The Best of Basque Country

By Lola Méndez

The Best of Basque Country

By Lola Méndez

Basque in the finest flavors of Spain’s wine culture and gastronomy.

Along the northern shores of the Iberian Peninsula is one of Europe’s most celebrated gastronomical regions—the Basque Country. Known as Euskadi in the local Basque language, this small destination is jam-packed with world-renowned cuisine from Michelin-starred restaurants to mouth-watering bite-sized pintxos. In Euskadi, you can also experience the best of Spain’s wine culture by visiting Rioja and Txakoli wineries. Here’s what not to miss when in search of the wine culture and gastronomy in Basque Country, Spain.

Award-winning Restaurants

Basque Country is unique from anywhere else in Spain with its distinct language, culture, and cuisine. Many Basque restaurants have received prestigious recognition. You can dine at three of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 in Euskadi including Asador Etxebarri for a lunch-time prix fixe tasting menu of local meat and fish; Elkano for ancestral methods of preparing seafood; and Mugaritz for a tasting menu of up to 25 dishes.

There’s also a large selection of Michelin-starred restaurants where to enjoy dining. Basque Country has the highest per capita concentration of Michelin star restaurants in the world, while the Basque coastal city of San Sebastian has the second largest number of Michelin stars per square mile. Book a reservation at Arrea! for native cuisine, Nerua at the Guggenheim Bilbao to dine in a renowned museum, and Elkano to enjoy fresh-caught seafood on a terrace.

Must-try Pintxos

For a quick, affordable, traditional meal do as the Basques do and have pintxos—small bite-sized plates created with local, in-season produce grown at huertos (vegetable gardens) and caseríos (farmhouses). It’s common to only order one or two of the tiny bite-sized dishes at the first restaurant and then move on to the next restaurant bar for more food. This way you can sample more of the Basque cuisine and get to experience several restaurants for one meal.

This uniquely Basque tradition started with the “txikitear” custom of going from bar to bar to have txikitos (small glasses of wine) accompanied by pintxos. Traditional pintxos include gildas (chilies with olives and anchovy) and banderillas (pickles speared on a toothpick). Nanogastronomy has become innovative over the years—try txipiron (baby squid) stuffed with crème of boletus, sautéed vegetable mile-feuilles, and any of the other 3,000 miniature plates.

Rioja & Txakoli Wineries

Wherever you’re dining, you’re sure to pair your meal with Rioja Alavesa and Txakoli wines. Rioja Alavesa’s ancient vineyards of Tempranillo grapes are surrounded by the Sierra de Cantabria and irrigated by the Ebro River. While you’re in Basque Country visit at least one winery (known as bodegas) such as Ysios, Baigorri, or Riscal for tours and tastings.

Txakoli is another must-try wine as it’s exclusive to Euskadi. Taste the wine, which is always served chilled, in the heart of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve at Bodega Berroja where you’ll walk through the vineyards before the wine tasting. Visit the family-owned Hiruzta Txakoli cellar and taste wine while enjoying views of Aiako Harria Natural Park.

For a truly unique experience visit Plentzia near Bilbao and see the underwater winery, the first artificial reef-submarine winery in the world.

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Basque County Confidential

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