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Bilbao/San Sebastian – Feedback Requested

We are visiting Bilbao and San Sebastian in late May/early June. I am hoping for some guidance on days/nights where we don’t have plans, as well as attire and costs of transportation to some of our restaurants.

We currently have lunch reservations at Extebarri, Arzak and Akelarre. What is the general attire at these restaurants?

Also, our hotels have advised us to take taxis to and from the restaurants (we do not want to rent a car so that we can both enjoy wines with meals, etc.). Does anybody have experience with taking taxis and their costs, as well as advice on how complicated it would be to get a taxi back to our hotel?

For our nights in Bilbao/San Sebastian, we plan to eat mostly pinxtos. What time does it generally make sense to head out for a pinxtos crawl, and does anybody have recommendations for lunches or dinner in town that are not pinxtos-focused?

Finally, we arrive to San Sebastian on a Monday afternoon. How hard will it be to find someplace open on Monday afternoon/evening? Any suggestions?

Any advice/suggestions/recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Amiebd, I don't know why your post was left unanswered for so long. I'm planning my first trip to San Sebastian this summer so I can't speak from experience, only from my own research.

    Re: taxis to the restaurants. I think your hotel was a bit irresponsible or vague about directions to the restaurants. Most visitors DO rent a car and drive, especially to Etxebarri. Akelarre is 9 km (15 min) from Parte Vieja (Old Town) and Arzak is 3 km (7 min) so these are feasible by taxi and the restaurants will be able to call you a taxi for the return journey.

    Etxebarri is 85 km from San Sebastian. A local friend asked a taxi company what the fare would be and he was told 200+ Euros. There is a bus from Bilbao but it takes more than 1 hour. When we go this summer, we'll be driving a rental car.

    Re: Monday dining. Many of the popular or well-known pintxo bars are closed on Sunday evenings and Monday. There will undoubtedly be some places open, especially in the Parte Vieja. Here are a few names of restaurants/bars that are known to be open on Mondays:

    Restaurante Rekondo (near Mt. Igueldo)
    Restaurante Urepel
    Bar La Cepa
    Restaurante La Rampa (informal seafood near the pier)

    Monday will be my Spa Day at La Perla, followed by some sightseeing and maybe a simple bite or two at Bar La Cepa or La Rampa. It will be a nice break from non-stop eating!

    If the weather is good, maybe we'll swim out to Isla de Santa Clara and then have fresh seafood at La Rampa. If the weather is too cold for a swim, the Aquarium is nearby.

    Hope that helps.

    1. How exciting! I went to Extebarri two years ago and I would definitely recommend renting a car, but be sure you outline your directions well. We used google maps and got totally lost! It was quite the trip and worth every effort! We dined there for lunch and it was relatively casual. The three of us wore dresses, but summer dresses, nothing fancy. There were no diners in suits and/or ties and it seemed most wore business casual attire.

      Be sure to ask for a tour from the Chef Lennox as the kitchen is pretty cool! I am headed back to San Sebastian this summer too and I am looking forward to dining at Mugaritz, Arzak and Extebarri again!

        1. Thanks so much for the replies and advice so far. We're planning on heading to Exterbarri during one of our days in Bilbao - does that change anybody's views on how to get there (time and cost)? I've love to hear more suggestions/feedback.

          Do you know what time people generally head out for dinner and/or tapas in San Sebastian and Bilbao?

          6 Replies
          1. re: amiebd

            Etxebarri from Bilbao is 39 km or approx. 38 minutes, according to Google maps. The bus that goes up there is Bizkaia bus #3923. You can get more info from the Bizkaia bus website. If you go by taxi, the driver might charge you for the round-trip, even if he's only taking you one way. And after your meal, you would have to take another taxi! Driving is really the best way.

            I would email the restaurant and ask them for further advice.

            Re: hours of pintxo bars in San Se, I gather that they are from 1-3 pm and 7pm - ?, probably not later than 10 pm. Dinner at restaurants could be anytime after 8:30 pm, altho' that is probably early by Spanish standards.

            1. re: Aleta

              Most kitchens close at 11. So it's good to get to your last place by 10:30 to order the hot things, but there are cold things on the bar for a while after. Some pintxo places are open all day.

              For monday I recommend Fuegro Negro (well it was open today, Monday, at 4:30 pm so it should be open all day...) and Astelena (not sure how it's spelled, in the north-east corner of plaza del constitucion)

              1. re: dilemmalyn

                Thanks for the info on Fuego Negro and Astelena! I've been trying to plan our tapas schedule and it's been quite a struggle to figure out which places are open on Monday. Will definitely be hitting up these two spots.

                1. re: iheartyummy

                  Hey, now that I think about it, I might have gone to Fuegro Negro on Sunday :/ but I'm not sure, sorry

                  1. re: dilemmalyn

                    No worries! It probably was Sunday that you went because the restaurant is closed
                    on Mondays - we are going on Tuesday instead. Thanks though!

                    1. re: iheartyummy

                      Iheartyummy,

                      Although the whole tapas/pintxos concept borders around the crawl and visiting different places, A Fuego Negro is very small and probably worth staying awhile. I'm going this summer and I've booked the tasting menu. That means they will save me a precious table and I won't have have someone's elbow in my back.

                      http://www.afuegonegro.com/lang_engli...

          2. Extebarri is an expensive taxi or a car hire. Arzak is in town so a short taxi (it is near some of the better new town tapas bars), and Akelarre is a reasonable 10 to 15 minute taxi ride, which isn't expensive and taxis back are easy. Hiring a car is easy, but beware parking in SS is not and can be expensive making taxis more reasonable.

            Unlike southern Spain SS and Bilbao are quite early cities so bars are busy from 7:00 to about 9:30 (or a bit later) but the kitchens do close so you can't easily eat very late. Food in the afternoon is available but most of the best places won't be open, good for a coffee and a cake to tide you over but best to save the space for later.