In Biscay, drinking good wine and spending time with our friends is intrinsic to our character so, with the years, we have mastered the art of the ‘poteo’ to combine these two passions. ‘Potear’ means going out for a wine with our friends while chatting about life or singing songs. And that is exactly what we do, one pub after another. The thing is we cannot live on txakoli alone, so ‘pintxos’ were created from the need to eat something solid during the ‘poteo’, which adds another weakness of ours to the equation: our passion for food.

Since this tradition began, we have devoured countless hard-boiled eggs called ‘huevos de txikitero’ and tried a thousand and one varieties of Spanish omelettes. Something as simple but as sublime as a ‘Gilda’ shares space on the counters with the most surprising miniature samples of haute cuisine. We can say our pintxos have become an attraction themselves, sparking off heated debate over where the best grilled mushrooms are made, or motivating local competitions to choose the best ‘pintxos’ in the neighbourhood or in town.

Even though you can find top-quality ‘pintxos’ all over Biscay, if these delicious gastronomical delights make your mouth water, the Casco Viejo in the heart of Bilbao is the place for you. With its hundreds of bars, pubs, gastropubs, cafés, and restaurants, the Casco Viejo is a must visit for #FoodLovers. As you will realise, the most historic streets in Bilbao are full of legends and monuments, but they also home to one of the largest –and, as the locals say, one of the best– offers of ‘pintxos’ not only in Biscay but in the whole world.

The areas where the cuadrillas like to move around are just a few metres away from one another: the Plaza Nueva, characterised by its porticoes and the large space occupied by terraces; Calle Somera, one of the most popular streets for the ‘txikiteo’; the always crowded corner where Calle Santa María, Calle Pelota and Calle del Perro converge; Barrenkale and Barrenkale Barrena, two streets that are full of activity at night; or Plaza Unamuno, Calle María Muñoz and Calle Iturribide, which are lively all day long.

In any of these areas, the same as in nearby streets, our ‘pintxos’ are undeniably the star attractions. From morning till night, the best traditional and innovative ‘pintxos’ in Biscay will be there waiting for you to taste them.

There is only one thing you should remember when you go to Casco Viejo for ‘pintxos’: make sure you leave some room in your stomach to have lunch or dinner at one of the local restaurants later. It is in this labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares that some of the most longstanding restaurants in Bilbao can be found, and they will delight you with those recipes that have made our gastronomy internationally famous. The Mercado de la Ribera supplies them with the finest quality fresh products –from the fish caught off Biscayan shores to the meat and vegetables produced on our inland farms or ‘caseríos’–, making it possible for local chefs and cooks to surprise us with dishes as outstanding as cod ‘al pil-pil’ or ‘a la bizkaina’, ‘marmitako’, ‘txipirones’ (squids), ‘anchovies’, hake, ‘pisto’ (stewed vegetables), piperade, or a good veal chop.

Outside Bilbao and its Casco Viejo, there is a vast number of restaurants and traditional dishes to discover. In the seafaring town of Ondarroa, you can have succulent cod ‘a la ondarresa’. In Santurtzi, its famed grilled sardines will not disappoint you. If what you want is to find the best kidney beans, there are two places in Biscay in which they are cooked just beautifully. One of them is La Arboleda, a former mining site accessible by an almost-hundred-year-old funicular. There, kidney beans are prepared with all their ‘sacramentos’ (black pudding, chorizo, bacon, etc.). The other place is the medieval town of Balmaseda. You can get there by train, after crossing the narrow Cadagua valley, and try kidney beans cooked in ‘putxeras’, in the same way railway workers used to do it back in the day.

 As it is impossible to choose which one is better, we personally recommend that you try both of them. If possible, accompany your meals with a good txakoli –a fruity white wine made with grapes grown near the sea in vineyards planted on the southern slopes of our hills–. As for dessert, those who have a sweet tooth will have the opportunity to give themselves a treat with our ‘carolinas’, ‘pastel ruso’, ‘ori-baltzak’ –sorts of chocolates made in Gernika–, and ‘cocotes’ –which you can get in Markina-Xemein–. Last but not least, do not forget to try some delicious Idiazabal cheese.

In Bizkaia you can try traditional dishes, taste modern meals rewarded with a Michelin star, go after the latest trends in international cuisine or learn how to make Basque delicacies in a cooking workshop.

  • Gastronomy could be among the reasons that have brought you to Bizkaia. It is a good choice, indeed. Basque cuisine is known the world over. Once here, you will understand why.

    In Bizkaia, pintxos are a must. These bite-size culinary treasures are deeply-rooted in Basque culinary traditions. They will turn your trip to Bizkaia into a feast for your senses.