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Taking a pintxos tour in San Sebastian is a gastronomic delight in one of the top food destinations in Spain.
In a city with more than 200 pintxos bars and a rich pintxos culture, it can be challenging to navigate the countless options.
We took a pintxos tour with a local guide to help us discover the best pintxos bars loved by locals.
Pintxos are an obsession and an art form in San Sebastian known as Donostia in Basque. Here’s what to know and expect on a pintxos tour in San Sebastian.
San Sebastian Pintxos Tour – Overview
Leading our San Sebastian Ultimate pintxos tour was Begonia, a local born and raised in the Basque Country.
The focus Begonia mentioned, was on traditional pintxos and creative interpretations at local and modern pintxos bars.
This San Sebastian Ultimate pintxos & wine tour with Devour Tours is a delicious 3-hour gastronomic crawl.
You’ll visit six traditional eateries and indulge in more than 8 food tastings and 5 traditional drinks in the Old Town.
In addition to savoring the best pintxos, you’ll learn about the local food culture and its important role in the history of San Sebastian.
Here are some of our favorite highlights from our San Sebastian Ultimate pintxos & wine tour.
Highlights Of This San Sebastian Food Tour
Before our San Sebastian pintxos tour we had noticed a difference in quality at the different pintxos bars we visited on our own.
Our pintxos tour in San Sebastian helped us navigate the pintxos bar scene and taste the best of San Sebastian.
Strolling through the narrow streets of the Old Town with our intimate group of seven, we were eager to dive in.
Classic Pintxos and Traditional Pintxos Bars
One of the pintxos we were most excited to try was La Gilda. This is San Sebastian’s most emblematic pintxos and is described as the first-ever Basque pintxos.
At a well-known pintxos bar that specializes in anchovies, Begonia regaled us with stories about its unique name and the combination of ingredients.
This pintxo created in the 1940s combines three traditional ingredients, olives, guindilla peppers, and anchovies.
The key to eating the La Gilda pintxos, Begonia told us, “is to put the whole thing in your mouth together so that you get all the flavors.”
Expecting the Gilda pintxos to be spicy, we were pleasantly surprised. It was salty with a hint of spice and best paired with the local wine.
While discovering the different types of pintxos was exciting, being in a local’s favorite pintxos bar adds to the local Basque atmosphere.
Each pintxos bar, we quickly learned has its own unique house specialty. Without the knowledge of a local guide, it can be easy to miss the specialty pintxos.
As a coastal city, seafood is incorporated into the delicious little pintxos bites. At a traditional pintxos bar that specializes in mussels, we were blown away by the flavorful and diverse offerings.
From mussels served in a spicy tomato-based sauce to mussels with chopped-up onions, the surprising flavors were exquisite.
Modern and Creative Pintxos
One of the things we appreciated about our pintxos tour was exploring a range of traditional and modern San Sebastian pintxos.
At a modern pintxos bar, we were quite surprised to try a pintxos made with duck.
Not only was the meat unexpected, it was also paired with yucca chips and a wonderful pineapple sauce.
For the pintxos bars that have been around for a long time, Begonia explained, “they are constantly trying new things.” And, if it works, she added “ it stays on the menu, and if not, it’s removed.”
Paired with Rioja wine, from the neighboring Rioja wine region, the flavors melded perfectly together.
Modern Anchovy Pintxos
Some of the best anchovies in Spain are said to come from the Cantabrian Sea in San Sebastian’s Bay of Biscay.
And, anchovies are a popular pintxos offering. At a traditional pintxos bar, we were surprised by unusual toppings on anchovy pintxos.
Some of the topping options were papaya, coconut, or olive pate.
One of the ones we tried and liked was anchovies pintxos topped with blueberry jam.
It was interesting to explore and taste the creative license pintxos bars have taken in San Sebastian.
The Original San Sebastian Famous Cheesecake
Cheesecake was one of the most surprising local foods we learned about in San Sebastián.
While it is not a traditional Basque food, we learned, it was popularized by a journalist from New York who described it as “the best cheesecake ever.”
For a sweet end to our pintxos tour in San Sebastian, we stopped for the famous San Sebastian cheesecake also known as Burnt Basque cheesecake.
For the best taste experience, it was recommended to pour Pedro Ximénez, one of the sweetest Spanish white wines over it.
The Basque version of the cheesecake was unlike any cheesecake we’d tried before.
It was creamy, moist on the inside, and with just the right amount of richness.
Cider and Txakoli Drink Pairings
Basque cider and Txakoli are two of the most traditional drinks and are an important part of the culinary Basque culture.
While eating pintxos, these are two of the most popular drink accompaniments.
Txakoli, a fresh white wine made from local grapes paired well with the savory pintxos.
Basque cider, an old tradition based on the cultivation of apples was tart and surprisingly refreshing.
We also learned the art of pouring the cider with the bottle held high and poured into a wide glass.
This long-distance pour allows the cider to aerate and you typically drink it right away.
It was great learning what to drink to match the style of pintxos.
While the local gastronomy is at the heart of this San Sebastián pintxos food tour, bites of culture are also woven into the experience.
One such stop was at the Constitution Square or Plaza de la Constitución. Located in the heart of the Old Town, it is one of the most important squares in the city.
The most striking characteristic of the square is the numbers above each window.
Amused by the guesses from our group about their origins, which ranged from brothel to jail, our guide surprised us with the answer.
The true origins of the numbers, we learned, come from the fact that Constitution Square was once a bullring where locals could watch bullfights.
Today, Constitution Place is home to several restaurants where you can enjoy a drink. It also hosts several festivities throughout the year, like San Sebastian Day, Cider Festivals, and much more.
The numbers on the building remain in acknowledgment of the area’s rich history.
Overall Impressions of the Pintxos Tour
What We Loved
We’re a huge fan of Devour Tours and have taken several tours with them before in several cities like Paris, Rome, Bologna, and several others. One of the main reasons we love their tours is their focus on authentic experiences with local guides. This San Sebastian pintxos tour was informative, fun, and delivered on all fronts. Some of the things we loved about the tour are:
- The diversity of pintxos and pintxos bars – The are many pintxos bars in Old Town or Parte Vieja. Knowing how to find the best spots where locals go is made much easier with a local guide. Additionally, having guidance on the best pintxos or house specialty pintxos to order makes the experience much more delicious.
- Insights from a local and knowledgeable guide – Eating pintxos is a social affair and an important part of Basque culture. Begonia, our guide, shared stories about the history, Basque gastronomy, Basque language, and life in general in the region. You’ll leave the tour not only deliciously stuffed but also more informed about the cuisine, culture, and history.
- Wonderful tastings of Basque traditional drinks – Traditional beverages are a part of the pintxos experience in San Sebastian. You’ll enjoy a variety of local drinks, ranging from Basque cider to wines, all selected to pair perfectly with the pintxos.
- Get tips for where to eat the best pintxos in San Sebastian – Start your visit in San Sebastian with a pintxos tour and get the best local tips for where to eat for the rest of your stay. Throughout our pintxos tour, Begonia shared her favorite local spots for pintxos and local restaurants in general. She also shared her opinion on eateries people in our group were curious about. If you want to go beyond the popular tourist spots while having fun, the local recommendations are invaluable.
What Could Be Improved on this Pintxos Tour
Overall, there was not much that could be improved about our pintxos tour in San Sebastian with Devour Tours. The experience was well-paced, and we had a great group and guide.
That said, there are a few things worth noting.
- Wear comfortable shoes – Pintxos are traditionally eaten while standing up, and as this is an authentic food tour, you’ll be on your feet a lot. Plan to wear comfortable shoes to make the experience more enjoyable.
- Bring a water bottle – You will not leave hungry and will have plenty to eat and drink. However, there is not much water served at the stops. Plan to bring your own water bottle which can be refilled on the go.
How To Book Your Pintxos Tour
This San Sebastian ultimate pintxos and wine tour with Devour Tours offers an amazing and authentic experience.
For about 3 hours starting at 6:30 pm, you’ll explore the narrow streets in the Old Town where you’ll discover the local favorite pintxos bars.
While sampling a range of traditional and innovative pintxos, you’ll also have a wonderful time learning about the city and food culture.
These pintxos tours are small with a maximum of 8 people for a personalized and intimate experience.
To experience the best San Sebastian pintxos food tour, book your ultimate pintxos and wine tour.
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Other Culinary Experiences To Consider in San Sebastian
Basque Cooking Class in San Sebastian
If you want to dive into the cuisine of the Basque Country, consider taking a cooking class and learning how to make traditional recipes.
Devour Tours also offers an authentic Basque cooking class where you’ll learn to make four traditional recipes from starters to desserts.
We took this 3-hour class and enjoyed learning about the secrets of Basque cooking and the traditional dishes.
To dive deeper into Basque gastronomy beyond pintxos, consider taking a cooking class.
San Sebastian Market Tour with Pintxos Tastings
If you want to visit the main market in San Sebastián combined with a pintxos tasting tour, consider this evening small group tour.
Starting at the local market, you’ll visit local producers and taste some of Spain’s most exquisite products like ham, cheese, olives, and more.
From the market, you’ll head to the most famous street in the Old Town, Fermin Calbeton Kalea, for tastings at four pintxos bars.
This 3-hour experience also takes you around the beautiful city, stopping at key landmarks.
For a combined market and pintxos tasting experience, consider this evening tour.
FAQs – San Sebastian
When Should I Eat Pintxos In San Sebastian?
Pintxos are a popular snack eaten at any time of the day in San Sebastian. The type of pintxos served varies throughout the day with the Spanish omelet being a popular choice earlier in the day. However, today you’ll find all types of pintxos available at all hours.
What Is The Difference Between Tapas And Pintxos?
In the past, the people of the Basque country defined pintxos as elaborated Spanish tapas. However, today, locals in San Sebastian say pintxos is the Basque word for tapas.
Where Do People Typically Go Out For Pintxos?
Generally, pintxos are consumed at pintxos bars in Sans Sebastian. However, some local restaurants also have pintxos as starters on their menus.
How To Order At A Pintxos Bar?
Ordering pintxos at popular and crowded pintxos bars in San Sebastian is an art. If you are two or more going out for pintxos, one has to fight for a table and chairs, while the others have to wrestle their way to the front of the bar to place the order.
Have you ever taken a pintxos tour in San Sebastian? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Special thanks to Devour Tours for having us on this tour. All views and opinions expressed are our own. Full bellies and happy taste buds too.
Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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