Go crazy on a pintxos (pronounced pin-choss) hop in San Sebastian. Most bars have their counter full of the one-bite tapas, for around 1.50-3 euros each. And most will let you help yourself with a paper napkin, and pay up at the end, trusting to your honesty. Supposedly the more paper napkins there are on the ground, the more popular the bar is! Most have variations on the classic tortilla, morcilla (blood sausage), anchovies, red peppers and of course, lots of seafood, since San Sebastian is right on the coast. Try chipirones (squid), gambas and langostinos (prawns) and some pulpo (octopus). Below is a list of some of our favourite places, and what to order there.
The old town is crammed with bars and restaurants, making your wandering easy, if a little crowded. Walk an extra ten minutes over to Gros for a calmer, more local experience. And pick up some helados (icecream) on the way home if you are still miraculously hungry!
To drink: txakoli (pronounced cha-co-LEE): a lightly fizzy white wine poured, dramatically, from a height.
In the old town:
Atari Gastroteka: 18, Calle Mayor (open every day 12pm to 1am, until 2.30am Fri/Sat)
Definitely try the gin and tonic, and the jamon iberico. Otherwise excellent pintxos at the bar, and generous octopus etc from the kitchen. A little more expensive than other bars, but good quality!
Borda Berri: 12, Fermin Calbeton Kalea (open 12.30-3.30pm and 7.30-11.30pm; closed Monday)
Order the carrillera (veal cheek), risotto de idiazabal (‘risotto’ made of orzo pasta, with local smoked cheese) and the salmorejo (Andalusian cold tomato soup). Cheap and cosy.
La Viña: 3, Calle del Treinta y Uno de Agosto (open 10.30am-5pm then 6pm-12am; closed Monday)
The tortilla de patatas is full of flavour, oil and salt. The counter is full of traditional pintxos, fried fish, octopus salad… but everyone comes for the justifiably famous cheesecake. 5 euros for two slices, this creamy torta de queso does not have a crust but a slightly burnt, caramelised outside. Addictive.
Zeruko: 10, Calle Pescaderia (open 12-4pm, 7pm-12am; closed Monday) a
A modern bar where the pintxos are not just served on bread, but in verrines, in pastry parcels, and on smoking barbecue grills. Full of Spanish and foreign tourists alike.
Bar Bergara: 8, Calle del General Artetxe (open every day, 9am-11pm)
A homely, local place. Help yourself to the pintxos at the bar: the croquetas were some of the best we tried, and the creamy tosta de bacalao with crunchy fried onions on top was a perfect contrast.
Hidalgo 56: 15, Paseo de Colón (open 10am-12am; closed Tuesday)
Another more modern bar that has won awards for the best tapas. Famous for their morcilla, the caramelised onion and goat’s cheese toasts were amazing as well. Try their dessert as well: mostly based on cheese, as the friendly barman explained – we tried a smoking idiazabal ‘cheesecake’.
Gelateria Boulevard: 10, Alameda del Boulevard (open late) also near the beach at 1, De Zurriola Hiribidea (during the day)
If you didn’t try the cheesecake at La Vina, pick up a scoop of the best icecream in town at Boulevard. Avellana (hazelnut) and sorbete de chocolate (chocolat sorbet, very bitter and rich) highly recommended.
Pasteleria Aguirre: 1, Garibai Kalea (open every day 8am-9pm)
And for breakfast the next morning, share a large, iced brioche to pull apart. Light, airy and yeasty, almost as flaky and delicate as a croissant.