Awarded the esteemed title of European Capital of Culture 2016, San Sebastian is a hive of cultural activity. The San Telmo Museum, several world-class art galleries and the city’s 18th Century Gothic architecture all wow its visitors, but what really stands out is its delectable local dishes. You won’t take a step without coming across another achingly gorgeous Pintxos Bar, the Catalan equivalent of Tapas. But just a few minutes by car from this gastronomic universe there’s so much more to discover.
Just 15 minutes outside of San Sebastian is the quaint town of Errenteria, which sits in a lovely valley and is carved in two by the River Oiartzun. If San Sebastian is the head chef, then Errenteria is its very capable sous-chef. There’s dozens of local eateries where the focus is on local produce and bold flavours.
Be sure to try the locally brewed cider at the cosy and characterful Sagardotegia – Sidreria Donosti, where waiters add bubbles to the cider by pouring it from a great height. Xera Gastroteka is a wonderful choice for a Pintxos feast, serving such delights as chicken with tarragon and watercress, or strips of fried calamari with black olives. No worries if you don’t speak the local lingo, just go with it, and ask the waiter ‘Què em recomaneu?’ (What do you recommend?)
The tiny but visually stunning town of Andoain has a few excellent restaurants, and next to no tourism, so you know you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the locals here.
One of their favourite places to dine is surely Restaurant Txalaka, not only for its great Basque country food, but for the consistently excellent service. In true Pintxos style, the plates are small but flavours rich, and depending on the season you’ll find different variations of cured meats, seafood, and eggs, all accompanied by fresh, crusty bread.
Around 25km west of San Sebastian, following the coastal route you’ll find the charming village of Getaria. Here the focus is on making the best of the fresh seafood hauled in daily at the port. As well as beautiful views of the two beaches surrounding the village, visitors are treated to some of the best seafood in the country at Restaurante Elkano.
This specialty restaurant is famous for its generous sizes of fish of the day, always cooked to perfection. If you can get it, you must sample the pan roasted turbot with anchovies, accompanied by a glass of txakoli, a local slightly sparkling white wine with a dry finish.
Framed by the mountainous peaks of Urkiola National Park, the miniscule municipality of Atxondo is one of the most beautiful locations in the north of Spain, and is totally undiscovered. With a population of just over 1,000 people, it’s real Basque village life, but the real reason to visit is a restaurant by the name of Asador Etxebarri.
Often listed in the top 50 restaurants of the world, this ‘quaint asado’ (barbeque house) serves only from the barbeque, with no fuss and maximum flavour. Some of the world’s top chefs trained here, and there’s no doubt that the flame grilled meat at Asador Etxebarri is the most tender and sought after in the country. Try it, you won’t regret it.
3 hours, 4 min
Another achingly beautiful mountain town, Tolosa sits in a valley carved by the River Oria and is home to one of the oldest and most treasured restaurants in the Basque country.
In 1951, a friend of a local man named Julian returned home from spending time in Argentina and presented his friend with the best roasted meat he had ever tasted. Inspired by this flavour, Julian began experimenting with different cuts of meat and opened his own restaurant to showcase them all in 1955. Fast forward to the modern day, Casa Julian is the go-to place in central Basque country for carne asado. Try the speciality T Bone steak accompanied by candied peppers. Truly mouthwatering!