San Sebastián, or Donostia to the Basques, is located on Spain’s north coast in the Basque Country and has become well known for its excellent cuisine. Home to countless Michelin-starred restaurants, pintxos bars, fresh food markets and gourmet food shops, here are our eight reasons why San Sebastián is the food capital of the planet.
1. The city has one of the highest number of Michelin stars per square metre.
That’s higher than any other city in the world, apart from Kyoto in Japan, and way higher than the likes of Paris or New York.
2. Three of its restaurants have earned the highest award.
Three of San Sebastián’s restaurants have been awarded one of the highest honours there is in the world of food – a prestigious three Michelin stars. These three top-notch restaurants include Akelarre, Arzak and Martín Berasategui.
3. It is home to some of the best seafood in the world.
Being located right on the coast, along the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián is in a prime location and has access to the freshest seafood. Some of the city’s most iconic dishes in fact are based around seafood and include bacalao pil pil (cod fried in olive oil until the skin becomes crispy and the juices emulsify), pecebes (goose barnacles), squid in its own ink, and kokotxas (cod or hake cheeks).
4. It has its own style of tapas.
Basque-style tapas are known as pintxos and are usually small pieces of bread, topped with a variety of different ingredients – anything from Spanish ham, prawns and anchovies to cheese, chorizo or wild mushroom croquettes. They are usually speared with sticks and placed along the bar for diners to come and help themselves, and cost between €1-3 each. At the end of the night, your sticks are counted up, and you pay your bill. San Sebastián is the king of pintxos, home to many varieties of places selling them from classic old-style eateries to innovative new gastro bars.
5. One of its restaurants is named on the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list.
San Sebastián’s Arzak restaurant was named at number 21 on the list of the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants‘ in 2016. Its classic Basque kitchen has been serving the people of San Sebastián for four generations and is headed up by chef Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak. The restaurant’s motto is that it’s a place to eat, to know and to experiment.
6. Eating is a way of socialising.
Eating for most Spaniards is a way of socialising and spending quality time with family, and nowhere is this more true than in San Sebastián, where going out with friends or meeting up with family almost always means dining in a restaurant, cooking at home or hanging out in pintxos bars.
7. It’s home to some of the best fresh food markets.
8. Its sweet treats are just as good as its main courses.
While Basque seafood dishes and pintxos are now becoming well known, its desserts are still background; however, this doesn’t mean that they don’t do some excellent ones. Pastel Vasco and pantxineta are just two of the most delicious you should try. Pastel Vasco is a kind of tart, with spongy-like pastry wrapped around a vanilla or almond cream (cherries are sometimes added, too). Pantxineta, on the other hand, is made from puff pastry, filled with custard and topped with almonds.