A selection of pinchos

Bilbao, pincho by pincho


Journey through the small delights of Basque cuisine

Taste and creativity in equal measure in one, or at most two, bites. That's what a pincho is, one of the highlights of Biscay and therefore Basque Country, gastronomy. The counters in Bilbao bars are attractive showcases that are constantly fresh and updated. Alongside the most traditional and well-established pinchos are innovative creations that have the sole aim of surprising the most discerning palates.  

Gastronomy trails to learn about the city

In addition to its cultural activities, Bilbao dazzles with its gastronomy, and it knows it! The seven streets in the Casco Viejo and its Plaza Nueva, Licenciado Poza de Indautxu street, the Albia gardens, El Ensanche neighbourhood, and so on are some of the possible routes to “ir de potes” (the equivalent of having a starter) in the morning, evening or at night. Although there are guided tours that combine pincho tasting and museums, below are some essential ideas to be able to devise your own “pincho to pincho” itinerary and learn in depth about this Basque city in the north of Spain.Casco Viejo. The famous seven streets in the oldest part of Bilbao and its surrounding area alternate between monuments, shops and a lot of bars where you can rest between purchases. Although Bilbao's old town also open to innovation, it is worth trying the pinchos here that are almost as traditional as its streets: gildas -olive, anchovy and chilli-,stuffed mussels, marinated cod skewer or chorizo al infierno washed down with a vermouth or a nice txakoli, a typical Basque white wine.

Pintxos of olives

El Ensanche. The most majestic Bilbao construction is also full of century-old establishments. The counters in Calle Diputación, Ledesma, and Ercilla and the Albia gardens are the perfect place to accompany some “zuritos” (beers) with Moorish pinchos, Iberian cured meats, txangurro (crab-based sauce), king crab and prawns or one of the colourful tortillas with tapa that are filled with all types of ingredients and are very typical in the northern regions.  Indautxu. We cannot mention this area of the city without talking about the lively Calle Licenciado Poza, the meeting point for Athletic Bilbao fans before home games in the San Mamés stadium. All types of cheeses, piperrada (typical Basque sauce made with peppers, onion and tomatoes), mushrooms, smoked sardines… and so on. These are some of the base ingredients for pinchos which makes them difficult to resist. The felipada deserves its own mention – a triangular sandwich with mayonnaise, anchovies, lettuce and something spicy.

Basque cheeses

The cultural meaning of pinchos

The creation of a pincho is an exercise in creativity as extensive as the known combinations of ingredients and is therefore considered to be infinite. These small appetisers are basically a mark of identity for people from Bilbao. Going from bar to bar discovering flavours is an appetising culinary adventure. In contrast to the rest of Spain, a pincho is not considered free in the Basque Country... it must be bought separately. That is why each establishment is always looking for a mix of star products that will set the trend in the city and create loyalty with frequent customers. Imagination, passion for gastronomy and, of course, good ingredients are essential to achieve excellence.  Travelling to Bilbao means yielding to the charms of its pinchos. It's like going to a festival of colours, with the smells and tastes born out of the great relationship the city has with gastronomy. Enjoy!

Pinchos with mushrooms