There’s nothing quite like discovering a place through the eyes of a local. Everywhere in the world has its own culinary traditions and stories. Italy is of course, no exception.
Our week long trip in Italy this past April opened up a plethora of foodie delights we never knew existed. If we’d not found a guide to take us on a food tour (which usually included discovering local secret places too), we’d perhaps not have discovered:
– Aperitivo – the best Italian tradition you’ve never heard of! Start in Milan. For a set price you buy a drink like a cocktail and can indulge in a large buffet too! Read more
– Cichetti – like Spanish tapas, served at bacari, traditional bars, in Venice. Live like a local. Read more
– Italian coffee culture. Start your day drinking a macchiato standing at a bar in a coffee shop. Don’t sit down out the front, you’ll look like a tourist! Cappuccinos or lattes are for the morning only, never after lunch. An espresso is ok at any time of the day. Here’s a quick guide on your options
– Gelato – support local when in Italy. We discover in Italy how to keep the prices down and determine the difference between authentic and not-so… Read more
– Panzerotti (deep fried pizza dough) and the place you should queue up to taste it in Milan. Read more
Why do a walking tour? It’s easy, fun and you get to live like a local for a couple of hours. Not to mention, you can grill your walking and food tour host with any questions you like. Mostly you get an authentic experience that’s inexpensive, and you can find gems off the tourist trail. We took a walking food tour in Verona and Venice, both booked on Airbnb.
Learn to cook
One glance across experience promoters like Airbnb or Viator shows just how many cooking tours there are around the world now. Most mean you turn up to someone’s home, or a family restaurant’s kitchen, and spend a few hours learning (or honing) a skill. It might be pasta, desserts or a uniquely local cuisine you’re learning. Either way, what better opportunity do you have to learn about a new place?
The bonus of this type of experience is you’re usually supporting a local business. Win win!
One of our most popular blogs on Travel Live Learn is about pursuing creative travel experiences including this type of trip. Have a read here.
There’s plenty of this type of class or food tour on offer all over Italy. If you have any that you’d recommend, do please share details in the comments below.
Organised coach tours
If you’re fully committed to spending a few days discovering Italy through the eyes of food, there are coach tours available exclusively for this purpose. A simple search, ‘food tour Italy’ brings up a number of options. You might explore the regions we did, like Milan, Verona or Venice. Or, the famous Tuscan food and wine region. There are plenty of small towns that offer amazing insight into food and wine, and if you don’t have a car, a booking like this is the way to go to not miss anything important.
An organised tour takes the stress out of figuring out what to do and may include an itinerary of a few days. You don’t have to worry about driving or finding your way – just focus on what’s important. Your taste buds!
Other ways you can find a food tour in your country or region of choice, might be by searching for recommendations on Tripadvisor, YouTube or running a hashtag search on Instagram for #foodtour, for example.
We discovered the Brussels option on the destination’s tourism website, and our Italy experiences (including wine tastings, which you can read about here) popped up as recommendations alongside our Airbnb bookings.
Do you have tips or a personal example to share, or even questions? Let us know in the comments 😋
Belgium is the perfect little escape from London, especially on the Eurostar. We’ve got your 1 day in Brussels itinerary sorted that includes history, fun, chocolate and beer!
Brussels is an easy two hour trip from London’s St Pancras. We booked fares when they were on sale, and would have a solid 24 hours to explore. We did some research on the best things to do in Brussels in a day to make the most of the experience.
Sign up to the Eurostar mailing list to find out about sales. It’s how I scored £29 fares which I bought last November for a February trip.
1 day in Brussels – city facts and fun
A few things to know about the city before you set up your itinerary for best things to do in Brussels in a day:
– Brussels is the ‘capital’ of Europe. It’s home to the European Commission, the European Council, Council of the European Union, European Parliament, and NATO to name a few critically important world organisations.
– Actress Audrey Hepburn was born here in 1929 and you can scope out some of the places where she lived and worked.
– Famous philosopher Karl Marx, poet Victor Hugo and writers the Brontë sisters have also called Brussels home.
– There is much Portuguese influence in the city, with 20,000 from Portugal living in Brussels. Interesting for us to see, following our recent trip to Lisbon.
– Brussels is known for grand architecture, wonderful art, museums and one of Europe’s oldest shopping arcades, Galeries St Hubert (1847).
– Brussels is also known for being a little quirky, with peeing statues and comic book art all over building walls.
– Brussels is a foodie city! Muscles, waffles, fries, and Europe’s third biggest market (Midi market, open on Sundays near the train station where the Eurostar arrives/departs).
Upon serious consideration (yes, really), we realised that with just 1 day in Brussels we wanted to get to know it quickly and in a special way.
What better way to appreciate Brussels than through the lens of two of Belgium’s most famous exports: chocolate and beer!
We stumbled across this excellent experience online and made contact with the team to see how we could work together.
The Brussels Journey offers a beer and chocolate tour that takes in the best things to do in Brussels in a day. This includes seeing the key sites, learning about the city’s history and sampling beer and chocolate. Honestly, the tour exceeded our expectations!
A huge benefit was that we landed in the city at 10am not knowing a soul, but by 10pm had a handful of fab new friends from all over the globe.
1 day in Brussels – the best chocolate in Brussels
The Belgian chocolate industry is almost 400 years old, which means there are plenty of stories to tell here in Brussels when it comes to our favourite sweet treat.
There are countless chocolate shops here, so how do you know where to find the best chocolate in Brussels?
Our Brussels Journey tour started in front of popular Chocopolis, and took our group on a lengthy excursion through the streets in search of the best chocolate in Brussels.
We sampled some of the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted; unique flavours and blends.
I found it fascinating to learn that chocolate-making has so much to it. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before (too busy guzzling), but chocolate is like wine, tea or coffee.
The flavours and quality depend on the origin of ingredients, amount of cocoa used, what other flavours are infused, how its stored and produced.
Belgium is a top player in chocolate production and export, and local chocolatiers told us the secret is that they still use 100% cocoa butter.
Praline chocolates were what made Belgium famous, although they more quietly share that this was the invention of a Swiss migrant in 1912 (Switzerland and Belgium are of course the world leaders and fierce rivals when it comes to chocolate production supremacy).
Lively and helpful Brussels Journey guides, Julie and Baptiste, pointed out where to find the best chocolate in Brussels, and shared cool history and anecdotes along the way about all of Brussels favourite landmarks.
If you’ve only got a short time in the city, this walking tour is the way to go. You’ll maximise enjoyment and learning while making new friends and not have to wonder if you’re heading somewhere great.
I couldn’t tell you if any of the chocolate in Brussels is bad. All chocolate seems pretty great to me. For spending only 1 day in Brussels I certainly gorged on plenty of chocolate and enjoyed every bit.
Best chocolate in Brussels?
If you’re after ideas on where to get the best chocolate in Brussels, take The Brussels Journey tour, or keep an eye out for some of the best-known ones like:
Belvas | Chocopolis | Elisabeth | Frederic Blondeel | Godiva | La Belgique Gourmande | Lawrence | Mary | Pierre Marcolini | Passion Chocolat
We were amazed to discover that a fellow Queenslander from Toowoomba, Ryan Stevenson, actually took out the chocolatier of the year accolade back in 2012, right here in Brussels!
Belgium is also very famous for its beers. It’s said you could spend four years here, drink a beer every day and not drink the same beer twice. That’s a LOT of choice.
Again, another reason to take a guided tour. We had so much fun sampling the best beer in Brussels with their team and our new friends on the beer and chocolate tour
Beer has been brewed here since the 12 Century. As for the story of chocolate, I was fascinated to find out that there’s so much more to beer than I imagined.
On The Brussels Journey tour we learnt about Trappist beers, which are a special kind of beer that must be brewed by monks, next to or within the walls of a Trappist monastery.
The beer brewing is the responsibility of the monks and some of their output is so unique that it’s nearly impossible to purchase! Extra limited edition, if you will. There are only 12 Trappist breweries in the world, six are in Belgium. No profit can be made from the sale of the beer, it must go back to the abbey or to a designated organisation.
– The Palace of Justice in Brussels’ stunning Grand Place (main square) is the largest law court in the world!
– Brussels puts on BIG shows, like the Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter festivals in summer.
– It’s the home of comics, which is evident within street art around the city. For a different type of tour you can follow the Brussels comic strip route.
Within the city there’s an area known as the Restaurant Quarter. There’s plenty to choose from, but some is worth a splurge while others are not. The council addressed this by awarding plaques to places you should try. Keep an eye out for anywhere that boasts the ‘Maison Recommandée’ signs, as the image above depicts.
1 day in Brussels – our itinerary and top spots to visit
Highlights in our map include chocolate shops, beer stops and view points – take yourself on a wander around beautiful Brussels!
Enjoy – and do let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments.
Huge thanks to The Brussels Journey who let us collaborate with them to find out more about Brussels and discover what they offer in the city!
Tips, tricks, comments, or just love beer and chocolate? Let us know in the comments!
It’s Monday morning and like most of you (except for the lucky buggers on summer vacation over in the UK and USA) I have work to do, so this will be short. August 6 rings an important bell in my world though. A bitter sweet, happy ringing sound: so-called because it marks the beginning of an experience I wish had never ended; happy, because last August was the MOST fun I’ve ever had in my life.
Cooper and I chose to book a new 26-day tour of Europe with Expat Explore, and this experience was nothing short of life-changing. We booked this ‘Ultimate Europe’ trip because in all honesty, a ‘tour’ turned out to be better value than booking each of these countries independently – accommodation, food, transport. We wanted a big ‘taste-test’ of Europe, and this itinerary ticked all the boxes, including economical price! Turned out too, it wasn’t all ‘hostels’ – this tour housed us mainly at very comfy hotel stops (and the hostels we stayed at were actually really cool!).
An added – and extremely unexpected bonus, for the uninitiated, was the friends we made – aged between 23 and 70, mind you! On this date last year, we met people who are still friends today (and thank God, especially on this note, for Facebook). It is because of an extraordinarily cool, lovely, friendly, interesting group of like-minded travellers that August 2011 is (and always will be) especially memorable for me. We were all sad to leave each other on August 31, 2011, but fondly remember each other today.
In the meantime, I know each and every one of our coach (see, I remembered, Steve) mates would agree, if you want to explore Europe, the UK, and (as of this year) South Africa, we’d urge you to book with Expat Explore. While those travelling Europe simultaneously were camping and ‘roughing it’ (from my perspective), we were enjoying finer accommodation, experienced and intelligent guides (ie. Ali A), and an all-round superior experience – for a LOWER cost. Beat that!
Basically, if you’re not going to go with Expat Explore, in my view, you’re missing out. Meanwhile, bringing the post back to my own experience – thanks to all of you for the amazing memories – from silent discos in Rome to splashing around in the pool in Florence after a VERY hot day, drinking (many) cocktails in Berlin, and karaoke in Paris; and let’s not forget all the beautiful cities we visited (first time for me!), dined in, explored and learned from: big hugs to you all today. I hope we get to meet – if not tour together – again one day.
More memories? How about a little La Bamba on the coach somewhere in the middle of Italy (scroll to the bottom of the page for video)! And the story on our trip that appeared in The Australian Times, Londonnewspaper + online.
Please do share your memories too (in the comments below). Have a great week, wherever in the world you may be.
Oh, and PS – a HUGE congrats to the lovely Tash J from our group who just scored Rodeo Queen at one of Australia’s biggest and most important regional events, the Mt Isa Rodeo!! *awesome* effort x
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Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper: we know life's short, and we're here to encourage you to make the most of it! We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for many years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. Our hottest content topics here are pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be. Join our community of over 11,000 like-minded adventurers - find out more by signing up for the mailing list and our Facebook Group. Find us on YouTube too. NEW podcast now live: search 'Freedom and Four Paws' on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts or your fave podcast service provider.