Eating pintxos in San Sebastian

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
80 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 200
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
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How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
42nd/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class


San Sebastian is widely considered to be one of Europe, if not the world’s, gastronomic centres with its array of Michelin Star restaurants often competing for the world’s title of best restaurant.  But it is the Pintxos (Basque-style tapas) scene in the Old Town that undoubtedly steals the show and makes the whole San Sebastian experience really live up to the hype as one of the best.  More than anything, it’s all just fun – the vibe is positive, the bar owners are surprisingly chirpy considering the sheer amount of work they do, and it’s a bit of an adventure as you take the plunge into the huge variety of restaurants and bars, seeing the delicious dishes piled high and shoving your way to the bar to kick start your journey of Basque cuisine.  So bring your energy, your appetite and your sense of culinary experimentation . . . and have a read of my top tips below for a great experience


(and sorry – not exactly inspiring photos but I was too busy gorging myself!)


#1 The food - drooling just thinking back to it!

#2 Heading into the mass of narrow streets, restaurants and people all on the same journey to find the best Pintxos of the day. Great atmosphere

#3 The views from the nearby Monet Igeldo's Tower - looking down on the circular Bahia de la Concha harbour with the Old Town and beautiful beaches in view.  Well worth the short drive or the cable car up

#4 -The Pintxos bars themselves - sometimes a scrum to get to the bar, but not as often as bad as you'd think

#5 The Basilica - finding the pleasant surprise of the beautiful Basilica of Saint Mary in amongst the narrow streets

Top travel tips

  • Tip #1 – the Pintxos bars – there are just so many great restaurants there that have been perfected and specialised based on the intense competition, so its hard to get your choice wrong.  That being said, I loved La Vina (for the burned cheesecake . . . best I’ve had), Hemeretzi (the anchovies . . . best I’ve had), Atari Gastroleku (the creme brulee . . . best I’ve had), Bar Sport (no idea what it was, but best I’ve had!)
  • Tip #2 – what’s it like?  Before I went I heard that it was a bit of a scrum in the restaurants to get to the bar and order the dishes.  It’s really not that bad – other than the super busy bars at busy times, you can easily get the bar guys’ attention and they are surprisingly good at remembering what you want . . . even in English rather than Spanish / Basque.  Plus, you can often grab at table and get waiter service if the whole bar scene doesn’t work for you.  There are so many to choose from that you can take your pick to find quieter ones if needed
  • Tip #3 – to get a tour or not?  Many people go on a tour as they know they’ll be visiting the best bars and get a bit of context, and I know many who loved the experience.  I didn’t do a tour because I kind of wanted to get lost in the fun of it all, plus they were around €200 a head, and loved the experience, so not essential
  • Tip #4 – order the Pintxos rather than pick dishes from the bar.  It means you get the freshest stuff . . . and, hey, it’s what the locals do
  • Tip #5 – the views from the opposite headland at Monet Igeldo’s Tower are superb, with their views down on the circular Bahia de la Concha harbour showing the of the Old Town and beautiful beaches.  Well worth the short drive or the cable car up
  • Tip #6 – be sure to also visit the Gros area just across the bridge from the Old Town. It’s a bit quieter, right on the beach and generally a more chilled approach to the Pintxos.  We loved the sit-down lunch at Ramuntxo Berri
  • Tip #7 – bear in mind many close at 4pm!  Yes, the Spanish love their siestas, so expect many of the bars to only be open from around noon to 4pm and from 8pm onwards, although some of the more popular ones seem to push to stay open with a shorter closing window
  • Tip #8 – consider staying outside of San Sebastian.  San Sebastian books up quickly and is super pricey.  If you have a car, I’d highly recommend the seaside town of Hondarribia just 20mins to the east and on the border with France.  Far fewer fellow tourists and with a wonderful laid back vibe

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone