And you don’t even need to reserve a table at one of the several top restaurants in the world that are located in San Sebastián to enjoy a memorable dining experience.
The city is famous for its pintxos – the Basque version of tapas – and Devour Tours, which runs the San Sebastian Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour, has assembled the bucket list of tasty bites.
La Gilda – The original pintxo and for many, the most delicious! The vinegary Gilda pintxo is unmissable. Photo: Devour Tours
No list of must-try pintxos in San Sebastian would be complete without the city’s signature Gilda, said to be the first ever pintxo in the city.
You can find this vinegary bite, consisting of a pickled anchovy, green olives and a pickled pepper, all throughout the city. While the combination may seem unusual at the first, locals adore it and tend to pair it with some local cider or a traditional vermouth.
One of the most unusual bites in the city, but so delicious!
Salty, oily and so delicious we just can’t get enough of these anchovies.
If pickled anchovies are not your kind of thing, then why not try their saltier counterparts? San Sebastian is revered for its seafood in general because of its location near the Cantabrian Sea.
However, they actually have their own special category of quality anchovy known as the Bay of Biscay anchovy, a seal of approval similar to the D.O.s we have for wine in Spain.
For some of the best anchovies in San Sebastian, head to Bar Txepetxa (Calle Pescadería, 5), and try their anchovies topped with blueberry jam, the perfect combination of sweet and salty in one amazing bite.
Txuleta – There is nothing quite like a hearty beef steak to get your blood flowing in San Sebastian. Photo: Devour Tours
While Spain is known as a haven for pork dishes, northern cities like San Sebastian have a variety of delicious beef dishes available throughout the city too.
One of the most typical beef dishes you can experience is the txuleta, a grilled steak made from aged, grass-fed beef.
This is commonly found in the cider houses from January to April, which is Basque Cider House season.
However, if you miss out on cider house season, you can head to Bar Las Gandarias (Calle 31 de Agosto, 23) where they serve delicious beef tenderloin, along with amazing red wines to pair with it, all year round.
This sumptuous bite is one of the most popular tastes on our Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos & Wine Tour!
Fresh Foie Gras
Foie Gras – Decadent and oh so delicious, don’t miss out on some amazing foie gras when in San Sebastian Photo: Devour Tours
The Basques love their foie gras, whether in paté form or freshly grilled. We recommend that if you try this decadent bite while visiting, you opt for the fresh version you’ll find in many of the city’s excellent pintxos bars.
Fresh foie gras is best well seared and with a dusting of sea salt on top. It pairs well with jams and marmalades, ideally something with a zing of acidity to balance out the richness. We highly recommend the famous foie gras pintxo served with apple at the traditional Bar Haizea in the old town.
Tortilla de Bacalao – Cod is served in many ways in San Sebastian, but hidden in the eggy goodness of a tortilla is one of our favorites! Photo: Devour Tours
Basque fisherman are famous for having travelled far and wide in search of delicious fish, and are said to have been some of the first people to fish in the waters of the New World in the 15th Century. The primary fish they set off in search for was bacalao, cod fish!
This tradition is part of the reason cod is such a staple in the Spanish diet, especially in northern Spain. The fish was heavily salted in order to preserve it for the long journey before being rehydrated and nowadays is prepared in a huge variety of ways. You can’t really go wrong with cod dishes in San Sebastian, but one of our favorite ways to enjoy bacalao is in a delicious omelet.
Kokotxas de merluza
There are so many pintxos to choose from in San Sebastian. Photo: Devour Tours
We know it may sound unusual, but trust us – fish cheeks are incredible! Many chefs often throw the cheeks out, but in San Sebastian they are delicately prepared and enjoyed in many local eateries.
The most common kind of fish cheek you’ll encounter are kokotxas de merluza or hake cheeks. Generally prepared pil pil style, La Cuchara de San Telmo (Calle 31 de Agosto, 28) has some of the best hake cheeks in the city.
It may sound like a niche dish reserved for more adventurous foodies, but fish cheeks really are for everyone – give them a go!
Photo: Boca Dorada / Flickr
One of Spain’s most distinct cheeses, this delicious sheep’s milk cheese is a must-try in San Sebastian. Historically, this cheese was kept in the dwellings of the local farmers to cure, and would smoke slowly as a result of the family fire.
Though produced differently these days, Idiazabal is still smokey and delicious. You can taste it on its own, or find it served in creative pintxos, like the risotto with Idiazabal sauce in Borda Berri (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 12).
Mejillones – the selection of mussels at La Mejillonera are amazing, enough to make any doubter a mussels fanatic! Photo: Devour Tours
I know what you must be thinking – more seafood! But, San Sebastian really is one of the best places for seafood in Spain, so you have to make the most of it. Many bars in the city specialize in one specific product, and to find the best mussels in the city, you should head to La Mejillonera (Calle del Puerto, 15).
Here they provide you with a variety of different types of mussels, each with a unique fresh taste (they only use freshly caught mussels from the nearby waters), perfectly paired with some traditional Basque cider.
On our Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos & Wine Tour you’ll not only taste these amazing mussels, but you’ll also get to see the local way of pouring cider – and maybe even try it yourself! Warning – it’s not as easy as the locals make it look!
Photo: Go Momo / Flickr
Spider crab, or txangurro, is another seafood unique to the waters near San Sebastian.
This unusual looking crab was a dish very closely associated with the aristocracy for much of San Sebastian’s history, but is now widely available throughout the city. You will often see spider crab meat served in small tartlets or even simply on toasted bread, often accompanied with a salty anchovy.
Cheesecake – The cheesecake at La Viña is so popular, they’re force to make 4 whole cakes at a time to keep up with demand! Photo: Devour Tours
Admittedly, cheesecake is not a pintxo per say, however you cannot visit San Sebastian without trying the iconic cheesecake at La Viña (Calle 31 de Agosto, 3). Voted one of the best cheesecakes in Spain, the generous portions at La Viña are certainly designed for sharing, but once you have your first bite, you’ll want to keep it all for yourself!
Pair it with a delightfully sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry for the perfect way to round off an evening of pintxos fun in San Sebastian.
Devour Tours was founded by Spanish food lovers as a way to connect hungry travellers with the local, family run businesses that make amazing food. Offering award-winning fun and delicious food tours and tapas tours in Malaga, Seville, Barcelona and Madrid. Follow them on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter for Spanish food news, tips and recipes.