Best Places to Eat & Work in San Sebastian

by - February 03, 2019

Best places to eat and work in san sebastian

Oh, Donosti, Donosti baby... what a delicious city you are. With your Pintxos (tiny tapas bites, pronounced peenchos) and canas (small glasses of beer, pronounced 'canyas') you keep the people ticking along nicely, impartial to the atrocious weather which descends upon the city in January and February. I lived there for three months from Feb to May in 2018 and then revisited last week in January 2019. Here's a guide of the best picks in which to eat or spend some time studying. I've included the area and links to their websites where available. You're welcome. Happy travels.

best places to eat san sebastian

I love the wild sea that spits its salty air and foam all over the city. The smell of the sea used to come in my window when I lived in Gros. In the Winter, the waves can reach 20ft and a few years ago the river broke four of the bridges with its brute force.  The powerful landscape emanates a feminine vibration as the city lays nestled between the sea and the mountains, enwombed.

In the old town, people scurry down narrow lanes to be welcomed by warm lighting and long bars showcasing plate after plate of exquisite miniature creations, as far as the eye can see. They serve many a purpose: dinner, lunch, snack, aperitif or just bar snack to help line your stomach. That said, the Basque country didn't stand out as a particularly drinky culture, compared to Booze Britain, despite their reputation for being slightly outlandish. I saw it more like part of life, a way of life, just as we like our tea in England; to be drunk ceremonially as part of the afternoon. Beers there, are just like having a cuppa, it's not your five pints of Stella down, shirt off and getting arrested like England does. 

On a Thursday night, across the whole city is Pintxo-Pote, where you can pick up a drink (pote) and a pinxto for a euro or 2 euros in Gros, the trendy area. Amazing.

What else? Oh yeah, it's SICK for surfing. Hired a 7"2 mini mal off an English dude. He's safe and prices were so cheap for hiring a wettie and a board for the whole month (message me for more info). Surf on the left of Zurriola (near the river) is smaller than on the right (near the mountain) Ahhh it was so good to just roll up to the beach and jump in the sea.

best places to eat and work san sebastian


Aralar, Portu Kalea (old town)

This bar is so quintessentially Basque. You can see through to the kitchens where people are constantly crafting Pinxtos in order to keep the plates fully stocked throughout the day. There's no question of freshness. As you enter and survey the bar and worry slightly about the dozens of hanging pig legs above your head falling down upon you in an almighty crash. Imagine reading the headlines "Food Blogger ironically killed by pork leg on gastro trip to foodie hub" oh lol.
You are welcomed by the friendly barman. I say friendly. Remember customer service in Spain is NOT LIKE ENGLAND. He will look at you until you speak and may or may not smile. 

OK I'm going to teach you some Spanish. You will probably be ok to speak English to some but it's polite to try. And we are polite aren't we?

 I lived there for 3 months and I have also spent time in South America, Mexico and lived in Spain for two consequtive summers so theoretically I SHOULD have some command of Spanish now but I only really have basic cafe Spanish so here goes...

Plato por favor (plate please)
y dos vino tintos (and two red wines)"

See? easy. Then you take your pinxtos, tell him the number you have, tres or quatro or cinco or something and then collect your drink, sit down and gorge. 

San Sebastian Old town
aralar bar san sebastian best places to eat
England in a pintxo! Oi oi!

watch out

Gerkin split filled with tuna topped with salsa verde, goats cheese, sundried tomato and jam, anchovy, fish and capers pate...

So cheap, you can fill your plate with 4 large pinxtos and have a glass of wine for under ten euros.
Then, at the end, you emerge and present euros to him and say something like 'podemos pagar' if you're with someone else or 'puedo pagar' if you're alone. Bob's your uncle, you are ready for all Latino countries. Go. 

Atari, Calle Mayor (old town)

I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pinxtos in this bar because they're so beautiful! Atari is just around the corner from Aralar (above) and is in a prime position for the weekend... you can hang out outside and sit on the Cathedral steps with your drinks, soaking up the street culture, which is so prevalent. One night we went to a bar which was PITCH BLACK inside with about 5 people at the bar. I had to use my phone torch to get to the toilets (no joke) and the music was loud rock and smoky. I was not feeling it. I asked my mates if we could stand outside (in the rain) where there was fresh air, people, and dogs! Turns out the Basque country and Ireland have history! They share many DNA traits and go way back. I'm not getting into it here because I don't really know but Google it if you're interested. 

Really cute bakery with a Peruvian theme and amazing oat milk cappuccinos right near the sea. I loved this place because of it's proximitey to the sea (it's across the road) and the Wifi was good allowing decent work to be done plus it was quiet and the bakery smelt gorgeous. 

Tabakalera (Near the bus station)

So good for studying or working. Tabakalera is a big, white, vast space to study, shop, eat and drink. It has a cool interior almost like you're in a Tate gallery/library with five floors filled with different exhibitions and spaces to hire or books or laptops to borrow (Yes you can borrow a laptop).
On the ground floor is a collection of different eateries all within the same space, that do deliciously drippy pizza, coffee, beers and a selection of cakes. It's dark, in a clean, chic and cosy way and there's a grand piano. My favourite shop inside is the little art shop which sells bespoke prints. Check out the two I took home:

Tabakalera San Sebastian
Pizza at Tabakalera

Sakona (Gros)

Coffee San Sebastian Gros

OMG the coffee. OMG the smell of this place as you walk in. OMG the staff are so nice and OMG the  coffee you can have freshly ground to take home, OMFG. 

Each day they're making coffees with a different blend and they have them displayed so you can read about the origin and the process and the flavours involved.

It's a great place to work because it's light, spacious and super chill. Although it can get really busy because it's so popular. 

They always serve your coffee with a glass of water which is a really appreciated touch. 

sakona coffee san sebastian

And the cake is amazing, too. This is the carrot cake. 
They have a simple menu comprising of sandwiches, freshly pressed juices, smashed avo and poached eggs on toast and other delights such as pas

Koh Tao (On the left of the River in Central)

Initially went here on a Friday night and walked into a PUMPING evening atmosphere but it also doubles up as a relaxing study spot. They do funky beats and tasty eats and INSANE mokas (mocha) that are 50% syrup but exactly what you need when you are not drinking booze and feel like something a little bit naughty - sugary Saturday nights. 

Koh tao cafe san sebastian

It's also a great place to work during the day and they do lunch deals and you can have a toast (tosta) with ham and tomatoes and oil (absolute nightmare to eat politely. You try to bite the ham but it's so fatty and delicious that it won't tear so you end up eating the whole piece off the toast in the first bite, being left with the tomato looking lost) It's also super cheap.

Places to work in san sebastian
My co-working beauty, Nora

Maiatza (old town)

Maiatza is a great Argentinian inspired cafe with the fellow restaurant a few streets away. From the tiny cafe (takeaway only) you can get a selection of really healthy stuff such as fresh juices, coffees, turmeric lattes and takeaway smoothies, salads and quiches and they do THE BEST brownies.

best places to eat san sebastian healthy

For dinner in the restaurant, you can get a selection of burgers, salads (which come with brown rice) nachos with guacamole, chicken escalopes and huge steak sandwiches. They also do English menus! Win!

best places to eat san sebastian

Bodega Donostiarra (Gros)

The polpo that's everywhere in San Sebastian is great.  One particular place which does fantastic pintxos which include polpo salad (pictured) which is really fresh and a nice alternative to the mostly bread-based other pinxtos. 

best places to eat san sebastian
Polpo salad 
We had a proper sit down dinner here as well which was delicious, with the higlight being this huge piece of polpo (octopus) on a delightful root veg puree. 
best places to eat in San Sebastian

Cafe Botanika (over the bridge from the bus station)

Aww this magical little cafe wins my heart because it's covered in plants! Colourful flowers and a beautifully naturally-lit conservatory upstairs in which you can eat makes for such a lovely setting. They offer fresh juices, alcohol, coffees which come with a little spoonful of dessert sometimes (that was a nice surprise). I often went there to eat, meet a friend or study and we would even work on our laptops outside in the pouring rain under the awning, which was SO cosy.

best places to eat san sebastian

My go-to was the quiches. Freshly made each day and so creamy and perfect.

best places to eat san sebastian

Inside is fun and they have a DJ on a Sunday afternoon through to evening. 

citrus trees
On our most recent trip, we tried the red cabbage and feta salad, right up Raw Rhubarb's street, and Liam had the Kofta with babaganoush and couscous. We loved both dishes and they were served with complimentary cups of fantastic vegetable soup as well as integral (wholegrain) bread. We followed this with the banana and cacao cake which was rich, moist and perfectly sized, just enough, with a velvety chocolate sauce.

kafe botanika san sebastian

best places to eat san sebastian

Cafe Loft (Gros)

Possibly the best chocolate cake I've ever had in my life and a very surprisingly good warm goat's cheese salad with lashings of balsamic. The coffee is good. The Spanish omelette here is also good (tortilla Española) 

best places to eat san sebastian

Other places I've not got pictures of but are worth a mention

- The Yellow Deli (near the sea in Old town) very calm and really healthy menu
- Cafe Bodega (big, spacious, sea views, chilled)

Bonus place! Le B2 Biarritz 

We ate at an AMAZING French restaurant in Biarritz, which is just an hour away by bus or 20 minutes on the train. The owner welcomed us with such friendliness and charm, speaking to us in perfect English and explained the specials board as well as the menu to us. Liam chose fish and I chose sauteed squid, chorizo and ratatouille for main (special) with cream of butternut squash soup to start and freshly made profiteroles as well as French sheep's cheese with blackcurrant jelly to finish.

butternut soup topped with whipped cream and lardons

The owner filleted the turbot at the table for us and the service was seamless - our water was refilled without us knowing and we were treated like long lost friends. Highly recommended.

I hope you can take something away from this post about the tasty wonders of the Basque country. Let me know where you go!

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Lots of love
Jenna x

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