PINTXOS AND SUN IN SAN SEBASTIÁN
Pintxos are finger foods, little sandwiches and small plates and they are typically presented on platters spread out all over a bar. You serve yourself, or point at what you want. Payment is typically by the plate or via a simplified pricing system in which the bar or restaurant assigns one of only 2 or 3 price points to each of their offerings, making it easy to add up your bill once you’ve had your fill. If you’ve had tapas, you’ve had something similar but probably not in the generous portion sizes you’ll find in San Sebastián. Even at breakfast time, San Sebastián is all about the pintxos, often including many of the same ingredients you’ll find later in the day (jamón Ibérico, tuna salad, potatoes, octopus). You’ll also find a few more pintxos made with eggs.
Bogedón Alejandro (Calle de Fermín Calbetón, 4, 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa) combines high quality Basque cuisine with excellent service in a quiet setting.
Kafe Botanika (Gernikako Arbola Pasealekua, 8, 20006 Donostia, Gipuzkoa) is a café and juice bar with a hipster vibe and a garden. It’s a nice little spot for enjoying a light breakfast or lunch; e.g., salads, hummus, falafel, yogurts, toasts, etc.
Santa Lucía Chocolateria (Portu Kalea, 6, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa) is the spot for churros con chocolate after a night of pintxos and bar-hopping in San Sebastian. It has a casual, cafeteria-like feel and is open until 11pm on Saturday nights and 9pm every other night.
Located on a waterside cliff, in a warm wood and glass setting, with a beautiful view of the Bay of Biscay, Akelaŕe (Padre Orkolaga Ibilbidea, 56, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa) holds 3 Michelin stars and offers 3 tasting menus: a classic menu featuring time-tested fan-favorites and two more modern, experimental menus. There are also a la carte options.
SIDE TRIPS FROM SAN SEBASTIÁN
Not far from San Sebastián is a beautiful fishing village with colorful old buildings tucked into the cliff-side. To reach Pasajes de San Juan, aka Pasaia Donibane, take the A2 (red line) bus from Oquendo Street, then walk along the harbor to the launch platform. We could not have chosen a more perfect setting for spending my husband’s actual birthday. Our only regret was that we didn’t bring bathing suits as there was a great little spot for cooling off with a dip. Instead, while waiting for our lunch reservation, we took a walk, which became a scramble, to a lighthouse.
In Getaria, a short bus ride away, we visited the Balenciaga museum, where we were both pleasantly surprised to find that we learned quite a lot about fashion history as well as the design and technology involved in fashion. We ate lunch at Kaia Kaipe (General Arnao Kalea, 4, 20808 Getaria, Gipuzkoa), which offers high quality dining and fresh ingredients. We sat upstairs in an air-conditioned dining room, with a view of the water, but there is outside seating as well. this is where we sat upstairs in the back in the heat).
Copper Deli (Mazarredo Zumarkalea, 6, 48001 Bilbo, Bizkaia) is a nice place for sandwiches and salads, including vegetarian and vegan options, plus coffee, juices, beer and wine.
I think we went to Bihotz (Arechaga Kalea, 6, 48003 Bilbo, Bizkaia) at least once a day (or night) during our stay in Bilbao. My husband loved the craft beer selection, I loved the sandwiches and snacks, and we both enjoyed the casual vibe, local crowd and chill, friendly staff.
El Globo (Diputazio Kalea, 8, 48008 Bilbo, Bizkaia) is loud and crowded. The food is delicious and fun and exactly what you expect from a pintxos bar. It’s clearly a popular spot so be prepared to get in there and enjoy your sandwiches and croquetas in close proximity to the other patrons. You’ll often find a crowd gathered outside chatting and sipping beers.
Bascook (Barroeta Aldamar Kalea, 8, 48001 Bilbo, Bizkaia) offers inventive food (think a Basque base with lots of international twists) in a hip setting (a dimly lit former salt warehouse) and a slew of vegetarian options.
SIDE TRIPS FROM BILBAO
In Guernica, we were moved by a visit to the Museo de la Paz (Plaza de Foru, 1, 48300 Gernika-Lumo, Vizcaya), where we learned about the bombing of Guernica, Basque history and the fight for Basque independence. We also visitied the oak tree at the Parliament building. For lunch, we joined the locals—often older men dining solo—at Zallo Barri (Juan Calzada Kalea, 79, 48300 Gernika-Lumo, Bizkaia), where the menu del día offered one of the best values on home cooking we’ve ever encountered anywhere and included 3 courses, wine and bottled water. Swift but thorough service in a very simplified setting.
- Best pintxos Bar Ganbara (San Jeronimo Kalea, 19, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa)
- Fine basque dining Bogedon Alejandro (Calle de Fermín Calbetón, 4, 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa)
- Hipster café Kafe Botanika (Gernikako Arbola Pasealekua, 8, 20006 Donostia, Gipuzkoa)
- Late night treat Santa Lucía Chocolateria (Portu Kalea, 6, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa)
- Michelin starred dining Akelare (Padre Orkolaga Ibilbidea, 56, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa)
- Lobster tank Casa Camara (San Juan Kalea, 79, 20110 Pasai Donibane, Gipuzkoa)
- Lunch after Balenciaga Kaia Kaipe (General Arnao Kalea, 4, 20808 Getaria, Gipuzkoa)
- Sandwiches & salads Copper Deli (Mazarredo Zumarkalea, 6, 48001 Bilbo, Bizkaia)
- Craft beers Bihotz (Arechaga Kalea, 6, 48003 Bilbo, Bizkaia)
- Popular pintxos El Globo (Diputazio Kalea, 8, 48008 Bilbo, Bizkaia)
- Market (groceries & pintxos) Mercado de la Ribera (Erribera Kalea, s/n, 48005 Bilbo, Bizkaia)
- Hip, international twist on Basque Bascook (Barroeta Aldamar Kalea, 8, 48001 Bilbo, Bizkaia)
- Excellent value menu del día Zallo Barri (Juan Calzada Kalea, 79, 48300 Gernika-Lumo, Bizkaia)