A foodie travel guide to urban exploration
If you’re serious about smorgasbords or gaga for gastronomy, this foodie travel guide is an essential for your next city break. We take you through all the ways you can get to know a city through its culinary culture, from markets to cooking classes, finding the best restaurant deals and where to ask for local recommendations. Bon appetite!
Look up local specialties
Before visiting any city, it’s good to be familiar with the iconic food from that place. This will give you a heads up on what to look out for when you’re roaming around town. There might be some world-famous bagels or the so-called best curry that it would be criminal for any discerning food fanatic to miss – don’t be that foolish foodie. Do a little homework ahead of time to ensure you don’t overlook these highlights.
Visit food markets
Markets are the lifeblood of any city’s foodie scene. These are the places where you’ll find the local ingredients that go into the dishes at the city’s best restaurants, and where you can get to know the farmers. Almost every city across the globe has a daily or weekly market where you can learn about produce grown a stone’s throw away.
Spend a few hours one afternoon visiting these markets. If you’re in a coastal city, make sure you swing by a fish market to witness what can be pulled out of the nearby seas or oceans. When you’re travelling in summer, pick up bits and pieces – bread, cheese, and fruit – from a market and go for a picnic.
// Related post: Portugal – the Algarve’s best markets //
Blow your budget on (at least) one quality meal
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spare, every foodie should treat themselves to at least one high-end meal. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be expensive – we mean high-end in the sense of restaurants that have been given rave reviews. These don’t always break the bank, but offer you an experience of what the local food critics believe to be the best scran in town.
Take a look through local websites or newspapers for recent food reviews to find places that are new to the city’s food scene. Failing that, ask your host or another local what they recommend.
Explore ethnic enclaves
The beauty of the world’s modern cities is that nearly all of them have a network of ethnic neighbourhoods. Chinatowns are ten-a-penny, but it’s not unusual for a large city to also have a Vietnamese or Korean neighbourhood, perhaps an eastern European community, or a Middle Eastern district. This is not only something to be celebrated for its diversity, but also the added bonus of access to a wide variety of cuisines.
Look up these areas before you visit to see what’s on offer in your chosen destination. Make note of what grabs your eye and stop by for a meal sometime during your city break. Don’t forget to both enjoy the food and pay attention to the community around you to witness how the cultures have blended together.
Take a cooking class
It’s one thing sampling the food, it’s a whole other experience cooking it. Take a cooking class on your next city break to understand more about how a place’s most famous dishes are created. By learning to make them yourself, you can also take a part of that food trip home with you and recreate the experience in your own kitchen.
Taking a class also enables you to get in touch with a local who loves food. During your class, take the opportunity to ask the chef questions about the meals you’re preparing and food in general around the city. They might even give you recommendations for restaurants or cafés you may never have found otherwise.
// Related post: our experience of a cooking class in Porto //
Go on a street food odyssey
For any foodie, street food is one of the great joys of visiting a city. This especially applies in Asia, where the street food is plentiful, cheap, and lip-smackingly good. They may be leagues ahead of us in the far east, but almost every city on earth has some kind of street food going for it – whether that be bratwurst in Berlin or hot dogs in NYC – street food has gained serious momentum in the last twenty years.
Spend time on your next city break sampling the best street food in town. Look up the dishes that are typically on offer, and keep your ear to the ground for any festivals going on where there might be food trucks parked up. Pick your way through the offerings with multiple courses.
Keep an eye out for lunch deals
If you’re on a city break and strapped for cash, sometimes food can be difficult. You can’t afford the top restaurants for dinner, and eating out every day goes beyond your budget. But, don’t discount the humble lunch deal. Many restaurants in cities have specials on to draw people in over lunch periods, especially on weekdays.
If there’s one particular restaurant you’re dying to try but can’t afford, go on its website to see if it offer discounts at lunch such as two courses for a set price. Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled when wandering around town to spot boards advertising lunch offers. This is a great way to stay within your budget but still try highly-rated food.
Join a food tour
Food tourism has seriously boomed in the last few decades. Cities across the globe have caught onto it, so much so that there are now tours specifically designed around showing visitors the best food their city has to offer. Anything from pintxos tours in Spain to local market trips in Malaysia, these tours welcome you into the inner circle of that city’s food scene, revealing the best of the best.
Treat yourself to a food tour on your next city trip. While you’re with the guide, ask them lots of questions to boost your understanding of the cuisines. Perhaps even ask for some cooking tips while you’re there…
Locals are the best source for authentic information about food in the city you’re visiting. The beauty of asking locals about their favourite places to eat or the must-try dishes is that you’ll get a different answer every time. Food is subjective and that’s something to be celebrated.
We’ve mentioned locals in the cooking class suggestion above, but if you can’t get to one of those try asking your host or at your hotel’s reception for restaurant tips. If you take a tour and get chatting to the guide, ask them too. Locals are more than happy to tell visitors about their top places to eat – it’s a point of conversation that almost everyone has something to say about.
If for some reason you can’t wrangle a local to talk to, go on Spotted by Locals. With guides covering dozens of cities across the globe, there’s heaps of advice on here telling you where locals like to wine and dine.
Try fusion food
Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the classic dishes in your chosen city, break the mould and search for the fusion flavours. Restaurateurs in most cities are constantly playing around with age-old recipes and giving them modern twists, and as a die-hard foodie it’s your mission so seek them out.
These fusion foods could be as simple as putting something unusual on a hot dog, or something more quirky like Japanese tapas. Finding these oddities will take your foodie trips to the next level.
What will you do from this foodie travel guide on your next city break?