It’s difficult to eat badly in San Sebastián. Nestled between the French Pyrenees and Spanish Basque country, this epicurean city takes food very seriously. Historically, San Sebastián (or Donostia, as it’s called in the Basque tongue) was a luxurious seaside escape for the Spanish royalty. If you spend even five minutes in this idyllic city, it’s easy to see the allure of the cerulean blue water, emerald hills, palm-tree-lined promenades and Belle Epoque sandstone buildings. Today, though, people from all over the world flock to this coastal town to do one thing: Eat.
This gastronomic capital is a hotbed for Michelin-starred restaurants and renowned chefs, from Elena Arzak (Arzak) to Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz). But the truth is you don’t have to spend a small fortune for a remarkable meal here. The real star of San Sebastián’s gourmet empire is the humble pintxo.
A pintxo is a type of Spanish tapa found in the Basque region. Traditionally, they are held together by wooden picks and artfully displayed atop a restaurant’s bar. Think: Paper-thin ribbons of jamón Ibérico on sliced baguette; bountiful crab salad topped with fatty smoked salmon; or salty skewers of anchovies, olives and piquillo peppers. More broadly though, the word “pintxo” refers to any small plate. In addition to the classic cold pintxos, most bars have an additional menu of hot dishes like seared foie gras, padrón peppers and piri-piri grilled octopus.