I used to have a guilty pleasure. When visiting a new city on holiday, I would love to go on a Hop on an open-topped tour bus. I loved how you could get a good idea of the lay of the land before exploring yourself. However, that came to a stop when I discovered a much better way to discover a city. Food Tours. That’s right, discovering a city, learning its history, culture, streets whilst also discovering their food heritage and eating it whilst on the way.
Most cities now have tour group companies running a range of food experiences for you to drool over. Over the last couple of years, I have been to a selection of tours that have varied on cost, length of time or specific food type and loved every single one of them. As well as this year, becoming a food tour guide myself to hopefully give visitors to Bristol a fun food experience.
I have compiled the tours that I have participated in around the world. I can’t stress enough what a great way to spend time on your holiday. The guides sometimes have other specialist knowledge other than food, like art history or architecture, which can add colour and facts to your trips. As well as it’s worth asking them, where their favourite restaurants are or anywhere else away from the tour route they would recommend you don’t miss on your trip.
Whilst visiting a friend who was working in Rome, we came across the food tour Eating Italy Food Tours for a Saturday that she had free while I was visiting. Being the beginning of February and not yet full of the tidal wave of valentines visitors, we had the tour guide to ourselves. By the end of the tour, it definitively felt like it was our friend taking us to her favourite bakery and food spots. The tour was set in an area of the city which is slightly less hectic and more a local artistic spot of Trastevere. The quantity and quality were staggering and was a brilliant way to discover a part of the city that most visitors don’t venture to. Sign of a good tour, we needed a three-hour nap after to digest. Check out my write up of the food here.
When arranging a family trip to Lisbon, with many appetites to satisfy, there was only one answer – Taste of Lisboa food tour on the Tram 28 route, covering the oldest food market in the city, chocolate cake, ice cream, codfish cakes and of course custard tarts. We also learnt why there were so many egg yolk based desserts in the city. It goes back to when the egg whites were used to starch clothes of the wealthy by the nuns and monks in the monasteries and the yolks were in huge surplus and instead of feeding all the yolks to the pigs, the nuns made them into the golden pastries. Again we explored hidden gems, we just wouldn’t have found ourselves. Nothing better than challenging yourself to how many pastel de nata tarts you can eat when visiting, see how many I ate here.
Having now been on two brilliant food tours, when it came to my sister in law’s 30th trip to Istanbul, I knew the way I really wanted to get stuck into the food culture. As there was seven of us our the group, we had the tour guide again to ourselves. Culinary Backstreets tour, started with a traditional Turkish breakfast, working through midmorning snacks, lunch, afternoon tea and of course a restorative cup of Turkish coffee. They have many tours for the different districts of the city, each with their unique food style. Our guide was fantastic as well as a historian adding more colour to the city. As well as spotting other dishes we might want to try but not brave to try without her, roasted sheep’s head anyone? We also needed to thank her for recommended and directing us to the best kebab and lamb I’ve ever eaten, which we would have never found by ourselves. If this has got you wanting to learn more about Turkish food, check my review of the tour here.
Again a different take on a tour was the one my friends and I recently did in the summer to Maderia. Pairing different local drinks with the bar snacks/tapas, whilst being taken around the beautiful island by Up the Mountain Tours. As we hadn’t hired a car for the trip, was so nice to see different parts of the island and all the stops were completely local spots, so we were so lucky to experience the stops and what they had to offer. Feeling warmed by the alcohol and the sun, we tucked in a great feast of barbecued meats and vegetables, where we picked the meat at the butchers and salads from the greengrocer before heading across the road for it to be prepared. Check out the feast here.
Okay, so I’m a bit biased with this location, being a food tour guide myself for The Bristol Food Tour. I wanted to become a guide after being on the above brilliant tours and hopefully, letting people visiting Bristol experience all the wonderful independent food stops that the great city has to offer. Covering a range of savoury and sweet places, from the diverse makeup of the city. I’ve even hosted and guided a Sweet Tooth Tour, where I guided people to about eight different sugary stops to try gelato, cakes, pancakes and baklava. Check out my interview with the founders Alice and Jo right here.
Can’t find a tour guide company or where you’re going, or fancy building your own tour. I’ve written a post as to how to research and craft a bespoke tour for your trip. FInd out how’s it done here.
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