Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- What does a Michelin star signify?
- When did the Michelin Star rating system start?
- Dine in a Mansion at Arzak
- Celebrate and Stay at Akelarre Overlooking the Bay of Biscay
- Indulge in Amelia on La Concha Bay
- Celebrate Authentic Basque Cuisine at Kokotxa
- Experience Top Chef Martin Berasategui
- Discover the world’s most adventurous restaurant – Mugaritz
- Basque in Alameda
- Discover a new culinary landscape at Elkano
For foodies, San Sebastian, Spain is a go-to destination for award-winning gastronomy, considered the world’s capital of haute cuisine. A vibrant northern Atlantic coastal city where Michelin stars have been collected for generations has literally put San Sebastian, also known as Donostia by the locals, on the international culinary map.
This region of Basque Country sets the gold standard for Spanish Basque cuisine by holding the largest number of Michelin-star restaurants in Spain. Of Spain’s nine restaurants with three Michelin stars, three are located in San Sebastián and the surrounding area: Arzak, Akelarre, and Martín Berasategui. Check out the other Michelin-starred restaurants in the area: Mugaritz and Amelia, with two stars, and Kokotxa, Alameda, and Elkano, with one each.
Unlike Barcelona and Madrid, San Sebastian is more influenced by neighboring France with their Nouvelle Cuisine than Spain.
Diners will find more than 16 stars congregated in a ten-minute drive within San Sebastian. The fact is, San Sebastian restaurants have been awarded more stars than any other city in the world! Only Kyoto, Japan has more stars in such a concentrated area.
In addition to rated Michelin-starred restaurants, many of San Sebastian’s eateries are listed in the top 50 best restaurants in the world. Here are the best Michelin restaurants in San Sebastian for the curious epicurean.
SheBuysTravel Tip: All of these Michelin-star restaurants require advance reservations, sometimes months ahead. Book your reservations as soon as you know you’re planning a trip to Basque Country, Spain.
What does a Michelin star signify?
Chefs worldwide covet the Michelin star, the ultimate hallmark of culinary excellence recognized worldwide. Restaurants can earn one, two, or three Michelin stars and are awarded based on extremely high standards and judged by anonymous inspectors whose identities are never revealed.
According to Michelin, their criteria include, “the quality of the ingredients, the harmony of flavors, mastery of cooking techniques, the personality of the chef as expressed through their cuisine, and consistency across the menu and over time.” Surprisingly, the wine list, impeccable service, and ambiance are not part of the equation.
When did the Michelin Star rating system start?
Two brothers from France, André Michelin and Édouard Michelin, founded Michelin, a manufacturer of quality tires in 1889 in Clermont-Ferrand, France. They created the first Michelin Guide in France, a directory of fine dining establishments in 1900 to encourage more people to travel on the road and provide them with high-quality recommendations.
In 1926, Michelin started awarding one Michelin star to deserving restaurants. Since then, the guides have expanded within Europe, Asia, and Africa. In 2005, they published their first guide in the U.S. No matter where you travel in Spain or Europe, Michelin-starred restaurants are the hallmark of fine dining.
Read More: Sleep like a Queen: Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian
Dine in a Mansion at Arzak
Restaurante Arzak set the standard for the ultimate in gourmet cuisine in San Sebastián, Spain receiving their first Michelin Star in 1974 and their third in 1989. Chef Juan Mari Arzak has been creating his famous palate where the finest in hospitality, history, and contemporary cuisine come together in his century-old family mansion. Now, along with his daughter Elena, she is the fourth generation to build their culinary center combining Basque tradition with the latest innovations.
New ideas are developed in the “lab” in their mansion where they work with a “flavor workbench of more than 1,000 ingredients to push boundaries. Highlights include: Sea bass served on a tablet computer showing moving images of the sea, lobster with bee pollen, prawns, and duck with potato feathers. You can taste their passion in every bite.
Perched high above on Mount Igueldo, Arzak offers diners a 7-course tasting menu or a set menu with a choice of dishes. Open for lunch and dinner.
Celebrate and Stay at Akelarre Overlooking the Bay of Biscay
Helmed by Head Chef Pedro Subijana, Akelarre has held three Michelin stars since 2007, after 25 years with two Michelin stars. In addition, Akelarre opened the Hotel Akelarre in 2017, so travelers can extend their experience in 5-star luxury accommodations overlooking the Bay of Biscay. With a full-service spa, soaking tubs, and plunge pools, the hotel is a proud member of the Relais and Chateaux brand.
Chef Pedro Subijana has created two highly curated tasting menus, Aranori or Belarki, with multiple options to mix and match the dishes. Chef Pedro Subijana demonstrates a flair for innovative gastronomy and his reputation is legendary. Highlights include Gin and Tonic tart for dessert as well as the marinated lobster in a garden salad.
To get a better understanding of Basque cuisine, Akelarre also hosts Master Classes for groups of eight or more. You’ll learn about the ingredients and techniques that go into his famous dishes and then get to sample them for yourself in the dining room.
Indulge in Amelia on La Concha Bay
Since June 2020, Amelia has been located in Villa Favorita Hotel on La Concha Beach. Argentinian Chef Paulo Airaudo believes in an open kitchen concept while buying artisan ingredients from local producers. That means you can watch the chefs in action. His signature dishes include fish and seafood that combine Basque culinary traditions with subtle Italian and Asian influences. And you’re actually served by the chefs. A tasting menu is offered. Most of the wine is sold by the glass allowing you to pick and choose your selections.
Celebrate Authentic Basque Cuisine at Kokotxa
The name refers to one of the most popular Basque Country dishes in San Sebastian, a stew of fish heads cooked in a sumptuous white wine or salsa verde sauce. It’s also known as a saltwater fish dish. At the one Michelin-star Kokotxa, tradition blends with the avant-garde in San Sebastian’s old town. Chef Dani López believes in simple cooking without being pretentious. Kokotxa offers both a Market and a Tasting Menu. Highlights include Red shrimp tartare, lobster with kimchi, and white corn.
Experience Top Chef Martin Berasategui
Martín Berasategui has the most Michelin stars in Spain with 12 and he is ranked as the third top chef in the world. His three-star Michelin restaurant offers exquisite views of the mountains in Gipuzkoa while featuring a la carte and tasting menus. Indulge in exciting flavors such as smoked eel and melon jelly sorbet. With his name on the door, Chef Martin Berasategui takes a personal interest in his diners and approaches each table to chat. Martin also has signature restaurants in Barcelona and Bilbao.
Discover the world’s most adventurous restaurant – Mugaritz
The two Michelin star Mugaritz is headed up by Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and has been named one of the best restaurants in the world since 2006. Located about 15 minutes from San Sebastian between the two border towns of Errenteria and Astigarraga, this simple country house restaurant offers a 20-course tasting menu. Mugaritz blends the essence of its cuisine to your exact liking with flavors, textures, and aromas that will stimulate all of your senses. The result is a personalized dining experience you will long remember.
Basque in Alameda
The ambiance is warm and welcoming as Alameda in Hondarribia, run by the three Txapartegi brothers who have held one Michelin star for over 20 years. Their speciality is Basque Novelle cuisine using the best local ingredients and three generations of family recipes. Highlights include a truffle-stuffed scramble with mushrooms, confit Baztan suckling pig, and for dessert, the spiced chocolate with dark beer and ginger.
Discover a new culinary landscape at Elkano
The seaport in Getaria is home to Elkano, where freshly caught seafood is cooked on open grills over a wood fire, reminiscent of 16th-century techniques. Chef Aitor Arregi and his father who opened the first Elkano understand the relationship to the sea and proudly work with the local fishermen to serve the best catch. The flavors are all-natural and the turbot is legendary, roasted whole with the skin and all, and served with a simple dressing. Enjoy one of the best examples of elegant cuisine in Basque Country. Highlights also include lobster, crabs, red mullet, and liquid chocolate souffle.
For something just as authentic in San Sebastian but a little less costly, stop at a pintxo bar where you can enjoy their fabulous pintxos, similar to tapas found in other parts of Spain.