Don’t rock up to San Sebastian without an appetite. Located on the Bay of Biscay in the mountainous Basque country, this northern Spanish city is renowned for the quality of its molecular Basque cuisine – and that’s what keeps foodies flooding back. You’ll also find more Michelin stars per square metre here than almost anywhere else in the world. Ready to eat? Here are the best Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastian. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
eMe Be Garrote
On the approach to this old cider house, you might think it doesn’t look that special. Open the door and you’ll get a surprise. Basque-meets-Scandi design consists of wood chairs, woven pendant lamps and slick tiled floors. Innovative cooking by chef Javi Izquierdo includes a quirky smoked pork belly carbonara with salsify and bacon ice cream. It’s part of a good-value tasting menu that can be paired with wines for a supplement.
Amelia by Paulo Airaudo
You can’t beat this place for location, positioned next to San Sebastian’s powder-sand beach and Bay of La Concha. An open kitchen enables you to watch skilled chefs, under the direction of Paulo Airaudo, produce top-quality dishes using seasonal, sustainable produce. Unusually, nearly 90 percent of the wine list is by the glass, so you can tingle your taste buds with different tipples.
The seaside resort of Getaria is renowned across the Basque region for the quality of its seafood. Despite having plenty of restaurants, Elkano needn’t worry about the competition when it has a chef like Aitor Arregui at the helm. Following in his father’s footsteps, Arregui is a master at the grill where he cooks only the freshest fish. Don’t miss the signature kokotxas, a traditional Basque fish stew.
The three-Michelin-starred Arzak will give you the epicurean experience of a lifetime. Juan Mari and his daughter Mari Arzak strive for culinary innovation and excellence. Choose from the a la carte menu or indulge in a seven-course tasting experience, featuring delights such as foie gras bonbons, volcanic oysters with smoked vegetables or chocolate truffle. The presentation of the food is amazing – we can guarantee you’ll be busy taking photos during the meal.
Dani López, the genius behind the one-Michelin-starred Kokotxa, provides one of the best reasons to visit San Sebastian. The name, Kokotxa, is actually one of the most sumptuous Basque dishes – a stew of fish heads cooked in a sauce. Hearteningly, the cooking here is simple and without pretension.
Three Michelin-starred Akelaŕe stands high on Monte Igueldo, so you get Basque sea and countryside views as swoon-inducing as the food produced by chef Pedro Subijana, who’s a maestro at blending classicism and innovation in Basque cuisine. Beautifully presented dishes deliver scrumptious flavours and textures, from egg and caviar with cauliflower purée to foie gras and ox steaks.
Martin Berasategui is decorated in a simple, tasteful way, preferring to defer to the stunning views over the mountainous region of Gipuzkoa rather than the restaurant. The three-Michelin-starred restaurant features a la carte and tasting menus which offer flawless presentation and exciting flavours such as smoked eel and melon jelly sorbet. The eponymous chef not only oversees the kitchen but chats to his guests.
The two Michelin-starred Mugaritz has been called the world’s most adventurous restaurant and it is one of San Sebastian’s most prestigious. Head chef-owner Andoni Luis Aduriz trained under Ferran Adrià, former head chef of the elBulli, and has a flair for extraordinary creativity – think edible stones and candy caviar. The restaurant is housed in a restored timber building with rolling bucolic views. There’s no menu, dishes are created (and adjusted) to your tastes. Order the 24-course menu and enjoy some of the world’s most outstanding cooking.
Under head chef Hilario Arbelaitz, Zuberoa has gained a devoted following among gourmands. A few kilometres from San Sebastian, its food is rooted in traditional Basque cuisine, turning the likes of cuttlefish, baby octopi and woodcock into dazzling dishes – all served in a laid back, unpretentious setting.
For traditional Basque cuisine, Alameda, a one-Michelin-starred restaurant that under the watchful eye of chef Gorka Txapartegui (who works with his brother, Kepa), produces traditional and innovative dishes such as lobster, potato puree and lemon sorbet. Some of the best regional and international wines feature on an extensive menu. Alameda is a more affordable option than other Michelin-starred restaurants in the area and a great way to dip into the gourmet world.
Mirador de Ulia
Mirador de Ulia is a one-Michelin-starred restaurant with outstanding views from its mountainside location. Sensational, innovative dishes prepared by chef, Rubén Trincado, make extensive use of local produce and are a nod to Basque heritage, with its subtle flavours and well-balanced spices. Rice with clams on fire is memorable. There’s a vegetarian menu but it has to be ordered by all guests in the party.
Ellie Hurley contributed additional reporting to this article.
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