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20th Dec 2016

11 Reasons Why Every Foodie Needs To Visit San Sebastián Before They Die


San Sebastián is a tiny resort town on the Bay of Biscay, hidden away in the mountainous region of the Basque Country – and it’s the foodie haven you’ve all been waiting for. 

San Sebastián boasts the best of the best – and it’s also the newest spot to hit on your bucket list. 

Here’s why…

1. San Sebastián has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world, other than Toyko

The tiny basque city is not only famed for its Époque architecture, it also has an incredibly impressive 15 Michelin stars spread across seven restaurants, famously boasting more stars per capita than anywhere else in the world, other than the Japanese capital. 

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2. It boasts two spots in the World’s Top 20 Restaurants

World famous restaurants Mugaritz and Arzak have been ranked numbers six and 17 in the world (2015 World’s 50 Best Restaurants), with number 13 Asador Etxebarri and number 19 Azurmendi within driving distance. 

In Mugaritz, there is no menu per se, instead diners are treated to 24 individually tailored courses to suit their dietary requirements, wants and desires. And Arzak is where the method of poaching eggs in a bag, aptly named ‘Arzak eggs’, hails from.


3. Pinxto bars are king

pintxo is a small snack, typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country and Navarre. They offer some of the freshest and most delicious produce the city has to offer, at only a few euro a pop.

Borda Berri is the best of the best, offering the likes of garlic soup with pig’s ear, braised veal cheeks in wine or a bacalao (salt cod) taco with a starting price of €2.50.

4. Cooking is dominated by the seasons

Meaning everything is as fresh and delicious as it could possibly be.

If you are visiting in the spring or summer months, seafood is sure to be the dominating factor on most menus, alongside tender lamb and green vegetables, whilst the autumn and winter months provide a hearty change to cold cuts with earthy flavours of mushroom, black pudding and local nuts.

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5. La Bretxa market and food tour

The keys to the enormous success of Basque cuisine lies in the quality of its fresh seasonal produce. And where do famous local chefs pick up their raw materials for the dishes they prepare each day? In the Old Town of San Sebastián’s food market, La Bretxa.

You’ll find everything your Basque food loving heart desires in the perimeter of La Bretxa, from caserio (free range chicken) to T-bone steaks, chistorra or chorizo from the porks of Euskal Harria to cheeses from Idiazabal.

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6. Parte Vieja 

The Parte Vieja (Old Town) is the traditional core area of the city, and was surrounded by walls up to 1863, when they were demolished so as to occupy the stretch of sand and land that connected the town to the mainland. 

It is famous for having the highest concentration of bars in the world. Pintxos rule supreme and the food is no laughing matter. Sensational food and drink in a truly authentic setting. What more could you wish for?

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7. Cooking masterclasses at San Sebastián Food

San Sebastián Food is comprised of a family of 20 food and wine professionals, with departments devoted to cooking classes, gourmet retail, and culinary tourism. Their classes offer authentic glimpses into the often secret local world of food, wine and culture. 

While pinxtos still rule supreme, San Sebastián Food has expanded into ham-cutting masterclasses, sherry tastings, baking workshops, Michelin-starred dining tours, as well as the secret world of the Basque gastronomic societies.

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8. La Cuchara de San Telmo

This unfussy, hard-to-find bar offers miniature nueva cocina vasca (Basque nouvelle cuisine) from an impressively creative kitchen. Unlike many San Sebastián bars, this one doesn’t have pintxos laid out on the bar top; instead, you must order from the blackboard menu behind the counter.

Delights such as carrílera de ternera al vino tinto (calf cheeks in red wine) with meat so tender it melts in your mouth awaits you on your trip to this hidden treasure.

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9. San Sebastián Food Gourmet Shop

Located in the lobby of the chic Époque style Hotel Maria Cristina, this is where those with a real appreciation of fine food and wine come to do their weekly shop. 

They offer a wide range of customised hampers, international shipping for when you can’t fit any more in your suitcase, as well as a wide selection of edible souvenirs, tableware and gourmet gifts. 

Foodie heaven.

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10. Euskal Jaiak festival

This Basque Festival is held in many towns in the region around these dates at the end of summer. 

A plethora of activities relating to Basque culture take place, out come the Basque costumes, and everyone eats talo (a typical food of the Basque Country, made of corn, flour and water) and dances to the rhythm of the trikitixa (a button accordion).

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11. And of course, Santo Tomás festival

Celebrated on December 21, Saint Thomas’ Day is one of the city’s best-loved annual events. The celebration is in honour of the city’s old food market, where the farmers of the region used to bring their wares.

The best turkeys, capons, fruit and vegetables from the baserris (farmhouses) of Vizcaya are displayed on more than 300 stalls set up between El Arenal and Plaza Nueva. An authentic way to discover and taste typical Basque products.

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