It’s no secret that San Sebastian is a foodie paradise if there ever was one.
Whether you’re splurging at one of the myriad Michelin restaurants in San Sebastian or rubbing elbows with the locals at your neighborhood pintxos bar, this is a city meant to be experienced through taste. And no neighborhood embodies the essence of San Sebastian’s cuisine better than the city center (referred to as el centro in Spanish).
Home to both must-visit markets in San Sebastian and located at the junction of the Old Town, La Concha and Gros, the happening central district represents all the best that this city has to offer, in terms of both culture and cuisine. Here’s where to eat in San Sebastian’s centro neighborhood if both of the above are what you’re after.
Potatoes, olive oil, garlic and parsley may not sound like much. But believe it or not, those are the only four ingredients that make up Bar Ciaboga‘s star dish, known as platillo. The secret, as is the case with so much of the simple food done right here in Spain, lies in the quality of the ingredients—the higher the quality, the more the flavors shine.
Locals also love this friendly, no-frills bar for the fact that they serve up one of the best tortillas in San Sebastian (are you sensing a theme here?), as well as the authentic ambiance. Even if you’re not from around here and have never set foot in the place before, walking inside will make you feel as if you’re coming home to your favorite neighborhood watering hole.
It’s likely you’ll never eat the same thing twice when you come to Bar Zazpi, and trust us—that’s a good thing. Their ever-changing menu reflects the best products available on any given day in order to ensure maximum quality, but rest assured that anything you order is sure to be good.
In addition to your standard Basque bar offerings of pintxos and raciones, they also offer different specials every day in order to keep things interesting. The food here leans toward the modern, but retains that certain je ne sais quoi that makes Basque cuisine so fabulous across the board. Grab a table on their lovely outdoor terrace, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the ultimate dining experience.
A perfect marriage of the traditional and the modern, Antonio Bar is the kind of place that you know will be good from the moment you walk through the door—the crowds of locals packed into the bar on any given day will attest to that.
With locally renowned chef Jose Ramón Ezkurdia at the helm, their talented team prides itself on forming close relationships with their suppliers and their use of fresh, seasonal products, many of which come from the San Martín Market just a few blocks away. Don’t leave without trying their famous raviolis de cigala (crayfish ravioli), and be sure to take advantage of their ample wine selection as well.
Bar La Espiga
Legend has it that the first generation of the family that founded La Espiga invented the tradition of pintxos in San Sebastian. While it’s impossible to know for sure, one thing is certain: with more than 90 years of experience under its belt, this place and the family behind it have earned a spot in the hearts of locals from all walks of life.
A true extension of San Sebastian in every way, shape, and form (look at the floor and you’ll see it’s made of the same material as the sidewalk on Calle San Marcial right outside), it’s evident that La Espiga is the kind of place that truly operates on passion and love for its craft. The pintxos are timeless, the service is friendly and familiar, and it’ll soon become clear why this place immediately comes to mind for many locals when wondering where to eat in San Sebastian’s centro.
Mercado La Bretxa & Mercado San Martín
When it comes to where to eat in San Sebastian Centro—or any neighborhood in any city, really—you can never go wrong with a local market. These colorful, bustling, vibrant pockets of life offer you one of the most authentic opportunities to “live like a local”—a term that gets tossed around a lot, but can be difficult to pin down.
It just so happens that the city center of San Sebastian is home to not one, but two of the city’s best markets. On the traditional side, you’ve got Mercado La Bretxa, a timeless gem of a food hall where everyone from little abuelas to Michelin-starred chefs does their grocery shopping.
Then, there’s Mercado San Martín, a more modern take on the traditional Spanish food market. It retains that classic feel we all know and love, but offers a more contemporary vibe at the same time. Locals particularly love this spot for their legendary Gastropote, a culinary and musical fusion event taking place every Thursday night where you can enjoy fresh pintxos and wine while enjoying great live performances.
These places will get you started, but if you want to eat your way around San Sebastian’s Centro neighborhood like a born-and-bred local, there’s a way to up your game. Join our Pintxos Like a Local: Centro Neighborhood Pintxos Tour and you’ll see exactly what it means to master the art of a real pintxos crawl in an off-the-beaten-path area locals love.
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.