justin2By Justin Paul, Senior Editor, Virtuoso Life

Tapas, pintxos, media-raciónes – San Sebastián, the gourmet capital of Spain, is the land of perpetual grazing. I recently had the opportunity to visit the resort city just miles from the French border for a weeklong exploration of the Basque Coast from Bilbao to Biarritz. The results: a bit rainy (they don’t call it “Green Spain” for nothing), but undeniably delicious.

It’s always happy hour in San Sebastián. From open to close, bars and cafés line their counters with a bounty of pintxos, smallish snacks that range from tortilla española to skewered peppers with anchovies or prawns to bocadillos (three-bite sandwiches); larger, often more involved tapas, such as seared goat cheese with a micro-green salad and olive tapenade; and raciónes, plates of flash-fried padrón peppers with crunchy salt or the famed Iberian ham (order media-raciónes, half portions, where possible). And that’s just the warm-up – the area is known for many of Spain’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants.

justin1When the sun shines, San Sebastián sparkles like few places on earth, with three excellent beaches: Zurriola (best for surfers and body-boarders), and gentle La Concha and Ondarreta in front of the city’s core facing out on the sea. Though surrounded by unforgiving hills and rock outcrops, the town itself is flat, with copious bike trails and a long beachfront esplanade that make for perfect diversions between bites.

No gourmets should consider their time in Spain complete without visiting this nook of the Bay of Biscay. Make San Sebastián your base camp, then set out on day trips to Bilbao (1.5 hours west) and Biarritz or Saint-Jean-de-Luz (30 minutes to the northeast), stopping in markets and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it villages along the way. Look for a complete report and the perfect itinerary to explore the region in the September/October Food & Wine issue of Virtuoso Life.

Click here to learn more about Virtuoso Life.


  1. Great article at Virtuoso Life, “Basque in it”. Let me include a few more references. For example, in Tolosa, another top site as Casa Julian, is Nicolas. Both chefs cook together in Tolosa Beef steak party in december.
    And as famous as aged beef chop in Tolosa, is grilled sea bream in Getaria (beautiful fishermen town).
    To conclude, the pintxo guide http://www.todopintxos.com, offers suggested pintxo crawl routes for visitors.

Comments are closed.