SAN SEBASTIAN | From beautiful beaches and stunning vistas, to pintxos and other exciting gastronomic delights, San Sebastian has a lot to offer. Donastia, as San Sebastian is known in Basque, has a rich gastronomic tradition which attracts visitors from all over the world. San Sebastian has also been designated as the 2016 European Capital of Culture and we fully understand why. Driving towards San Sebastian, the landscape transforms from something that looks it’s straight out of an old western film to lush green mountains.

best pintxos san sebastian

When driving into San Sebastian we noticed that all the signs appear in Basque along with Spanish. Basque is an ancient language that is very unique with no resemblance to other neighbouring romance languages dominant in the region.

The stunning moon shaped beach La Concha frames the stunning city of San Sebastian. On a beautiful sunny the day the promenade running behind the beach was packed with locals and visitors taking a stroll. We stayed in a quiet residential area in an Air B&B which was a 20 minute walk to the Old Town.

San Sebastian is often touted as the top food tourism destinations in the world with its huge concentration of Michelin starred restaurants and dazzling pintxo bars. Where Madrid and the south of Spain offer tapas, the Basque Country offers pintxos. The tradition of pintxos started when a few bars in the Old Town started to showcase some of their cuisine in miniature portions in order to entice guests to come inside. The name pintxo comes from the word meaning “to pierce” as many of these mini dishes are held together using a stick. Flash forward to today and one can find no end of delicious options from molecular gastronomy to Spanish classics. Pintxos are best enjoyed with a typical Basque white wine known as Txakoli, Cider (sidra), or wines from the neighboring Rioja or Navarra regions.

best pintxos san sebastian

We were advised by a local on the best way to enjoy pintxos. First, always order the hot pintxos made to order. It might be hard to resist the temping cold options on display, but the pintxos cooked to order are always best. When you arrive at a pintxos bar always consider its house specialties. Note that hot pintxos (pintxos calientes) are only available for lunch (until about 3:30pm) and then again from about 7:30pm onwards. Next, limit yourself to one or two pintxos per bar and then move on. Only tourists load up with a big plate at one establishment. We enjoyed crawling from pintxo bar to pintxo bar enjoying different specialties at each place. Don’t be discouraged if a place looks busy. People are generally moving on after one drink, so space turns over quick. So be bold, practice your Spanish, learn a few Basque words, and enjoy a pintxos crawl through one of the world’s best destinations for food tourists.

The City Lane’s suggestions for great pintxos in the Old Town (Casco Viejo) and the Gros neighborhood are:

Borda Berri

This is a well-known spot, with  large chalkboard menu that has all of the pintxo options crossed off the board as they sell out. It’s a very popular spot and a good space to start your food adventure. We had to be patient for space but were able to nab one of the standing areas around the edge of the room soon enough. We enjoyed a “kebab”, which in reality was a delicious tender rib. We’re not sure if something was lost in translation but we appreciate Borda Berri’s adaptation of meat on a stick. We also tried the entrecote which was fantastic, nearly tempting us to break the cardinal rule of pintxos hopping.

Borda Berri
Fermin Calbeton Kalea 12
20003 Donostia
Bizkaia, Spain

best pintxos san sebastian

La Txuleta

As the name suggests, (txuleta means chop) this place serves up unbelievably tasty grilled meats. Txuleta has ample space both indoors and outside. It was so delicious we visited it twice in two days. At €3.00, the txuleta is extremely good value for money. Also make sure you try the house Crianza (€ 1.70 each).

La Txuleta
De la Trinidad Plaza 2
20003 Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain

best pintxos san sebastian

Atari Gastroteka

Located opposite of the Santa Maria basicilla in the Old Town, this spot offers delicious pintxos and a great vibe. It’s a very casual space, with some of the locals grabbing their pintxos to eat on the steps outside the basilica while enjoying the music and entertainment of street performers. The staff are extremely professional looking with their set uniform and this carries on to the service. Next time we visit we want to check out its sister bar, Atari Gastroleku Sirimini which looked very inviting from the outside and by all accounts is also excellent.

Atari Gastroteka
Calle Mayor 18
20013 Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain

A Fuego Negro

This popular spot had the most “gastronomic” looking dishes of all the pintxos bars we visited, with an equally appealing interior décor. This hip bar wouldn’t look out of place in Brooklyn, Shoreditch or Fitzroy. Here we tried the dish of grilled octopus, slice of green apple, violet potato and “red air” (Pulpo Parrilla, €3.50). Craving a bit of greens we also enjoyed the beautifully made spinach salad with feta (Ensalada Espinaca, €4.50). Of course, no pintxo stop is complete without wine and we enjoyed the smooth and buttery Conde Valdemar (€2.60 each) Next to each dish on the menu you find the year which it was conceived, really emphasizing how serious this place is about its culinary creations.

best pintxos san sebastian

A Fuego Negro
Calle 31 de Agosto 31
20003 Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain

La Vina

La Vina may look like one of the less appealing bars from the outside but we are so glad we stepped inside. Here we tried Crianza Superior (€2.20 each), ham croquettes (Croqueta de Jamon, €1.70), and a fried shrimp that was almost like an eggroll (Gamba Crujiente, €2.00). This place is known to have the best cheesecake in San Sebastian and we were not disappointed. For €5.00, we had two massive slices of Tarta de Queso which was every bit as good as expected. The cheesecake is almost a cross between a custard and a cheesecake and is the perfect way to end to your evening.

best pintxos san sebastian

best pintxos san sebastian

La Vina
Calle del Treinta y Uno de Agosto 3
20003 Donostia
Bizkaia, Spain

Goiz Argi

The menu appears in the back of the bar looking slightly like a fast food joint (menus appear on TV screens on the back) but do not be disillusioned. The grilled shrimp here is an absolute must (brocheta de gambas). The staff here are fun and energetic and it’s a must stop on any pintxo crawl. Here we noticed the precision and art required to pour the perfect glass of Basque cider. The staff here seem to have a lot of fun serving customers in this buzzing bar.

san sebastian gastronomic

Goiz Argi
Fermin Calbeton Kalea 4
20003 Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain

Gandarias Taberna

The pintxo selection here is vast, exciting, and more reasonably priced. It was extremely busy when we went but the service is quick and professional. We tried the mushroom risotto (€2.50) and grilled shrimp (brocheta gambas €2.75)

best pintxos san sebastian

best pintxos san sebastian

Gandarias Taberna
31 de Agosto Kalea 23
20004 Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain

Casa Senra

Casa Senra had the most seating of all the bars we visited in San Sebastian. The staff are friendly and we were tempted by the large variety of dishes and ingredients. We decided on a mushroom foie gras dish (Txanpi Foie aoli, €4.00) and a pepper stuffed with vegetables (P.Pimtos Relleno,€ 4.00). The quality and presentation of both dishes was incredible. We were tempted to stay a bit longer breaking the cardinal rule of pintxo crawling but forced ourselves to move on.

best pintxos san sebastian

best pintxos san sebastianc

Casa Senra
Calle de San Francisco 32
20002 Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain

In addition to eating our way around this stunning town, we enjoyed some long walks with stunning views. First, we walked to the edge of town in order to climb to a portion of the famed Camino de Santiago that cuts through San Sebastian. If you walk up the Calle Zemoria from the Gros area you’ll reach a foot path that eventually leads you up to signs that denote you are on the 800 year old trail. From the trail you can look back onto the stunning coastal city.

best pintxos san sebastian

Before our next pinxto crawl, we enjoyed a walk up Mount Urgull just as the edge of the city. There are various paths leading up to the top which showcase some interesting landmarks including a cemetery, military barracks, castle, end a massive sculpture of Jesus Christ.

The top of Mount Igueldo offers what is characterised by many as the best view in the world and we agree that it’s pretty spectacular. We advise you take the old school funicular round trip as the walking path is not clearly marked or indeed separate from the windy road at points. As you step off the funicular, you step into an old fashioned amusement park that whisks you back to childhood. The amusement park is complete with a roller coast, carnival games, and bumper boats.