Pintxos is a Northern Spanish version of tapas, which is popular in cities like Bilbao and San Sebastian. When visiting San Sebastian or Bilbao, pintxos should be on your top list of food to try in the Basque region. In this article, I shall give you all the information you need to enjoy a carefree culinary city trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian.
What are Pintxos?
Pintxos are the Northern Spanish version of tapas, which basically means a snack pierced with a cocktail stick. It has its origins from Basque Country, which is a part in Northern Spain that has strong cultural traditions, including a world-famous cuisine. Spanish people still take the traditional siestas, a short rest right after lunch to avoid working during high temperatures outside. The lunch in Spain is often heavy and as a result, after siesta, people are not that hungry anymore. Instead, the people in Basque Country go to pintxos bars at around 21:00 to catch up with friends, enjoy a good glass of Rioja wine and, when they start to get a little bit hungry, get some pintxos. The whole social aspect is as important as the deliciousness of the pintxos.
The whole bar is packed with plates full with pintxos
Pintxos can be found in pintxos bars, often beautiful and traditionally decorated with a huge bar where you can order both food and drinks and cost you just a couple of euros per piece. The freshly made pintxos are displayed on the top of the bar. If you were not hungry yet, this is the point where your stomach let you know there is always room for something that looks so delicious. Pintxos are often build upon a piece of bread, then heavily topped with all sorts of delicacies, such as Bayonne ham, all sorts of fresh seafood, Basque cheese and a homemade Spanish croquette.
Pintxo with croquette and fried onion, and a pintxo with prawn, mushroom and Iberico Ham
In the less-crowded bars, you usually get a plate from the staff, pick the pintxos that you’d like have, hand over the plate to the staff and they will bring the pintxos to your table. In crowded bars, usually, you just tell the staff behind the bar what you want, and pay and go.
Where can you find Pintxos in Bilbao?
In my experience, overplanning which pintxo bars you must visit is a bit of a waste of time. The variety and the quality of pintxos in each bar are great and throughout the city, you are able to find pintxo bars. With that being said, in the city centre close to Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa, you will find streets with plenty of pintxos bars. Another popular street where you can find many bars is Diputazio Kalea, where the hugely popular La Viña del Ensanche and El Globo Taberna are located. Keep in mind that most restaurants are open after 20:30. During the day, head over to Mercado de la Ribera - an indoor food market, to find delicious pintxos in Bilbao. The market is open from 08:00 - 14:30 and 17:00 - 20:00, but closed on Sunday. Even if you are not looking for pintxos, this market is a nice place to check out.
Pintxos at food hall Mercado de la Ribera
Where can you find Pintxos in San Sebastian?
Like Bilbao, in San Sebastian, you are able to find pintxo bars throughout the city. But in San Sebastian Old Town, you will find the most pintxo bars. Around 17:00, the streets and the pintxos bars are getting more crowded. Due to the popularity, the majority of the pintxos bars don’t have siesta and pintxos are served almost all day.
Pintxos in San Sebastian, with grilled cheese, Iberico Ham and caramelized onion
There are other delicious treats to find in the pintxo bars, like these large and fresh oysters
What are the top things to do on a city trip to Bilbao?
1. Guggenheim Museum
This modern and contemporary art museum is the eye-catcher and top attraction of Bilbao. The entrance fee is 13 euros including an audio guide. The audio guide will help you (partly) understand the abstract art of world-famous artists. Although I personally prefer historical art, the Guggenheim Museum is a museum of excellent quality. Most visitors spend around 1,5 - 2 hours in the Guggenheim Museum. The museum is open from 10:00 - 20:00 daily.
The eye-catching Guggenheim Museum
Sculptures as part of the exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum
2. Catedral de Santiago (St. James' Cathedral)
Throughout Spain, you will find beautiful churches and cathedrals, which most of them are completely restored. The Catedral de Santiago in Bilbao is one of these beautifully restored churches, with a large organ, stained glass, large chandeliers, huge gothic bows and an inner cloister yard. The entrance is 5 euros, which also gives you access to the Church of Saint Anthony the Great opposite of the food hall Mercado de la Ribera. Close to the Catedral, you will find Turronería Iváñez, which is a pastry shop since 1855 that serves famous authentic Crema Catalana.
Catedral de Santiago
Stained glass at Catedral de Santiago
The inner cloister of Catedral de Santiago
3. Mercado de la Ribera
This multi-level food hall is every foodie’s dream. Here you will find the freshest seafood, the best local veggies and herbs, local sausages, all sorts of tapas, pintxos and delicacies and the world-famous ibérico ham. For most local visitors, it’s a market to buy ingredients to cook with, but there is also a spacious area where you can buy pintxos and tapas, and this is exactly what you should do. Mercado de la Ribera food hall is open from 08:00 - 14:30 and 17:00 - 20:00, but closed on Sunday.
Food heaven Mercado de la Ribera
Incredible local delicacies can be bought here
Food heaven Mercado de la Ribera
4. Eat Paella at La Barraca Jatetxea
This place serves one of the best paellas in Bilbao and is a highly recommended alternative to all the pintxos you will eat. There are five different paellas to order, including one with rabbit, one with squid and squid inc and our personal favourite: with fresh seafood. The paella costs between 16,00 and 17,60 euros per person, but you can only order paella if you are with a minimum of two people. If you are using Google Maps, make sure to head toward Calle de Bertendona 6, as the other location listed in Google Maps is not the correct one. The restaurant is open from 11:30 - 15:30 and 20:00 - 21:00, except on Sunday when it’s closed.
The best paella in Bilbao
What are the top things to do on a city trip to San Sebastian?
1. Monte Igueldo
On top of this viewpoint is an outdated amusement park, which can be fun for kids. But the main purpose of our visit was the view. You can access this viewpoint by the so-called Funicular Monte Igueldo, a small train that dates from 1920 that’s being pulled by a cable, which will costs you a couple of euros per person. Within a few minutes, you will be on top of the mountain and have an excellent view of the ocean and the bay of San Sebastian.
The magnificent view on San Sebastian
Funicular Monte Igueldo
2. Monte Urgull
For a more active thing to do, head towards Monte Urgull. You can climb to the top of Monte Urgull, where you will find an old fortress with a museum and a large Jesus Christ statue. The hike itself is quite easy to do as most of the road is made of asphalt and is not that steep. Keep in mind on warm days, the hike will make you sweat. On top of the fortress, you have an excellent view of the bay of San Sebastian. Visiting Monte Urgull as well as the viewpoint and museum is completely free of charge.
Monte Urgull viewpoint
Monte Urgull Jesus Statue
3. Visiting the Beach
San Sebastian has two beaches, where Playa La Concha is the most popular one. During the summer, the beach is packed with people and the bay is docked with plenty of boats. The beach is around two kilometres long and perfect for a walk. You will pass Miramar Palace, which once was the home of the Queen of Spain. It’s easy to walk from the Monte Igueldo Viewpoint to the Old City where you will find all the pintxos.
The beach of San Sebastian
4. Koruko Andre Mariaren Basilika
San Sebastian and many other places in Basque Country have plenty of Cathedrals and Basilique. Visiting many of them can get monotonous. I would recommend visiting Koruko Andre Mariaren Basilika, as it’s, in my opinion, the most imposing Christian building in San Sebastian and is located close to San Sebastian Old Town where you can find all the pintxos. In the back of the cathedral, you can find an exhibition of old relics they used throughout the hundreds of years.
Koruko Andre Mariaren Basilika
Koruko Andre Mariaren Basilika Relics
There you have it, the introduction to Pintxos in Bilbao and San Sebastian and travel and culinary information for a careless city trip to these amazing places.
Did you like what you read? Pin it for later!