Pintxos, a typically Basque food ritual
The essence of the Basque culinary culture can be summarised in just one word: ‘pintxos’, snacks served on a stick in any bar in Bizkaia
Pintxos used to be eaten by the Basque people well after breakfast and before lunch, as a mid-morning snack. With the sophistication of gastronomy, they have become real culinary art pieces, recognised as haute cuisine bites.
In Bizkaia, going out for pintxos is deeply rooted in local culture, as are concepts such as poteo (hopping from one bar to another for drinks and pintxos) and txikiteros (men who meet in bars after work to drink wine from a small glass called txikito).
Poteo and pintxos cannot exist without each other. Pintxos are small bites, named after the toothpick stuck in them. We kindly invite you to come with us on a pintxos tour across Bilbao. Are you ready? Off we go!
A taste of Basque cuisine
Culinary Nation's heart
In Bizkaia, people love food so much that meals are a kind of ritual. Poteo consists in going from bar to bar, chatting and having pintxos that are washed down with a txikito of wine or a zurito (small beer).
Long ago, pintxos were simple snacks; nowadays, however, they are true stars of small-sized gastronomy. In Bizkaia, you will be able to enjoy the custom of going out for pintxos. There are a host of bars and an endless variety of pintxos to choose from, from tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) to tiny servings of modern haute cuisine.
Traditionally, txikiteros were groups of men who met for a drink after work. Txikiteros are the kings of poteo. In the old days, they were groups of men who would meet at the end of a day’s hard work to drink a txikito. Nowadays, the custom is open to everyone. Txikiteros know everything about every bar in Bilbao. Each bunch sets its own predefined tour. They normally sing, chat and laugh a lot, creating an atmosphere of joy wherever they go. Every year, on 11 October, Amatxu Begoña’s Day, they celebrate the Day of Txikiteros as well. They bring flowers to the image of Virgin Mary that sits in the Old Town, between Calle Santa María and Calle Pelota, and then they go bar crawling in the Siete Calles area of the Old Town, singing at the top of their lungs.
There are a zillion bars in Bilbao where you can taste different styles of pintxos. We have planned six tours across El Botxo, as Bilbaínos call their city. The most traditional tour runs through the Old Town, or Casco Viejo, populated with nearly 200 taverns, the best-known of them standing in Plaza Nueva and Plaza Unamuno, as well as on Calle Santa María, Calle Somera and Calle Jardines. Each one serving its own specialty, the oldest establishments have been there for over a century.
We have planned six tours across El Botxo, as Bilbaínos call their city, where you can taste different pintxos
Are you a football fan? If so, you should head for Calle Licenciado Poza, leading to San Mamés stadium. On matchdays when Athletic Club Bilbao play at home, young fans fill the bars before the game.
Adjoining Gran Via, Calle del Músico Ledesma is a pedestrian street with a great, although somewhat different, atmosphere. Patrons here tend to be older, including mostly businessmen. In Calle de la Diputación, across Gran Vía, there are fashionable bars serving both traditional and innovative pintxos. On weekdays, the bars in this part of town are visited mostly by professionals, while at weekend they are filled with families.
Your pintxos tour may also start in the residential area of Ensanche, very popular with tourists and close to the Guggenheim Museum. Heros, Lersundi, Iparragirre, Henao, Mazarredo and Máximo Agirre are some of the streets lined with bars that offer fashionable snacking experiences in Bilbao.
The area of Indautxu and Plaza Arriquibar is particularly charming. The bars that flank the street will dazzle you with mouth-watering plates of food, both small and big.
How To Get There
Where to eat
It is not easy to choose from the different types of bars and restaurants in Bilbao. To grasp the essence of traditional poteo, head for the Old Town. At Plaza Unamuno there is Bar Bacaicoa. Established in 1965, it has been making chorizos al infierno (chorizo in Hell) and champiñones a la gloria or al purgatorio (mushrooms in Heavenin Purgatory) for half a century. Likewise, Joserra has been pleasing palates since 1924.
For a seafood meal, stop in one of the following places: Fermín, a tavern on Calle Iturribide (within walking distance of Plaza Unamuno), whose best pintxos are made with codfish. In Calle Muñoz María, the bar Baste serves excellent mussels. The bars and restaurants around Plaza Nueva, which holds its own market every Sunday, are interesting to explore.
Opened almost a century ago Bar Bilbao offers delicious pintxos plus the chance to travel back in time.