San Sebastian is, without a doubt, Spain´s gastro-capital. The city offers many different ways to enjoy food. Before we go through the list of San Sebastian best restaurants, we will introduce briefly the gastronomy culture in San Sebastian and the Basque country in general.
During your visit to San Sebastian you will be able to enjoy high quality food in different versions.
Pintxos is the more affordable one. Pintxos, like tapas in the rest of Spain, imply bar hopping. Drinking and eating what is unique at each of the bars chosen for the day. Most bars in San Sebastian offer pintxos, but in some bars, in San Sebastian, you will be able to find the ultimate pintxo! Find out more in our San Sebastian pintxo guide.
The second option to enjoy food is a “Sociedad Gastronómica”. These societies are very different from 3 star Michelin restaurants. They represent however, the core of local gastronomy. They are private clubs, mostly for men, in which members are responsible for everything: fishing, hunting, purchasing food from the market, cooking…. And of course eating too. There are almost 800 sociedades gastronomicas only in Gipuzkoa (San Sebastian´s region).
There is one bad thing (or right, it depends on your side at the table!) about these private societies: they are private, and access is not opened to the public aside in some exceptions.
You can however, enjoy a friendly atmosphere which resembles the spirit of the societies at Cider houses.
These restaurants originated as places in which cider was produced, served from the barrel, and where people gathered to enjoy basic menus. Some of them have evolved into more formal restaurants, but you will most probably enjoy great atmosphere, simple but high-quality ingredients, and cider, lots of cider.
Michelin starred restaurants come next in our list of ways to enjoy food in San Sebastian, and they are the main focus of this article. They are the top of the ladder in quality, and, yes, your guess is correct, in price.
A young generation of chefs opened their minds to new concepts, ideas, and flavors. They used locally sourced ingredients (San Sebastian and all the surrounding region is full of fertile green valleys, and the Cantabrian sea brings everything else that is needed.
The name of Arzak is present in most people´s minds when they think of top quality gastronomy in Spain. Arzak initiated a revolution in the way Spanish gastronomy was to develop. Being from San Sebastian, his ideas and vision hit first in San Sebastian, but his influence had an important impact elsewhere in the country too.
If Arzak set the revolution for gastronomy in San Sebastian, the Basque country, and also Spain, his daughter keeps up with the tradition today. Elena Arzak follows the path of his father Juan Mari Arzak. Arzak has always stayed loyal to its own ethos in which regional, fresh and excellent ingredients is what counts most. Juan Mari Arzak is one of the most famous people in Spain, and a visit to his restaurant has many times been described as one experience you should not miss if you visit San Sebastian. In his laboratory, Arzak has pushed the boundaries and this has implied constant innovation at their kitchen-laboratory. Would you imagine a dish with images and sounds of the sea while you enjoy one of Arzak´s dishes? This illustrates some of the things you can expect at Arzak.
Pedro Subijana is the soul behind Akelarre. With his big mustache and a bigger smile, Subijana is a person that boasts optimism. Born in 1948 in San Sebastian, he opened Akelarre in 1975after having worked at some top restaurants like the famous Zalacain in Madrid and having been an active participant in the new basque cuisine movement led by Juan Mari Arzak.
Akelarre (which means an assembly of witches) is located at an amazing location with one of the best sea views in all the basque country. Akelarre is the fruit of passion and lots fo work. Pedro Subijana was about to study medicine, but he finally opted for hospitality and went to to study to Madrid.
His work has been along his wife, Ada, and together they have developed the concept to also include a 5 star hotel next to the restaurant. He has written several books, participated in TV shows and received many national and international awards.
Born in San Sebastian in 1960, Martin Berasategui is the only Spanish chek with 2 three star Michelin restaurants (one in San Sebastian and one in Barcelona) He has 10 stars in total at his different restaurants.
Martin was born in a family dedicated to gastronomy. The family-owned a traditional basque restaurant in the old quarter of San Sebastian. He studied mainly in France and he evolved the family restaurant (Bodegon Alejandro) to obtain a first Michelin star.
Berasategui focuses on local products and believes in hard work, technique, and teamwork. At his restaurants, many young chefs have learned, got inspired, and developed to become some of Spain´s top chefs.
Andoni Luis Aduriz is the name behind Mugaritz, a restaurant located outside of San Sebastian in Errentería. Aduriz is a very creative chef and his vibrant imagination translates into a menu that gets as innovative and challenging as a Michelin star restaurant can get.
The restaurant is located at a rural environment and has a small vegetable garden inside.
He studied in San Sebastian with top chefs and went to work at ElBuli, the famous restaurant from Ferra Adria. After spending there 2 years he became sous chef to Adria and then moved to work with Martin Berasategui in Lasarte.
At Mugaritz poetry and gastronomy go hand in hand.
This restaurant is owned by chef Martín Berasategui. In case you would not like to “enjoy” the price of Berasategui´s 3 star Michelin restaurant, Eme Be Garrote is a great option to enjoy his gastronomy at a far less expensive bill. Very interesting tasting menus.
The restaurant is located at the premises of what used to be a traditional sidreria and the philosophy behind the restaurant could be described as a deluxe cider house. Tradition reinvented in this one-star restaurant in San Sebastian at reasonable prices.
Kokotxa, as the name suggests, is all about ingredients. The restaurant is run by chef Daniel Lopez. The restaurant is located in the old quarter of San Sebastian, very close to the harbor. This is a restaurant where you will find like at home due to the cozy atmosphere. Traditional food and two fantastic tasting menus. An excellent choice to enjoy a deeply rooted Michelin star restaurant in San Sebastian.
If you are looking not just for an amazing restaurant but also a perfect location el Mirador de Ulía is probably your best choice. The restaurant boasts outstanding views over the Zurriola beach.
The restaurant is run by Ruben Trincado, the 3rd generation in the family in charge of the restaurant. Respect to tradition is important at Mirador de Ulía, but you will not be disappointed either in case you are looking for a bit of fantasy, but do not expect over-experiminting.
The restaurant is perched on a hillside (we would not recommend to walk!) and with large windows the views are simply fantastic. One thing is for sure, this is not the “typical” restaurant with great views but which fails to deliver on the food front!
Our favorite option for romantic meals.
Argentinian chef Paulo Airaudo can be described a father (the name of the restaurant is after his daugether), a chef and a star war fan! You will discover this last fact if you visit his restaurant, located at the boutique hotel Villa Favorita in la Concha beach. A seasonal tasting menu that puts a strong focus on ingredients from small local producers. 2 very interesting options: an open kitchen to enjoy the live experience of seeing the team cook and also the fact most wines are served on the glass to facilitate the pairing.