There’s no better way to get to know a city than by eating your way around it. But when you land in a new place, it can be tricky to know exactly where to go. Which Parisian bakery makes the baguettes that the locals buy, and where do you find the best pastéis de nata in Lisbon?
Well, taking a food tour is a handy way to get a culinary introduction. Choose wisely, and you’ll be led by an expert that will not only provide tasty nibbles as you stroll around a city’s side streets, but also tell you exactly where to eat for the rest of your trip. Here are some of the best around Europe to whet your appetite…
1. Cicchetti and Wine Tour of Venice
Venice can be a tricky city in which to eat — trying to find the genuinely good restaurants among the tourist traps can be a minefield. Enter Intrepid. While the company has long run themed group holidays, it also does shorter experiences under the umbrella Intrepid Urban Adventures, like this cicchetti and wine tour of the city. Cicchetti are little Italian bites typically eaten with a glass of wine in the evening, like pintxos in San Sebastián, or tapas in Barcelona. On this tour, you’ll be guided around Rialto (partly via gondola) and pop into bacari bars for glasses of Italian wines and aperitivos, and an authentic taste of the city.
Ask anyone who’s done a food tour to recommend one, and Devour Tours will likely crop up. With tours on offer in cities across Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and the US, as well as London, Devour offers themed experiences led by passionate guides who know their cities inside out. On the Tastes and Traditions of Barcelona Food Tour, you get 13 tastings around the Born and Barceloneta neighbourhoods, for example. Along the way, you’ll pop into traditional bakeries and visit markets that the locals actually shop in (in other words, not the touristy Boqueria). The tour even finishes with a proper lunch.
Karen Coakley of Kenmare Food Tours with Pól Ó Conghaile
3. Kenmare Foodie Tours
One of the original food tours in Ireland, Karen Coakley (a well-known food blogger and TV chef) leads groups of hungry foodies around the pretty town of Kenmare, meeting local producers and stopping along the way for nibbles of local cheese, rare-breed sausage rolls, beer, pastries and chocolate. She also runs a Hikes and Bites tour, which includes a guided hike on parts of the Kerry and Beara Way, finishing up with a slap-up lunch. Keep your eyes peeled, because next year she has her sights set on Killarney…
Details: Kenmare tours from €69pp; kenmarefoodies.com
The Danish capital is a well-known foodie mecca, but it pays to have someone with a bit of insider knowledge as your guide. This private, customisable tour takes you on an excursion around the city centre and out to Nørrebro, where you’ll meet the boutique food producers and get the inside scoop on all the latest culinary trends. If you choose to take the tour on a bicycle (this is the city of bikes, after all) you’ll get to see even more areas like Refshaleøen and Vesterbro, recently dubbed the coolest neighbourhood in Copenhagen by Time Out.
Details: Tours from €222pp, based on a minimum of four people; foodsofcopenhagen.com
Another company offering tours all around Europe, Withlocals uses a team of expert locals to guide people around the lesser-known neighbourhoods in a city. The main difference? All of the tours are private, so you can eat your way around town without any strangers in tow. You can also pick your guide ahead of time, based on their online profile and reviews left by former guests. The 10 Tastings of Paris tour leads you around neighbourhoods like Saint-Antoine or Montmartre, with stops for authentic crêpes, quiche Lorraine, cheeses and pastries — with a few oysters and white wine thrown in for good measure.
Details: Tours from €100pp for four; withlocals.com
6. Sevilla Tapas Tour
Shawn Hennessey started running tapas tours in 2009, after her ‘accidental food blog’, detailing all the best places to eat and drink in Seville, became a hit. Now, her in-depth knowledge and insider tips make her a skilled and passionate guide, who can take you to all the best spots and tell you exactly what to eat in each. As someone who has lived in Seville for 29 years, she knows exactly where you should eat and why, and her tours are based around the places she takes her friends to when they visit
Details: Private tours from €100pp; azahar-sevilla.com
You’d be hard pushed to find a guide as enthusiastic as Caroline Wilson of Taste and Tour who, along with a cracking team of other foodies, leads you around Belfast for a fast-paced tasting extravaganza. The Belfast Food Tour starts off at St George’s Market, where you’ll meet the producers and nibble on bits like goat bacon or fifteens, before heading off all around town. They also do themed tours, like the Gin Jaunt, which takes you to all the best gin joints around town, or the Crafty Beer and Street Eats Tour. Their new five-stop brunch tour is just the ticket on a Sunday, too.
Details: Belfast Food Tour costs €75pp; tasteandtour.co.uk
8. Taste of Lisboa
Nothing beats exploring the markets of European cities, and Lisbon has some of the best around, with stalls stacked high with vegetables, cheeses and, if you’re lucky, pastéis de nata. One of the tours offered by Taste of Lisboa, the Lisbon Markets, Food and Culture Walk, focuses on the markets of the Campo de Ourique, so you can shop as the local residents do before heading off to various haunts, including the place rumoured to make the best chocolate cake in the world.
Details: Tour from €88; tasteoflisboa.com
9. Fork & Walk Berlin
Vegans can often get the short end of the stick when it comes to food tours. But that’s not the case with the vegan tour of Berlin offered by Fork & Walk, which takes you around all the plant-based hot spots in this surprisingly vegan-friendly city. You’ll get to sample vegan pastries, beers, and even a hot dog, all while taking in the street art and cool neighbourhood sights. Do the tour at the start of your trip, because you’ll leave with a list of restaurant recommendations as long as your arm.
Details: Tour from €70; forkandwalktoursberlin.com
With hundreds of pintxos bars on the streets of San Sebastián, it can be hard to know where to start. Enter the folks at Mimo Food Tours, who know where to get the best line-caught baby squid, or which place does the best bites of charred steak. Each nibble is paired with a drink, too, be it white or red wine or cider, and you can take the tour at either lunchtime or dinner. Just make sure you arrive hungry (and possibly wearing an elasticated waistband).