Bar hopping should be at the top of your list of things to do in San Sebastian! But not necessarily for the music or the scene or the cocktails – go bar hopping for the food! The San Sebastian food scene is full of delicious bites here and there all day. And best of all, San Sebastian restaurants (donostia) offer a wide selection of food from familiar to foreign, so everyone in your group will find something to enjoy!
American Living in Germany: Know Before You Go
San Sebastian (also written San Sebastián) is a small city in the Basque region of northern Spain – the whole municipality is just 25 square miles!
So don’t worry about renting a car unless you plan to explore the region. Walking and buses are the easiest (and cheapest) methods of transportation in the city.
Also, keep in mind that many restaurants won’t be very spacious or have big, comfortable booths. Some may only have small bistro tables with stools. So be sure to wear comfortable shoes – there’s a good chance that you’ll be standing while dining.
And, most importantly, bring your tourist passport! Your Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) passport lets you reside in Germany, but it doesn’t grant you the same travel privileges as an EU citizen.
San Sebastian Food: What Are Pintxos?
Pintxos (also written as pinchos) are small bites of food served on top of a small slice of bread. While tapas originated in central parts of Spain, Pintxos are native to the Basque region.
Classic choices include the chorizo with quail egg or the pintxos de tortilla, i.e. a Spanish omelette. And this omelette isn’t like the French style – instead, it’s egg and potato, usually mixed with diced onions as well.
A potentially more adventurous choice is the gilda: anchovy with pickled green peppers. The combination of ingredients is familiar yet flavorful!
And if you’re feeling even crazier, try the angulas: baby eels. But be sure to look for tiny black eyes staring back at you! Many restaurants use gulas instead, which are made from processed fish. If you don’t see the two little eyes, you’re probably eating imitation eel.
What to do in San Sebastian: Eat!
You really can’t go wrong with any of the San Sebastian restaurants. Just step out the door and start wandering!
Pintxos in Parte Vieja
The San Sebastian food is varied, delicious, and widely available on every street. You can spend all day eating your way through Parte Vieja (the Old Town) and somehow still have room for more.
Instead of bowls of nuts lining the bars, you’ll find large plates full of pintxos in every bar you visit. You can expect each piece to cost anywhere between 1.50€ to 4€.
And don’t forget to wash it down with a glass of cider!
San Sebastian Cider Houses
The cider in San Sebastian is cloudy, funkier, and less sweet than your average Strongbow, but perfect for washing down pintxos. And don’t expect the bartender to fill your class – they only pour a few gulps at a time (and at an arm’s length). The pouring style allows some air bubbles to form in the drink, while the small portion means you can appreciate the full flavor with every sip (or so they say).
If you go to a cider house or cider bar, they will often serve food as well. Enjoy cider straight from the barrels!
Cheesecake at La Viña
This San Sebastian cheesecake isn’t your dense, New York style cheesecake with a graham-cracker crust. It looks like a burnt custard or cheese tart, with a soft, creamy texture. Many have tried to replicate its glory, but few have succeeded.
La Viña cheesecake is truly an experience to be had in San Sebastian. But make sure you go on any day EXCEPT Monday because that’s when they’re closed.
Frequently Asked Questions about San Sebastian Food
If you don’t see an answer to your question, let me know in the comments!
Spring to early Fall. It’s significantly cooler in the north than other parts of Spain during summer time! We were burning in Barcelona in July, but then trained to San Sebastian where it was at least 20 degrees cooler (Fahrenheit, of course).
Everything in San Sebastian is within a walk or cheap bus ride right to the beach and old town! But I recommend staying as close to the beach as possible, preferably at a hotel near a bus stop.
We stayed at Hotel Codina, which is within walking distance to Ondarreta Beach. Pensión Kaia in old town is a good budget friendly option. If you want a more luxurious place with beautiful beach views, check out Tryp San Sebastian Orly.
The region and the city are known for pintxos, but San Sebastian itself is famous for La Viña cheesecake! Plus, the city’s restaurants have a total of 18 Michelin stars. To give you some perspective: out of Spain’s 11 restaurants that have 3 stars, 3 of those restaurants are in San Sebastian. It’s truly a foodie paradise!
It’s hard to go wrong at any of them. We went to Albiztur, a nice sit down restaurant and cider house off the beaten path. But you’ll also find great ones right in Old Town!
Any of them! If you’re a dessert person, Pasteleria Oiartzun has great cream puffs. But if you’re looking for a Michelin star experience, I highly recommend Bodegon Alejandro. The food is exceptional, and the experience is unmatched.
Eat Pintxos in San Sebastian
Let the hours pass and the sun set while you indulge in pintxos, cider, and conversation with friends. You can’t go wrong by planning your whole trip around San Sebastian restaurants!