If there is one thing we love, it’s a travel experience that brings you up-close and personal with your destination. If cooking classes, farm tours, and dining in the homes of locals sounds like your idea of a good time, you’re in luck. These experiences are becoming more commonplace, and you can easily weave it into a tour while you travel the world. Here are a few of our favourite hands-on foodie experiences from around the world.
Toast to tea in Istanbul (Turkey)
Tea is more than just a hot cuppa in places like Istanbul. In fact, Çay (“chai”), or tea, is a way of life in these climes. Turkey may only be the 5th largest tea producer in the world, but its citizens consumes the most tea per capita globally (and that includes the British!). The best way to enjoy an authentic tea-related experience is to head to one of Istanbul’s many tea gardens, such as the gorgeous one in Gülhane Park near the Topkapı Palace. Here, you’ll be served tea in a from double-stacked kettle called a çaydanlık, poured into delicate tulip-shaped glasses. Feel free to drop in a cube of sugar, but steer clear of asking for milk – the Turks never add milk to their (very strong!) tea. You can however dilute it with a bit of cold water to taste.
Learn how to make pasta in Rome (Italy)
Is there anything more quintessentially Italian than fresh, homemade pasta? Thanks to the friendly foodies in cities like Rome, you can now learn this age-old art at the hands of the masters. You can choose to cook and dine with a local chef, or join a honest-to-goodness Italian mama on a trip to a produce market to pick up ingredients that you will help to make into a feast and enjoy alongside a glass of wine (or two!).
Go to a braai in Cape Town (South Africa)
South Africa enjoys lovely weather for the larger part of the year, so the locals tend to gather outside around the braai (barbeque) whenever they meet up for a meal at someone’s home. If you’re headed that way soon, don’t leave without joining in on one of these convivial encounters. There are activity providers that can arrange a braai with some locals, where you can tuck into boerewors (sausage spiced with coriander and cloves), braaibroodjies (barbecue sandwiches – delicious!) and sweet treats like koeksisters (syrupy deep-fried dough plaited into knots). You might also be invited to join in on a sokkie (impromptu dance session) and partake of a springbokkie (a shot layered with peppermint and cream liqueur).
Bake macarons in Paris (France)
The delicate macaron is a thing of beauty – fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside – and notoriously difficult to bake. If you’ve always wanted to master the art of baking these almond-based treats, take the chance to do so while you’re exploring Paris. Bakers throughout the city offer classes that introduce you to the finer points of making these colourful sandwich-style cookies. Just imagine the bragging rights if you can recreate it back home!
Tour a cheese factory in Amsterdam (Netherlands)
When you think of the Dutch, one of the things that are likely to come to mind is cheese. Gouda, Edam, Maasdam, Leerdammer – you name it, the Dutch have it down to an art. As such, there are all sorts of cheese-related shenanigans to enjoy in Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands. Join in on a tour to an old-fashioned cheese farm to see the process from start to finish; partake in a cheese tasting; or even sign up for a class to learn how to make your own. If you choose the latter, just be ready to spend almost a full day doing so – it’s quite the skill to learn!
Cook Greek in Athens (Greece)
Ah, Greek food – dolmades, tzatziki, moussaka, barbouni! It even sounds exotic and poetic! On your next visit to Athens, instead of just taking a seat at a cafe and enjoying your favourites with some retsina, how about getting your hands dirty? There are chefs and cooking activity providers throughout the city that will take you on market tours, teach you the art of making tasty Greek food, and then sit you down along a communal table to feast on it all. That’s the Greek way, after all!
Make burgers in New York (USA)
What’s more star-spangled, red-white-and-blue American than a big old burger and fries? Sure, you can pick up a burger at countless restaurants, eateries and food trucks throughout the Big Apple, but now you can learn to make it too! Whether you want to try your hand at grinding prime rib and making your own patties, or prefer to learn the ins and outs of the perfect vegan burger, there is a cooking encounter out there for you.
Go fishing in Copenhagen (Denmark)
Scandinavia is renowned for its herring and salmon, so it only stands to reason that true-blue foodies would like to cast a line to catch these beauties for themselves on a visit to cities like Copenhagen in Denmark. Fortunately, you totally can! Book a chartered half- of full-day fishing trip on your next visit, and take a seat on a fully kitted fishing boat with a knowledgeable guide. Naturally you can rent fishing gear if you didn’t get around to packing our own.
Cook at home with a local in Cairo (Egypt)
If you’ve always wanted to learn the finer points of Egyptian cuisine at the hands of a local, you’re in luck. You can now enjoy small-group home-cooked Cairo tours including a traditional meal with a local family. Follow in the slipstream of native Egyptian foodies and find out more about their culture while indulging in their delicious food.
Join a distillery tour in St Petersburg (Russia)
Russian winters are frosty to say the least, and a quick nip of artisanal vodka really warms the cockles. Even if you don’t partake of spirits, the history of Russian vodka and the role it played in the economic development of the country is fascinating. Join in on a distillery tour on a visit to St Petersburg to learn more about the vodka-making process and see how the trade is developing to accommodate emerging trends.
Ready to sip, simmer and savour your way around the world? Excellent! Our Expat Explore tours take you to the heart of some of the best-loved foodie destinations around the globe, so take your pick! Once you’ve got your ticket secured and your itinerary all sorted, all that remains is to find a hands-on dining experience that whets your appetite…