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Bilbao Food: Inexpensive to Unbelievably Luxurious

Bilbao Food. An exquisitely prepared dish at Atelier Etxanobe
Bilbao in Northern Spain is most definitely a foodie city with amazing cuisine. Bilbao is not your typical Spanish city. Situated in the Basque Country, Bilbao food is among the best in Spain. What food is Bilbao known for? Bilbao is known for great pintxos and excellent seafood including salted cod prepared with garlic and olive oil (bacalao). Bilbao is also known for some of the best restaurants in the world. This Bilbao food culture stems in part from private men's cooking clubs or txokos.

You'll find many fantastic places to eat in Bilbao. Some Bilbao restaurants and bars are great for people on a budget. Other culinary experiences in Bilbao have the potential to break the bank. At the economical end, find the best pintxos and local wine in Bilbao. At the other end of the spectrum, treat yourself to a world-class Michelin Star culinary experience in Bilbao. Read on to explore all the best food in Bilbao covering the entire spectrum from inexpensive to unbelievably luxurious.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: We think that Bilbao is the best place in Spain for Christmas. Read about our one week adventure in Bilbao including the world-famous Guggenheim Museum. Learn about Bilbao fine arts and other fun things to do that extend beyond just the delicious food that Basque Country has to offer. 

Bottles of Wine for 0.66 EUR

Let's start at the cheap end of the Bilbao food spectrum. At the grocery stores in Bilbao, you can find regional wines for less than one euro a bottle. In fact, we spotted a bottle of wine in a Bilbao supermarket for about 2 EUR with a second bottle costing just *66 cents*. If you are really on a budget on your Basque Country holiday, this should be your first port of call.
Drink and Food in Bilbao: wine for less than one euro Where to eat in Bilbao: Bar Argia for one euro pintxos

Talos Filled with Chorizo

We visited Bilbao in the winter to celebrate Christmas and ring in the new year. Festivals like the Fiesta de Santo Tomas are a great opportunity to sample local food in Bilbao at great prices. Enjoy talos con chorizo (chorizo sausage on freshly prepared tortillas) as a delicious midday snack. Bonus points if you eat your talos con chorizo with a bottle of local cider.
What to eat in Bilbao in winter: talos con chorizo

Go Pintxo Bar Hopping

Pintxos bars are by far the best economical places to eat in Bilbao. Want to know how to eat pintxos in Bilbao? Follow the locals and hop from bar to bar enjoying the different specialties of the house with a small glass of wine. As a rule of thumb, Bilbao's residents are always on the move; pick one pintxo and then carry on to the next bar to see what's on offer. Our picks for the best pintxos in Bilbao include Bar Argia where we enjoyed endless pintxos for just one euro each. La Roca and El Globo also had a great buzz. Grab a small sandwich and glass of txakoli (white wine with a bit of fizz and served from overhead with a flourish) at Singular in Bilbao. 
Where to eat in Bilbao: Snack and txakoli wine at Singular in Bilbao

Calle Ledesma

Calle Ledesma in Bilbao is a great place to wander around and sample creative Bilbao food. We had pintxos featuring 1000 layers of potatoes, Camembert and mushrooms plus a fried banana filled with blue cheese and ham at Bar Molinillo.
Food in Bilbao: Pinxtos bars on Calle Ledesma

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that San Sebastián is also a great foodie destination in Basque Country and is an easy day trip from Bilbao? Read about what to do in San Sebastian in a day here.

Lamb Kebabs at Cafe Iruña

Cafe Iruña is definitely a candidate for a list of casual best restaurants in Bilbao. Cafe Iruña's signature dish is lamb kebabs served pintxos style. Add a squeeze of lemon. The tart citrus blends perfectly with the charcoal-grilled meat with a sprinkle of salt. My taste buds simply came alive when I took my first bite. So. Good. If you are looking for great a great and economical option for where to eat in Bilbao, definitely go to Cafe Iruña!
Where to eat in Bilbao? Lamb kebabs at Cafe Iruña

Pintxos on Plaza Nueva in Bilbao

Plaza Nueva in Bilbao's Casco Viejo may be a bit touristy but it's also a great place to find excellent pintxos. We enjoyed two rounds of pintxos at La Olla and Sorginzula. We were tempted to try and suss out which pintxos places on Plaza Nueva that were most popular but what we quickly realized was that all the places are popular and there is simply an ebb and flow to the traffic at each place. Wander in and out of each pintxos bar until you see something you like. We particularly enjoyed hearty potato croquettes.
Bilbao Food: Tapas bars on Plaza Nueva in Casco ViejaWhere to eat in Bilbao Spain: Collage of pintxos from Mercado de la Ribera

Mercado de la Ribera

Mercado de la Ribera in Bilbao (a famous Bilbao food market)  is worth a browse for the architecture alone. It's even better if you go hungry and in the mood for some Bilbao food. You'll find plenty of pintxos in a covered market hall. Grab a snack that catches your fancy and enjoy it in the central communal seating area.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Europe features some incredible farmers markets and food halls. Read about our other favorite food halls worth traveling for here.

Craft Beer Bars

Pintxos bars are definitely the most economical places to eat in Bilbao but not all pintxos places are created equally. Head to one of Bilbao's craft beer bars where you can expect to pay a premium for a brew to go with your pintxos. 

La Ley Seca

We enjoyed sipping a sneaky Basque craft beer from Bidassoa Basque Brewery and empanadas on comfy couches at La Ley Seca. Located on Bilbao's Siete Calles, take a rest from your exploration in the dark interior of the bar.
Places to eat in Bilbao: Craft beer and empanadas at La Ley SecaBilbao Food: Craft beer at the Basquery

Craft Beer and Bread at the Basquery

The Basquery serves up craft beer, homemade bread and other delectable takeaway food in Bilbao. You'll pay a premium for the experience, but the atmosphere is hip and modern and represents a good alternative to Bilbao's more traditional tapas bars.

Pintxos Further Afield

Portugalete Pintxos at Txo

While pintxos are cheap, my next picks for where to eat in Bilbao are further up the cost spectrum because you'll need to pay for a metro ticket to get there. Take public transportation to the port town of Portugalete. Seek out Txo which serves up pintxos in adorable casserole dishes. My selected pintxo was comprised of potatoes, bechamel, bacon and more cheese and was definitely a candidate for the best pintxos in Bilbao in my opinion.
Where to eat in Bilbao: Pintxos in a casserole dish at Txo in PortugaleteWhere to eat in Bilbao: Christmas lunch at Premierk

Hillside by the Seaside at Bar Arantzale

Take the suspended cable car across from Portugalete to the more upscale Getxo. After an energetic hike around the promenade, you'll be ready to eat once more. We hiked all the way to the small fishing village near Algorta which seems to spill down the hill into the sea. We stopped for fried calamari and patatas bravas at Bar Arantzale before taking the metro back to Bilbao. The calamari is extremely popular here so go early to avoid disappointment.
What to eat in Bilbao: calamari at Bar Arantzale near Getxo and Algorta

Christmas Lunch at Premierk

Lunch is definitely a more economical option than dinner in Bilbao. We enjoyed a lovely three course Christmas lunch with a bottle of Rioja at Premierk in Bilbao. While away the afternoon at a booth looking out onto the street with the buzz of the bar on the opposite side.

Michelin Star Dining in Bilbao

Bilbao is famous for its Michelin Star restaurants. If you really want to experience the best of Bilbao food, go to at least one Michelin Star restaurant and try some outstanding and imaginative Basque dishes. We splurged and tried two different Michelin-starred experiences during our one week in Bilbao for Christmas and New Year's Eve. The experience certainly wasn't cheap. Expect to pay at least 100 EUR a person for the tasting menu and even more if you opt for the wine pairings. We decided to treat ourselves to the full experience and enjoyed two very different multi-course extravaganzas with wine pairings at two of the best restaurants in Bilbao: Mina Restaurant and Atelier Etxanobe.

More Than 10 Courses with Wine Pairings at Mina Bilbao

Mina Restaurant in Bilbao features some prized seats in the dining room along a counter overlooking the kitchen. We settled into our well-cushioned stools and watched all the action as Chef Álvaro Garrido and his staff prepared our multi-course tasting menu.
Best Restaurants Bilbao: Collage of dishes from Michelin-starred Mina Restaurant
The exquisite dishes at Mina Restaurant included:
  1. Gillardeau oyster with gin and citrus
  2. Mussels in lemongrass, coconut soup, and spicy tomato
  3. Weakfish served with olive emulsion
  4. Black cheese, mushroom, and crunchy chicken
  5. Smoked txitxarro (mackerel) with cauliflower and cider
  6. Aubergine confit with red tea and white prawn tartar
  7. Begihaundi (squid) risotto
  8. Smoked bluefin tuna belly pastrami served with herbed curry
  9. Bone marrow with rosemary poultry broth
  10. Monkfish stew
  11. Charcoal-grilled sweetbreads served with pumpkin and cardamom puree
  12. Toffee ice cream flavored with tamarind and Lea and Perrins sauce.
We ate so much of the amazing food in Bilbao from the tasting menu at Mina Restaurant that I was seriously asking myself if it would be wrong to smuggle out the final plate of financiers in a napkin for later.
Where to eat in Bilbao: Financiers at Mina Restaurant Places to eat in Bilbao: Wine pairings at Mina Restaurant
We always opt for the wine pairings when we go out to a Michelin Star restaurant. You often get to try wines you'd never think to order. In this case, we had a sweet wine and a fortified wine with two of the savory courses. In total, we tried 7 wines with 10 courses.


Three highlights of the menu at Mina Restaurant in Bilbao were:
  1. I tried sweetbreads for the first time ever and liked them!
  2. My dessert was flavored with tamarind and Lea and Perrins 😮
  3. We serendipitously saw Chef Álvaro Garrido on the tram the next day and got to share a nod of mutual appreciation.
Where to eat in Bilbao: A view into the kitchen at Mina Restaurant

High Tech Atelier Etxanobe

Our second Michelin-starred experience in Bilbao had an entirely different vibe. Our meal at Atelier Etxanobe was decidedly high tech. The multi-course menu was projected onto the table before each dish was presented. Our meal started with a 3D printed fish head delivered to the table with our first course.
Places to eat in Bilbao: 3D printing and blowtorches at Atelier Etxanobe
Our meal at Atelier Etxanobe was much more interactive than Mina Restaurant with Chef Fernando Canales personally preparing a few of the dishes table-side using tools like a blowtorch. We had a great time chatting with Chef Canales and felt very welcome. Once again, we enjoyed more than 10 skillfully prepared dishes featuring Bilbao food served with wines specially selected to pair with each course by the sommelier.
Best Restaurants in Bilbao: dishes at Michelin-starred Atelier Etxanobe
The final dish of the evening was prepared with liquid nitrogen and presented on a small spoon. Virtual reality headsets were strapped over our eyes and we found ourselves gliding over a field of violets. We were instructed to eat the dessert (it had the smooth creamy texture of a semifreddo) in one bite. The virtual reality was meant to amplify the flavors. High tech or no, the food in Bilbao is definitely outstanding!
High Tech Bilbao Food: Liquid nitrogen and virtual reality with dessert at Atelier Etxanobe
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: We love trying Michelin Star restaurants on our travels like Fritz's Frau Franzi discovered while spending one day in Düsseldorf Germany.

Map of the Great Places to Eat in Bilbao

Click on the images of the map below to open an interactive version in Google Maps with links to the full spectrum of our recommendations of where to eat in Bilbao. 
Where to Eat in Bilbao Food Map
I hope you've enjoyed this culinary adventure featuring Bilbao food ranging from inexpensive options to the most luxurious Michelin Star experiences. And don't forget, sharing is caring...
Great Food in Bilbao: Best Restaruants BilbaoBilbao Restaurants: Where to Eat in Bilbao
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Bilbao Food: Inexpensive to Unbelievably Luxurious
Bilbao Food: Inexpensive to Unbelievably Luxurious
Discover places to eat in Bilbao Spain. Read about the best pintxos in Bilbao. Enjoy Bilbao food from the least expensive to most luxurious. Try Bilbao's Michelin-starred restaurants like Mina Restaurant and Atelier Etxanobe.
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