While previous generations might have viewed the local cuisine as ‘foreign muck’ when travelling back in the day, millennials and Gen Z take a very different approach concerning the food travel experience.
In recent years, the food travel movement has really taken off, with many younger travellers wholeheartedly embracing the gastronomic offerings of their chosen destination.
For these intrepid foodies, the culinary experience is the main motivation for visiting a specific area, and not just an afterthought once you get there.
It is a wonderful way for them to expand the horizons of their taste buds, and to also fully immerse themselves in local culture, history and tradition as a part of their travel adventures.
Not only that, but you can also potentially save a decent amount of money by not eating at more expensive touristy venues. Which in turn means supporting local, small and often family-owned businesses as well.
You’ll also get to visit neighbourhoods you might otherwise not have stumbled upon and connect with people you would not have met.
So, if this sounds like something you would like to do, here are 8 of the best ways you can experience food as you travel.
1. Research your destination
Prior to your departure it is worth doing your research on the food scene of where you are going. This can save you a lot of time whilst there, and also ensure you don’t miss out on some truly amazing gastronomic experiences.
There are plenty of food blogs you can check out which are a great resource. Just do a simple Google search and you should find them.
It’s also worth checking out YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and podcasts for destination specific travel content, as you will usually find some excellent recommendations here too.
While travel guides like The Lonely Planet, and the Netflix show Street Food can also give you a good heads-up. Especially the episodes that featured Anthony Bourdain who went to countless, wonderful, off-the-beaten-path venues all around the world.
During the course of this research, whenever something catches your eye, make a point of immediately jotting it down.
2. Head to the nearest farmer’s market
As soon as you arrive at your destination, it’s worth checking out the nearest farmer’s market if you can.
This is a great way to find some of the freshest, seasonal and locally grown produce in town. It is also a fabulous way to discover new ingredients and try new foods that are ready to eat.
For those who plan to self-cater for a night or two, a trip to the farmer’s market will give you a great opportunity to cook with vegetables you can’t readily source back home.
Farmer’s markets are also wonderful places for people to watch and interact with locals. In addition, as most of the fruit and vegetables you will buy are sustainable, you will be able to reduce the impact of your travel footprint too.
3. Eat where the locals eat
If you really want to experience local food whilst you travel, a good rule of thumb is to eat where the locals eat.
When it comes to restaurants, if you see a place that is heaving, particularly with nationals of the country you are in, it’s a safe bet to assume that the food you will receive will be fresh and tasty. If there is a queue to get in, then all the better.
To do this, you will have to discover where locals eat. Try to avoid touristy areas, as generally they are more expensive, and usually locals don’t eat there. Instead, head to the quieter, non-touristy, residential areas, where the food is cheaper, and the locals congregate more.
If you find a local that speaks English, particularly at your hotel or another non-food tour guide, don’t be afraid to ask them for a recommendation too.
4. Eat the street food
When on your travels, another great way to experience the local cuisine is to eat from the street food vendors.
Whether this be from food trucks in western countries, or individual carts in Asia or Africa, this is a wonderful opportunity to discover new gastronomic delights.
The good thing about eating street food is that generally vendors specialise in only a handful of dishes. Often these are unique in that no other vendor sells them.
Usually, because they have created a successful business out of it, whatever they make must taste pretty good.
5. Go on a Food Tour
If the thought of venturing off into an unfamiliar area alone unnerves you, then consider booking a food tour.
Not only is this a great way to try lots of different dishes you probably wouldn’t have had before, but you may also meet other travellers too.
Most cities and towns offer tours that are led by a local foodie guide, who will take to you a selection of eateries that probably wouldn’t have been on your radar otherwise.
If you did decide to book a food tour, just be sure you go on one that has a small group size limit. Or better still, offers private tours for just you or your group.
As well as trying a wide selection of favourite local dishes, these food tours can be insightful and educational, especially with regards to local culture and history.
6. Attend food festivals
Another great way to experience the local food culture is to plan your visit to coincide with a food festival.
There are thousands of food festivals around the world throughout the year.
Many of which, like the Herring Festival in Hvide Sande in Denmark, or the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, showcase a particular ingredient.
While others like the National Street Food Festival in New Delhi, or the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival in Switzerland, champion the best in certain genres of food.
Again, a simple Google search will come up with endless options for you to plan a trip around. These events are usually a lot of fun, and you get to try a plethora of new foods.
7. Enrol in a cooking class
While tours are a fun way to immerse yourself in local cuisine when you travel, another great option is to enrol in a cooking class while you are there.
Whether that is making pizza dough in Naples, authentic pho in Hanoi or delicious dosas in Mumbai, these classes tend to be lots of fun and very informative.
It’s also a great way to learn a new recipe, discover flavour profiles and master new cooking techniques. Which you can later draw inspiration from when you return home.
If you would prefer not to cook, but would rather have someone do it for you, Gathar is a very popular option in places like LA, and is something you should consider too.
8. Enjoy a Wine Tasting
If you love wine, enjoying a wine tasting experience is a great option wherever you travel.
The chance to visit a vineyard, partake in a guided tour of the facility, and peruse the labels at their cellar door, is well worth taking up.
But something else you can often do is try a delightful range of locally sourced food produce. Most often in terms of the meals and charcuterie boards they often offer at their onsite restaurants.
When it comes to food experiences whilst travelling these can be very hard to beat.
At the end of the day, regardless of whether you are visiting a renowned foodie destination or not, the chance to sample as many local foods as you can, should not be passed up.
As food is often linked to memories, what better way is there to fondly remember anywhere you’ve visited, then to just eat the local cuisine?
Take a look at this video for more impressions about travel and food:
Check some travel books about travel and food:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.