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New York City is full of amazing food, and the Chelsea Market is one of its most famous (and historic) gastronomic destinations!
Chelsea Market is best known for its huge food hall. There are over 40 stalls here offering food from all over the world, so when we visited, we wanted to ensure that we ate at the best ones. I mean, there is no way our stomachs would allow us to try all of the different vendors to figure out which were the best (we can eat a lot, but not that much!)
That’s why we decided to do a food tour while in New York and have a local guide show us all of the top spots to eat in the Chelsea Market!
For us, it was definitely the right decision and we will tell exactly why that is. If you’re considering booking a Chelsea Market food tour, we’ve written an in-depth review of the experience to help you decide. We’re going to break down all of the need-to-know details for you!
Don’t have time to read the full article? This is the exact Chelsea Market food tour that we did and absolutely loved! It includes a ton of different food – you’ll leave stuffed!
What is the Chelsea Market?
The Chelsea Market is a huge indoor market located in Manhattan’s edgy Meatpacking district. It’s best known for its indoor food hall, where you can find everything from New York pizza (of course!) to seafood and Japanese tacos.
It’s not just about the food, though – there are also some fantastic shops and boutiques here, from an Anthropologie store to a Moroccan import bazaar!
It’s a fun place to hang out, for both tourists and locals alike. Grab a seat at one of the bars and enjoy a drink, or stuff your face from one of the many different food vendors. Of course, work it all off by shopping!
And since the Chelsea Market is completely indoors, it is a great activity in New York all year round – rain or shine!
Related Read: For another epic experience, consider going on a helicopter ride in New York! The views are out of this world!
What is the history behind the Chelsea Market?
As well as being an awesome place to shop and eat, Chelsea Market also has a really cool history. The building was built in the 1890s as the site of the National Biscuit Company (aka Nabisco). It’s actually the birthplace of Oreos!
However, in the 1950s, Nabisco moved out of their New York City factory to a new one in New Jersey. By the 1960s, the whole of the Meatpacking district was in decline and it became the city’s Red Light District. However, in the 1990s it began to transform into the trendy area it is today, as designers began to open high-end boutiques here and the in-crowd began to frequent the area’s nightclubs.
In keeping with this, the Chelsea Market building changed hands several times during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, until it was purchased by a group of developers in the 1990s. They decided to renovate it and transform it into a trendy, mixed-use space and add some modern features (like air conditioning, which we were very grateful for!)
In 1997, Chelsea Market officially opened to the public. It didn’t take long for its food hall and boutiques to become popular, and today it attracts 6 million visitors per year!
The building was purchased by Google in 2018 and they use some of the building’s floors for office space, but the original developers continue to run the ground floor food hall.
Why are food tours so popular at the Chelsea Market?
The Chelsea Market is a huge foodie destination! It’s filled with amazing places to eat with food from all over the world. You can find awesome New York City classics here like pizza, bagels, and doughnuts, as well as global dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken, kimbap, ceviche, and so much more!
It’s a microcosm of New York’s epic food scene, so you could come back every day for weeks (or even months) and try something new every time. It is one of the top places for food tours in New York.
Related Read: While in the city, be sure to visit one of the best observation decks in New York City for an epic view of the skyline!
What is the BEST Chelsea Market Food Tour?
This is the Chelsea Market food tour that we did, and we had an amazing time!
It’s a 3-hour tour that starts right outside the Chelsea Market, and you begin by learning about its history as your guide takes you on a tour of its famous food hall. There are plenty of stops at food stalls and you get to eat a ton, so make sure you arrive hungry!
There’s even a guided hot sauce tasting included, which is lots of fun!
The Chelsea Market gets pretty busy and one thing we really loved about this tour was the fact that we got to skip the lines. We also appreciated the fact we got some free time to explore the market independently, too.
We also got to try a few different food items that we never would’ve picked if we were on our own (we are looking at you, Japanese tacos!) but were so glad that we did. Of course, New York classics were also on the menu and I’m still drooling over that classic New York pie (pizza pie, of course!)
On this Chelsea Market food tour, you’ll spend about 2 hours at the market in total before heading outside to explore some of the other iconic attractions in the area. That’s right, this food tour is actually about more than just food and it’s a bit of a mix with a city tour, too!
Next on the agenda was a walk on the High Line trail, which was the perfect way to walk off all of that food and digest a bit. The High Line was once an elevated freight railway line that was transformed into a public park. It’s very unique and there are lots of wildflowers and greenery to appreciate here. We loved the city views and we got to see some really cool outdoor artwork, as well.
Then finally, we took a quick walking tour of Hudson Yards, which is Manhattan’s newest and swankiest neighborhood. It’s home to some very glitzy attractions including the Edge Observation Deck and the Vessel, which looks like a giant honeycomb. The tour ends here, so you can go and explore the area some more by yourself afterwards (we went straight to The Edge Observation Deck!)
This is a small group tour with a maximum of 14 people, so it doesn’t feel overcrowded or impersonal. All of your food is included, but you can buy alcoholic drinks at the Chelsea Market if you want – Mayhem Beer is definitely worth a visit during your free time there!
The tour costs $78 USD for adults or $68 for kids aged 4-10. They usually depart at 11 am, just in time for lunch!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
What types of food will you try on a Chelsea Market food tour?
You get to try a ton of sweet goodies on this food tour. We loved the doughnuts from Doughnuttery, which are Kim Kardashian’s favorite. Yep, really – she put it all over her Instagram! They serve awesome mini doughnuts with a ton of different flavored sugars and dips, including beer caramel – yum!
Food from around the world
We weren’t kidding when we said that the Chelsea Food Market has food from every corner of the globe. One of the stalls we ate at served food from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East – and that was just one stall!
Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere which offers a more diverse range of cuisines than the Chelsea Food Market.
New York Slice
It wouldn’t be a New York City food tour without a slice of NY pizza! I’m happy to report that I had one of the best NY slices I’ve ever had in my life on this tour! The sauce was absolutely amazing.
Note: New York Pizza is all about simplicity – tasty sauce with cheese is what it’s all about here!
The Chelsea Market isn’t just home to a ton of different global cuisines, you can also find a ton of unique fusion options here. We loved the Japanese-inspired tacos we had! One of the stalls we visited also had tahini ice cream, which was another super unique find.
What did we love about our Chelsea Market food tour?
Having a great tour guide really does make all the difference, and our guide was very informative and interesting. They kept the tour moving at a good pace but at the same time, we didn’t feel rushed. Chelsea Market has such an interesting history and we learned a ton about it, and New York City as a whole.
We loved all of the food stops, except for one (which we’ll talk about in a minute.) We felt like we got to try a really great range of foods, from NY classics and sweet treats to super unique food items. It was a fantastic overview of the food market.
Free time to explore the market
It was great to have a guided exploration of the market, but we also really appreciated that we got some free time to explore by ourselves. We got to check out the craft market, which had some really cool and quirky items, and see some of the other shops. The food hall is the main attraction at the Chelsea Market but the artisan goods and boutiques are also definitely worth checking out as well!
Tour along the High Line
Walking along the High Line is one of the best things to do in New York City! It’s a public park built along a 1.45 mile (2.33 kilometer) long railway that was once used to transport meat, dairy, and produce through Manhattan’s West Side.
Not only is it super historic, but you also get awesome views of New York’s skyline from up here. There are also lots of art installations, wildflowers, and water features to see along the way.
The High Line is the result of a community project to prevent the demolition of the old railway, so not only is it super scenic, it’s also a testament to the power of the local community. We loved it, going with a guide was definitely better than just walking it by ourselves because we learned a lot about the buildings, artwork, and spaces that we saw along the way.
Most of the tour was inside
We did this tour during the summer and it was really hot! Fortunately, the Chelsea Market is air-conditioned and most of the tour took place inside, so we got a break from the heat. New York also gets really cold during the winter so if you’re planning on visiting then, you’ll also get some respite from the weather!
This is also one of the best things to do on a rainy day in NYC!
Skipping the lines
The Chelsea Market is really popular with locals and tourists alike, so honestly, it’s worth taking a food tour just to be able to skip the lines! We thought this was a huge benefit and it really helped us make the most out of the market. Plus, if you don’t have a lot of time in New York City, you really don’t want to waste it standing in queues!
Related Read: For another epic foodie experience, consider doing the Bateaux Premier Dinner Cruise in New York – we did it and it was absolutely incredible!
What we didn’t like about our Chelsea Market food tour?
One food stop
Most of the food we had on our tour was great, but there was one place that we didn’t overly enjoy. We stopped at a bao dumpling place and didn’t care for them that much. They definitely weren’t on par with the rest of the food at the market, and we’ve had way better baos elsewhere. With that said, some of the other people on our tour seemed to love it, so this might be a matter of preference.
Other than that, the tour was incredible and we can honestly recommend it to everyone!
Chelsea Market Food Tour FAQs
Are Chelsea Market food tours suitable for children?
Yes, kids are welcome on the food tours, although they might not enjoy it if they’re picky eaters. Still, they’re likely to enjoy the sweet treats and pizza that you get on the way round! The market is also stroller friendly, so there are no worries there.
Are there vegetarian or vegan options?
There are plenty of vegetarian options available on the tour. Unfortunately, there aren’t many vegan options yet and the tour company states that the tour isn’t vegan-friendly.
Is the Chelsea Market Food tour wheelchair accessible?
Yes. The Chelsea Market is a wheelchair-friendly space and the High Line is also wheelchair accessible. There are four different elevators for the High Line available on Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, 23rd Street, and 30th Street.
Can those with allergies do a Chelsea Market food tour?
It depends on what your allergies are. The tour company says that the tour isn’t suitable for those with gluten allergies. The best thing to do is to contact the tour operator through Viator when you book to advise them of your allergies, and they’ll do their best to accommodate you.
Would we do a Chelsea Market food tour again?
Yes, I definitely would. Overall, it was a great food tour and not only did we get to eat a lot, we got to learn a lot too. It gave us a great insight into New York City’s food scene and history.
We wanted to visit the Chelsea Market anyway, and doing a food tour gave us a much better idea of which vendors to visit, and what to try. There was a ton of food included and we also really enjoyed the guided walk of the High Line and Hudson Yards. Plus, getting to skip the line was awesome!
So yes, I would 100% return.
If you want to do the tour too, you can book the same one that we did online here!
Where to book the Chelsea Market food tour?
We booked our tour on Viator here! Why? Well, we use Viator all the time when we travel and they are a very reputable company. It’s such an easy platform to use, too. On top of that, when you book this specific tour on Viator you can cancel for free up to 24 hours in advance – this means you have the flexibility to change your mind if you want!
Other Things to do While You’re in New York City
As the biggest city in the USA, there is no shortage of things to do in New York! I mean you could spend weeks here and still not see a fraction of what the Big Apple has to offer. But if you only have a few days and want to see the highlights, these are other top attractions and activities we highly recommend checking out.
- Fly above NYC – Exploring on the ground is fun, but to truly appreciate the New York skyline, take to the air! Joining a helicopter flight in NYC gives you a front-row seat (or hopefully a window seat!) to all the iconic sights like the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. We chose this 15-minute helicopter flight that flew over Manhattan and it was a highlight, if not THE highlight of our whole trip!
- Eat pizza! – New York was home to the first pizzeria in the US way back in the early 1900s and it’s still something this city is known for. I dare say the pizza here is legendary! Top pizza joints include John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Prince Street Pizza in Nolita, and we also loved 2 Bros Pizza.
- Visit Central Park – Likely you’ve seen this famous park in movies, so it’s a must while you’re here. Central Park is huge with great spots like a historic carousel, Belvedere Castle, and even a skating rink in the winter. Feel like you’re starring in a rom-com with this horse and carriage ride. It’s 45 minutes around Central Park and a fantastic way to cover more ground in style.
- Cross the Brooklyn Bridge – New York can be expensive, but strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge is completely free! The views of the skyline are stellar and there are lots of vendors if you get hungry. We recommend walking all the way across to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the best views of Manhattan.
- Empire State Building – As one of the most iconic buildings in the entire world, the Empire State Building is an attraction like none other! Of course, you’ll see the building from afar, but the views are next-level from the Empire State Building observation deck. Make sure to reserve tickets for the main observation deck in advance as only a limited number of people are allowed up at a time.
- Take a day trip – Not only is NYC full of fun, but it’s close to other amazing destinations you can visit for a day! Head to Washington, DC to check out the White House, try some amazing Philly Cheesesteak and see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, or take a tour from New York to Niagara Falls.
Where to Stay in New York City
New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.
Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!
Motto by Hilton – $$$
Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes”. In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views! Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax.
TBA Times Square – $$
TBA Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal, it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square! It’s also just a 20-minute ride from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (with no transfers).
Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book the TBA Times Square online here!
Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $
For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $150 USD per night.
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
The Chelsea Market is a really unique place to explore in New York, and to us, a food tour makes it even more fun! Eating your way around the market is a blast, and any foodie would definitely agree with us – just do the tour for yourself and you’ll agree!
Before you go, check out some of our other blogs about traveling in the USA, including a couple of related reads below: