Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Going on a food tour is a wonderful way to explore a place. You not only get to try the local specialties with a knowledgeable guide; you usually also get a flavor of the area’s history and culture.
It’s important to know that there are ways to make a food tour more enjoyable. Here are six tips we’ve learned how to maximize your food tour experience.
1. Consider Neighborhoods Off the Beaten Path
We’ve enjoyed delicious food tours in iconic parts of a city, such as in Central Porto, Portugal with Blue Dragon, or Pike Peak’s Market in Seattle.
However, some of our most memorable food tour experiences have been in areas where you’ll find few tourists and very authentic food. For instance, our food tour of the Palermo Viejo neighborhood of Buenos Aires with Asado Adventure not only took us to places known only to locals, but also introduced us to the neighborhood’s street art, for which the area is renowned.
On another trip, we likely would not have ventured to the out-of-the-way Testaccio neighborhood of Rome if we hadn’t taken a food tour there with Eating Europe. This residential area is known by locals as a food mecca but not familiar to many tourists, and it was well worth the detour.
2. Consider Small or Private Tours
We love meeting people, but a smaller or private tour may maximize your food tour experience. For instance, one food tour wasn’t as fun – although the food was great – because a couple on the tour kept complaining about the walking. We’ve also been on tours that are so large that it takes a long time for everyone to be served, or the group gets spread out as it walks from one stop to the next, causing delays as we waited for others to catch up.
3. Embrace the Education
Sure, the focus of a food tour is on the food, but a food tour experience is also an opportunity to learn.
We prefer choosing a food tour that offers delicacies we don’t normally eat, can’t find back home, or are the local specialties. One Montreal food tour we liked, Beyond the Bagel, is a food and history tour offered by a museum.
Choosing a tour that allows you to learn in addition to trying the cuisine can be a great way to maximize your food tour experience.
One of the more eye-opening food tours we took was an Ethiopian food tour through Washington, D.C.’s U Street neighborhood, with DC Metro Food Tours. We learned a lot not only about Ethiopian food but also about the Ethiopian immigrant experience and why most of the cuisine’s desserts are Italian.
4. Engage With Your Tour Guide
All of our food tour guides have been great, but we've found that they really come alive when you interact with them. They want to know what you think of their local food; they want to share their stories. I also like to ask them questions: How did they get into conducting food tours? What’s their favorite stop on the tour? Are there any sights or restaurants they recommend we go to while we’re in their city? We’ve learned more this way and have had more fun. I’ve seen people on food tours ignore the guide. Those people are not getting the most out of the food tour.
5. Don’t Skip Food Tours Just Because You Have a Restricted Diet
You can still appreciate food tours if one or more in your group has a food limitation, depending on what it is. Most food tour operators can accommodate at least some special food needs or requests by offering substitute tastings, and they usually ask ahead of time whether anyone has allergies. An added benefit: if the people in your group with particular food needs are willing to give you a taste of their substitute, you get to sample something extra!
6. Be Adventurous
It’s a food tour; you’re bound to be offered a local dish that you weren’t expecting, looks unappetizing, or seems intimidating.
Even I sampled a bug from one of Thailand’s street markets while on a tour (well, half a bug). 😊
There are many food tours to choose from. We hope these tips will help you maximize your food tour experience.
Please tell us about your food tour experiences and recommendations! We’re at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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