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Bilbao and Beyond - The Basque country

Bilbao and Beyond - The Basque country

Trip Plan Tags: 
food + wine + culture
Basque Country,

Enjoy the cuisine, wines and culture of the Basque country from Bilbao to San Sebastian-Donostia and Laguardia, in the Rioja Alavesa.



Mugaritz, Spain

Otzazulueta Caserío, 20 Aldura Aldea
Errentería, Spain
Tel: 34 943 522 455

If you're just looking to sate your hunger, steer clear of this restaurant just outside San Sebastián. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz's place, set in a rustic yet modern caserío (country cottage), is better suited to those seeking gustatory revelation. Aduriz's dishes combine flavors and textures in unexpected, always delicious ways: Flourless gnocchi are made with kudzu starch and Idiazábal cheese and served with an Ibérico ham broth; lamb shoulder, cooked at a low temperature for 30 hours, is paired with root vegetables and glazed with a slightly bitter honey. Desserts like violet ice cream with chocolate shavings and almonds are similarly wonderful. You can order à la carte, but it's a much better idea to indulge in the heavenly tasting menu (eight to 12 courses).

Closed Mondays. No dinner Sundays; no lunch Tuesdays.


Asador Portuetxe, Spain

43 Portuetxe Kalea
San Sebastián, Spain
Tel: 34 943 215 018

For a classic but casual Basque meal, head to this 400-year-old farmhouse in the university district of Ibaeta. The historic structure, surrounded on all sides by high-rise buildings, is a charmingly stubborn testament to another era. Inside, it's all white walls, wood beams, and long tables, and the menu reads like a culinary history of the region: Gernika and piquillo peppers, grilled hake, bacalao omelet, lettuce hearts with anchovies, and baby squid with caramelized onions. Order an assortment of things to share, including the wonderful chuleta, a massive hunk of tender, grilled ox meat, and you'll be thankful that the place has survived the vagaries of time.

Villa Soro

$400 or more
Editor's Pick


Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Spain

1 Calle Torrea
Elciego, Spain
Tel: 34 945 180 880

In the heart of the Rioja wine region (about an hour south of Bilbao) this 2006 Frank Gehry-designed hotel has titanium curves that echo those of Bilbao's Guggenheim. From the outside, the main structure, with its 15 irregularly shaped rooms, shimmers like a large present that's been wrapped in crinkly, shiny paper. Inside, the rooms are airy and light, with contrasting white-linen and blond-wood furnishings, and slanted windows with views of the surrounding vines. (There's also a second building, which contains 29 slightly larger, less quirky accommodations.) The Starwood chain seems to have pulled out all the stops for this place: Besides the rooftop lounge with its open fireplace, there's a restaurant helmed by talented chef Francis Paniego, serving traditional Rioja cuisine; the hotel also houses the swanky Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa, where you can be soaked and slathered in products containing wine. If consuming vino is more to your taste, that's an option, too, at the in-house wine and tapas bar. Guests are guaranteed a reservation for the 90-minute tour of the famed Marqués de Riscal winery, which would otherwise need to be booked months in advance.



Hotel Iturregi, Spain

Barrio Azkizu
Getaria 20808, Spain
Tel: 34 943 89 61 34


Andra Mari, Spain

22 Barrio Elexalde
Galdakao, Spain
Tel: 34 94 456 0050

Entering this converted Basque farmhouse, set next to a 13th-century church in the small town of Galdakao—about a 15-minute drive from Bilbao—feels like stepping into a storybook. After being seated in the dining room with its beamed ceiling and embroidered table linens (or, weather permitting, the porch with its view of the mountains), you'll be greeted by a waitress in a traditional bonnet and apron. Chef Isidro Arribas's six- and ten-course tasting menus give you a chance to try a variety of traditional dishes, like marinated bonito served with garlic oil and tomato bread crumbs, or a fragrant, smoky, roasted choricero pepper that comes with a fresh anchovy. You can also order à la carte.

Mon.—Thurs. lunch only. Fri. and Sat. lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays.


Aizian, Spain

29 Calle Lehendakari Leizaola
Bilbao 48001, Spain
Tel: 34 94 428 0039

Chef José Miguel Olazabalaga serves up some truly inventive creations in this angular, glossy wooden box of a dining room. Foie gras is wrapped in a thin skin of smoked bread, served with a gelée of salted cherries and arugula mayonnaise; grilled squid are drizzled in pumpkin and almond cream; and Iberian pork comes with black rice and a sunflower-seed turrón (like nougat). If you haven't the time or inclination to try the full seven- or nine-course tasting menus, you can simply order à la carte.

Open Mondays through Saturdays.


Gaminiz, Spain

212 Parque Tecnológico
Zamudio, Spain
Tel: 34 94 431 7025

The culinary headquarters of native chef Aitor Elizegi, Gaminiz is set in an improbably pretty industrial park 20 minutes' drive outside Bilbao. Here, Elizegi fuses flavors and textures with thoroughly satisfying results. Fresh anchovies, topped with coarse-ground salt and served with celery gazpacho and green apple "tartare," are a perfect balance of salty, sour, and sweet. The marmita de txipirón, strands of baby squid cut to resemble fettuccine and served with a savory Parmesan broth, is a playful take on a classic Basque ingredient. Pork fans shouldn't miss the papada, a cube of salted jowl served with artichoke carpaccio and a tangy lime meringue foam. If you can't get out of the city, try visiting Elizegi's sister restaurant, Baita Gaminiz (meaning "also Gaminiz" in the Basque language), located in the center of Bilbao (20 Alameda de Mazarredo; 34-94-424-2267; closed Sundays, no dinner Mondays).

Mon.—Wed. lunch only.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.