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Where to eat in San Sebastián, Spain

The coastal city of San Sebastián is home to the masters of Basque cuisine. The beating heart of Spain’s food scene, it excels in every aspect, from laid-back pintxo bars to Michelin dining experiences. The reason we love Spanish food is mainly for its robust flavours and the no-frills attitude, exactly what makes San Sebastian’s food so excellent. From the best grilled turbot in the land to the extensive creations of the humble anchovy, the people of San Sebastián have a deep respect for their local produce. That said, there is a huge concentration of restaurants and bars in San Sebastián, making it difficult to know the best spot to pick. We have asked the locals where the best places to eat are, and this is what they said.

Restaurante Pollitena

San Jeronimo Kalea, 3, 20003 Donostia | +34 943 42 57 79

Restaurante Pollitena, founded in 1895, is a traditional Basque restaurant, a place that brings back memories of our grandmother’s cooking. It is a sophisticated restaurant serving an excellent four-course menú del día. It perfectly executes the hearty Basque classics like fish soup and baked spider crab. They take their meat very seriously and have an outstanding reputation for grilled meats like chuleton and entrecot. If you are unsure, order the degustation menu which includes a decadent version of beef wellington.

Mirador de Ulía

Ulía Pasealekua, 193, 20013 Donostia | +34 943 27 27 07

Dine by the sea at one of the most fantastic locations in San Sebastián. Admire the beautiful views over Zurriola Beach as you taste excellent local produce executed in a contemporary style. Chef Rubén Trincado takes comforting dishes like beef cheek and sole meunière and pushes the boundaries to create more contemporary versions of the classics. It is also refreshing to know that this Michelin restaurant has both a dedicated vegetarian and vegan tasting menu. These plates are a celebration of Spain’s vegetables and include interesting combinations like beet flower with hummus and local roasted white asparagus with shiso emulsion.

Narru Restaurant

Zubieta Kalea, 56, 20007 Donostia

Iñigo Peña, named in the Wall Street Journal as a young chef to watch, is the star behind Narru. After working at iconic restaurants like Arzak and Mugaritz, Peña has perfected his skills and creativity. Make sure to order pan cristal con tomate for the table. Literally translated as glass bread with tomato, it may sound simple, but it is bursting with flavour. Other dishes to share include rice with clams, grilled octopus with chimichurri and cocochas de merluza confitadas, a classic Basque dish of hake cheeks with garlic and olive oil.

Gandarias

31 de Agosto Kalea, 23, 20003 Donostia | +34 943 42 63 62

Gandarias, situated in the old town of San Sebastián, is a traditional pintxos bar and restaurant renowned for its excellent Basque cooking. Choose to eat in the laid-back bar, surrounded by endless plates of pintxos and legs of jamón ibérico hanging from the ceiling. Part of the fun of going for pintxos, is sitting in the cosy bars with the locals enjoying the buzzing atmosphere. Sample outstanding seafood pintxos like skewers of squid, bell peppers stuffed with spider crab and marinated clams. If you choose to dine in the more formal dining room, there is an extensive fish and meat menu and an impressive wine list. Either way, a must try is the classic Basque dish, baked spider crab.

Casa Urola

Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 20, 20003 Donostia | +34 943 44 13 71

Casa Urola, founded in 1956, is a place that uses some of the best local produce and continues to be loved by locals. Situated in the old town, it embraces old recipes and Basque cooking traditions. There is both a pintxos bar and restaurant, the latter of which we recommend for the best dining experience. This is the place to sample the best of Spain’s seafood including Bay of Biscay lobster. The seasonal menu, which changes regularly, includes variations of dishes like line-caught squid, wild mushrooms and sautéed baby vegetables. If it is on the menu, the arroz con almejas (rice with clams) is a must-order.

Bar Txepetxa

Calle Pescaderia 5, 20003 Donostia | +34 943 42 22 27

This family-owned bar has been made famous by their treatment of the humble anchovy. Offering endless ways to sample the house-marinated anchovy, Bar Txepetxa can even convert the anchovy-haters. This is the type of place you stop off at for an afternoon snack. Order a selection of pintxos for the table and a glass of txakoli, sparkling wine from Basque country.

Restaurante Elkano

Herrerieta Kalea, 2, 20808 Getaria, Gipuzkoa | +34 943 14 00 24

Restaurante Elkano is situated in the pretty coastal town of Getaria, between Bilbao and San Sebastián. Opened by grill-master Pedro Arregui and his wife, this Michelin restaurant is now run by their son, Aitor. Their secret to success continues to be about sourcing the best produce and cooking them simply over the grill. Renowned for their wild turbot dish, this delicate fish is cooked on open-air charcoal grilled, producing a wonderful smoked flavour. They also serve excellent fish soup. Bursting with flavour, it is said to be one of the best!

eMe Be Garrote

Igara Bidea, 33, 37, 20018 Donostia | +34 943 22 79 71

eMe Be Garrote is run by one of Spain’s most loved Michelin-starred chefs, Martín Berasategui. In total, he holds 10 Michelin stars, more than any other Spanish chef. Housed in a former cider house, typical from Basque country, Berasategui combines the traditional cooking methods of his surroundings with his contemporary style. We highly recommend the tasting menu, a wonderful collection of light and delicate dishes that perfectly showcase Berasategui’s avant-garde style and technique. Marvel at perfect plates of marinated salmon salad and steak tartare with textured olives. For those who prefer an à la carte menu, there is a short but sweet selection of fish, rice and meat dishes.

Asador Portuetxe

Igara Bidea, 71, 20018 Donostia | +34 943 21 50 18

This is the place to visit when you want a perfectly grilled piece of meat or fish. In Spain, it is often tradition to share dishes at the table, so order a selection of starters like white asparagus from Navarra, seasonal salads and wild mushroom medley. The grill is their passion and they excel at simple but delicious plates of seafood like grilled prawns, lobster and monkfish. Don’t leave without tasting the showstopper dish, the chuleton. A Spanish version of a large ribeye steak, this dish is what makes Asador Portuetxe famous.

Ganbara

San Jeronimo Kalea, 19, 20003 Donostia | +34 943 42 25 75

With over 25 years of experience, Ganbara is one of the leaders of pintxos in San Sebastián. Enter into an old-fashioned bar filled with Iberian hams, wine bottles and decorated with the vintage swinging doors. Immediately, you will be amazed by the towering selection of pintxos on offer. Choose from an immense selection of seasonal tapas in front of you at the bar or sit in restaurant. Here, you can sample classic Basque dishes using local seafood like wild turbot, sole and monkfish. For dessert, we suggest trying regional desserts like the delicious Basque cheesecake.

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