Food Tours - Easy access to local secrets
Updated: Nov 3, 2018
(This is an updated version of a post published in LinkedIn on February 28, 2017.)
I do not consider myself an actual foodie, but one of the things that I nowadays check when booking a trip is if there is a food tour available in that city. It does not prevent me from booking if there isn't, but it is definitely a plus if there is. During the last five years I have attended fifteen food tours in thirteen different cities and every time they have been among the highlights of the trips.
What is a food tour?
"But I don't want to be one of those tourists following a flag-carrying guide like a sheep" you might think. Many food tour companies describe their tours as a day/night out with new friends and that is how it is. You just go out to taste food and visit restaurants and shops with a local friend and other like-minded people.
There are also private tours available, but the tours I have participated have been open to anyone with a fixed price and usually minimum 2-3 participants needed. As I mostly travel solo, sometimes I have to wait that other participants list up before knowing that the tour happens. At peak season it’s usually no problem, but on the quieter months there might not be enough people to join. The tour groups are usually small so it is more intimate and personal. Largest group I have been in was 16 people and smallest 3 people. Often the maximum number of participants is 6-10. Generally I would say that there is more interaction within the participants and guides when the group is small.
Depending on a tour, you visit restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, butcher shops etc. In some places you get a small taster and in others a full portion. Together the food and drinks comprise a full meal (or two!). There's usually couple of kilometres walking involved, but that is very welcome between all the eating. To limit the amount of walking, tours usually concentrate to a certain neighbourhood. Tours sometimes also have a certain theme, e.g. traditional dishes, modern local food scene, or some particular dish, like currywurst in Berlin.
Between the eating you usually hear about local life and habits and about the buildings and other places you pass by. Many food tour guides are not “officially” trained guides so their insights are closer to everyday life and they can skip the most self-evident places and details you find in guide books. Because of this, the tours might be interesting for locals too. In Toronto there were two locals on my tour group and they enjoyed it as much as the non-locals.
Why you should go?
Food tour makes it easy to learn about and taste local food. You will go to restaurants and shops you necessarily wouldn’t find on your own.
Food tours work well for introverts too. The groups are small and you have at least two common interests with the other participants, traveling and food. Also you don’t have to decide on your own where to go, what to order, or worry about possible language barrier with the personnel in shops and restaurants. After visiting with a local, it is easier to return on your own.
Tours are not necessarily for children, but otherwise for everyone who is interested in learning about local food and lifestyle in good company. And as a fellow guest put it after a tour in Vienna, "The food tour guides must be the best people there are to meet in a new city."