Basque Country: A beginners guide to Pintxos

Spain is synonymous with tapas. Those tiny plates of fresh joy that us Brits delight in when we visit the sunnier side of Europe.

I’d visited the classic holiday resorts of Spain plenty of times in the past; Mallorca, Ibiza, Barcelona etc but this time round I was heading to the north of the country away from the guaruanteed sunshine but towards food heaven.

The Basque Country region in the north is famous for its lush greenery – thanks to its tendency to rain a lot – but also for its local type of tapas, Pintxos.

Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos) are tiny snacks typically eaten standing at a bar and served on sticks and often on bread.

On a recent visit to the Basque Country – one night’s stay in Bilbao and two in the seaside town of San Sebastian – we Pintxos’d hard.

It can be an intimidating way to eat at first, especially in an area of Spain that doesn’t pander to tourists in the way the mass marketed resorts of the Costa Del Sol do, but here’s a rough guide on how to Pinxtos that were picked up during our stay.

Prepare to try your hand at speaking Spanish and be confronted by some unusual looking dishes, but know you’ll be guaranteed to eat some of the best food of your life.

1 Do some research

Particularly in San Sebastian, there are Pinxtos bars every hundred metres so finding out the best ones can be a huge time saver!

We asked our Air B and B hosts for their recommendations, but if you have nobody to ask a good rule is head to the busiest places.

2 Try your best to speak Spanish

The charm of the Basque Country is that it’s not super touristy yet. Sure, you’ll notice other Brits but it’s far removed from the Irish pubs that line the Benidorm strip.

The locals generally speak a little English, but you can tell they appreciate reciprocated effort – ‘Puedes hablar ingles’ (Can you speak English?) will help you know where you stand.

3 Don’t fill up too quickly

The best thing about eating Pintxos is getting to hop between lots of different bars. Resist the urge to eat five different plates in one bar and fill up, instead grab a couple, have a drink and then move on to the next place.

4 Don’t feel like you have to drink loads

When bar hopping it’s easy to get drunk quickly, even if you are eating. Luckily, there are options to order smaller measures when requesting alcohol. Here’s what to order…

A Chiquito – if you order one of these you will get a small glass of wine the perfect size for bar hopping.

A Zurito (thor-ee-to) – a small measure of beer the perfect size for drinking with Pintxos

In other exciting news! I’ve been short listed for a Post Office Travel and Food Blog Award – you’ll be able to vote for me from 4th July!


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