Go bar-hopping among the locals to experience the delicious culture of pintxos, the Basque version of tapas. Almost every bar in Old Town serves cured meats, cheeses, and other delicacies (generally $2.50$6 a piece), which residents enjoy before and after dinner but not much later than 11 p.m. Pace yourself by starting off light at trendy Atari Gastroteka (Calle Mayor, 18, 943 44 07 92), where you can try sushi-and-shrimp pintxos ($2.50). Next, wander over to local favorite La Cuchara de San Telmo, hidden away at the far back corner of an alley in front of the Museo de San Telmo, for more carnivorous fare like beef cheek in red wine ($4). For dessert, stop in at La Viña, a slightly divey-looking joint whose supremely soft cheesecake ($2.50) is famous across Europe.
Take a two-hour or half-day “Enthusiast” class ($44$63 per person) at the new Basque Culinary Center, which opened last year in a striking building that looks like a slightly off-kilter twin of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum. The school’s curriculum was designed by Spain’s Ferran Adrià, Denmark’s René Redzepi, and France’s Michael Bras; visitors can learn recipes from their sin fuegos (“no fires”) cookbook or how to perfectly pair all kinds of cheeses with the right fig jam, peach, or pepper. Most courses are taught in Spanish, but English classes are offered in certain months.
Sidle up to local chefs at the underground Mercado de la Bretxa, located below a late-nineteenth-century neoclassical building, for a look at a dazzling array of seafood laid out on ice, plus other culinary treasures like produce and sausages. For the best Iberian ham known as pata negra (from $2 per ounce), walk over to the IKER delicatessen and help yourself to a free sample of the charcuterie beneath the same array of dangling pig legs you’ll find hanging over the bars in Old Town.