When in Basque country, enjoy pintxos (pronounced peen-choes), the more elaborate Basque version of tapas. Generally these are bite-sized rounds of toast topped with anything, from salt cod and sea urchin to goat’s cheese in manzanilla sherry. It is customary locally to crawl through various pintxos bars, enjoying many plates of pintxos with their drinks, before going home to dinner. One particular pintxos bar to note is Gure Toki, an award-winning establishment which combines traditional and experimental pintxos, located at Plaza Nueva in the heart of Casco Viejo (the Old Town).

Bilbao has added its own quirks to some particular pintxos dishes, such as pisto a la bilbaina, a ratatouille made with onions, peppers, courgettes, tomatoes, beaten eggs and hamm, all cut up into very small pieces. The ‘Ranero Club Cod’ was invented by the Bilbao Society Club’s French chef, Alejandro Caverivière, in the 1930s. It is not known for sure as to how the dish got its name, but there are two popular theories: the first is that the cod was served to a group gathered at wine tables to play a game of rana (the throwing game of ‘frog’) and Caverivière added fried onions, green peppers, tomato and chorizo peppers to the traditional bacalao al pil-pil cod dish as more friends turned up. The second theory is simply that the French chef created it in honour of the Rana Players’ Club.

Mixed vegetables feature in typical Bilbao dishes, including battered and fried vegetables such as chard, artichokes, peas, beans or chard stalks, as well as egg and lamb. This is usually finished with a dessert called the Straws of Bilbao, and two sandwiches.

Bilbao bakers specialise in various desserts, many of which are based on pastry. A typical Bilbao sweet is the ‘bollo de mantequilla’ or butter bun. First adapted by two Swiss cousins, Pedro Bernardo and Francesco Matossi Franconi, who established a bakery in the old town in 1813, this butter bun is a kind of Swiss or brioche bun cut in half, and filled with a layer of butter cream, egg and a layer of sugar on top. A similar sweet with a pastry base and creamy filling is the pastel de arro\. Puff patties filled with custard, known as Canutillo are another traditional Bilbao sweet. Another Bilbao sweet is a meringue tart coated in chocolate, with a puff pastry based, known as a Carolina. Jesuita de cabello de ángel are puff pastry triangles with sweet pumpkin filling. Popular Bilbao cakes include the pastel ruso (Russian cake) and the relleno de Vergara cake.

During September, you will find that restaurants will serve dishes featuring partridges, woodcock, wild boar, and mushrooms.

Since the early 20th century, cava and champagne have been known as ‘Bilbao water’ when the Basques became renowned for boasting that ‘champagne was drunk like water’. Txakoli, or Chacoli, is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine produced locally, and is a popular accompaniment to pintxos. Nearby, the 18th century Palace of Mendibile houses a museum, the Museo del Txakoli, which is dedicated to the history of txakoli, explaining its history and exhibiting a large collection of machinery used for its production. Txakoli is normally served as an aperitif, and drunk within one year of bottling as it cannot be stored for longer. The most common variety is white, with a pale green colour, although red and rosé varieties are available.

More regional, Basque drinks include Basque cider, or sagardoa, served at sagardotegia (cider houses), which also traditionally serve salted cod omelettes, quince jelly and nuts with the cider. A sloe-flavoured liqueur, patxaran, is also commonly drunk in the Basque region, and served as a digestif, either chilled or on ice. Made by soaking sloe berries, collected from the blackthorn shrub, along with coffee beans and a cinnamon pod in anisette, and first produced in Navarre in the Middle Ages. Patxaran became popular during the late 19th century and commercialised in the 1950s, becoming popular outside Navarre. It is commonly believed that its popularity spread as young Navarrese took bottles with them whilst on National Service.

Recent Blog Posts
Rachel on the Road: Nashville
Rachel's first stop on her Deep South US fly-drive trip was Nashville, where she stayed for two nights. Read on for more about her experiences of 'Music City, USA'...
Rachel on the Road: Deep South US Fly-Drive
In this blog series, read about Rachel's experiences during her US Deep South road trip, visiting Nashville, Memphis, Clarksdale, Natchez and New Orleans.
Cyprus in the Covid-Era: Flying Out
Read a first-hand account of what it's like to fly out to Cyprus from Stansted with Jet2 Holidays during the Covid-era from Select Travel Holiday's homeworking travel advisor and family holiday specialist, Julie Turner


Independent and family-run travel agent, with a dedicated team of travel specialists with decades of experience, at Select Travel Holidays, you can be assured of first-class customer service and making your dream holiday a reality.

Let our website inspire you, give us a call, or pop in to our shop on Mill Street, Bedford, where you'll be greeted with a friendly smile, and our travel specialists will take care of all the details of your next holiday, so all you have to do is enjoy exploring the world! Whether an all-inclusive luxury resort, an epic rail adventure, or a small group tour, and everything in between, we're here to help you discover the world's most beautiful and exciting destinations - on land or at sea!

01234 326 778