If you’ve been following I’ve Bean Travelling for awhile, you will know that most of my travel is very much centred around gastronomy. Mr. Chuckles and I absolutely love to go on food tours as an avenue to discover new cuisines, meet other travellers, and see local sights, all at the same time.
I’ve mentioned my experience with food tours in some of my past trip journals, but I was inspired by Lannie over at Lannie’s Food & Travel Blog to contribute to her directory of food tours around the globe. You can find a recap of the all the tours that I’ve personally been on below, and then check out Lannie’s post for more travel and food inspiration!
The first time I considered a food tour was on our trip to Italy, my third return to Europe. The last time I had travelled to a non-English speaking European country was when I went to Spain, but while there I was hosted and accompanied by my friend who kindly showed us around and helped us order at restaurants and such. In Italy, Mr. Chuckles and I were going to be navigating alone, so I thought that a food tour would be a fun way to discover the culinary scene with the assistance of a local guide who would know the spots and the language. Via Lonely Planet, we found a company called Eating Italy, now rebranded as Eating Europe, which offers several small group food tours in major cities in Italy, France, England, and Portugal.
Trastevere for Foodies | Eating Europe, Rome
We opted for this morning tour on our second day in Rome. It took place in the bohemian neighbourhood of Trastevere, located west of the Tiber River. Trastevere is a hip area with working class roots, where you can find a range of traditional trattorias, trendy bars, and artisan shops. If I am ever back in Rome, I would consider staying in this part of the city.
The tour was awesome. We were joined by five other travellers from Australia, Canada, and the United States, along with our guide, who took us on a three hour stroll around the neighbourhood. We made eight stops, the highlights of which were the bignè choux pastry buns at a tiny pasticerria; supplì, fried rice balls; porchetta sandwiches; and learning about what makes a quality gelato. Our final stops were at a restaurant called Casa Mia, where we sat down for a plate of tonarelli cacio e pepe and amatriciana, and then Innocenti, for biscottis prepared by this family-run bakery that has been around since 1929. It was a lot to eat and we were stuffed by the end. All of it was really good and we in fact enjoyed the food from this tour so much that we ended up making the trip back to Trastevere later in the week, so that we could return to some spots and also pick up more of those bignès! One feature that I particularly appreciated with this tour was that we were given a booklet with the names and locations of all the places we visited, along with recommendations for other restaurants to check out in the neighbourhood.
For more information, visit Eating Europe Rome.
Cost: Adult €79 | Adolescent €65 | Child €48
Florence Sunset Food Tour | Eating Europe, Florence
We spent only one day in Florence on a trip from our home base in Rome so, of course, we had to optimize our short excursion by exploring as many food options as possible. The Florence Sunset Food Tour was the perfect way for us to taste a range of local specialties and discover the city. We had actually signed up for a morning tour, similar to what we did in Rome, but were offered an upgrade to the sunset tour as we were the only two people registered for the day option. As such, we joined up with two American girls who were in town on a study abroad, and went on an evening exploration around Florence.
The sunset food tour was a little boozier. We started with a stop at a bar near Piazza Santo Spirito, where we were shown how to prepare Negronis and other classic Italian cocktails, which we sipped while enjoying aperitivos. Then, we tried some cured meats and cheese at an artisanal shop, and swiftly moved on for some wine in the form of vino sfuso, known as “loose wine”, as it is served directly from the cask. This was followed by a glass of Tuscan chianti that we soaked up with panzanella and pappa col pomodoro, and a taste of trippa alla Fiorentina (Florentine tripe). Since I am such a lightweight, I was pretty tipsy at this point and didn’t take many photos through the tour. Our grand finale was at restaurant I Raddi, where we feasted on the king of Florentine cuisine – the bistecca alla Fiorentina. With only the four of us plus our guide, this was a lot to chow down, but we did it.
For more information, visit Eating Europe Florence.
Cost: Adult €95 (Must be 18 years+ to participate)
Japan is probably my favourite food destination in the world. There was so, so much good food in Kyoto and Tokyo, as I’ve written about before. When we landed in Tokyo, we decided to join a food tour for a similar reason as in Italy. We wanted to discover places with a local guide who could help us with the language barrier, and show us places that we would probably be too intimidated or unaware to approach. We were not disappointed with Arigato Japan, which runs tours in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
Allstar Food Tour | Arigato Japan, Tokyo
The Allstar tour is Arigato Japan’s comprehensive food tour that takes you through the districts of Yurakucho, Ginza, and Shimbashi. Our group of three were the only people signed up, so we had a private tour with our guide. Starting in Yurakucho, we stopped in Gado Shita, a restaurant district set up underneath elevated railway tracks. Next, we continued our walk through the yokocho alleys for two more stops where we tried out common bar snacks and small bites. This was followed by a stroll through Ginza, where we had the chance to see (but not taste) some designer fruit, including the famous $400 melons that are given as high end gifts. The tour ended at a restaurant in Shimbashi, where our guide ordered us a sample of six dishes representing the regional specialties of south Japan. This spot was full of locals only and I doubt we would have ever found it on our own or known what to eat, if it weren’t for this tour. At the end of the night, we topped off our stomachs with taiyaki, a fish shaped cake filled with red bean paste.
We were very well fed on this tour and I loved the opportunity to try out a host of Japanese foods that I had never known about. There is a lot more to Japanese cuisine than sushi and ramen, that’s for sure. The only qualm I had about this tour was the price, a hefty $165 USD per person, but that’s Japan for you. Tokyo is an expensive city, but so worth the visit.
For more information, visit Arigato Japan.
Cost: Adult $165 USD | Child (age 3-12 years) 50% off
We started our most recent trip to Southeast Asia in Cambodia. The last time we had been in the region was during our travels to Thailand and Laos in April 2019, and one thing that I think we missed out on that trip was a complete exploration of the food. That was the downside of being on a packaged group tour. This time around, we self-planned our entire trip to Cambodia and Vietnam, so made sure to include a whole lot of food-related activities. This meant that we ended up registering for four food tours throughout our two week trip, starting with one on our second day in Cambodia. We went with Urban Adventures, an affiliate of Intrepid Travel, and found their food tours to be amazing and very much worthwhile.
Siem Reap Street Food by Night | Urban Adventures, Siem Reap
We went on this evening street food tour on the same day that we arrived in Siem Reap. We were joined by a group of middle-aged Australians who were travelling together on some type of golf retreat. Despite being part of completely different demographics, we got along well and found them really fun to hang out with for the three hours that we were together.
To be honest, the best part of this tour was actually riding around in the moto-remorks that took us around the town of Siem Reap to about six different food stops. Cambodian food was not my favourite, but it was worth experiencing, if only for the stories. Our first stop was relatively benign, at a street vendor selling beef skewers and fried noodles, but we quickly delved into adventurous territory as we continued with roasted duck with herbs and duck blood at a hole-in-the-wall joint on the city outskirts. The most memorable bites followed at the night market, where we tasted a variety of fried insects. We finished up at a restaurant back in the main part of town, where we were each allowed to order one item on the menu and I went for the basic option of fresh spring rolls. You can read more about our time in Siem Reap here.
For more information, see Urban Adventures Siem Reap.
Cost: Adult $48 USD | Child $26 USD
Vietnam was a delightful place to travel, in large part due to the incredible food. We were able to thoroughly explore Vietnamese cuisine across the country via our multiple food tours with Urban Adventures, one in each city that we visited. I wrote about them at length in my daily travel journal posts here, but a recap of each one is below.
Saigon Street Food by Night | Urban Adventures, HCMC
Our journey across Vietnam started in the south, in the bustling capital Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon. We went on this evening street food tour on the day of our arrival, and in contrast to our Siem Reap tour, were able to enjoy it in a small group of only three people plus our entertaining guide. The tour was primarily focused on District 1, the more heavily touristed part of the city and where we were staying.
Note that the tour route on the Urban Adventures website does not appear to be fully updated, as we did not really follow the described itinerary. Our first stop was at a street vendor that served the most delicious BBQ duck I’ve ever had, absolutely divine with a loaf of fresh baguette. After this, we enjoyed a small bowl of banh canh cua noodle soup, which my mom tells me is impossible to find in Toronto. Next was another street vendor for fried rice flour cakes with egg, and then bo la lot – beef and lemongrass wrapped in betel leaf. Somewhere in between was a stop for a cold drink; I had a passion fruit juice. Finally, we washed it all down with a bottle of cold Bia Saigon and called it the end of a fun-filled night of eating.
For more information, see Urban Adventures Ho Chi Minh City.
Cost: $32 USD per person
Hoi An Food Adventure | Urban Adventures, Hoi An
Hoi An in central Vietnam is considered by many to be the culinary capital of the country. This was well reflected in our food tour, as this one turned out to be our favourite of the entire trip. Again, we embarked on this Urban Adventures tour on the day of our arrival in town, so that we would learn about places we could return to on our own later in the week.
We began in a busy street market in Old Town, where we sat down on the ubiquitous tiny plastic stools to enjoy a plate of grilled pork skewers wrapped in herbs and rice paper. Delicious start! Then, we went further down the street to Banh My Phương, which Anthony Bourdain touted as the best banh mi in Vietnam. I may have to agree with him on this. Next was a walk through an indoor market, where we had a regional specialty, cao lau noodles, and then we stuffed ourselves to the brim with a plate of chicken rice at another street vendor. Our night cap was at a cozy pub where we sipped on some drinks and digested. We loved everything we ate on this tour, and in fact did return to the banh mi place later on in the week for a second taste.
For more information, visit Urban Adventures Hoi An.
Cost: $31 USD per person
Hanoi Street Food by Night | Urban Adventures, Hanoi
I was looking forward to reaching Hanoi, having heard from many other travellers along the way that it was the highlight of their trips. The city and the food tour did not disappoint. Our final food tour in Vietnam took us through the streets of Old Quarter, where we tried out a range of their best dishes.
We met up with our group at Hidden Gem Coffee Shop, which actually was hidden as we wandered the street for a few minutes before bumping into our guide who had come to search for us. The tour started as she brought us over to this quaint little coffee shop for a cup of tea and taste of fried rice ‘doughnuts’. Then we set off through Old Quarter, first for a baguette at Banh My P. This wasn’t the best banh mi we had in Vietnam, but it certainly was still good. Following this was Banh Cuon Gia Truyen, where we had their fresh made rice noodle rolls. Afterward, we took a break for a pint of Bia Hanoi, and then trekked on for a bowl of pho kho – dry rice noodles with chicken and papaya. The next two stops were for sweeter treats, including a yogurt and black sticky rice dessert, and lastly a cup of Hanoi’s famous egg coffee. What a great way to wrap up our Vietnam food journey!
For more information, visit Urban Adventures Hanoi.
Cost: $29 USD per person
If you ever find yourself in any of these cities once global travel opens up again, consider checking out some food tours. There wasn’t a single one that I did not fully enjoy. So much good food, things to see, and lots of fun people to meet – what more could you ask for?
Now, head over to Lannie’s Food & Travel Blog for her full directory of all the food tours you can imagine.