San Sebastián has gained an international reputation as the food capital of Europe. With its unique take on Pintxos, San Sebastián boasts an overwhelming amount of high quality food, with delicious treats awaiting the visitor around every corner. While it is almost impossible to encounter a bad meal in this Basque food jewel, we have put together a list of the top 10 restaurants not to be missed on your next visit.
Located just outside the city centre; the reputation of Arzak thrives under its head chef Juan Mari Arzak and his perfection of the Basque cuisine, with his innovations adapting traditional dishes to modern tastes. Arzak has broadened its culinary features in the last decade, seeking to remain true to Spanish cuisine at the heart of its dishes, while incorporating new tasty flavors. Arzak excels through the mouthwatering variety of flavors with an aroma library consisting of 1500 different spices. The restaurant, which has been in the family for four generations, offers an à la carte menu and a seven-course tasting menu.
Hidden away in San Sebastián’s old city, Bar Sport remains somewhat of an insider tip. True to its name it is particularly popular during sport events, but it offers some beautifully assembled pintxos throughout the week. This authentic restaurant is known for its wide range of tapas and its exceptionally friendly service. It serves up traditional pintxos in a vibrant atmosphere, further impressing through its more than fair prices. Popular with the locals and with its rustic interior, Bar Sport represents a traditional Basque eating experience, brought to perfection by its delicious wines and sangria.
La Cuchara de San Telmo perfectly represents the nueva cocina vasca (Basque new cuisine). Unlike many other tapas restaurants, the pintxos are not lined up on the counter but instead one orders from a blackboard behind the counter, with selections being freshly prepared. This restaurant has earned its reputation for some of the best pintxos in town. With its unpretentious atmosphere, it is no surprise that La Cuchara de San Telmo always boasts a lively vibe. Be prepared for the place to quickly fill up as the evening rush comes in and expect a vibrant, modern flair accompanied by traditional Basque cooking and surroundings.
Kokotxa serves its traditional dishes under the headline ‘cuisine with personality’. Its name refers to the fleshy underpart of a fish’s jaw, which is considered a delicacy in Basque cuisine. True to its label, Kokotxa serves up imaginative treats accompanied by friendly and professional service. In its intimate setting visitors are able to enjoy a market menu based on seasonal products, as well as the tasting menu which offers the latest creations. Expect to find fresh products prepared with care and full of flavor within a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.
A Fuego Negro‘s setting reveals dark walls and dramatic light. With a set up resembling a modern cosmopolitan bar, visitors will enjoy modern takes on the traditional Basque cuisine. It offers a tasting menu as well as a more extensive super-tasting in order to experience the full range of its dishes. Their made-to-order pintxos shows off skillful implementation of the different techniques of molecular gastronomy. A Fuego Negro not only stands out among the high number of tapas bars due to its hip ambience and buzzing interior, but also serves up some high quality grub. A youthful and refreshing take on long-standing traditional dishes.
La Viña is located on one of the busiest pintxo roads in the city and is the perfect choice for traditional cuisine. With chef Santiago Rivera taking over in 2013, its pintxos have become increasingly inventive while successfully retaining a wide range of traditional dishes. Its interior is simple and rustic, whilst unpretentious. Popular with the locals, it is however most famous for its cheesecake which some have judged to be one of the best you can find. It is not uncommon for it to sell out completely. La Viña is a down to earth eatery, where the charm of Basque culture is at its best.
Bar Martínez is located in the lively Casco Viejo but manages to stand out among the abundance of restaurants in this street. Its ambiance serves as a perfect finish or stop on a pintxos tour through the city. It offers a wide selection of cold as well as hot pintxos. Next to the modern generation of tapas bars, this place feels like a step back in time. The perfect location for experiencing Basque culture and dishes like a local.
Bar La Cepa is a family owned business, which aims to preserve the foundations on which it was founded while extending and evolving its eating experience. It consists of a bar as well as a restaurant and has one of the most extensive wine collections in San Sebastian. Next to is selection of pintxos, you will also find a reasonably priced and terrific daily menu just for 18 Euros. The atmosphere is traditional with jamón legs hanging from the wooden bar, which are also one of its specialties. Additionally it has been recommended as the ideal place for gluten-free eatery.
This place excels through its made-to-order and freshly prepared pintxos which truly distinguish it from the competition. Bar Nestor is, much like its name suggests, primarily a food bar, with only one table. This notwithstanding, it has been rumored to have some of the best meat in the city. Visitors are offered a selection of meat to choose from, which is best accompanied by the traditional, fruity tomato salad. Bar Nestor should best be visited by steak lovers, looking for an experience of rich and savoury flavors.