The secret to eating pintxos like a local is to master the txikiteo, a Basque-style food crawl.
Oh, pintxos! The Basque Country’s gift to the world.
In San Sebastian you can’t avoid seeing bar counters full of these mouthwatering little pieces of heaven, the local version of tapas. But Basque people are also famous for creating a unique way of going out for pintxos, called txikiteo in Euskera, the Basque language.
A rough translation for txikiteo would be bar-hopping or a food crawl. What it means in practice is that we go from bar to bar, washing down a pintxo or two with a glass of fresh txakoli or local cider in each one.
But how can you do txikiteo like a true donostiarra? We’ve collected five insider’s tips to master the art of Basque style bar-hopping:
1. Head to La Parte Vieja for a pintxos tour in San Sebastian
Ready to start devouring those tasty pintxos? Great, then La Parte Vieja, San Sebastian’s Old Town, is your destination number one.
Fun fact: This part of the city is famous for having the highest concentration of bars and restaurants in the world! And that makes it a perfect neighborhood for txikiteo.
This is also where our Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos and Wine Tour takes place, visiting some of the best bars and hidden gems of the town.
If you have already seen the Old Town and want to step off the beaten path, you can also do your txikiteo in one of the authentic, local neighborhoods. We recommend the Gros and Centro areas—both great places for discovering more pintxo bars!
2. Don’t be afraid of crowded bars—or litter on the floor
There are two important points that you have to keep in mind when in search of a perfect pintxo bar:
Firstly, we love crowded pintxo bars! When you find a place that looks like it’s absolutely impossible for any more people to enter—that’s exactly THE bar! That’s where we want to be. Remember that in Spain (and in the Basque Country) our concept of personal space (or lack thereof) might be different than what you’re used to, so don’t be afraid to get close to your fellow pintxo devourers.
Secondly, and as weird as it may sound, we want to go to the bars that seem to have the dirtiest floors in town! It’s not uncommon for locals to toss used napkins on the floor. So, dirty floor equals local people and local people equals great pintxos.
3. Order txikitos!
When it comes to drinks, we say less is more.
Typically, we only eat a maximum of two pintxos in each bar (every bar has their specialty, and that’s all we’re ordering) and then we continue to the next one. Keeping that in mind, we prefer to order drinks in small sizes—just enough to wash down the tasty bite.
4. Do your food crawl right before dinner
You might not be expecting this one, but in general, pintxos are not considered a substitute for a meal. They’re more like snacks between meals, something you nibble on during a short break or after work, before going back home for dinner.
Permission to eat pintxos all day long? Granted!
In the Basque Country, like in Spain in general, dinner usually doesn’t start until after 9 p.m. What to do if your stomach starts rumbling earlier? It’s no wonder that meeting up with your cuadrilla, or group of friends, between 7 and 8 p.m. for pintxos is very typical. And friends are actually a very important part of txikiteo, which brings us to our final tip…
Socializing is an inseparable part of the txikiteo culture, and that’s the beauty of the whole thing. (Along with the heavenly food and amazing drinks that the Basque Country has to offer, of course.)
Txikiteo is at its best with a group of friends and family, and in a small city like San Sebastian we always run into familiar faces. There’s no better time to have a chat with your aunt’s neighbor’s dentist. And if you don’t know anyone that’s okay too—we love to exchange opinions about the food or weather with strangers!
Ready to experience a classic Basque txikiteo for yourself? We’ve got you covered—our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour is exactly that. Join us for a night spent sipping and snacking your way around the storied Old Town, and you’ll leave armed with the confidence you need to enjoy txikiteo on your own.
After living years in Madrid and Barcelona, Tita found her home in San Sebastian, not least because of the delicious food. Nothing beats a bottle of sidra and a plate of anchoas after a Sunday hike in the green mountains of Basque Country, she says.