We revisited San Sebastian a couple of weeks back - a tiny town in the Basque region infamous for its food and cuisine to suit all budget ranges and the beaches. It's been most recently name as Europe's Capital of Culture for 2016 so if you haven't planned a visit yet, now might be the best time to!
Whether you're looking for upmarket michelin star dining or if knocking shoulders in crowded places with locals is more your thing San Sebastian definitely has you covered. It's home to three 3-michelin starred restaurants (there's 7 in the world) & been known as one of the cities that holds the highest number of michelin stars per square metre. We visited Arzak the first time we headed over to San Sebastian, a theatrical and gastronomy delight (although not so delightful to our pockets!) and hands down one of the best meals we've had to date. Our visit to San Sebastian this time round however was focussed solely on the local pintxo bars (basque word for tapas!)
The best way to get to San Sebastian from London is to fly into Bilbao & then from there either take a bus that goes directly from the airport to the San Sebastian bus depot or hire a car. We hired a car this time round as it provides much more flexibility and also gave us the freedom to explore Bilbao before starting our culinary adventure in San Sebastian.
With our flight landing at Bilbao on a Friday night we decided to stay the first night in Bilbao & check out the pintxo bars around Plaza Nueva. We visited Victor Montes (no photos allowed here!) & then went next door to Bar Charly which was bustling with locals when we popped in. The waiter/bartender was more than happy to explain what all the pintxo creations were which certainly helped when choosing what to pick! Once we stuffed our faces we headed back to our hotel & definitely had a good night sleep with a full stomach!
A stroll after breakfast (around the corner from the hotel where we had our favourite tomato on toast) around Bilbao was on the agenda in the morning, walking down the river starting from the Guggenheim (just the outside to make the most of the great weather outside) and worked our way towards the old town. Just outside the old town there's a market and safe to say I was slightly disappointed with the market, it was just too clean & sterile for it to be a thriving wet market however if you're after some fresh local produce it's the place to go!
As Bilbao is part of the Basque region the food is still top notch so we decided to grab a quick bite before we started our drive to San Sebastian. Jumping into Bar El Globo as soon as it opened we delighted in an array of pintxos which were also kindly explain by the waitress on duty at the time. Satisfied we indulged in the best pintxos on offer we started our drive towards San Juan De Gaztelugatxe. This is a slight detour (circa 1 hour from Bilbao) from the journey to San Sebastian although well worthwhile since it's quite scenic & popular with hikers around the area.
After a brief walk down to the lookout we started our drive towards San Sebastian. After checking in at Zenit San Sebastian we decided an afternoon coffee was in order which we decided was to be had at Cafe IruBi & M, where we had a tasty coffee & a mean chocolate croissant here!
Unfortunately for us the funicular was closed for the season while we were in San Sebastian, however great views of San Sebastian are also to be found on the top of Castillo de La Mota; a short stroll up Urgull, a hill by the ocean & beach of San Sebastian. On the way down you can make your way to the promenade along the sea for some more great sea views - I personally just love the smell of the ocean!
Going to San Sebastian for us was all about the food, so we were well delighted when it came to dinner time. We started the night off at Zeruko, a famed gastronomical pintxos bar, then were slightly disappointed to learn Bar Nestor was closed however delighted in veal cheek, risotto & octopus at Borda Berri instead. While at Borda Berri I had a delicious glass of txakoli, the local sparkling wine which is poured from great heights to achieve the light bubbles in the wine. We moved along to Goiz Argi for their so simple yet so appetising prawn skewers and grilled squid before heading over to La Cuchara de San Telmo for more beef cheeks and razor clams. The night finished off with dessert of cheesecake at La Vina.
The next morning started with a run towards the beach & across La playa de Zurriola to warm up our bodies and also to prepare our stomachs for the feast we would gobble down. We wanted to check out the coffee & bakery The Loaf - a modern looking bakery which looked absolutely fantastic.
Lunch that day started Txepetxa for anchovies, followed by more veal cheek and ribs at Borda Berri, and we decided to hit La Cuchara de San Telmo again to try out all the other menu items we hadn't hit and finished off our feasting on mussels at La Mejillonera.
Once our bellies were well and truly full we headed back to Bilbao to check out the one and only Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. It is an absolutely architecturally stunning building inside and out and definitely worth a visit!
As we had plenty of pintxos during our weekend we decided to change it up for our last meal in Bilbao & enjoyed some sushi from Sumo. They have an amazing truffle topped sushi which melted in our mouths and I could definitely have had about 100 more! Completely satisfied with our last meal, we headed back towards the airport knowing we had definitely made the most of our eating weekend in San Sebastian and Bilbao!