You read about the best activities in San Sebastian and our cycling tour past the highlights in a previous blogpost. And I shared my experiences with some luxury hotels in San Sebastian. In this post I'd like to share my favourite restaurants.
The locals like to eat all day in San Sebastian. They don’t go for a full menu, but quickly eat some pintxos. They’re not sitting down for this either, they’re hanging off one of the many tables available at the door of the pintxos bars. If they do have more time in the afternoon, they will choose the menu del dia, or menu of the day. If you choose this, you know that you get a fine meal for a good price.
- Do you know how you recognise a good pintxos bar? From the napkins on the floor. The locals throw their pintxos napkin on the floor. And as you know, the places where the locals eat serve the best food.
- Pintxos cost about €1.50 to €2 a piece. We always had a few pintxos (usually warm food off the menu) with a glass of rose (or two) and usually payed about €20 per person.
- They are in fact mini dishes, often served on a roll. You can wander into a bar and take a few pintxos from the display or you can look at the menu and pick other, freshly prepared pintxos. Order a few different things with your party and taste all sorts. Still hungry for more? Order a few extra.
- Most pintxos bars are in the old part of the town. Strangely enough there are hardly any places to eat along the beach. The restaurants there are only frequented by tourists.
- Gros has a pintxos evening every Thursday. There are all sorts of stalls set up. For 2 euro, you order pintxos and a glass of wine everywhere. Democratically priced and an opportunity to taste a lot. Small issue: If I drink as many glasses of wine as I eat pintxos, I won’t be able to find my way back to the hotel.
De 11 best pintxos bars in San Sebastian
Bar Astelena: Start here with a lovely plate of ham and continue your culinary quest with ham croquets and risotto. Top of the bill is the gorgeous pulpo (octopus).
Gott is situated beside Bar Astelena. Don’t go here. Not a lot of choice and lamentable service.Naast Bar Astelena ligt Gott.
Ganbara is one of the most popular bars in the old town.
La Cuchara de San Telmo lies in a corner besides the Museum San Telmo. It is always very busy here and there is always a queue of people waiting for a seat. The pig's cheeks and razor clams are delectable.
Casa Valles is the oldest pintxos bar in San Sebastian. Their restaurant Astador is located beside the bar. It was here that more than 60 years ago the most famous and most traditional pintxos “Gilda” was conceived.
A Gilda is made of anchovies, olives and chilli pepper. They served this in the bar on a plate with your drink at the time. One of the regulars used to skewer a bit of everything together, and the owner eventually decided to serve it that way. The pintxos gets its name from Gilda, a character in the eponymous film, played by Rita Hayworth.
Peppers and olives are not really my thing, but the little plate of anchovies was delicious.
Bodega Donostiarra was recommended by Sheranie, our guide for the cycling tour. The first time we called around we did not get seated, but the plates looked so appealing that we tried it a second time. The “brasa” (grilled dishes served on a hook) come recommended here. We went for the brocheta de pulpo y langostinos (skewered squid and prawns). Heavenly! Be sure to save some room for the Copa Bodega, a blissful dessert. The top of a crème catalane (a type of crème brulee), with some biscuits and a scoop of vanilla ice cream underneath. To die for!
Tip: call in at the start of the evening and register on the list. You get assigned a time at which you can return. You can’t reserve a place the day before unfortunately.
La Tagliatella A few doors down from Bodega Donostiarra is La Tagliatella. If you’ve had enough pintxos, you can go here for a lovely pizza or pasta.
Beti Jai Berria is a hip, modern bar. They serve pintxos of a high calibre. Just a bit more refined than standard pintxos.
A few more tips from the locals
- La Cepa This bar is over 70 years old, and thus is one of the oldest pintxos bars in the town.
- La Vina has been trading since 1959 and is famous for its cheesecake.
- Borda Berri scores good on Tripadvisor and was apparently visited by the show “3 op reis”
- Bar dello Sport also scores high on Tripadvisor. Very friendly staff.
You’re still hungry for a snack or fancy something sweet? Stop at one of the “churreria” stands. They serve churros, a Spanish delicacy. You can compare churros to a donut or a sweet dumpling. They are lovely with a bit of molten chocolate. Bad for the waist line, but hey, you’re on holidays.
Michelin stars in San Sebastian
They really cook the stars from the heavens in San Sebastian. It is the city with most Michelin stars per square mile after Tokyo.
We visited Zuberoa, good for 1 star. The dishes look beautiful, but all in all it was a bit disappointing. The service was lamentable and the interior was very old-fashioned. There was also a bit of a stale smell. And if you then compare the prices with normal restaurants, you don’t get value for money.
Spain has 7 restaurants with 3 stars, and 3 of those are in San Sebastian.
If you do want to taste some stars, try one of the below:
- Akellare: You don’t only eat lovely food here, but you also enjoy a fabulous view over the sea.
- Arzak Arzak opened in 1897. Currently, the 4th generation in a row stirs the pots here. Read what Amber thinks about dining at Arzak
- Martin Berasategui is located in a special building in a beautiful garden. Try to get seated on the terrace. The wine cellar is impressive!
If 2 stars are enough, you can go to Restaurante Mugaritz
And then there are 6 restaurants with 1 star:
If you want to eat here, you better book a table a few months beforehand. I wanted to reserve six months in advance, and had to ring around a good few restaurants before I had a table.
Most restaurants are closed on Sundays.
The Spanish eat late. Most restaurants open at 1.30pm, and are open for dinner at 8.30pm.
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