Spain’s Basque Country is an amazing place to visit on holiday. Situated between the Cantabrian mountains and the Spanish-French border, the region has gastronomy and natural beauty in abundance. If you want gourmet food, sandy beaches and culture on a budget, then look no further than Bilbao.
Bilbao's stunning Guggenheim museum has become the iconic symbol of the region. But the best reason for travelling to the Basque Country is the food. The local cuisine is widely recognised as the best in Spain. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend much to eat well in Bilbao.
Some of the best value dishes are pintxos, the Basque version of tapas. These small meals are traditionally eaten standing up and washed down with local wine. Ideal for bargain hunters, the region is a foodie paradise whether you are staying in a luxury penthouse or a designer hostel on a budget.
Going on the Pintxos trail
Image by Nicolas Vollmer (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Just about every bar in the Basque region serves pintxos. Typical dishes include baby octopus, salted cod (bacalao), marinated olives, and bread covered with thin slices of Serrano ham.
There's a Basque tradition called txikito (pronounced chee-kee-toe), which is a foodie pub crawl where you hop from one pintxos bar to another. Once you see a place you like, you can start eating and the bartender will keep a score with a pencil.
Pintxos are often served on the honour system, where you make your choice at the bar, and pay afterwards by presenting the toothpicks from the pintxos you’ve eaten.
One of the best places to snack on cheap pintxos in Bilbao is El Figon, where all pintxos are priced €1 each.
Where to eat pintxos in Bilbao
Locals usually go on a ‘txikito’ pub crawl in Calle Ledesma, which is in the centre of town, and packed full of stylish bars and outdoor tables. Its central location, close to the museums and high street shops, make it a must place to visit.
The best time to eat out in Bilbao is Saturday and Sunday from midday. If you’re staying in the city centre, then make sure to check out Irrintzi in Calle Santa Maria for its unique take on pinxtos. For more traditional dishes, visit Gatz, also in Calle Santa Maria.
Eat cheap in Bilbao’s Old Quarter
Image by Andrew Fogg (Flickr/Creative Commons)
The Old Quarter is home to over 200 bars, many of which form part of the city’s pintxo routes. Highlights include Santa Maria (Santa María 18), a traditional bar, specialising in liver pâté pintxos with caramelised apple.
Berton (Jardines 11) and Sasibil (Jardines 8) also offer excellent pintxos and wines to travellers looking for a cheap eat. While Berri (Askao 5) is famous locally for its bread snacks, otherwise known as Traineras and Txapelas.
Where to stay in Bilbao
If you want to eat pintxos all day long, then why not save money by staying in a designer hostel? Check our availability today and savour the gourmet delights of Bilbao on a backpacker's budget!
*Header image by Adrian PB (Flickr/Creative Commons)