San Sebastian and incredible food are synonymous these days– it is indeed a food lover’s must-see city! But why? What does San Sebastian have that makes it such a foodie destination? Is it really worth the hype?
We’re going to go with a resounding YES here– San Sebastian deserves its fame as a foodie destination, as it is home to some of the best restaurants, tapas bars (we should really say pintxos bars!), markets, and food traditions in the world. The Basques take food and drink seriously, and once you understand the local culture you’ll be sure to fall in love with this small city by the sea.
Here are our top picks for things to do in San Sebastian for foodies (and this is really just scraping the surface!).
1. Go on a pintxos tour
Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas– and they’re some of the best and most beautiful morsels of food you’ll ever taste (if you know where to go!). Luckily, San Sebastian is filled with great pintxos bars and it’s hard to go terribly wrong. But a pintxos tour is the perfect way to start your discovery. You’ll be guaranteed to go to the best, local family-run places, taste their star pintxos, and learn the ins and outs of San Sebastian’s unique culture and history. Here at Devour Tours, we offer a fantastic experience, our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour— come hungry!
2. Eat breakfast at the local market
Mercado de la Bretxa is a food lover’s dream come true and should be on everyone’s list of things to do in San Sebastian. Filled with the freshest seasonal produce and a world renowned selection of seafood and fish, this is a market that chefs go crazy for. Before deciding what to buy, have breakfast inside at one of our favorite corners, Bar Azkena. Their tortillas (Spanish omelets) are to die for!
3. Master the art of pouring local cider and txakoli
The Basques love their local beverages– hard cider and txakoli wine being two of the most popular choices. Apart from being delicious, these two beverages also have a unique pouring technique. They’re poured from a great height, into a wide glass below. The technique aerates the wine but if not well practiced, it’s easy to miss the glass! Master the art of pouring by making friends with a local bartender– or by buying a bottle or two to bring home.
4. Get an invite into a Basque Gastronomical Society (Txoko)
There’s no greater honor than scoring an invite to one of the closed-doors Basque gastronomical societies (txokos). Many have traditionally been men only (sorry ladies) though times are changing and some now admit women as members and others as guests. It’s not easy to get an invite, but if you’re able to see a txoko in action, you’ll never forget the experience. Credited with reviving nearly lost Basque dishes, these are places where the food is truly homemade with lots of love.
5. Visit a winery
Basque Country is filled with wonderful wineries– both those that produce txakoli wine and of course some of the best Rioja wine producers in the Rioja Alavesa. From San Sebastian, a quick trip to txakoli country is doable in one day, while the Rioja Alavesa region is a bit further afield. That said, there are plenty of wine tours from San Sebastian that can help you choose the best way to taste the local tipple!
6. Try a Michelin Star
San Sebastian has one of the highest ratios of Michelin stars per capita in the world. There are currently (2017) nine Michelin-starred restaurants with a total of 16 stars. While this style of fine dining may not be for everyone, visiting a Michelin star restaurant in San Sebastian is on the list for many food-lovers, and one of the top things to do in San Sebastian. Our advice? Do your research so you know what to expect as far as price and concept. But then open your mind and prepare for an unforgettable experience!
7. Discover a Basque cider house
There’s nothing more fun than visiting San Sebastian in cider house season (usually January to late April). This is when the cider factories open their doors and invite people into their pop-up restaurants. They serve a set menu of traditional Basque dishes (aged beef, salt cod, roasted peppers) and all the cider you can drink. This is a must for any foodie visiting San Sebastian!
Read more: Find out all about the Basque cider house tradition here!
From vineyards to fancy dining rooms, these are only some of our tips for things to do in San Sebastian! What would you add?
Lauren grew up in an Italian-American family where 3-hour meals were the norm. After 10 years in the restaurant industry, she moved to Spain where she launched her popular Spanish food blog, Spanish Sabores, and soon after led groups on the first Devour Madrid food tours.