A Comprehensive Guide to Food Travel and Culinary Tourism

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
Website Linkedin Twitter

If you are a food traveler and a passionate food lover, you know how important it is to travel for food and to have access to food travel guides and resources. Prepare for a gastronomic journey that will take you beyond borders and into the heart of diverse cultures worldwide. Our ultimate food travel guide is not just a collection of information; it’s the essence of years of exploration, seasoned with a passion for all things culinary. We are seasoned food travel experts dedicated to seeking and savoring the world’s most compelling food experiences.

Our works in food travel journalism and photography have given us the unique opportunity to taste and document the rich array of flavors the world offers. Each dish we’ve encountered tells a story – about the people who made it, the culture it came from, and the traditions it represents. And these are the stories we’re passionate about sharing with you.

As gourmet travelers, we’ve taken the road less traveled, plunged ourselves into bustling local markets, navigated through narrow alleyways leading to hidden food gems, and sampled dishes that have been lovingly crafted using recipes passed down through generations. 

This guide is the culmination of countless gastronomic adventures, showcasing the myriad of tastes, aromas, and textures that make up our global culinary landscape. It is packed with our firsthand experiences, personal recommendations, and expert tips. This is not merely a guide – it’s an invitation to join us on a never-ending culinary adventure. We’re thrilled to share this journey with you, revealing the secrets of food travel we’ve uncovered.  So, ready your taste buds, fellow gourmet traveler, because a world of culinary delights awaits!

food travel

What Is Food Tourism?

Food travel, also referred to as food tourism, culinary tourism or gastronomic tourism, is a niche within the larger travel industry that combines the exploration of new environments and cultures with discovering unique culinary experiences.

It is about venturing beyond familiar boundaries to immerse oneself in the gastronomic heritage of different regions. This involves tasting traditional dishes, indulging in local produce, participating in cooking classes, visiting food markets, attending festivals, and even dining in acclaimed restaurants. It’s a multi-sensory journey that transcends mere consumption, giving travelers the opportunity to understand the stories, traditions, and techniques behind each dish. Food travel allows one to engage more deeply with the local culture, fostering connections with its people, history, and customs. As such, food travel is a celebration of cultural diversity and a testament to the rich global tapestry of flavors, transforming travelers into culinary adventurers in the pursuit of authentic and memorable gastronomic experiences to bring back home and enhance home cooking.

How to Become A Great Food Traveler?

Becoming a great food traveler is an adventure, demanding an insatiable curiosity, a love for exploration, and a deep passion for food.

It begins with research – studying your chosen destination’s culinary traditions, local ingredients, and dining customs. Use food travel guides, blogs, documentaries, and cookbooks to equip yourself with foundational knowledge. However, don’t forget to venture beyond the well-trodden path of popular tourist spots. Dive into local markets, street food stalls, and family-run eateries, and even participate in cooking classes. Always remember that every food item has a story, and every cook has a perspective. Learning the local language, at least food-related phrases, can enrich your experience by allowing more meaningful interactions. As a food traveler, it’s also important to be mindful and respectful of the cultural sensitivities around food and dining etiquette in different societies. The path to becoming a great food traveler is a journey of constant learning, tasting, and sharing, and above all, celebrating the universal language of food.

pizza travel food

Best Food Destinations to Travel To

Choosing the best food destinations to travel to requires considering various factors – the depth and diversity of the local culinary scene, the influence of food on local culture and history, and the uniqueness and authenticity of the food experiences available.

A destination is considered a ‘food destination’ when its food is a crucial part of the cultural narrative, and the gastronomic scene is dynamic and vibrant, offering a mix of traditional and contemporary experiences.

Start with destinations that have a strong reputation for food. For instance, the culinary richness of France, with its Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and the wine culture of Bordeaux, presents a diverse food palate, from classic patisseries to innovative fusion cuisine. Similarly, Italy’s food culture extends beyond pizza and pasta, with each region boasting a unique culinary identity, such as the seafood of Venice, the truffles of Alba, the hearty fare of Tuscany, or the many Michelin-starred restaurants scattered across the country.

For a deep dive into street food culture, cities like Bangkok, Mexico City, or Mumbai are unparalleled. These bustling cities offer a mosaic of flavors and aromas on every street corner, presenting an opportunity to experience food as a way of life and not just a meal. 

In Tokyo, you can explore traditional Japanese cuisine, honored by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage. Besides the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo has intimate Izakaya (Japanese pubs), Ramen-Ya (ramen shops), and bustling fish markets. Do not miss special flavors and seasonal dishes released during the cherry blossom season for an even better experience.

Destinations like Athens and Istanbul allow you to traverse through time as you explore their spice markets, traditional tagines, centuries-old baklava recipes, and the many foods to try.

The choice of food destination also depends on your preferences, dietary restrictions, and curiosity. Whether you’re a vegan, pescatarian, or omnivore; a wine enthusiast, coffee lover, or tea connoisseur; a fine-dining gourmet or a street food adventurer – the world is full of culinary experiences waiting to satisfy your wanderlust and tantalize your taste buds. So, embark on your gastronomic journey, and remember – each destination is a chapter in the global culinary storybook waiting to be tasted and told.

Best Wine Destinations to Travel To

Selecting the best wine destinations involves understanding your preferences, your interest in exploring the process behind its creation, and your enthusiasm for discovering the rich history and culture of the vineyards.

A ‘wine destination’ is characterized not only by the quality and variety of wines it produces but also the unique wine-tasting experiences, picturesque vineyards, wine festivals, and an ingrained wine culture that makes the region distinct.

Start with globally recognized wine powerhouses. France’s Bordeaux region, famed for its bold red wines and the biannual “Bordeaux Fête le Vin” wine festival, provides a classic wine tourism experience. The Burgundy region is another prized destination for its highly sought-after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. 

Italy’s Tuscany is more than just stunning landscapes and rich history. It’s also the birthplace of some of the world’s most loved wines, such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and the Super Tuscan. A visit here is a deep dive into a robust wine culture, from tours of ancient wineries to tastings at modern cellars. Look at our guide about the best Italian wines for beginners to start your journey.

New World wine lovers must head to the scenic valleys of California. With their diverse microclimates, Napa Valley and Sonoma County produce a range of wines that cater to all palates. Wine tours in these regions are elaborate, featuring winery visits, tastings, food pairings, and even hot air balloon rides over vineyards.

Argentina’s Mendoza is worth considering for those interested in a unique wine destination. Known for its Malbec wines, Mendoza’s high-altitude vineyards, set against the backdrop of the Andes, offer an unparalleled wine tourism experience.

A wine destination should also offer educational opportunities. The chance to learn about the wine-making process, from grape harvesting to bottling, the terroir variations, and the wine-tasting art adds depth to your wine tourism experience.

Remember, the essence of wine travel isn’t just in sipping the finest wines but in immersing oneself in the region’s lifestyle, history, and traditions. It’s about discovering each bottle’s stories – stories of the earth, the climate, the grape, and the passionate winemakers. Each wine destination, with its unique terroir and viticulture, offers a different chapter in the fascinating world of wines.

Travel Tips For Your Food Travel Exploration

Embarking on a food travel journey involves more than just packing a bag and setting off; it’s a delightful process that begins long before you board the plane.

Here are some key tips to ensure that your culinary voyage is a fulfilling and enriching experience:

  • Immerse Yourself in Pre-Trip Food Research: Before starting your food travel, immerse yourself in the gastronomy of your chosen destination. Dive into food travel guides, explore food blogs, watch culinary travel shows, and read reviews by gourmet travelers. Make a note of iconic dishes you can’t miss, local ingredients used, unique food practices, and a curated list of recommended eateries spanning a range of budgets and cuisines. This background research is the appetizer to your forthcoming culinary adventure, whetting your appetite for what’s to come.
  • Book Experiences and Hotels in Advance: Enjoy a seamless travel experience by booking your desired experiences and hotels. Secure coveted reservations at renowned restaurants, secure spots on popular food tours, and guarantee comfortable accommodations that align with your travel preferences. By planning, you’ll have peace of mind, avoid disappointment, and maximize your enjoyment of the food travel journey. Don’t leave your culinary adventures to chance – book in advance and savor every moment.
  • Delve into the World of Street Food: Often, the heart of a region’s cuisine beats most passionately on its streets. From bustling food markets to roadside stalls, these spaces are brimming with authentic and exciting flavors. However, while being adventurous is part of the fun, ensure that the food you’re sampling is hygienic. Look for stalls popular with locals – the longer the queue, the fresher the food will likely be. Remember, street food is more than just a meal; it’s a slice of the everyday life of the place you’re visiting.
  • Equip Yourself with Local Language Skills: Even a basic understanding of the local language can transform your food travel experience. Learn phrases to communicate dietary restrictions, ask for food recommendations, understand menus, and express appreciation. Even a simple “delicious” in the native tongue can bring a smile to your host’s face, bridging cultural gaps and fostering connections.
  • Honor Local Dining Customs: Part of the beauty of food tourism lies in appreciating the customs and traditions associated with food in different cultures. Each place has unique dining etiquette – saying ‘Itadakimasu’ before a meal in Japan, eating with your right hand in India, knowing how to clink your beer glass in Germany correctly, learning how to order a coffee in Italy or the things to do and the ones not to do. Understanding and respecting these traditions enriches your experience and demonstrates respect for the local culture.
  • Be Open-Minded and Adventurous: While you might have favorite cuisines, part of the joy of culinary travel is expanding your palate. Be willing to try dishes that might seem outlandish or unfamiliar. Who knows, the pickled herring in the Netherlands or the spicy Kimchi in Korea might be your new favorite dish! 
  • Enjoy Your Experiences: As you navigate this flavorful journey, capture these memorable moments. Enjoy every moment, and do not spend too much time taking pictures or sharing on social media. Do not forget to buy travel insurance when you travel because you may feel sick because of something you’ve eaten or anything else, and you want to be covered no matter what.

Remember, the world of food travel is as rich and varied as the cuisines it explores. Each meal is a new chapter in your gastronomic story, waiting to be savored, remembered, and shared. So take these tips, pack your bags, and let your taste buds lead the way to your next unforgettable food adventure.

The Importance of Food and Wine Festivals

Food festivals are vital to the gastronomic landscape, representing a culinary kaleidoscope showcasing the best region offers.

They create a platform for local food producers, restaurateurs, and chefs to share their passion and craft with a wider audience. For food travelers, these festivals are a gateway to an immersive cultural experience, transcending the mere act of eating and turning it into a celebration of local identity and community spirit.

Food festivals elevate culinary tourism to a whole new level, offering an unparalleled gastronomic experience to travelers. They are occasions where the spotlight is placed on local cuisine, regional specialties, and traditional food preparation techniques. This gives foodies a unique opportunity to explore myriad flavors, ingredients, and dishes they might not encounter in a standard restaurant setting.

At the heart of every food festival is the sense of community it fosters. It’s where food transcends being a mere sustenance and becomes a symbol of cultural identity and shared heritage. By participating in these festivals, food travelers get to sample a wide variety of dishes and gain a deeper appreciation for the food’s historical and cultural context. The communal dining experience that these festivals offer makes the journey of food exploration all the more enriching and memorable.

Food festivals are also often educational, offering workshops, cooking demonstrations, and interactive sessions with chefs and food artisans. They allow travelers to learn about local ingredients, traditional cooking methods, and the nuances of regional cuisine. This provides a deeper understanding and appreciation of the culture they’re exploring, which is an essential part of any food travel experience.

In addition to the food, these festivals often feature musical performances, traditional dances, craft fairs, and other cultural exhibits, providing a holistic cultural experience. This vibrant blend of food, art, and culture creates a sensory delight that enhances the travel experience.

Examples of gastronomic spectacles range from La Tomatina in Spain, where the humble tomato takes center stage in a riotous festival, to the sophisticated wine festivals of Bordeaux, where oenophiles gather to celebrate and sample the region’s famed produce. Each food festival’s unique charm and flavor offer a distinct and unforgettable experience.

Food festivals hold the essence of culinary tourism. They’re an incredible amalgamation of food, culture, and community, providing food travelers with an unforgettable and joyous experience. Attending these festivals enriches one’s food travel journey, making it a story of exploration, learning, and celebration. It’s an adventure every gourmet traveler should embark on.

Food Tours for a Better Food Travel Experience

Food tours are an indispensable ingredient in the recipe for exceptional culinary travel. They provide an organized, immersive experience that gives travelers a taste of a destination’s culinary highlights and local food culture.

Rooted in the philosophy of ‘eating like a local,‘ these tours are more than a journey from one eatery to another. They’re an education in taste, tradition, and culture, offering an insider’s perspective into a location’s gastronomic narrative.

For food travelers, food tours offer a carefully curated experience that ensures they taste the best of what a destination offers. Be it an iconic street food stall tucked away in a bustling market, an age-old bakery famed for a traditional delicacy, or a high-end restaurant pushing local cuisine’s boundaries, food tours cover a broad spectrum of culinary experiences. They offer a balanced mix of iconic must-try dishes and hidden gems that only locals know about, thus enhancing the depth and authenticity of a traveler’s culinary journey.

Moreover, expert local guides or food enthusiasts often lead food tours. These individuals profoundly understand their food culture and personal relationships with local producers, market vendors, and restaurant owners. This enables them to offer rich, anecdotal insights into the culinary traditions and the people behind the food, adding an extra layer of depth to the food travel experience.

Food tours also offer a unique opportunity to learn about local ingredients, cooking techniques, and the historical and cultural significance of various dishes. This educational element turns every meal into a story, providing context and meaning to the flavors on the plate. It offers food travelers a more profound appreciation of the cuisine and enhances their understanding of the local culture.

Furthermore, food tours often include visits to local markets, artisanal shops, and cooking classes. This provides a hands-on experience for food travelers, allowing them to engage directly with the food culture they’re exploring.

Remember: food tours are much more than guided tours with food stops. They offer food travelers an organized, insightful, and immersive exploration of a location’s culinary landscape. They encapsulate the essence of food tourism – the convergence of travel, food, culture, and storytelling. By taking travelers off the beaten path, introducing them to local flavors, and connecting them with local food stories, food tours elevate the food travel experience from enjoyable to unforgettable.

Trying the Best Restaurants Abroad

Sampling the best local restaurants is essential to any successful food travel adventure. These establishments are often the culinary flag-bearers of a region, setting standards in quality and innovation and showcasing the unique flavors and techniques of the local cuisine.

They offer food travelers an unparalleled dining experience, making them must-visit spots for any gourmet traveler.

Choosing the best restaurants while traveling requires little research and planning. Guides like Michelin and Gault&Millau offer reliable, expertly-curated lists of top-rated restaurants. Online platforms provide user-generated reviews and recommendations, which can offer a more diverse range of perspectives. Furthermore, food travel guides like this can offer insight into the local dining scene, often uncovering hidden gems not found in mainstream guides.

The importance of visiting these best restaurants lies in their ability to offer a comprehensive taste of a region’s gastronomic identity. Chefs at these restaurants typically source the freshest local ingredients, prepare them using traditional or innovative techniques, and present them in ways that tell a story about the region’s culture, history, and geography. As such, dining at these establishments is more than a meal; it’s a multi-sensory experience that can provide food travelers with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the local food culture.

When planning to visit these restaurants, it’s important to note that many top-rated restaurants require reservations, often weeks or months in advance. Some may have specific dress codes, and others offer only fixed tasting menus rather than à la carte options. Budgeting appropriately is also wise, as dining at these establishments can be pricier than average eateries.

However, the investment in time, planning, and budget is often rewarded with an unforgettable dining experience – a journey through a region’s culinary landscape guided by skilled chefs and restaurateurs passionate about their craft. Visiting the best restaurants is an opportunity to sample gastronomic excellence, savor new and exciting flavors, and gain a deeper understanding of a destination’s culinary culture – making it an integral part of any food travel journey.

Popular Food to Try Abroad

Experiencing the popular local foods is a vital part of the food travel journey. These dishes often represent the soul of a region’s culinary culture, telling tales of its history, traditions, and people.

For instance, trying the Paella in Valencia, Spain, immerses you in their vibrant food culture, or biting into a flaky, buttery croissant in a Parisian bakery gives a taste of France’s rich patisserie tradition. Savoring bibimbap in South Korea or enjoying a bowl of Pho in the heart of Hanoi, Vietnam, connects you directly to these culinary heartbeats. 

Finding these popular local foods can be a thrilling adventure in itself. Local markets and street food stalls often serve a treasure trove of authentic local delicacies. For example, the bustling Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy, offers the chance to try many Tuscan delights. At the same time, the street food markets of Bangkok, Thailand, are renowned for their diverse and mouth-watering offerings.

Trying popular local foods allows food travelers to embark on a gastronomic exploration of the region’s culinary identity. These dishes often reflect the area’s agricultural heritage, historical influences, and culinary ingenuity, providing a delicious perspective on the local culture. Whether the complex blend of spices in India’s Biryani, the hearty comfort of British Fish and Chips, or the umami-rich Ramen of Japan, each dish adds a unique flavor to your travel experience.

Practical information to remember when trying local foods includes being aware of food safety. Ensure the food is freshly prepared and cooked well, especially when eating at street stalls. Always check the hygiene practices of the place you’re eating at. Furthermore, be aware of any food allergies or dietary restrictions, and learn to communicate them in the local language.

In essence, sampling popular local foods allows travelers to ‘taste’ a piece of the place they are visiting. It’s a sensory exploration of a culture’s culinary landscape, marked by new flavors, textures, and aroma. It can offer insight, invoke nostalgia, and sometimes even surprise you – creating unforgettable memories and stories that enrich your food travel journey.

travel for food guide

Discover the World Through Food Travel

Setting off on a food travel expedition is akin to embarking on an exhilarating sensory symphony. It’s about unearthing the soul of a destination, not through its landmarks or vistas, but through the rich tapestry of its culinary heritage. It’s about tasting narratives woven into a place’s cultural fabric that leave an indelible imprint on your palate and heart. Whether you’re a casual food lover or a seasoned gourmet traveler, a universe of flavors awaits you. So, arm yourself with a voracious appetite and let your taste buds chart the course!

Through this food travel guide, we’ve not merely outlined a route but crafted a compass for you to traverse the dynamic landscape of culinary tourism. We hope it kindles a spark within you to pursue your extraordinary gastronomic journeys and along the way, garnish your memory banks with experiences that linger as long as the flavors. Remember, every new destination unfurls a fresh opportunity to explore, to savor, and to revel in the universal dialect of food. So here’s to safe journeys and delicious discoveries!

Food Travel Guide: FAQs

What is food travel?

Food travel, also known as culinary or gourmet travel, is the exploration of food as the purpose of tourism. It’s about venturing beyond the usual tourist attractions to experience a place’s food and culinary culture. It involves trying local cuisines, visiting food markets, participating in food tours, dining at renowned restaurants, attending food festivals, and even taking cooking classes.

How do I start planning a food travel trip?

Start by choosing a destination known for its food culture. Research about its local dishes, culinary traditions, food markets, festivals, restaurants, and food-related activities. Food travel guides and blogs can provide valuable information. Once you’ve identified the food experiences you don’t want to miss, include them in your itinerary.

Is street food safe to eat?

While street food can provide some of the most authentic and delicious food experiences, food safety is a concern. Look for busy stalls with a high turnover of food, ensuring that the food is fresh. Observe the cleanliness of the stall and how the food is stored and handled. When in doubt, follow local recommendations or your guide.

How do I find the best restaurants when traveling?

Refer to trusted restaurant guides like Michelin and Gault&Millau, check reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor and Yelp, and follow recommendations from food travel guides, blogs, or locals. Remember, the best restaurant doesn’t always mean the most expensive – it’s about the quality of food, service, and overall dining experience.

What should I do if I have dietary restrictions or allergies?

Research about your destination’s common ingredients and cooking methods. Learn how to communicate your dietary needs in the local language. You could use allergy translation cards or apps. Inform your server about your allergies or restrictions before ordering.

Is culinary tourism only about eating?

While eating is a significant part of culinary tourism, it’s also about learning and experiencing a place’s food culture. It involves visiting food markets, attending cooking classes, meeting local food producers, and understanding the history and tradition behind the food.

Can I participate in food travel if I’m a vegetarian/vegan?

Absolutely! Many destinations offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan food options. Research in advance, use apps like HappyCow to find vegetarian and vegan-friendly establishments, and learn phrases in the local language to communicate your dietary preferences.

What is a food tour?

A food tour is a guided tour that takes you on a culinary exploration of a destination. It typically involves visiting several food spots, tasting local specialties, learning about the food culture, history, and sometimes even cooking techniques.

How do I make my food travel more sustainable?

Choose locally owned restaurants and street food stalls, opt for locally produced and seasonal foods, reduce food waste by ordering mindfully, refuse single-use plastics whenever possible, and respect local food culture and traditions.

If you love this...

Latest articles

Do you want to receive a notification when we publish a new article?