eat and drink standing up. Most Cicchetti bars don’t have tables or table service.
- The first solid food mothers give their bambinos in Italy? Parmigiano Reggiano.
- One simple trick the working class in Mexico use to stretch their pesos? Wrap their taco fillings in a double tortilla.
- Which famous lover used the dark secluded taverns of Venice to rendezvous with his married conquests? Casanova.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Get out there and explore the world through food! And if an organized group food tour isn’t your style, check out the self-guided options available over at Touramisu. They might just be the alternative you’re looking for.
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