MERCADO DE LA RIBERA
Erribera Kalea, 20 | Bilbo (Bilbao)
Right on the Ría del Nervión O de Bilbao lies the largest indoor market in Europe! Built it 1929, the mercado has been recently renovated & culinarily screams everything we love about fresh produce & the Basque Country. Go hungry.
EAT TALOS - CAFÉ LA GRANJA
Plaza Circular, 3 | Bilbo (Bilbao)
Talos are a Basque specialty, actually, one specific to Vizcaya as special types of corn grow here. Talos are essentially Basque corn tortillas, made to order, from scratch. What lies within is simple & pure: picadillo, cheese, a little something sweet... You rarely find them anymore & Café La Granja only makes them during certain times as they are labor intensive.
Allende Salazar, Guernica-Lumo (Bizcaya/Vizcaya)
The Basque people have a very special heritage and the oak tree has been a symbol of their freedoms for centuries. The current oak has a dynasty dating back to the 14th century. The Lehendakari (president of the Basque people) is sworn in with the Gernikako Arbola over head. The lore surrounding this special tree, the grounds, and the Assembly House (Casa de Juntas) is worth exploring.
Plaza Miguel de Unamuno, 4 | Bilbo (Bilbao)
Basque history is one of the world's richest & least taught even today in Spanish schools. A culture that has influenced international seafaring, fishing, food preservation, chocolate, sport, and beyond brings much to what Spain is known for today. This may be one of the most detailed, smaller museums of a specific cultural heritage in Spain. This may be one of the most detailed, smaller museums of a specific cultural heritage in Spain.
Olaguibel, 60 | Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba (Álava)
Off the beaten track in Vitoria, a friend recommended we eat here sí o sí (yes or yes). José María Ocío has been in the kitchen since he was nine years old and actively cooking from 14. His food is steeped in tradition but with attention to texture and balance. He scurries around the restaurant whilst his wife, María Victoria Martínez de Lapuente tends to service, guests, and the terrace. José María + María & staff make for an incredible experience that is very locally Álava.
Eat: Besugo (blackspot seabream), cazuela de anchoas (fresh anchovies cooked in a clay dish with olive oil + garlic + spicy Rioja peppers), when in season, their freshly sautéed mushrooms with a soft-boiled egg, and pastel de Álava. Exquisite with a local Txakolina (white wine from the Basque Country) but there's also an ample wine cellar thanks to their son Aitor.
The first time I tried these beers four+ years ago, I felt they were really something special on the up-and-coming Spanish artisanal beer scene. As I revisit them from time to time, I'm astonished by their quality and clarity. Joselu, the head brewer produces classics like an IPA and wheat beer but also puts out seasonal specialties like a beer (TX) spiked with Hondarribi Zuri, the white grape used in Txakolina production and a pumpkin ale (Kerala).
Corres is a very small village in the Basque province of Álava. Although there aren't many things to actually do IN the pueblo, the hikes in the vicinity are spectacular. Local mushrooms (edible & poisonous!), vistas, and the freshest air await.
Barrio Ibarra, 27 | Izoria (Áraba/Álava)
I've been tasting Leire's cheeses for almost a decade. Couple them with world-class, rustic, terroir-driven honey and you won't want to leave. Leire and her family raise all their own sheep, still take them to pasture, and make raw Idiazábal cheese along with tending to bees & combs.
In the Basque Country (specifically in Bilbo & Donosita) there are hundreds of cideries, some more polished, other mom & pop outfits. Either way, they're usually a great opportunity to take in a very historic tradition: eating grilled red meat, a salt cod omelet, marinated/jarred red peppers, fried green peppers (sometimes w/ a kick), bread, membrillo + local cheese and... Copious amounts of low-alcohol, acidic, funky cider. Many cider makers are toning down the funk to comply with bureaucratic persuasiveness. The results are decent but drink while the glass brims with tradition - the Spanish cider world is polishing their act quicker than we can sip!
A fishing village that's charming for a stroll along the sea and a dip into the small, narrow, Basque streets. You can see France from across the bay and the history dates to at least the 1200s. A wonderful way to spend a day or a long weekend.
Pasaia village to Donostia (San Sebastian) | Gipuzkoa (Guipúzcoa)
Chill in Hondarribia one day and the next, drive to Pasaia where you can hike all day long and even make it to San Sebastian if you have the time. The views are breathtaking and plenty of opportunities arise to swim (sans suits if you'd like). Mind the tides as they can be unforgiving especially on this northern coast.
Ondartxo, 1 | San Pedro (Gipuzkoa/Guipúzcoa)
The sunken, Basque vessel of San Juan sank off the coast of Newfoundland in the mid 16th century. The wreck has been discovered and straightaway, the Basques went to work drawing up plans to make a replica ship that would sail again. The kicker: they're rebuilding the ship BY HAND in hopes that one day, the ship will complete its journey to the new world. Entry into the museum gives you access to the story of the San Juan, with many artifacts from the ship itself, the workshop where they're actually sawing and cutting and nailing wood basically as they were 500 years ago with a few modern tools and lastly, you'll see the actual vessel in assembly. Be sure to catch this exhibition before it sails.
Pasajes of San Pedro & san juan
Outskirts of Donosita (San Sebastian) | Gipuzkoa (Guipúzcoa)
The fishing villages of San Pedro and San Juan are taken straight out of a 1920s, Spanish novel. They are quaint, steadfast in tradition and what links them: they're rivals. Arrive during fiestas and they have their respective pink v. purple banners flying, changing the surrounding vistas entirely. You need to take a small ferry from one pasaje to the other, as cars are usually not allowed in the depths of either village.
Andre zigarrogileak plaza, 1 | San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa)
This was unexpected - the old tobacco factory was recently converted into one of the coolest public, indoor spaces in Spain! This clean, multi-level edifice bursts with Basque culture: a free library and multi media area to produce creative pieces of music, film, and more!, a book shop, spaces to simply hang out, a coffee area/brew shop, spaces dedicated to fashion, and plenty of natural light plus an outdoor/rooftop terrace. Everywhere you turn there's something difference to experience an a way you wouldn't expect. A phenomenal pitstop that could last easily turn into a three hour distraction.
LA CONCHA (Gipuzkoa/Guipúzcoa)
Donostia (San Sebastián)
Notoriously busy in summer so arrive early. GREAT people scoping. July & August prove difficult to nab towel/lounging space, as the entirety of Spain is on vacation. Worth a wade in the Bay of Biscay & a walk along one of the Basque Country's most popular beaches.
Erregezaintza Kalea, 4 | Donostia (San Sebastián)
This bar is located in the Antiguo barrio where you rarely find tourists. Euskaldunes (Basques) swear by the fried calamari which, I can tell you, is freshly caught and prepared with the lightest of batter, the perfect amount of salt and a squeeze of lemon. HELL YES! Wash it down with a Basque sidra (cider) or Txakolina (local white wine) before pouncing to the beach less than five minutes away.
Calle del General Artetxe, 8 | Donostia (San Sebastián)
Incredible classics such as seared bacalao (salt cod) and new touches to Spanish/Basque flavors like raw salmon atop crushed avocado spiked with black sesame seeds. Grab what you like, pay later. We kept ordering and ordering without a miss. Really busy on Thursday nights.
Eliz Bailara, 8 | Bidegoian (Gipuzkoa/Guipúzcoa)
This XVII palace was converted into a luxury, four-star retreat that combines modern, sleek elegance with antique historical elements. The scenery inside the hotel and meandering the village will be a reprieve for stress.
Barkaiztegi Bidea, 42 | Donosita/San Sebastian (Gipuzkoa/Guipúzcoa)
The quality of food from this sidrería is no question, one of the best in the entire Basque Country; from cider to ox to a bacalao (salt cod) dish from grandma's recipe to the desserts are magical. I had never been a fan of Spanish tarta de queso (cheesecake) until I forked into their homemade version that was rich and fresh and tasting of every ingredient. Cuajada (soured-milk pudding almost like thick, raw, unsweetened yogurt) was the best way to end a meal fit for royalty or the most humble of palates.