This blog post was originally posted on November 22, 2018 and was updated on October 28, 2020.
When you’re in San Sebastian—widely considered Europe’s best foodie city—the question of where to eat becomes even more important.
San Sebastian is a verified culinary wonderland. Here, rustic, age-old pintxos bars stand side by side with modern, experimental gastro hubs. And both of the above are sure to use fresh, locally sourced seasonal ingredients to ensure the highest quality.
With that in mind, it’s hard to go wrong when it comes to where to eat in San Sebastian. But it can be hard to narrow down when presented with so many excellent choices. Here are our top foodie finds that are guaranteed to please, no matter what you’re craving.
Where to eat in San Sebastian: Pintxos & tapas bars
The first thing that often comes to mind when people think of food in Spain is “tapas,” and the same is true when it comes to eating in San Sebastian. However, keep in mind that tapas here—and throughout much of northern Spain—are normally called “pintxos” (pronounced “pinchos”) instead.
Pintxos are a similar concept to classic tapas in that they consist of small bites, but are often served on top of a small piece of bread and skewered together with a long toothpick. The subtle difference is enough to make pintxos culture one of San Sebastian’s most emblematic experiences. If you want to get in on the foodie fun, here are some great tapas and pintxos bars.
Bar La Cepa
Here’s a classic to kick things off. Bar La Cepa has won the hearts (and tastebuds) of generations of locals with their simple yet delicious traditional pintxos, served up with a smile in a no-frills atmosphere reminiscent of days gone by. Be sure to try their legendary jamón sandwiches!
A Fuego Negro
It’s true that most lists of where to eat in San Sebastian will include A Fuego Negro, but this place is popular for good reason. Their approach to traditional Basque cuisine is as modern as it gets, but each dish still remains true to its traditional roots. Don’t forget to complement your pintxos with a selection from their excellent wine list.
Some of San Sebastian’s best eats can be found outside of the Old Town and city center. Case in point: Bergara, an award-winning pintxos bar across the Kursaal Bridge in Gros. The interior is bright and modern without feeling cold or sterile, and the experimental pintxos are unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before.
Where to eat in San Sebastian: Seafood bars
It’s hard to talk about where to eat in San Sebastian without mentioning a few of the many fabulous eateries serving up fresh seafood. The city’s coastal location and proud maritime heritage mean that exquisite fish dishes form a large part of traditional gastronomy, and these places are truly in a class of their own.
With more than 120 years of experience under their belt, it’s safe to say that Txepetxa is doing something right. That “something” comes in the form of house-marinated anchovies in inventive and pleasantly surprising flavors, many of which have won over staunch former anchovy-haters. A crisp glass of their excellent txakoli provides the perfect contrast to the salty fish.
Do you like mussels? You’ll love La Mejillonera (Calle del Puerto, 15), where the savory shellfish are the main offer on the menu. The tiny, no-frills bar is bursting with charm and character, and makes for an ideal stop along any pintxos crawl.
Where to eat in San Sebastian: Seafood restaurants
Craving seafood, but looking for something a bit more upscale than a rowdy bar? Luckily, there are plenty of great seafood restaurants in San Sebastian awaiting you as well.
Picture it: tucking into a freshly prepared platter of seafood al fresco on a terrace overlooking La Concha Bay. Sound too good to be true? It’s not—that’s exactly what awaits you at Mariñela Igeldo.
Family-owned and operated for more than 40 years, this relaxed, picturesque spot has earned its reputation among locals and visitors alike as one of the top seafood restaurants in San Sebastian.
You’ll have to go a little ways off the beaten path to get to Abakando, but the trek out to the Antiguo neighborhood is well worth it.
Despite its inland location, their seafood is among the freshest in town, served up in a colorful, whimsical locale that’s just begging to be Instagrammed. Everything is prepared meticulously to order and pairs excellently with a wine from their respectable selection.
Where to eat in San Sebastian: Sit-down restaurants
A pintxos crawl is a must for anyone who comes to visit, but casual bars aren’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to where to eat in San Sebastian. As you may have imagined in a city twinkling with Michelin stars, there are plenty of other great options if you’d rather sit down and enjoy a slow, leisurely meal rather than stand at a bar.
This lovely little restaurant in the Old Town has delighted diners for three generations, and it shows in their commitment to the utmost quality and customer service. Casa Urola places a strong emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, remaining true to the proud heritage of Basque cuisine while creating inventive contemporary dishes.
Another excellent traditional restaurant, Gandarias is a classic when it comes to where to eat in San Sebastian. Located in the heart of the Old Town, they offer beautifully prepared traditional dishes prepared with locally sourced products, including plenty of menu options for customers who need or choose to follow a gluten-free diet.
Dozens of San Sebastian eateries adhere to the values and techniques of traditional Basque gastronomy, and many do so incredibly well. However, Bodegón Alejandro is truly a step above the rest. The cozy, intimate restaurant serves up elegant dishes at incredibly fair prices given the quality of the food and service.
Want to learn more about where to eat in San Sebastian with the help of a bona fide local expert? Join our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour for the essential San Sebastian foodie experience! You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the pintxos bars and restaurants that locals have loved for generations. Come join us and see why San Sebastian’s gastro scene is hands down one of Europe’s best!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.