I will travel for food. For me there’s no better way to get to know a city than through its cuisine. Hot and spicy or rich and buttery, the dishes of a destination tell the story of a place through their aromas and textures. I was recently in The Hague on assignment with Lonely Planet, and while there I took a food tour of the city. It got me thinking about similar experiences I’ve had, and today I bring you 8 of the world’s best food tours.
The Hague, Netherlands
I’ll start with the most recent food tour, which took me through the historic center of The Hague. Over several hours, I tasted the city’s best dishes with one of the founders of Bites & Stories. We sampled traditional foods like meat krokets at Dungelmann, the city’s famous butcher shop, and more contemporary flavors like peanut butter yoghurt at Yoghurt Barn.
Throughout the tour we explored the city, learning about The Hague’s history and culture. By the end I was pleasantly full of both food and knowledge.
Cape Town, South Africa
The most unique food tour I’ve ever been on was a foraging excursion in Cape Town. I never thought I’d forage for lunch in an urban environment, but there was enough food within the city limits to provide me with a healthy meal.
Charlie Standing from The Urban Hunter Gatherer took me to collect everything from Natal Plums to pine nuts at the entrance to the Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town. He also led me to the side of a highway to forage for fennel, and to a park in Verdehoek to seek out Cape Gooseberries. At the end we took it all back to our hotel, where the chef made it into a meal. It was a deliciously memorable experience, and certainly deserves its place among the world’s best food tours.
Another great urban food experience was a food cart tour of Portland with Brett Burmeister, owner of Food Carts Portland. He took me to America’s most concentrated food cart area, the Alder Pod, where I learned that the food is both international in scope—there’s everything from Hawaiian to Egyptian in one pod—and quality in taste.
Along the way, Brett explained the history of Portland’s thriving food cart scene, adding color to the eating experience.
Hong Kong, China
Out in Asia, my favorite foodie city is Hong Kong. One of the most pleasurable eating experiences I’ve had there was during an outing with Hong Kong Foodie Tours. Their 4-hour walking tour of Central and Sheung Wan led me to mouth-watering barbecue pork, plump shrimp won tons, and homemade sugar cane juice.
Between stops, I explored a few trendy streets and local produce markets, all with a dose of my guide’s local knowledge.
Back in Europe, I went on a great Nibbling through Ghent food tour with Vizit. My guide took me to a cheese shop called Kaas Mekka, a 15th century butchers’ hall, and Julie’s House, a pretty bakery where I tasted everything from pear clafoutis to rhubarb crumble.
The food tour of Ghent gave me a good overview of the city’s cuisine, both traditional and contemporary, and showed me a lot of places I wouldn’t have found on my own.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I’ve never met a country so obsessed with food as Malaysia, and Kuala Lumpur‘s rich street food culture made it the perfect place for one of the world’s best food tours.
A local named Danny Chen wrote a book called Train2e@t about the best street food in Kuala Lumpur near each train station. I was lucky enough to have him as a personal tour guide on my visit, but even if I had only been able to use his book to get around, I still would have found the delicious Assam laksa at Madras Lane and sweet mata kucing at Petaling Street market in Chinatown.
San Francisco, California
My home city of San Francisco has some of the best food in the world, so it’s hard to know where to start with food tours there. But the good people of Edible Excursions knew just the place: chocolate. Their Craft Chocolate Tour of the Mission took me for everything from Mexican mole at San Jalisco to chocolate cocktails at Mosto.
Along the way we met enterprising locals like the founder of Charles Chocolates, who gave us an inside look at the chocolate scene in San Francisco.
No list of the world’s best food tours would be complete without London, not least because the city’s culinary scene has undergone a revolution in the last 10 years. Even so, my favorite food tour of London is one that focuses on what the city has historically done best: beer.
The Old Hampstead Village Pub Walk was the first food tour I ever went on. I lived in Hampstead at the time and figured it would be a good (and fun) way to get to know my neighborhood. I went with a group of friends, and our guide from London Walks took us to all the famous local pubs, offering hints of history and village lore in between. Cheers to that.
Have you been on a good food tour? Where was it, and what did you eat?