Txikiteo 101: 5 Steps Until You Master Bar Hopping in San Sebastian

The secret to eating pintxos like a local is to master the txikiteo, a Basque-style food crawl. 

In San Sebastian you can’t avoid seeing bar counters full of mouthwatering little pintxos, the local version of tapas. But it doesn’t end there. Basque people are also famous for creating a unique way of going out for pintxos, called txikiteo in the Basque language

A rough translation for txikiteo would be bar hopping or a food crawl. What it means in practice is that we go from bar to bar, eating a pintxo or two and washing them down with a glass of fresh txakoli or local cider at each stop. 

But how can you do txikiteo like a true donostiarra? We’ve collected five insider’s tips to master the art of Basque style bar-hopping:

Txikiteo is the art of pintxos-crawling in the Basque Country. Check out our guide to learn all the secrets!

1. Head to La Parte Vieja for a pintxos tour in San Sebastian

Ready to start devouring those tasty pintxos? Great, then La Parte Vieja, San Sebastian’s Old Town, is your number one destination. 

Fun fact: This part of the city is famous for having the highest concentration of bars and restaurants in the world! And that makes it a perfect neighborhood for txikiteo

This is also where our Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos and Wine Tour takes place, visiting some of the best bars and hidden gems of the town. 

If you have already seen the Old Town and want to step off the beaten path, you can also do your txikiteo in one of the authentic, local neighborhoods. We recommend the Gros and Centro areas—both great places for discovering more pintxo bars! 

A txikiteo is a Basque style tapas crawl.
Consider taking your txikiteo off the beaten path to the Centro neighborhood!

2. Don’t be afraid of crowded bars—or litter on the floor

There are two important points that you have to keep in mind when in search of a perfect pintxo bar:

Firstly, we love crowded pintxo bars! When you find a place that looks like it’s absolutely impossible for any more people to enter—that’s THE bar. That’s where we want to be. Remember that in Spain (and in the Basque Country), our concept of personal space (or lack thereof) might be different than what you’re used to, so don’t be afraid to get close to your fellow pintxo devourers. 

Secondly, and as weird as it may sound, we want to go to the bars that seem to have the dirtiest floors in town! It’s not uncommon for locals to toss used napkins on the floor. So, dirty floor equals local people and local people equals great pintxos. 

A true txikiteo in San Sebastian takes place in the most crowded of bars.
When it comes to txikiteo, the more, the merrier!

3. Order txikitos!

When it comes to drinks, we say less is more. 

Typically, we only eat a maximum of two pintxos in each bar (every bar has their specialty, and that’s all we’re ordering) and then we continue to the next one. Keeping that in mind, we prefer to order drinks in small sizes—just enough to wash down the tasty bite. 

You’ll hear the locals ordering a txikito (a small glass) of txakoli or red wine. We also invented the zurito, a tiny glass of draft beer, which is the perfect size for txikiteo

4. Do your food crawl right before dinner

You might not be expecting this one, but in general, pintxos are not considered a substitute for a meal. They’re more like snacks between meals, something you nibble on during a short break or after work, before going back home for dinner. 

Permission to eat pintxos all day long? Granted! 

In the Basque Country, like in Spain in general, dinner usually doesn’t start until after 9 p.m. What to do if your stomach starts rumbling earlier? It’s no wonder that meeting up with your cuadrilla, or group of friends, between 7 and 8 p.m. for pintxos is very typical. And friends are actually a very important part of txikiteo, which brings us to our final tip…

Some of the best tapas in San Sebastian can be found at old-school, traditional pintxos bars.
Pintxos’ small size makes them a perfect snack.

5. Socialize!

Socializing is an inseparable part of the txikiteo culture, and that’s the beauty of the whole thing. (Along with the heavenly food and amazing drinks that the Basque Country has to offer, of course.) 

Txikiteo is at its best with a group of friends and family, and in a small city like San Sebastian we always run into familiar faces. There’s no better time to have a chat with your aunt’s neighbor’s dentist. And if you don’t know anyone, that’s okay too—we love to exchange opinions about the food or weather with strangers! 

Ready to experience a classic Basque txikiteo for yourself? We’ve got you covered—our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour is exactly that. Join us for a night spent sipping and snacking your way around the storied Old Town, and you’ll leave armed with the confidence you need to enjoy txikiteo on your own.

Leave a Reply