San Sebastian is the gastronomic hub of the Basque Country
Undoubtedly one of the great attractions of visiting San Sebastian and the Basque Country is eating out. This picturesque region of Spain is well known and respected throughout Spain for it's high quality gastronomy and where some of the best restaurants in Spain can be found.
Basque cuisine ( Cocina Vasca ) is influenced by the abundance of produce from the sea on one side and the fertile Ebro valley on the other, it is renowned for it's quality of fish and seafood, cured meats and vegetables.
In the late 70's Basque chefs where influenced by Nouvelle Cuisine of France when they created the nueva cocina Vasca, proud of it's foundations but solidly Vasca in substance with dishes becoming lighter and more rustic. Michelin starred Chef Juan Mari Arzak was probably the founding father of this culinary revolution, he runs the renowned Restaurant Arzak aided by his daughter Helena, also a chef of much appraise in her own right.
Throughout the old city, the beach and surrounding areas of San Sebastian you can enjoy dining out in the most exclusive and luxurious types of restaurants to the smaller Pintxos bars ( Pintxos are small dishes like Tapas ) and from sandwich bars to cider houses ( Sidrerias ).
Some of the famous typical dishes from this region of Spain are, Marmitako ( a tuna fish stew ), Bacalao a la Vasca ( salt cod with tomatoes ), Txangurro ( hot Spider crab ) and Percebes ( goose neck barnicles ). For a more complete list of dishes and recipes please check out the Spainsh recipes section.
Although tapas where invented in Sevilla in Andalucia they where perfected in San Sebastian and a walk around the old part of town is a good place to enjoy them. Here each bar is bursting with tapas and they look very delicate. A tapa crawl ( Tikiteo) allows you to enjoy as many small plates as you want in different bars which is not only a tasty culinary experience but great fun as well. Get Your Guide organise a gourmet pintxo tour which includes a 2 hour guided tour to some of the top tapas bars in San Sebastian plus 4 gourmet pintxos chosen by the experts, each one is accompanied by a different wine.
Top restaurants in San Sebastian
They say half the reason people travel is for the food, and when dining out in San Sebastian, the travel is most definitely well worth it. This famous city in northern Spain is a gastronomic paradise, with more Michelin starred restaurants per square mile than any other in Spain and possibly Europe. Here you will find a wide array of culinary gems that reflects the wonderful people, the region and culture of this ancient city.
Juan Mari and his Daughter Elena run the world renowned Arzak Restaurant, one of the finest restaurants in Spain. Eating out at the Restaurant Arzak is crucial to try at least once. Chef Arzak and his daughter are masters at the best new Basque cooking – nueva cocina vasca. Easily scoring 3 Michelin stars, Arzak is quite exclusive though and you will need to make a reservation well in advance. Clients can choose from a very large assembly of foods and tastes with traditional San Sebastian dishes as prepared by one of the best chefs in the area.This fine eatery is just one of the few restaurants in the city awarded with Michelin stars.
» Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui, 273 – Tel: 943278465.
Restaurant Martín Berastegui
Martin Berastegui is one of the great Spanish chefs with no less than 7 Michelin stars to his name. For fine dining and a unique dining experience a visit to his famous restaurant is a must. This innovative chef uses local ingredients to the full, signature dishes include such delights as crayfish over an aniseed sea-bed and coral mayonnaise, grilled hake loin, coconut, red curry and liquid and crunchy razor-shells and lightly marinated oyster with iced cucumber slush and K5, and spicy apple. Booking a table well in advance is a must to avoid disappointment.
» Loidi Kalea 4. 20160 Lasarte-Oria (Gipuzkoa). Tel: 943366471.
Txepetxa Restaurant and Tapas
The first tapas based eatery is Bar Txepetxa, which is located in the old part of the city in Calle Pescaderia, 5. This is one of the most popular tapas bars in San Sebastian opened its doors in 1973 and has been on the received end of many gastronomic awards over the years. They serve some of the best home made pintxos prepared with love and dedication . You can enjoy a large variety of local ingredients including crabs, octopus, anchovies , mussels and shrimp. All of these are served with a flair that wets the appetite the minute you walk enter the bar whilst enjoying the artistic display of its famous patrons from the past.
» 20003 San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa. Tel: 943 42 22 27
A Fuego Negro
San Sebastian restaurants mostly take place in wooden bars carrying a cozily traditional look. The A Fuego Negro however, which literally translates to “Black Fire,” is designed with a more modern look of black and concrete. Younger tourists will enjoy the hip-hop music playing as they taste pintxos served with modern flair.
» Nº, 31 de Agosto Kalea, 31, 20003 San Sebastián-Donostia. Tel: 650 13 53 73.
La Cepa Bar
Bar La Cepa is a fine local culinary institution famous for serving up the finest Spanish cured Jabugo, known for its unique taste and quality. Other typical dishes on offer include, Galician pulpo, meat balls, home made sausages. La Cepa Bar offer a fine wine collection from the best wineries in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero. This unique eatery has been operating for more than 70 years and are highly recommended by the locals. With more than half a decade in the business, La Cepa has managed to perfect their pintxos and serve them in sizes obviously larger than other bars.
» Calle 31 de Agosto Kalea, 7. Tel: 943 42 63 94.
Akelare, which is situated on the Igeldo, offers some beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and over the Cantabrian sea. It is one the most prestigious restaurants in the Basque Region which includes an excellent wine bodega and their very own vegetable and herb garden. The seats near the windows are highly sought after although you can also find intimacy in one of the three dining rooms inside. Dishes at Restaurant Akelera are meticulously prepared, and the menu changes quite frequently. A popular dining option is the “Menú de Degustación” a special menu consisting of the chefs latest dishes prepared with the freshest in season produce….Reservations and business
» Paseo Padre Orkola, 56 – Tel: 94-321-2052
Restaurant Anastosia Berri
Restaurant Anastosia Berri is a hidden gem and easy to miss so make sure you find it as it is well worth the effort. This is a fine family run establishment serving excellent local dishes within a well thought out menu. The restaurant has recently been refurbished with blue flecked walls, high ceilings and decorative chairs and although the room feels upmarket it is actually a quite relaxed. The website is only in Spanish at the moment but well worth a look at the incredible dishes on offer.
» Calle Easo, 19, San Sebastián-Guipúzcoa. Tel: 94-342-6320
Restaurant Bodegon Alejandro
This traditional restaurant has recently been refurbished and a general overall face-lift, and the result is a pleasant, modernised eatery that doesn’t forget its Basque roots or its long standing reputation for excellence. The chef at the Restaurant Bodega Alejando prepares a dish fo the day, well worth trying or just go with his signature dish of cod a la vasca, which is always delicate and full of flavour. They also offer a Menu de Gustacion made up of two sumptuous dishes. Excellent quality desserts are also on offer.
» Fermín Calbetón, 4, San Sebastián. Tel: 94-342-7158
Restaurant Casa Nicolasa
The Restaurant Casa Nicolasa is one of the most emblematic establishments in Donostia. The Gran Chef Jose Juan Castillo offers a large amount of high quality dishes whilst every need of his clientele is superbly attended to in the very agreeable atmosphere of the Restaurant. Amongst the many excellent dishes on offer we would recommend the puréed cod and mixed vegetables or the monk fish steaks on a bed of creamed asparagus and saffron.
» Calle Aldamar, 4,1º, Donostia-San Sebastian, 20003 – Tel: 943421762.
Restaurant La Muralla
Dining at the Restaurant La Muralla allows you to truly indulge yourself in good wholesome local fair prepared in a traditional manner with an innovative twist. It also offers a large and varied sweet menu. Despite the discrete look to the establishment it has an agreeable ambience that makes La Muralla a very interesting gastronomic destination for all food lovers. Signature dishes include mushroom and fungi ravioli with foie-gras cream, sliced squid with its black ink sauce and roast Iberian ‘secret’ (a pork cut) with mango cream and crunchy toasted potatoes.
» Calle Embeltrán, 3, Donostia-San Sebastian, 20003 – Tlf: 943433508.
The inspirational food prepared at Restaurant Lanziego is a fusion of traditional and the tendencies of the Nuevo Cocina Vasca. These ideas are perfectly joined with such exquisite dishes such as Deep fried monk fish on a bed of stock and mushroom juice and the Bass with peppers. The also offer a large selection of home made sweets.
» Calle triunfo, 3, Donostia-San Sebastian, 20007. Tlf: 943462384.
Restaurant Juanito Kojua
The Restaurant Juanito Kojua is situated in the old part of San Sebastian and has been warmly decorated in a rustic style. Reportedly the oldest restaurant in San Sebastian it is undoubtedly one of the most consolidated gastronomic establishments in San Sebastian , efficiently managed by a family that over the years has earned a loyal and fixed client base. You will find all kinds of typical local dishes and super fresh fish and seafood. Signature dishes include crab a la Donostiarra, clams and line caught groper.
» Calle Portu, 14, Donostia-San Sebastian, 20003. Tlf: 943420180.
Bar Borda Berri
Located in Fermin Calbetton 12, the Borda Berri is famous for its Veal Cheeks, Idiazabal and Hongos. Their pintxos have also been lauded as some of the best in the area. If you’re a fan of meat dishes then Borda Berri is for you. Speciality dishes include local bread beef rib eye and amazingly succulent spare ribs. Other delicacies include risotto and bomba rice with squid. Although the available space is a bit small, patrons flock to the Borda Berri thanks to their delicious food.
» Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 12, 20003 Donostia, Bizkaia. Tel: 34 943 43 03 42.
Goiz Argi Tapas
A small bar located at Calle de Fermin Calbeton 4, Goiz Argi also specialises in seafood, specifically their shrimp skewers or brocheta de gambas. They also offer octopus and what is known locally as breakfast wine. It’s a fairly small bar though so get there early as it is starting to attract more and more visitors, it is favoured by the locals as well.
» Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 4, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa – Tel: 943 42 52 04.
The top tapas Bars in San Sebastian
San Sebastian has the best tapas in the whole world, and this has something to do with the long ingrained cultural culinary leaning of the people here. Tapas, or pintxos as they are called in the greater Spanish Basque Country, have given this seaside city the unofficial title of the European food Mecca.
Indeed these finger foods, canapes, and snacks are served with almost every meal and in certain instances even given out for free with some meals. They have given the city and the Basque region the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants compared to any region in the world. These restaurants and the indigenous tapas bars form the building block of San Sebastian’s world-recognised foodie culture. Some of the best tapas spots in this coastal paradise are.
Although tapas where said to be invented in Sevilla in Andalucia they where probably perfected in San Sebastian and a walk around the old part of town is a great place to enjoy them. Here each bar is bursting with tapas and they are well prepared, imaginative and delicate, not to mention super tasty. Pintxos are generally enjoyed together with a glass of wine or a small beer, and the Spanish tradition is to enjoy a pintxo in one bar and move on to the next.
A lot of people will substitute dining out on a main meal for Pintxos. A Tapa Crawl ( Tikiteo) allows you to enjoy as many plates as you want in the most amount of different bars and restaurants, subsequently enjoying a more varied culinary experience.
Tapas Bar - A Fuego Negro Taperia
This San Sebastian eatery is always aglow with a cosmopolitan crowd thanks to its international acclaim. Fuego Negro Taperia offers a unique ambience to go with its out-of-this-world servings. The house favourites include the gildas, which are a combination of salty Cantabrian anchovy, fat olive, and pickled pepper craftily served on a stick. The other delicacies include a glassful of tomato puree served with pork scratching and mussels together with a topping of bechamel, as well as a combination of a hamster ball of croutons served with the shaking salad of duck and some red fruits. All this in an environment that always evokes midnight will melt your heart away.
Open: Tuesdays to Friday 6pm to 12am – Saturday: 11pm to 1am, Sundays: 11.30 to 1am, Monday Closed
La Bodega Donostiarra
Although the Bodega Donostiarra looks quite modern it was in fact founded way back in 1928. Major renovations where carried out by in 2009 by Manuel Montorio, the current owner. The Donostiarra is located in the Zurriola district just across the Kursaal Bridge. This top notch tapas bar holds it head up very well amongst its piers in San Sebastian when it comes to serving high quality tapas. The signature dishes include a selection of freshly made succulent omelettes, all made to order. Their most popular “Tortilla” dishes include a fillings of chorizo and tuna fish and cured ham and roquefort. A large selection of tapas on offer will keep you entertained for hours. Tapas are very good value costing on average around €2.10 a tapa.
Open: Monday-Thursday 9.30am-11pm, Saturday-Sunday 9.30am-midnight, closed on Sundays
Borda Berri Tapas
This 6-year-old homely bar was opened just a few miles away from San Sebastian’s foodie labyrinth to offer something different yet very much in keeping with the city’s and the entire region’s eating culture. Borda Berri bar is known for its rock ‘n’ roll style as well as its impeccable tapas that come out with a strange yet pleasant twist. The tapas menu is chalked on the wall for all to see and includes servings of risotto of mushrooms, pig’s ear made in garlic soup, and salt cod taco among many others. All these are usually cooked to order. This spot is a must-visit while in the Basque region.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday. 12.30 am to 3.30pm – 7.30 pm to 11.00pm. Monday Closed
Tapas Bar La Vina
This family-owned tapas bar is one of the best places to grab a Spanish classic. La Vina is located in a popular spot just by the back of San Sebastian’s old town and next to another fine tapas place, La Cepa. The interior resembles a decoration of delicacies with the counter displaying platters and platters of pickled anchovies on diced garlic as well as octopus and tortilla salads. Their baked cheesecake is guaranteed to melt in your mouth, literally. All the tapas here is freshly made and reasonably priced so it should not be surprising if they are sold out when you get there. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday. 10.30 am to 5pm – 6.30 pm to 12.00am. Monday Closed
Bar La Txepexta
Bar La Txepexta is located a few minutes walk from the Port Oof San Sebastian and is another popular bar to enjoy great tapas. It gets pretty full most days with a superb atmosphere. If you love fresh anchovies prepared and cooked in many ways then this is the place for you. The bar is always replete with a selection of tapas and sea food from anchovies in apple pure to, sea urchin, fish roe or spider crab. This award winning tapas bar is frequented by top chefs such as Jose Mari Arzak and Ferran Adria and many stars of stage and cinema including Glenn Close.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11am-3pm, 6pm-11pm, closed Sunday nights, and all day Monday
Recommended accommodation San Sebastian
For a luxury stay the Maria Cristina a Luxury Collection Hotel is a must place to stay. The hotel enjoys an ideal location in the cities centre surrounded by local bars and restaurants. There are 136 luxury rooms at the Maria Cristina, each providing all the essentials to ensure a comfortable stay. Honeymoon suites are also available. Reviewer Rating: 9.2
The superb 4 star Hotel Villa Soro offers outstanding 4 star accommodation in a tranquil setting just a few minutes drive or a 20 minute walk to the city center. Villa Soro offers first class amenities such as a nearby golf course, limousine service, free bicycle rental and a variety of breakfast options. The hotel is a short walk from one the cities top restaurants, Arzak. Reviewer Rating: 9.4
The popular 1 star Pension Del Mar is located in the city centre within the Gros District. The guest house offers 6 modern and bright rooms, filled with a variety of amenities to ensure a comfortable stay. It is situated n the heart of San Sebastian’s entertainment district with restaurants, cafés and nightlife on the doorstep. Reviewer Rating: 10.0