The 14 Best Pintxo Bars in Bilbao and San Sebastian
Travel to Spain, and you will find an endless variety of dishes and drinks. Indeed, the whole country’s gastronomy is known all around the world. Both national and foreign tourists delight themselves with traditional Spanish dishes, unparalleled drinks, cheeses, Christmas foods, and desserts, among many other delicacies.
In the northern part of the peninsula, the Basque Country is equally attractive with high-quality traditional recipes and a rich gastronomy that dates back several hundred years. We must surely know a thing or two after all that time!
Are you familiar with Basque pintxos? Let us tell you why and where you should try them.
What Is the Difference Between Tapas and Pintxos?
These small foods are not so different from the tapas in the rest of Spain. Size being the main distinction, pintxo is a small food usually held with a toothpick and eaten in one or two bites without cutlery.
In contrast, tapas are a bit bigger and served on a plate. Both terms are interchangeable in many regions, and the difference is not so clear since they can both be presented in many ways.
If you travel to Bilbao or San Sebastián, you will most certainly hear the word pintxo: a small dish that can be accompanied by a drink—this is also called pintxo-pote, usually served on Thursdays at a lower price.
Have a look at our list of the best pintxo bars you can find in these cities.
The Best Pintxo Bars in San Sebastián
San Sebastián, also known as Donosti in the Basque language, is considered a paradise of pintxos. Bordering France, the Basque Country, and Spain, the city has numerous bars to choose from. Check out some of the best pintxo bars in San Sebastián:
Address: San Jeronimo Kalea, 21, 20003 Donostia
Ganbara is a family-run traditional bar in the old part of San Sebastian. Their specialties include a famous ham and cheese croissant, txistorra puff pastry, txangurro tartlet, battered asparagus, and several dishes that feature mushrooms.
However, you can also taste pintxos with seasonal ingredients such as peppers and artichokes. The bar’s appearance is traditionally elegant, and they offer high-quality ingredients.
2. La Viña
Address: 31 de Agosto Kalea, 3, 20003 Donostia
Here you can try one of the best and most popular cheesecakes. We are not exaggerating. It is a recipe with international scope and is a total success in places like Turkey, the United States, and Japan.
In fact, in these countries, they try to imitate the recipe of La Viña, and it must be good if someone is trying to imitate you, right? Visit the bar if you go to San Sebastián and see them freshly baked and in their molds waiting to be tasted. Will you be able to resist?
3. La Espiga
Address: San Martzial Kalea, 48, 20005 Donostia
An absolute classic of San Sebastian’s downtown, La Espiga is a renowned bar that has maintained its family tradition since 1928, and is even considered by some as the place pintxos was invented.
A highly recommended pintxos is chorrera, consisting of hot egg, cheese, and gabardine ham. Don’t forget to also try the anchovy and hard-boiled egg with vinaigrette and mayonnaise. If you dared to think that pintxos are not filling, try La Espiga and think again.
Address: 31 de Agosto Kalea, 23, 20003 Donostia
Quality and meticulous cuisine is the hallmark of this bar of old town San Sebastian. Again, there are endless hot and cold pintxos to choose from, making it very difficult to choose.
If you need a hint, try the risotto made with Idaiazábal cheese and wild mushrooms, the kidney brochette, the sirloin, or the bruschetta topped with grilled duck.
5. Bodega Donostiarra
Address: Peña y Goñi Kalea, 13, 20002 Donostia
Eat and drink! The Bodega Donostiarra, literally meaning Winery of Donostia, offers a wide variety of classic pintxos.
If you want to try the most popular, we suggest the el completo, a simple but delicious dish made with bonito fish, chili, and anchovy, and the indurain, a cube of bonito fish, pickled chilies, olives, and chives.
6. Borda Berri
Address: Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 12, 20003 Donostia
A pintxo bar with a rustic look, Borda Berri offers Basque-style dishes, such as chorizo with cider and baked spider crabs, and other hot pintxos made with braised meats and delicious sauces. If you happen to eat here, don’t forget to check the chalkboard for the pintxo of the day. Leave something for the rest!
7. La Cuchara de San Telmo
Address: Santa Korda Kalea, 4, 20003 Donostia
La Cuchara de San Telmo is one of the best pintxo bars in San Sebastian and even in the whole Basque Country. Usually crowded (that’s a good sign!), there are numerous delicious foods you can try here, including the carrillera (beef cheek), foie, cochinillo (suckling pig), and the famous cod pintxos.
The Best Pintxo Bars in Bilbao
Bilbao offers a great gastronomic and tourist experience that grows with each passing year. Pintxos and pintxo-pote (with a drink and usually on Thursdays) are also popular here. With so many bars to try these delicacies, we felt the need to guide you through this beautiful city, which evolved quickly from its industrial past.
1. Gure Toki
Address: Pl. Nueva, 12, 48005 Bilbao
Gure toki means our place in the Basque language. Situated in the famous Plaza Nueva in the old town, they are committed to making a difference with creative foods. Its popularity is supported by the gastronomic awards and the crowd you can frequently find at the door.
As for the pintxos, try something delicious, like the mollet egg, a fishbowl with poached quail egg, mushrooms, potato, and cream cheese idaiazábal, or foie with apple, pastrami sandwich, cod cocochas, or their magnificent cheesecake.
2. Café Iruña
Address: Colón de Larreátegui Kalea, 13, 48001 Bilbao
Built with a mixture of North African and Spanish cultures, Café Iruña has been serving exquisite foods to Basques and tourists alike since 1903 in the center of Bilbao. Pintxos are made every day, but their hallmark is pintxos morunos, consisting of tasty seasoned lamb kebabs barbecued to order with a bit of a spicy, lemony sauce. If you are more than hungry, you can also eat a complete menu del día (menu of the day).
Address: Pl. Nueva, 8, 48005 Bilbao
Back on the Plaza Nueva, Charly’s pintxos are arranged in three or four levels and presented with color and variety. You will find tasty croquettes, cod, and more elaborated options such as the pintxo of octopus, bonito, pickled onion, and one of the best: ham, manchego cheese, and aioli.
4. El Globo
Address: Diputazio Kalea, 8, 48008 Bilbo
Looking for something different to brag about? El Globo is a bar with a warm ambiance, comfortable lighting, and brick walls.
The beautifully-elaborated pintxos contain unexpected ingredients hard to find in other places. For example, you can find goat’s cheese with onion confit and the morcilla (Spanish blood sausage) with crushed peanuts. Interesting!
Address: Unamuno Miguel Plaza, 2, 48005 Bilbao
Bacaicoa bar in Plaza Nueva (yes, this square has pintxos everywhere) specializes in dishes with mushrooms, chorizo, and croquettes. Try their purgatory mushrooms and their boletus croquette. The one that really stands out is hell chorizo, small chorizos flamed in front of you and tucked in bread. Delicious and filling!
6. El Huevo Frito
Address: García Rivero Maisuaren Kalea, 1, 48011 Bilbao
With an interesting name, the fried egg, this bar is located in Indautxu, a central Bilbao district. The quail eggs are the most popular pintxo here, hence the name of the place.
Still, you can also fill your belly with several top-ranking pintxos lined up along the counter, such as the small casserole of broken eggs with Iberian ham. Irresistible!
7. Peso Neto
Address: San Frantzisko Kalea, 1, 48003 Bilbao
Peso Neto is a great place for an entertaining night out, but also great for coffee and lunch (with an affordable menu del día).
Located in Bilbao La Vieja, the oldest neighbourhood of Bilbao, this bar offers a fantastic combination of yummy pintxos, and great art, music, and cocktails. High-quality ingredients and an excellent presentation enrich the experience: some of the best pintxos are served in a Kilner jar!