San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain is known for being a foodie destination with the highest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants in Europe. It is, in fact, the second city with the most Michelin stars per capita in the world. And while there are many amazing high-end restaurants, I was most interested in trying the delicious pintxos that San Sebastian is also famous for. Pintxos are tapas style snacks that are typical of the region. You can have a couple as a starter before your main meal or you can keep going until you’re full.
Where to stay?
The best Pintxos restaurants and bars are in San Sebastian’s old town. I would recommend staying around there so you can stumble from place to place and then wander home full of delicious tapas. In San Sebastian you will find lots of guesthouses or B&Bs called ‘pensións’ and I think it’s best to stay in somewhere like that rather than splashing out on a really luxurious hotel because you will be spending most of your time exploring the city. I stayed in Pensión Balerdi, which was in a great location and meant that I was near all the action. If you’re looking for something a bit more special then check out Hotel Maria Cristina for a 5 star experience.
What about the culture?
If you haven’t used all your energy exploring the pintxos bars of the old town then make sure you head to the horse-shoe shaped beach. I was there in the spring so it was a little bit too cold for swimming but in the summer the beach would be perfect for soaking up the sun and swimming. But if you’re not a beach bum like me then visit the Aquarium Donostia-San Sebastián, which also happens to be situated in one of San Sebastian’s most picturesque spots with stunning views of the city.
Where should I eat?
Without a doubt the best food I had during my stay was at Bar Nestor. There are only 4 dishes on the menu and the restaurant is absolutely tiny, with only one table and a handful of bar stools. It’s a popular spot with both locals and tourists and everyone comes for the amazing steak that they serve. It comes super rare and you can pick which cut you want before they cook it. You can get Padron peppers and the most amazing tomato salad with go with your steak. The only other dish they offer is a classic Spanish tortilla, which you can get a slice of if you get there early. They bring out two tortillas at 1pm and two at 8pm but you have to get there before to put your name down for a slice (or two) otherwise you’ll miss out.
Another favourite tapas bar of mine in San Sebastian is La Cuchara de San Telmo. There are only a few bar stools and most people stand at the bar (you’ll notice this a lot in San Sebastian). The menu isn’t long and changes regularly but you’ll definitely want to eat absolutely everything on there. When I was there they were serving small bowls of the most amazing mushroom risotto made with orzo, it wasn’t like a risotto that I’d ever had before and was so distinctive and flavoursome. They also serve delicious local wine called Txakolí as well as a local cider – perfect for washing down all those tasty tapas.
Where should I shop?
La Bretxa Market is a dream for any foodie as it’s where all the chefs in the area come to buy their produce or purely for inspiration. Located in the old town and in the basement of La Bretxa shopping centre, there are more than forty retailers, selling everything from fruit, vegetables, and canned goods to delicatessen products, meat and fish. There are also places where you can stop and eat or drink some more local wine.