Northern Spain, called Basque Country is a land of contrasts, boasting rolling vineyards, wind-swept beaches, and snow-covered mountains, all set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
Basque Country is very different from the rest of Spain with a distinct language, unique gastronomy, and well-loved traditions to embrace you.
Come visit the charming towns and medieval villages that whisk you away into a world where culinary innovation and a bottle of wine rule.
How many Michelin-Stars?
Basque cuisine has become an international benchmark. Some people come to Basque Country just to eat. Talk of “Michelin Stars” dominates the conversation as Spain has more than 200 Michelin-Star restaurants and Basque Country comes in second place.
Throughout Spain, the most popular food is tapas, small bites filled with savory and sometimes, spicy ingredients. In Basque, they’re called pintxos, and they’re definitely more intricate and complex than their Spanish counterparts.
Pintxos in Basque Country. Photos by Mira Temkin.
Traditionally, they start with small pieces of bread, topped with local cheeses, figs, ham, fried green peppers, fish, or eggs; then held together with a toothpick. The cultural standard is pintxos-bar hopping, where you enjoy a few pintxos at one bar and then move to another bar for a few more.
Bilbao Takes Contemporary Art to New Heights
Colorful balloons in Guggenheim Museum. Photo by Mira Temkin.
Once an industrial city, the Guggenheim Museum’s opening in 1997 brought international acclaim to Bilbao as a world-class arts center. The museum’s exterior was designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry, who took the elements of titanium, steel, and the curves of the water to create this impressive structure. Inside, you’ll find three stories of contemporary works by both Spanish and international artists.
You’ll love the whimsical “Puppy,” 40 feet tall highland terrier, made up of thousands of begonias and “The Spider” launched in 1999 that merits further inspection.
Don’t miss the hanging Bizkaia Bridge that crosses the Nevion River carrying both passengers and cars. Climb to the top, walk the bridge or ride across this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Gran Hotel Domine
Just opposite the museum, the Gran Hotel Domine hotel features luxury accommodation and an ideal location. “El Domine”, as it is known in Bilbao, represents the city’s luxury with suites to pamper, two upscale restaurants, lobby bar and rooftop terrace.
Highly recommended dining is Zortziko by Chef Daniel García whose restaurant boasts one Michelin Star. His cuisine blends fresh ingredients with innovative and distinctive techniques. Hake in green sauce, black pudding cannelloni on roasted apple and Grilled mango gazpacho are some of his specialties. /
Get Fresh in Getaria
Restaurant Kaia Kaipe has been serving outstanding cuisine in the port city of Getaria since 1962. Fish is caught, then grilled outside, complemented only by the exquisite views. Recognized for their outstanding turbot and chocolate souffle.
Fish is grilled outside. Photo by Mira Temkin.
Luscious turbot at Kaia Kaipe. Photo by Mira Temkin.
San Sebastian Is the Gastro Capital
San Sebastian, also called Donostia–San Sebastián by the locals, is considered the most popular tourist destination in Basque Country and its restaurants hold 11 Michelin stars. Here, innovative chefs blend traditional Basque recipes with fresh, farm-to-table ingredients to engage all of the senses.
Lobby of the Hotel Maria Cristina. Photo courtesy of Marriott.
Hotel Maria Christina – Luxury to the Max
Since 1912, the 136-room Maria Cristina has played host to royalty and high society in San Sebastian. This is still the place to see and be seen. Opulent design, coupled with a gracious atmosphere, outstanding service, and excellent cuisine make for a wonderful experience. You’ll love to sink into the cushy linens that made that bed so welcoming after a day of touring. Choose from a variety of suites and guestrooms that will exceed your expectations.
Mimo Cooking School – “Bite the Experience”
Discover the secrets of traditional Basque cuisine with a demonstration or hands-on experience at Mimo’s Cooking School, right next to the hotel. Our group watched as the two chefs prepared a fabulous 6-course menu. They talked about the ingredients, recipes and techniques …and then we got to savor it for ourselves. Check out their other cooking classes and tours.
Cider Bars – A Gastronomical Experience
Hold the glass at just the right angle to catch the cider. Photo by Mira Temkin.
Cider is a traditional Basque drink, still, without carbonation. It has a tart, vinegary taste with 4% alcohol. Made from several varieties of apples, production has been taking place for more than 600 years. Couple it with a typical cider house menu of cod omelet, premium steak, nuts, quince and cheese, and unlimited cider from the gigantic wood barrels. Position your glass at just the right angle to catch the cider as it falls from the spigot. Try Alorrenea Cider House and enjoy the total experience.
Sleep among the Vines – Hotel Marques de Riscal
Marques de Riscal Hotel.
If you ever wanted to sleep in a lush vineyard, and lookout at rows of grapes growing, reserve your spot at the 5-star Hotel Marques de Riscal for a total sensory experience. Designed by Frank Gehry whose vision was to create a 21st century chateau, this hotel blends the old world with the new to create a magnificent experience in this medieval “city of wine.” With dominant views of the St. Andrews Church and the Sierra de Cantabria Mountains, this is the oldest and largest winery in Basque Country. Learn more about the wine-lovers package that includes a tour of the winery, and chef-inspired meals in 1860 Tradicion.
This is the only hotel designed by Gehry. With only 61 guestrooms and suites, you’ll enjoy the royal treatment throughout your stay. It’s the sheer beauty of the grapes that will enchant you, make you feel at one with the land.
The hotel is also famous for incorporating wine in their spa treatments like a wine massage or facial.
This region boasts 300 wineries, along with a walled city that’s one of the most beautiful in La Rioja Alavesa. See historic churches, archeological sites, and medieval artifacts. Just outside the Church of Santa Maria de los Reyes stands a collection of silver metalized shoes that represent all the travelers who’ve made this journey. Enjoy lunch at Hospederia Los Parajes, which opens up to multiple levels, including a man-cave below. Set menu items include: creamy croquettes, salmon tartar, cod with olive oil, and dessert souffle.
Men only in this part of Hospederia Los Parajes. Photo by Mira Temkin.
Before you return home, shop for bottles of olive oil, Torron Vicens artisan candy, Basque peppers and handcrafted Cantabrian anchovies to make pintxos for your friends. Visit Basque Country and come away with your own gastronomical adventures.
For more information, spain.info.
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