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10 Things to Know BEFORE Booking a Philadelphia Food Tour

10 Things to Know BEFORE Booking a Philadelphia Food Tour

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Philadelphia may be the birthplace of the United States, but it’s just as famous for its food as it is for its revolutionary history! 

Naturally, a Philly cheesesteak is a must-try when you’re in the City of Brotherly Love, but that’s really only the beginning. Other classic Philly eats include soft pretzels, tomato pie, and Cheez Whiz fries. We also had some amazing Italian food while we were here. 

We were super excited to eat as much as possible in Philadelphia on our most recent trip, which is why we booked a food tour. There are a ton of tours in Philly, but you want to choose the right one so you can chow down on only the best food.

That’s why, in this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know before booking a Philadephia food tour. We want to make sure you have an amazing experience just like we did!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Food tours in Philly are a delicious way to explore the city and the best local restaurants. We loved this walking food tour where we tried everything from soft pretzels to tomato pie (which is surprisingly good!) and of course the iconic Philly cheesesteak.

1. Are food tours in Philadelphia worth it?

Our food tour group on the streets eating pretzels during our tour in Philadelphia
Our food tour group!
Daniel with a slice of Tomato Pie that he got to try on a walking food tour around Philadelphia, USA
Yum!

Yes, 100%. A food tour is one of the top things to do in Philly, and it was definitely one of our favorite experiences there. It’s also a great way to go sightseeing in Philadelphia since you’ll probably hit up a few different areas along the way.

Philadelphia is one of the most famous foodie destinations in the United States, and a tour is the best way to learn more about the cuisine and eat at all the top spots. If you’re spending a couple of days in Philly, you could even do more than one! But regardless of which tour you choose, doing one is a must!

2. How much do Philadelphia food tours cost?

Our food tour group follow our tour guide down the street in Philadelphia during a food tour
Exploring the streets of Philly!

Philadelphia food tours average around $80 USD, with prices generally ranging between $65 and $90 USD. Honestly, we found them to be relatively cheap for a guided tour in Philadelphia that lasts for a couple of hours and includes food. It’s a meal and an activity in one, so you can’t go wrong!

Related Read: Another experience we absolutely loved was taking a Washington DC river cruise. You can see loads of historic sites – and ours even included a bottomless mimosa brunch!

3. What are the best food tours in Philadelphia?

Classic Walking Tour of Philly

Bailey with a slice of Tomato Pie that we tried on a food tour around Philadelphia, US
The famous tomato pie!
Bailey with a slice of Tomato Pie that we tried on a food tour around Philadelphia, US
Hot pretzel!

We took this walking food tour of Philadelphia and absolutely loved it. It was one of the best food tours that we’ve ever done anywhere in the world. Our guide was so fun and engaging, and the food was delicious. We loved getting to try so many yummy Philly favorites at local hotspots, and we saw quite a lot as we walked around the city, too. 

On this tour, you’ll try Philly cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and tomato pie, which is basically cheeseless pizza. We were surprised by how good it was! What we really loved was the fact that the spots our guide took us to were off of the typical tourist track, so we got to eat like locals. 

The tour ends at Reading Terminal Market with two delicious desserts. This market is another Philly must-visit. Trust me, the sweet treats that you get here are a perfect way to finish off the tour! 

Food tours leave at 1:30 pm on weekdays and 12 pm on weekends. Tours last for 2.5 hours, which felt like the perfect amount of time to eat everything, walk around, and learn about the city. This tour costs $65 USD or $73.50 USD on weekends, including all the food we mentioned, bottled water, and your local guide. We thought it was really good value for money because we arrived hungry and left stuffed!

It was a wonderful experience from start to finish, so we were very happy with the price tag. This is exactly why we included it on our list of the best free and cheap things to do in Philadelphia.

Tours are offered daily, but they do sell out fast, so you can reserve your spot online here!

Related Read: Are you also visiting New York? Well, if you enjoy Philly food tours, you should also check out the 5 best food tours in NYC!

Italian Market Food Tour

Bailey enjoys an Italian Coffee during our food tour of the Italian Market in Philadelphia, USA
Italian coffee!
The Italian Market in Downtown Philadelphia, USA
The Italian Market in Downtown Philadelphia, USA

The Italian Market is a super historic area of Philly. The market dates back to the 1880s when Antonio Palumbo, an Italian immigrant, opened a boarding house for his fellow Italians. Consequently, food stalls, butcheries, and bakeries began to pop up all over the area, and the Italian Market has thrived ever since. 

In the 1970s, the Italian Market gained international attention when it appeared in the movie Rocky. You might recognize it specifically from the iconic fruit-throwing scene.

Today, there are lots of international vendors at the Italian Market as well as authentic Italian spots. The whole market actually spans 10 city blocks. As such, the best way to discover its top eateries is on this chef-led food tour.

Over the course of 2 hours, a local chef will help you discover all of the culinary gems that the Italian Market has to offer. What’s great is you’ll stop at lots of curbside stalls you might otherwise have passed by, from the best cheese shop in Philadelphia to a classic Philly pizzeria. By the end, you’ll know how to eat like a local at the Italian Market!

As you discover the area and its food, you’ll also learn about the history of Italian immigration to the USA and how it has shaped the city. It’s also really interesting to discover the differences between the food in northern and southern Italy. Plus, you get to hear the chef’s take on all of the food you eat along the way. Honestly, we loved this tour so much that we even included it on our 3-day Philadelphia itinerary.

This tour is offered Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm and Sundays at 10:30 am. You’ll meet at the Italian Market Visitor Center and end 2 hours later at a pastry shop (which is no accident, so prepare that sweet tooth). It costs $80 USD per person, including all the food and your knowledgeable guide. Just a heads up: most dates require a minimum of two people per booking.

However, we’d definitely budget a bit more because you’ll want to buy extras! Although it’s not covered, there are opportunities to buy a glass or two of wine throughout the market. You also get a chance to buy Italian goodies to enjoy later or take home, like freshly baked bread and olive oil. In fact, you even get to do an olive oil tasting at one of the stops. 

All in all, we think reserving a spot on this tour is the perfect way to experience the Italian Market!

Local’s Favorite Reading Terminal Food Tour

Doughnuts we tried on our Philly food tour
Delicious doughnuts!
Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market

The Reading Terminal Market is the place to eat traditional Philly food! It’s a great place to go and discover some indulgent treats. Although it has become one of the city’s most popular attractions, there are a few hidden gems here that you’ll only find with the help of a guide.

That’s exactly why this guided tour is so great! You’ll have an in-the-know guide to take you to all of the best places to eat. And best of all, the tour focuses on local favorites! 

Throughout the tour, you’ll wander the Reading Terminal trying specialties along the way. After that, you’ll walk about 12 blocks through the city stopping at a couple other hidden gems for foodies. You’ll try both local farm cheeses as well as some imported ones – I am a huge cheese fan so the fact that this tour has so many cheese samples is a huge plus for me!

Since you’re in a small group (no more than 12), you’ll be able to chat with your guide and ask lots of questions. I loved learning about the food and how the Reading Terminal Market came to be such a culinary hotspot. And best of all, you’ll eat a ton of delicious local cuisine.

This tour costs $65 USD per person. We think that the price is very reasonable since you get lots of food and history from your guide! The only thing to note is that tours are only available on weekends. You can reserve your spot easily online here.

Small Group Walking Food Tour

Choclate cookies we tried in the Italian Market during a food tour in Philadelphia, USA
Chocolates!
A 4th street cookie we tried on our food tour in Philadelphia
Famous 4th Street Cookies!

This small group tour gives you a really nice overview of Philadelphia’s food scene, and you get to tick off some must-visit places along the way. 

You’ll visit the Reading Terminal Market, which is one of our favorite foodie destinations in the city. You’ll also pass by Sansom Street, a newer hotspot with a big focus on ethically and locally sourced cuisine. You get a really nice overview of Philly’s foodie landscape, and of course, you get to eat lots, too!

Along the way, you’ll try everything from cheesesteaks and cannoli to pastrami and specialty coffee. Since it’s a walking tour in Philadelphia, you also see lots of famous buildings en route. We loved checking out City Hall, the Wanamaker Building, and One Liberty Place, which is modeled after the beautiful Chrysler Building in New York City.

Tours start daily at 2 pm from outside the Masonic Temple and last 2.5 hours later. The tour costs $69 USD and has stellar reviews. This is both a fantastic intro to Philly and an awesome opportunity to eat your way around the city! 

For a sampling of Philly’s best food, secure your spot on this tour!

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.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • 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! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

4. Do all food tours in Philadelphia include trying Philly cheesesteaks?

Close up of a Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia, USA
The famous Philly Cheese Steak!
Bailey poses for a photo with a philly cheese steak we tried on our food tour
We love them!

Most of them do, but not all. The Italian Market Food Tour doesn’t include Philly cheesesteaks since it focuses on Italian cuisine. The Reading Market Terminal Local Tour also doesn’t include them.

If you don’t want solely cheesesteaks, we highly recommend the walking tour that we did. It offers the best of both worlds. We got to try a fantastic cheesteak, as well as lots of other Philly favorites. 

Meanwhile, this small group tour involves eating a Philly cheesesteak at Reading Terminal Market. So rest assured, you can definitely choose a tour where you’re guaranteed to get some delicious Philly cheesesteak!

Related Read: For some of the best food in New York, read our guide to visiting the Chelsea Market, NYC!

5. Do you need to book a Philadelphia food tour in advance?

A Tomato Pie we tried on a food tour in Philadelphia, USA
It looks odd, but it tastes amazing!
Bailey and Daniel take a selfie with their fresh pretzels during a food tour in Philadelphia, USA
So happy!

Yes. Philly is a major foodie destination, so food tours are very popular, especially during the summer months. You should book your tour in advance through Viator because you can cancel or change your reservation for free up to 24 hours beforehand. You get both flexibility and peace of mind, both of which are super important when you’re on holiday! 

6. Are food tours in Philadelphia suitable for children?

Bailey bites into a doughnut during our food tour in Philadelphia
Yum!
4th street cookies in Philadelphia
Cookies!

Yes, they are. Kids love food tours because they get to try tons of different food, and there are usually sweet treats involved. Just make sure that they’ll be okay walking for 1-2 miles (1.6-3.2 km) because this is what most tours require. 

7. Do food tours in Philadelphia accommodate dietary requirements?

Pretzel outside the pretzel shop during a food tour in Philadelphia
The famous pretzels!
Streets of Philadelphia during a food tour
It’s a cool city to explore – especially when food is involved!

If you have food allergies or dietary requirements such as being vegan or vegetarian, the Italian Market tour is your best bet. After booking, you can message the tour company through Viator to let them know your requirements, and they promise to accommodate your needs! 

Meanwhile, the classic walking tour that we did does accommodate vegetarians. However, you’ll need to let them know in advance so that they can make arrangements for you. 

8. Should you tip your guide on a Philadelphia food tour?

Our tour guide talks to our group during our food tour in Philadelphia
We tipped our guides well!

Yes. It’s normal to tip in the USA, so bring some cash to tip your guide at the end of your tour. You can tip based on how your guide did, but between 10-20% is the norm for locals. 

9. Are Philadelphia food tours safe?

Yes, they are. Philadelphia is pretty safe in general, and we didn’t have any problems there.

Being with a guide makes things even safer because they will only take you to areas that they know super well. Plus, you’ll only eat at reputable restaurants with good food hygiene. These tours are all super popular, so all of the restaurants you visit have been tried and tested a hundred times over! 

10. What should you bring on a food tour in Philadelphia?

Daniel in the Reading Terminal Market during our food tour in Philadelphia
You don’t need much!

Good footwear

You’ll end up walking at least a mile or two on a food tour, so don’t risk getting blisters! Wear comfy footwear that you’ll be okay to walk around in – you can’t go wrong with sneakers.

Hat and sun protection

If you’re visiting Philly during the summer, then you’ll need a hat and some sun protection. Most of these food tours take place at lunchtime, which is when the sun is at its strongest, so bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Getting sunburned can really ruin a good trip!

Water

Bottled water is provided on most Philadelphia food tours. However, if you’re going during the summer, then you might want some extra. Walking around in the heat can be thirsty work, and it’s important to stay hydrated. We definitely recommend bringing an extra bottle or two. 

Empty stomach

You’ll get fed a lot of food, so make sure that you arrive hungry. Keep your breakfast very light because come lunchtime, you’ll be eating a ton of very filling, carb-heavy foods. After all, you don’t want to miss out on anything! 

Cash

There’s a strong tipping culture in the USA, so you should bring some cash to tip your guide at the end of the tour. Guides do rely on tips as this often makes up a lot of their salary. 10-20% seems to be the standard in the US for tours, but you can just tip what you feel is right.

Hand sanitizer

Your guide may have some hand sanitizer with them, but I was glad I brought my own as well. You eat foods like cheesesteak and tomato pie with your hands, and you’re also touring the city. As such, it’s good to have your own hand sanitizer to use whenever you want. That way, you can just enjoy the food without worrying about hygiene. 

Related Read: If you want to explore another city through food, don’t miss taking a food tour in Toronto, Canada!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Philadelphia

Bailey looks out the window of City Hall Tower in Philadelphia
Enjoying the view from the City Hall Tower
Two cocktails at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA
Two cocktails at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA

Food tours are great and all, but it’s not the only thing you should do in the City of Brotherly Love! There are plenty of fun activities in Philadelphia. So, if you’re looking to fill that itinerary, check out some of my favorite options below.

  • Go for cocktails – Philly is home to awesome cocktail bars like the Ranstead Room, which is a candlelit speakeasy serving craft cocktails. Andra Hem is a Swedish-style cocktail bar with super unique ingredients, and South 2nd Street is good for bar hopping (head to Sassafras!). Or, join this small group cocktail tour which takes you to 4-5 bars that you’d probably never find by yourself.
  • See Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens – Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is, indeed, magical! This open-air gallery on South Street is known for its mosaics, which remind me a bit of Gaudi. It’s a great example of local art and the perfect destination to snap Instagram-worthy photos. You can also book this art tour that visits the Magic Gardens along with the city’s top murals.
  • Ride on a hop-on, hop-off bus – To see all the city’s top sights, check out this hop-on, hop-off bus. It has a super comprehensive route and takes you to a ton of places, including Reading Terminal Market, City Hall, Rittenhouse Square, Love Park, Chinatown, and tons more! You get guided commentary but can still explore at your own pace.
  • Go up the City Hall Tower – Not everyone knows you can go up to the very top of the City Hall Tower, where you’ll get epic 360-degree views! You do need to book this tour well in advance as there are only a few spaces available per day. It only costs $15 USD per person and lasts for about 30 minutes, so it’s easy to fit into a busy sightseeing itinerary. 

Where to Stay in Philadelphia, USA

Element Philadelphia Downtown room with a view
Photo credit: Element Philadelphia Downtown

Philadelphia is a big city, and deciding where to stay can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve narrowed it down to our top choices for each budget range. Plus, these places are close to the starting point for many of the tours we discussed. So keep reading to find the best accommodations for you!

The Rittenhouse Hotel – $$$

The Rittenhouse Hotel is a centrally located, award-winning accommodation. It has that old-school Philadelphia feel with modern amenities. They offer a gym, an indoor heated pool, a sun terrace, and a fabulous restaurant. You can also enjoy British tea and cocktails in their tea room, which is connected to a gorgeous garden.

Prices range from $350 – $1,000 USD depending on the type of room and your dates. You can check prices and availability online here.

Element Philadelphia Downtown – $$

The Element Philadelphia Downtown is just a block from City Hall. It has a fitness center, an on-site restaurant, a shared lounge, and free bikes. The place has modern, well-equipped rooms, friendly staff, and a decent continental breakfast. Request a room higher up for an awesome city view.

This place is a great value for money, with prices starting as low as $160 USD when you book in advance.

Apple Hostels of Philadelphia – $

Apple Hostels of Philadelphia is my favorite budget accommodation in Philadelphia. It’s located in the Old City, within walking distance of the Liberty Bell and Center City. This hostel has it all, including a shared kitchen, laundry, pool table, foosball, Xbox, computers/iPads, guitars, and a TV area. You won’t have any trouble socializing, and they even offer free drinks and dinner sometimes. It’s clean, comfortable, and has a great vibe.

Shared rooms start at $34 USD, and private rooms begin at $85 USD. You can book your stay on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, USA
Thanks for reading!

If you’re a foodie, you’ll love Philadelphia! This city has a strong culinary culture, and one of the best ways to explore it is on a food tour. So if you’re planning a trip here, we hope this guide has helped you find a tour that suits your needs. And remember to show up hungry because you’ll be well-fed!

Are you traveling to other cities in the States? Check out our blogs all about the USA. We’ve also written about many other destinations worldwide. To get started, just click on one of the links below!

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