Move over, Barcelona and Madrid; when it comes to Spanish food, it’s all about the Basque region. Packed with foodie havens, the area is one of the best places to visit in Europe this year, giving you a varied taste of authentic local bites. While you’re guaranteed a good meal practically anywhere in the region, the city of Bilbao is bound to serve you exactly what you want, all in a series of small plates. Having mastered local pintxos, the city is at the top of its game, hosting some of the best bars in the region. Knives and forks at the ready; these Basque bars are seriously going to whet your appetite.
It might look like a run–of–the–mill cafe to the untrained eye, but take a closer look at El Huevo Frito’s menu and you will be in for a tasty surprise. Cheery and chock full of locals, this pintxos bar has some of the finest bites for miles around and is well worth a visit if you’re in town. Plates piled high with quails eggs feature morsels of anchovies dripping in the best olive oil you’re going to taste this year. Platters of spicy sausages pair well with the bar’s specialty, pig’s trotter pintxos. It might not be the prettiest food you’ve ever seen, but it does go down like a treat.
If you’re more of a grazer than a feaster, Peso Neto is the spot for you. Open at all hours of the day and night, this is the place for a light bite, a revitalizing coffee, or a full-fledged tasting platter. As well as being a fully functioning bar, Peso Neto has full lunch and dinner menus, each one sampling some of the best pintxos in the region. Stop in for a coffee, drop in for a late lunch, and finish your day up with a small plate or two — with offerings like these, there’s no reason why you can’t make a full day of it.
Looking for something a little bit more upscale? Take your seat at Bar El Globo. Bringing in a more elite crowd from the nearby government building, the bar is the perfect place in which to sample some of the finer pintxos. Listed on a blackboard menu at the top of the bar, the small plates read like something off a fine dining menu. With anything from artichoke tempura to marinated anchovies and spider crab au gratin on the list, you’re guaranteed a meal to remember.
Brought to life in 1927, La Viña del Ensanche is one of the most charming eateries in Bilbao, with a menu to match. Once a hotspot for the city’s intellectuals and creatives, this pintxos bar has maintained its reputation over the years, surviving as one of the best spots in town. Packed to the rafters and always buzzing, the bar nonetheless manages to offer a menu of traditional small plates that you’re not likely to forget for a while. Feeling peckish? Order yourself some acorn-fed ham, piled high on a sharing plate, or individually arranged on a half plate if you don’t feel like sharing. Savour every bite; this sort of meal is a rare find.
Thought gastronomy and pintxos were opposing entities? Think again. Thanks to the innovative fare at Gure Toki, you can test both cooking styles at the same time. The bar’s specialty comes in the form of grilled foie with a side of apple, but there’s plenty more on offer if that doesn’t tickle your fancy. With plenty of outdoor seating and a view of the Plaza Nueva, this bar is worth a visit.