Spain has one of the best cuisines in the world. When you think about Spanish cities with the best food, San Sebastian (or Donostia to the Basque) comes foremost to mind. It’s known for its excellent cuisine and boasts the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain.
With all the delicious food you can have in this city, the one dish that perhaps best represents San Sebastian food is the humble pintxo (or pincho). Similar to tapas, it refers to a family of small bar snacks that are typically skewered onto a piece of bread with a toothpick.
We love the variety and informality of these bar snacks so it was important for us to find the best pintxos restaurants in San Sebastian. This list of eleven consists mostly of bars specializing in pintxos, but it includes good tapas bars, sidrerias, and pastelerias as well.
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WHAT ARE PINTXOS?
Pintxos are small bar snacks similar to tapas. The main difference is that they’re typically skewered to a piece of bread with a toothpick. This is to hold all the ingredients in place. Pintxo stems from the Spanish word pinchar which means “to puncture”.
Pintxos are commonly eaten at bars in northern Spain. They’re especially popular in the Basque Country, La Rioja, Cantabria, Asturias, and Navarra where they’re an important part of local culture. They have a strong social component and are typically eaten with friends and family over small glasses of wine or beer.
Pintxos can be served warm or at room temperature. Pintxos served at room temperature are prepared in advance and lined up on the bar’s counter. They typically cost around EUR 2 per piece, and like a buffet, you’re free to grab whichever you like. The bartender will keep track of your pintxos.
Warm pintxos on the other hand, are made to order and usually contain more premium ingredients like steak and foie gras. They’re typically more expensive, around EUR 4 per piece.
WHERE TO EAT IN DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN
It’s fun going pintxos bar hopping on your own, but if you’d like to do it with a local guide, then you can book a pintxos tour through Get Your Guide. They can offer you tips and tidbits that you otherwise wouldn’t get on your own.
1. Taberna Dakara Bi
Taberna Dakara Bi was the very first pintxos bar we went to in San Sebastian. I had read many glowing reviews about their sirloin steak with foie gras pintxos. People called it the best in the city so we wanted that to be our first taste of San Sebastian.
We were the first customers to walk into their shop that morning so we got to see all their beautiful pintxos neatly lined up on the bar’s counter. What a gorgeous sight!
The solomillo con foie is a type of hot pintxo so it needs to be made to order. While waiting, we helped ourselves to some of Dakara Bi’s ready-to-go pintxos sitting on the counter.
After a few days of eating pintxos, you’ll start noticing more common varieties like pinchos morunos (pork skewers) and foie a la plancha (grilled foie gras), but there are basically no limitations to pintxos. Bars are free to be creative and come up with their own recipes.
The reviewers weren’t exaggerating. These pintxos were insanely delicious. Pictured in the foreground is the foie a la plancha while behind it is the solomillo con foie. Both were sensational but the one in front comes with a much larger piece of foie gras. If you like foie gras, then you should definitely try both.
Here’s a closer look at the sirloin and foie gras served with a fruit reduction sauce. Cut thick, the steak was perfectly cooked and juicy and sensational with the creamy foie gras. This was one of the best things we ate in San Sebastian.
Pintxos are defined as “small bites” but as you can see with this solomillo con foie, some of these pintxos can be quite hefty and substantial.
Taberna Dakara Bi was one of the smallest pintxos bars we went to. If you can, try to come early so you can sit down. Taberna Dakara Bi is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating.
Taberna Dakara Bi
Address: 31 de Agosto Kalea, 27, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Notable pintxos: Taco de solomillo con foie
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2-4 per pintxo
2. Gandarias Jatetxea
Take a walk around the old town and you’ll notice that Gandarias Jatetxea is one of the most popular pintxos bars in San Sebastian. It’s a good-sized restaurant with two sections – a bar area for pintxos and a more formal area for sit-down diners.
Within seconds of entering the bar area, these enticing-looking sea urchin shells caught my attention. They contained uni, salmon roe, and a stringy crunchy mystery ingredient.
I walked out with one of the sea urchins and a cremini mushroom with shrimp pintxo. Both were tasty, but they had clearly been sitting out for a while so were a little cold. When freshly made, that mushroom and shrimp pintxo is amazing.
If you’re staying long enough in San Sebastian and have a rental car, then you may want to drive to Logroño. It’s a city in La Rioja province known for making some of the best pintxos in the region.
One of the pintxos they’ve mastered is the cremini mushroom with shrimp. It was absolutely sensational in Logroño and perhaps the single best pintxo we had in Spain. You can refer to my food guide for a list of the best pintxos bars in Logroño.
This brocheta de cordero or lamb brochette was fantastic and perhaps the best pintxo we tried at Gandarias. We ate here a few times and had many kinds, including their foie a la plancha. In terms of variety and quality, Gandarias Jatetxea was one of the best pintxos bars we went to.
This picture was taken during a quieter time but Gandarias Jatetxea is typically overflowing with people. It can be hard to find an open table or counter spot so patience (and a quick step) is key.
Like Taberna Dakara Bi, Gandarias is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence recipient with an impressive 4.5-star rating.
Address: 31 de Agosto Kalea, nº 23, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily
Expect to Spend: About EUR 3-4.50 per pintxo
3. Bar Gorriti
When doing research for local favorites, two pintxos bars would often come up – Bar Gorriti and Bar Haizea. The spread at Haizea was already decimated by the time I got there but luckily, Gorriti’s was just replenished.
Hopping from bar to bar is part of the allure so it’s best to limit yourself to just a few pieces at every place. At Gorriti, we had pintxos with sardine, a mini bocadillo, and a skewer of chicharrones (deep-fried pork belly).
Bocadillos are traditional Spanish sandwiches. You’ll find miniature versions like this one at many pintxos bars.
Gorriti Taberna was one of my favorite pintxos bars in San Sebastian. I enjoyed the authentic neighborhood feel of the place. Like many of the restaurants on this list, it’s a Certificate of Excellence awardee with a stellar 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Address: De la Brecha Enparantza, 2, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 7AM-10PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2-3 per pintxo
4. Ttvn-Ttvn Taberna
Ttvn-Ttvn Taberna wasn’t the most popular bar we went to. After visiting a few restaurants where we were left standing and elbowing our way to the bar for seconds, it was nice to eat pintxos in a more relaxed space.
Taberna Ttvn-Ttvn is a large and well-lit space that offers a wide selection of pintxos. They have a solid 4-star rating on TripAdvisor with most Spanish reviewers giving them an “Excellent” or “Very Good” rating.
They also had pintxos with angulas or baby eels which wasn’t something we saw often during our trip. I love angulas so these pintxos instantly caught my eye.
Our beautiful pintxos platter at Ttvn-Ttvn Taberna. The skewered octopus is known as polbo a feira or pulpo gallego. It’s a Galician-style dish made by boiling octopus to the perfect al dente texture. It’s chopped up into bite-sized pieces then sprinkled with coarse salt and paprika before being drizzled with olive oil. Delicioso!
Word of advice, if you see foie a la plancha on any bar’s menu, then you should order it. The slabs of foie are hefty in size and always delicious.
Address: 20003 Donostia-San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2-4 per pintxo
5. Meson Portaletas
Meson Portaletas is another popular restaurant offering a wide assortment of pintxos and bocadillos, but something else caught our eye at this place.
They were one of the few places we found that were offering fresh oysters on the half-shell. We couldn’t resist. This platter of three oysters went for EUR 8.
Address: Puerto Kalea, 21, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily
What to Order: Oysters, pintxos
Expect to Spend: About EUR 8-24 for 3-12 oysters
6. Sidreria Beharri
Sidreria Beharri serves pintxos but we were here for something else. As its name suggests, Sidreria Beharri is a sagardotegi or cider house. They serve Basque cider which is an alcoholic apple cider drink popular in the region.
Basque cider is made by fermenting locally-grown apples for about six months, until an alcohol content of at least 4.5% is produced.
The fermentation process produces a tart and sharp-tasting drink that’s somewhat earthy and straw-like in flavor. It’s a unique and interesting taste that may not be for everyone.
We were in San Sebastian in late April, at the tail end of the txotx season which typically starts in mid-January and goes until April or May. Txotx refers to the act of pouring cider directly from the barrel and pairing it with a traditional menu of cod, steak, cheese, apple jelly, and walnuts.
Here’s a picture of the bartender pouring us our glasses of cider. They pour it from a distance like this to aerate the drink and give it a natural effervescence. “Txotx!”
Sidreria Beharri’s traditional txotx menu goes for EUR 36 per person (minimum of two). We didn’t get the full-course menu but we did order some steak a la carte to pair with our cider.
There don’t seem to be a lot of sagardotegis in the heart of the Parte Vieja (Old Town). Sidreria Beharri was one of the easiest to get to so we went there. They’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a commendable 4-star rating.
Address: Narrika Kalea, 22, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 11AM-11:15PM, daily
What to Order: El menu sidreria tradicional, pintxos
Expect to Spend: About EUR 36 for the traditional menu
7. La Mejillonera
I don’t think they offer pintxos but La Mejillonera is a tapas bar that serves mostly seafood tapas. As their name suggests, they’re particularly known for their mejillones or mussel tapas prepared in a number of ways.
If you enjoy mussels, then you should definitely try La Mejillonera. We ate here twice.
La Mejillonera is popular so expect a crowd during peak hours. Like most of the places on this list, they’re a Certificate of Excellence awardee with a solid 4-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Address: Calle del Puerto, 15, 20003 Donostia-San Sebastian, SS, Spain
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-2:45PM, 6-10:45PM, Tue-Sun / 6-10:45PM, Mon
What to Order: Mussel tapas
Expect to Spend: About EUR 4 per order
8. La Cuchara de San Telmo
La Cuchara de San Telmo is one of the best and most popular tapas bars in San Sebastian. I don’t know if they make pintxos but they do offer a chalkboard of fantastic tapas dishes like this cochinillo asado or roast suckling pig.
Do you remember what I said about ordering foie gras every time you see it on the menu? We did it again here and were rewarded with this fantastic roasted foie gras with apple sauce.
La Cuchara de San Telmo was one of the best restaurants we went to in San Sebastian. We ate here twice.
La Cuchara de San Telmo is tucked away in an alley near the San Telmo Museum. It was one of the most popular restaurants we visited in San Sebastian. They’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a superb 4.5-star rating and close to 3,000 reviews.
La Cuchara de San Telmo
Address: Santa Korda Kalea, 4, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 12NN-3:30PM, 7:30-11PM, Tue-Fri / 12:30-3:30PM, 7:30-11PM, Sat-Sun (closed Mondays)
What to Order: Tapas
Expect to Spend: About EUR 5-20 per plate (depending on size)
9. Bodegon Alejandro
Bodegon Alejandro is a Michelin-starred restaurant that serves Basque tasting menus at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, we had already filled up on pintxos by the time we got here so we settled for dessert.
On the left below is their green apple pie with rosemary trifle and lemon thyme ice cream, while on the right is a caramelized french toast served with fresh cheese ice cream. Both were as delicious as they sound and look.
The above two desserts were terrific but what really drew us in to Bodegon Alejandro was their Basque burnt cheesecake. It’s a type of cheesecake invented in San Sebastian by La Viña.
Basque burnt cheesecake is a crustless cheesecake that’s slightly burned at the top, hence the name. It has a slightly gooey texture that’s somewhere between a flan and a New York cheesecake. It’s soft and fluffy around the edges but creamy and molten towards the center.
New York cheesecake was one of my absolute favorite desserts until I met the Basque burnt cheesecake. It’s absolutely delicious and something you need to try in San Sebastian.
Proudly on display outside Bodegon Alejandro is their Michelin Star. It’s a great place to have good dessert and reasonably priced tasting menus but be advised that they’re only open on weekends.
Address: nº 4, Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 8-10:30PM, Fri / 1-3:30PM, 8-10:30PM, Sat / 1-3:30PM, Sun (closed Mon-Fri)
What to Order: Tasting menu, desserts
Expect to Spend: About EUR 52 for the tasting menu
These last two entries aren’s pintxos or tapas bars, but places where you can get pastries and other desserts.
Maiatza is a lovely cafe run by two Argentinian sisters. They offer a bit of everything from breakfast to bruschetta to vegan bowls and cocktails.
Maiatza is a pleasant and well-lit cafe. Open at 8:30AM, they give early risers a great place to have breakfast. We visited Maiatza twice, the first time for breakfast and the second time for a nightcap.
We arrived in San Sebastian by bus from Madrid early in the morning. Nearly everything in the Parte Vieja was still closed except for Maiatza. It was nice to have a light breakfast of coffee and croissants while we waited for the city to wake up.
Alfajores is a type of cookie filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut. This particular type is called alfajores de maicena. Based on my research, it’s an Argentinian version of alfajores made with a mix of flour and cornstarch.
Yes, Maiatza is yet another TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a superb 4.5-star rating.
Address: San Bizente Kalea, 7, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-9PM, Mon-Thurs / 8:30AM-10PM, Fri-Sat / 9AM-9PM, Sun
What to Order: Breakfast, pastries
Expect to Spend: About EUR 5-10 per person
11. Pasteleria Oiartzun
The queue of people waiting outside Pasteleria Oiartzun can’t be ignored. It’s a popular pasteleria near San Sebastian City Hall that serves a variety of sweets like pastries, chocolates, and gelato.
We tried the caramel eclair and an interesting Basque dessert called a goxua.
Like Renée with foie gras, it’s impossible for me to see choux pastries on a menu and not order it. Oiartzun’s eclairs are delicious.
A goxua is a typical Basque dessert made with layers of whipped cream, sponge cake, and caramelized custard topped with a caramel sauce. It’s a creamy dessert reminiscent of crema catalana. Yum!
Pasteleria Oiartzun is popular and in a prime location so expect a line at any time of day. It does move fairly quickly but be prepared to eat your dessert standing.
Like the vast majority of restaurants in this guide, Pasteleria Oiartzun is a Certificate of Excellence awardee with a stellar 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Address: Ijentea Kalea, 2, BAJO, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: Pastries
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2.50 per pastry
To help you find these pintxos bars, I’ve pinned them all on an interactive map. It’ll have a few more that aren’t included in this guide. Click on the link to open the map in a new window.
When you think of the best food in Spain, you think of San Sebastian. When you think of San Sebastian, you think of Michelin stars and pintxos.
Considering how important a food city it is, this list of eleven restaurants barely scratches the surface. We visited over ten cities and towns in Spain but San Sebastian, like Granada, is definitely one we’ll be exploring again. This city has some SERIOUSLY delicious food.
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