San Sebastián is renowned for its unique food culture. This small town in the Basque region of Spain is home to some of the world’s best fine dining establishments, as well as an endless list of bars offering fresh and flavoursome pintxos (small snacks or basque tapas). In between the feasting and drinking, visitors can relax on the beach, wander the historic streets or hike up the lush surrounding scenery.
Playa de la Concha – Known as ‘Shell Beach’ this beautiful stretch of beach spans the city centre. A great place to relax by the sea in between meals.
Monte Urgull – After a couple of days in this foodie mecca I felt in need of a bit of exercise. This epic mountain is the most significant historical site in San Sebastian. Walk up to the top (20 minutes) for amazing views of the city below.
Hotel Maria Cristina – Hotel Maria Cristina is without a doubt the most desirable place to stay in San Sebastian. The hotel overlooks the Urumea River, and is just 5 minutes walk from the old town and the famous La Concha stretch of beach. The rooms are indulgent and their gourmet shop is great for foodie gifts to take home.
San Sebastian old town is a maze of small streets, cluttered with hundreds of pinxtos bars, each serving their own specialities. For the best experience, hop from bar to bar and taste just one or two plates at each.
Goiz Argi – A tiny eatery with only a few counter seats and limited standing space. They specialise in grilled food, opt for the ‘brocheta de gambas a la plancha’ grilled prawn skewers in a tasty vinaigrette dressing.
La Cepa – This relaxed venue has a large menu to choose from and a counter filled with tempting plates. I adored the expensive but delicious ‘hongos a la plancha’ – grilled wild mushrooms.
Casa Gandarias – A popular stop on the tourist pinxtos tours, Casa Gandarias is always busy. They specialise in Iberian hams and meats… we chose the ‘pintxo de solomillo’ a tasty mouthful of perfectly cooked sirloin beef.
La Cuchara de San Telmo – This creative restaurant has become a favourite with foodies visiting San Sebastian. The kitchen offers Basque nouvelle cuisine – a new style of pintxos. Best known for their ‘carrílera de ternera al vino tinto’ – calf cheeks in red wine, but we also loved the ‘cochinillo’ – crispy suckling pig. A glass of local red wine will only cost a couple of euros and pairs nicely with the rich meat dishes.
Bar La Viña – The world famous La Viña makes big batches of baked cheesecake every night, and it costs just 3 euros for a massive slice! Most visit for dessert after getting their fill of savoury food.
Bar Zeruko – Visit Bar Zeruko for wacky modern pintxos. They are best known for ‘La Hoguera’ (‘the bonfire’), a smoked cod pintxo which is served still cooking on a tiny grill.
Bar Ganbara – This classic bar is another favourite on the regular pintxos guided tours. Bar Ganbara specialises in kebabs and mini croissants stuffed with local cheese and ham (decadent and divine).
Bar Bordi Berri – A traditional old town bar specialising in rice dishes. They are best known for ‘Arroz bomba con chipirón’ – rice with baby cuttlefish.
Bar Néstor – Renowned for their tortilla (thin omelette), you have to arrive at 11.30am to book your slice ahead of it opening at 1pm! (Often closed for sporadic holidays.)
Sakona Coffee Roasters – The only speciality coffee in town, I visited Sakona every morning for my caffeine fix. The interiors are satisfyingly chic and minimal and the coffee is freshly roasted in house. The team run workshops to offer expertise in coffee tasting and pouring.
The Loaf – The Loaf originally started out as a pop-up, before opening up a permanent site. Visit this artisan bakery to pick up a loaf of the best sourdough bread in town. The cafe also serve good coffee using Right Side Coffee beans.
Bilbao – Most visitors reach San Sebastian by first arriving at Bilbao airport. The two cities are just 100km apart and have many similarities. When visiting Bilbao your first stop should be the incredible Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and housing important contemporary art. Food fans should head to La Ribera market to pick up a plate of pintxos. For a memorable meal, venture to the outskirts of town where Eneko Atxa’s 3 Michelin star Azurmendi restaurant is found. The imaginative and delicious tasting menu started with a picnic in the entrance hall before heading into the kitchen, the greenhouse and finally through to the main restaurant. Azurmendi is recognised as one of the most sustainable restaurants in the world, and the food is always included on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. If you want to spend more than a day in Bilbao Hotel Miró is a convenient and fashionable place to stay.