Travel

Street Smarts

From the ultimate NYC pizza crawl to a market excursion in Hanoi, these are the 10 best street food tours around the world
The Best Food Tours Around the World
Photo: Francoise De Mulder/Getty Images

As a serious food lover, it’s easy to write off food tours as something for tourists—the ones who trust a guidebook more than the aroma of spiced meat coming from a turning shawarma stick. Guilty as charged. I used to figure that with enough research, I could suss out the flakiest croissant in Paris, the most complex khao soi in northern Thailand and the perfectly charred bún chả in Hanoi on my own.

Several years ago, however, I became a food tour convert, realizing that more important than tracking down that bakery or taco stand is finding a person who knows and loves the city’s food scene—and is eager to share it with visitors. Someone who will help me navigate bustling markets, tiny alleys and shrimp fritter vendors who set up only for a few hours a day.

Now, I seek out food tours with abandon—especially the kind that stick to the streets. Here are 10 of the best.

Scott’s Pizza Tours' NYC Pizza Bus
(New York City, NY)

In the land of pies and slices, it can be hard to decide which saucy joints to hit up. Pizza fiend Scott Wiener and his team give tours of the city's best nearly every day of the week, but the ultimate pie experience is reserved for Sundays. Hop onto a school bus for a four-and-a-half hour trip to pizza legends like Lombardi’s, Patsy’s and Luzzo’s. Along the way, learn about the history of cheese, sauce and crust, or the “Holy Trinity,” as Wiener calls it.

Sign-Up: The NYC Pizza Bus departs every Sunday at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $65. Wiener advises signing up two weeks in advance.

Street Eats Hanoi
(Hanoi, Vietnam)

Aussie expat Mark Lowerson has been eating his way through the maze of Hanoi’s vibrant streets for nearly 15 years. Follow him down an alley, and you will be rewarded with bowls of noodles dressed in pork jus and topped with cilantro, fresh baguettes layered with pates and head-on shrimp fried in little savory pancakes. While Lowerson’s tours focus on eating, his understanding of the city is vast. Prepare to be schooled.

Sign-Up: Tours are private or offered for small groups. The three-hour tour costs $85 a person. A full-day option is available for $150 and includes market visits. Email tuvancong2003@gmail.com and lowiemark@yahoo.com.au to book.

Shrimp fritters | Photo: Courtesy of Devra Ferst

Oishii Tokyo’s Yanaka Tour
(Tokyo, Japan)

This tour company, started by a crew of friends in Tokyo, weaves small groups (a maximum of seven) through the historic and lesser-explored Yanaka neighborhood. Pop in and out of tiny restaurants and saddle up to street stalls to enjoy snacks like grilled butter edamame and mochi daifuku, or mochi stuffed with red bean paste. While food is the focus here, guests also get to sample sake or local coffee. A bonus: The guide can help offer substitutions for those with food allergies.

Sign-Up: Tours of Yanaka last for about three and a half hours and cost ¥12,000, approximately $106.

Eat Mexico’s Late Night Taco & Mezcal Tour
(Mexico City, Mexico)

One of the best times to experience Mexico City’s electric food scene is after hours, when the sidewalks are pumping with the aroma of pork simmered in spices and the sweetness of fresh-grilled corn. The team at Eat Mexico, captained by cookbook author Lesley Téllez will lead you from taco spots (including one that’s a mechanic shop by day and a taco garage by night) to a stand for equites, or grilled Mexican corn salad, to a mescal spot to fuel the revelry.

Sign-Up: Eat Mexico offers a host of tours, but the late-night option starts at 7:30 or 8 and runs until 11:30. Cost is $145 a person.

A street vendor trimming meat | Photo: Courtesy of Eat Mexico

Katie Parla’s Tour Roman Cuisine in Prati & Trionfale
(Rome, Italy)

Cookbook author Katie Parla might be from New Jersey, but she knows her way around her adopted home of Rome, where she has led culinary tours for a decade. Join her for a jaunt through Prati and Trionfale, two neighborhoods that are home to pizza shop Pizzarium, which Parla boldly calls “the world’s best pizza by the slice;” La Tradizione, which stocks nearly 400 cheeses; and Gelateria dei Gracchi, where the nocciola, or hazelnut, flavor shouldn’t be missed. The tour also takes a turn through the area’s central food market, which just might tempt you to stay in for the night and cook dinner at your Airbnb.

Sign-Up: Parla offers a host of tours. Half-day privates cost €360, or about $400, for up to six, while a full day of grazing goes for €700, or $777. Tours book up well in advance in the high season, so plan ahead.

Reality Tours & Travel’s Old Delhi Street Food Tour
(Delhi, India)

Hop into a rickshaw on the bustling streets of Delhi with this tour that’s run by a company that gives 80 percent of its profits back to the community through its charity called Reality Gives. Rickshaw pit stops include a visit to a spice market and snacks like parathe, or fried bread stuffed with onions, potato and cottage cheese. On the sweeter side of things, there’s a stop for a lassi and a rich bread pudding.

Sign-Up: Tours run for four hours, starting in the late afternoon, and cost 1700 INR or approximately $26. Vegetarians, take note: Meat is served at only one of the stops.

Culinary Backstreets’ Two Markets, Two Continents 
(Istanbul, Turkey)

Istanbul’s culinary scene, like its geography, is quite literally where East meets West. This tour from Culinary Backstreets, which runs well-regarded tours in a dozen cities around the globe, starts in Europe in the Karaköy neighborhood, and then crosses by boat to Kadıköy, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the city. Along the way, you'll explore the city’s legendary markets; sip tea and the country’s famously strong coffee; munch on a simit (a cousin of the bagel); and sample tantuni, a flatbread wrapped around still-sizzling chopped beef. Make sure to save room for a bite of baklava.

Sign-Up: This tour for two to seven runs six and a half hours (so arrive hungry). Tickets cost $125 a person. Regular travelers should note that there is a discount for those who sign up for more than one tour with Culinary Backstreets.

Selections of baklava and desserts at Bilgeoglu Baklava | Photo: Courtesy of Culinary Backstreets

Fun Joel’s Tour of Machaneh Yehudah
(Jerusalem, Israel)

Jerusalem’s bustling shuk, or outdoor market, is the life of the city, busy from early in the morning with shoppers seeking coffee and produce for the day ahead and well into the evening. Joel Haber, nicknamed “Fun Joel” (he didn’t choose it, but it stuck), uses the market as a microcosm to explain the city’s diverse and complex populations. His tour, which is customized, typically stops for malawach, a rich Yemenite bread; sweet halvah, which comes in an endless array of flavors in the shuk; Georgian khachapuri, or bread filled with molten cheese; and French pastries.

Sign-Up: This two-hour tour is offered only as a private tour, and prices vary based on how customized the tour is. Tours for up to six start at $245.

Paris by Mouth’s Taste of the Marais
(Paris, France)

Walking around Paris, spotting locals toting bags of golden baguettes and vegetables from the nearby market, it’s easy to imagine dropping everything and moving there. Step into that life for an afternoon with a jaunt through Le Marais. Guides take you to the trendy neighborhood’s top bakery, a cheese shop and a charcutier, who offers house-made pâtés and cured meats. Collect treats along the way, and then settle in for a picnic feast after a final stop at a wineshop—where else?

Sign-Up: The three-hour tour costs 110€, or $122, a person. For those traveling with children, note that tours are for adults and kids 10 or older.

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Food Tours Singapore’s Chinatown Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour
(Chinatown, Singapore)

Singapore’s hawker centers (imagine a mall filled with small stands specializing in noodles, roast meats, sweets and snacks) are home to some of the city’s most exciting dishes. But so many options can be overwhelming for new visitors. Thankfully, these tour guides lead hungry travelers to six or seven stalls to try dishes like oyster cakes, noodle soups and shaved ice treats.

Sign-Up: Groups are never larger than 12, and children are welcome to attend the four-hour tour. Adult tickets cost 80 SGD, or $67, and kids tickets cost 64 SGD, or $46.

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