Gourmet experience in Basque Countries

Are you one of those people who plan their trips around food? Then there are two options – you either have been to Basque Country or you are already planning to go. 

 Overall driving distance is just about 6,5 hours (about 450km / 280 miles). But it is recommended to take some time and really enjoy the locations to the fullest. So foodies, ready to pack your bags?

 This road trip can be done in both ways – whether you land in Bordeaux and depart from Bilbao or vice versa. 

 You can rent a car in either of the airports and drop off at another location (the other airport). Find your suitable rental car for this culinary journey from Rentalmoose options: LINK HERE

 France and Spain both accept most driving licences in the world and driving is on the right side. As the driving goes through wine regions keep in mind that these countries have very strict drink driving laws – 0,5mg/ml of alcohol per litre in your blood. So don’t take any risks to drink and drive. Also keep in mind not to forget to use the Rentalmoose app to take photos of the condition of the car when receiving it and before starting your journey to qualify 50% of rebate from excess coverage

 First of all before you rush to pack your bags: best season to visit this region is during summer months and early September but even then the weather can be tricky due to its location next to the ocean. So be well prepared and take some warmer and rainy weather clothes with you just in case. 

1. Bilbao

The Guggenheim museum 

When arriving to Bilbao take some time for the cultural program the city has to offer. Bilbao is really cool place – it has history but it also has the vibe of a young and modern city. 

 Just take a look at the architecture of its Guggenheim museum! And of course take a look at the inside of it too! Whilst already there why not try out the Nerua Guggenheim restaurant. 

 It is a bit more expensive than other places in town but the food is totally worth the price. Another fine dining restaurant that locals swear by is Azurmendi. The restaurant was chosen as Elite Traveller’s reader’s favorite restaurant in the world and used to be a  number 38 in official World’s Best Restaurants chart in 2017.

Restaurant Azurmendi

 If you are over the molecular gastronomy and want to eat something simple (but good!), then head over to the restaurant Kate Zaharra

 Or do you love seafood? Specially oysters? Then El Puertito is a place for you! The very first oyster bar in Bilbao. There is the best oyster selection you can dream of! But if you don’t love oysters, then this is not a place for you. 

 If your hotel does not have parking then you don’t need to worry as Bilbao has many car parks around the city centre. Find closest to your locations on the map in HERE.

 NB! After the Bilbao city life and before entering to another city there is an option to take a little break in a picturesque coast of the Bay of Biscay. 

 An optional trip to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – a castle on the rock at the sea. This is about a 50 minute drive from Bilbao and as there is just one road you’ll need to come back through the same way (so in total it will be more than 1,5 hour drive). By the way – this place was also a scenery in Game of Thrones, so if you’re a fan, a must visit! After climbing on the rocks there one must be hungry and ready for a decent lunch. 

 So when you are typing your next location, we suggest to make a turn away from the main road to one restaurant which is almost on the way. It will take less than 20 minutes to drive off from the main road but oh this restaurant is worth driving there! Restaurant we talk about is Asador Etxebarri. Thank us later. 

Next: Bilbao – San Sebastian (about 1 hour drive) 

2. San Sebastian

View of the city from 5* hotel Maria Cristina 

 There is only one sentence needed to get to know what people mostly enjoy doing in San Sebastian: this northern Spanish city holds one of the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter in the world. 

 In fact, three of five Michelin three stars restaurants of Spain are into the city, complemented with another great selection of restaurants with an amount of 16 Michelin stars. 

 If ready to pay a higher price, try to visit the Michelin 3* restaurant: Arzak, Akelarre or Martin Berasategui and of course the 2* famous restaurant Mugaritz

 These restaurants need to be booked way ahead. But if you don’t plan to spend a mini fortune on the food then don’t worry – one of the foodie treasures of the gastronomy in San Sebastián is its famous pintxos; culinary bites ranging from the original slice of bread piled with food, to tiny miniature haute cuisine creations. 

 There are many pintxos bars around the town, for example Bar Sport or La Cuchara de san Telmo. Find these two and a list of other good ones HERE.

The petit fours at Arzak restaurant

 San Sebastian has 2 very good and recommended 5* hotels: Hotel Maria Cristina and Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra. For a less costing options try your travel dates in Villa Soro or Arima hotel. 

Parking in San Sebastian can be hard to fiind during high season, although they have many underground parking places around the town, unfortunately these are not free of charge. 

 Best places to park in the city centre are Parking de la Concha, Parking Boulevard, Parking Okendo, Parking San San Martin and Parking Buen Pastor. 

 There are  also many parking places just outside the town and if you park in one of those, the public transportation to the city centre will be free for you. 

Next: San Sebastian – Biarritz (about 50 minute drive)

3. Biarritz

La Grande Plage in Biarritz

 San Sebastian was last stop in Spain on this route and now it’s time to cross the France border and head to Biarritz – a seaside city that was a favorite of Napoleon’s wife Empress Eugénie who was born in Spain. 

 Biarritz is a French city that lies just about 35km / 22mi from the border with Spain. In 1854, the emperor Napoleon III and Eugénie bought several acres of dunes in Biarritz and gave the engineer Dagueret the task of establishing a summer home surrounded by gardens, woods, meadows, a pond and outbuildings. 

 Napoleon III chose the location near Spain so his wife would not get homesick for her native country. The house was called Villa Eugénie, which  today is Hôtel du Palais

 The presence of the imperial couple attracted other European royalty like the British monarchs Queen Victoria and the Spanish king Alfonso XIII. This of course made Biarritz well-known. 

 Until today Biarritz has one of the highest real estate prices in France. The luxurious seaside tourist attraction is also known for its casinos in front of the sea and its surfing culture. 

 When you plan a lavish and extraordinary vacation then why not walk in the footsteps of Napoleon and Eugénie and stay in the Hotel du Palais which is so full of history. For a bit modest and less-costing stay check the hotels La Maison du Lierre or Hotel Georges VI

 For the best fine dining experience don’t wonder further from the Hotel du Palais. Their gourmet restaurant has the same name the building used to have – Villa Eugénie. This is definitely one of the most royal experiences with a view of the ocean you will have in Biarritz. 

 With spectacular views of the Basque Country coast line, the towering lighthouse and the famous Grande Plage, this restaurant is fine dining at its finest. Expect white tablecloths, multiple sets of cutlery and impeccably dressed waiters with a strong focus on showcasing local and regional cuisines.

 If you happen to be a fan of seafood then Chez Albert is a must for you! Don’t forget to try their seafood soup which they are very famous for. Or just go to Port des Pêcheurs – a small and romantic fisherman port, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants with fresh seafood choices. Don’t expect to find glamour here but these places have a good food quality!

  Foodies should definitely visit also Marché aux Halles de Biarritz, built in 1885, it’s not only the main local market but also a place to have a drink and meet friends. You can find everything you need there, fruits and vegetables, the best local products, meat, cheese, bakeries and a few nice places to eat.  

 The second and smaller part of the market is dedicated to fish and seafood where you can buy a plate of fresh oysters for 6 euros. You should know however that the market isn’t very cheap so don’t count on staying on budget when visiting there.  

 When you plan to have a break from all the eating and wandering around the place, go to relax in Biarritz famous beach La Grande Plage. But keep in mind that there are quite big surfing waves when travelling with kids.

 If you want a more quieter beach with safer swimming options for kids, go to Plage Port Vieux. It’s located on a tiny bay between two cliffs creating a very sheltered beach which makes it the safest place for kids and adults to swim. 

 Or when you are not the type who can sit still an sunbathe then take a walk among the promenade to the famous Le Phare Lighthouse. Go to the top and see the whole view of Biarritz from above. 

 If travelling with kids then nice visit for them would be to the museum of the sea – La musée de la mer. It’s an aquarium in the Art Deco building just in front of the sea. It’s possible to see many underwater creatures there. 

 Trying to find parking in Biarritz? There are seven payable parking houses in the heart of the city but there are also free car parks in these places: 

  • Jai Alai d’Aguiléra, 
  • Floquet (Avenue Charles Floquet), 
  • Hippodrome des Fleurs, 
  • SNCF train station, 
  • Atabal (Allée du Moura), 
  • Biarritz Lighthouse, 
  • Lac Marion, 
  • Plage Marbella et Milady, 
  • Club Hippique.

Next: Biarritz – Dunes of Pilat ( about 2 hours drive)

4. Dune of Pilat

The tallest dune in Europe

 When starting your journey to the last point of this road trip, then take a break in Dune of Pilat which is on the way. Dune of Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe (110 meters above sea level). 

 Due to its exposed location along the sea and steep angle, the Dune of Pilat is a famous paragliding spot, so if your soul wants some action then this is an option for you to try. 

 Either you like to climb on the sand dunes to see the marvellous view or would like to try paragliding – this place offers you some action before driving to your final destination – Bordeaux – where indulging with a good food can continue.

Next: Dune of Pilat – Bordeaux ( about 1 hour drive)

5. Bordeaux

Bordeaux

  Now you have reached your final destination, it’s time to find your hotel, park your car and enjoy what France has to offer – wine! Bordeaux is a very famous wine region and its unique due to its closeness to the sea. It has also been called the wine capital of the world! 

Well there has to be something special about Bordeaux when even the Queen of England herself said: “The very essence of elegance” about the place after her visit. 

 When talking about wine, Bordeaux has the greatest wine museum in the world – La Cité du Vin. The building is odd in architecture but it’s well worth a visit. Of course they have a wine shop (with 800 different wines!) and wine tastings there. This isn’t a museum of Bordeaux wine but Bordeaux’s museum of world wine – from Greece to Chile, you can learn a lot about world wine cultures there. 

 Yes wine is great there. What else is amazing? Food of course! The French chef Joel Robuchon has said: “Bordeaux has produced that is world-famous: oysters from the Bay of Arcachon; milk-fed Pauillac lamb, grazed on the Médoc marshes; and cèpes de Bordeaux, in my opinion the best mushrooms in France. They grow superb raspberries just a few kilometres from here; they rear ducks for magret de canard (duck breast); and the asparagus, too, is wonderful.” 

 He used to have his own restaurant there also but it has now been taken over by another famous French chef – Pierre Gagnaire. The Michelin 2* restaurant is in a fabulous hotel La Grande Maison which belongs to the wine magnate Bernard Magrez who predominantly owns Bordeaux wine estates (and also another wine regions in France and Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Japan, Morocco and California).  

 Of course the hotel and restaurant are very expensive but the restaurant offers a great deal for weekday lunch: 3 course menu for 60.- euros. This way you can enjoy the grande architecture and interior design of this amazing place for a bit better price. 

 Another great restaurants in town that we recommend to give a try are Le Chien de Pavlov, Garopapilles, Miles and Racines

 There is a huge selection of grande 5* hotels in Bordeaux, each of them have a gourmet restaurant as well. But there are many gorgeous options which doesn’t cost a fortune. Try your travel dates at Villa Victor Louis or Hotel Burdigala. 

 There is a lot to do for art lovers also. If you love the work of old masters, go to The Musée des Beaux Arts. But if you are a fan of modern art, you should head to the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art instead. 

 When you plan to stay longer in Bordeaux, a day trip to some vineyard is a must. You can either drive there with your rental car but in this case you’re going to need a sober driver. But there are plenty of options at the Tourist Office where the transportation will be organised for you, so you could enjoy the amazing wine as well. 

 Other day trip options are the beautiful town of St Emilion, then Médoc (home to many famous Bordeaux wine châteaux like Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild) and also Arcachon – an endearing seaside spot known for its oysters. 

 There is a very limited options to park your car on the street in Bordeaux. Cheap parking is offered on the outskirts of the city in several locations. However, the best advice we can give is to park your car in one of the car parks in the city centre, which is closest to your destination and is not expensive.

Drop Off

When you have done all the activities and wining/dining and are ready to fly back home, you can drop off your rental car at Bordeaux Airport. For best flight options we suggest to look Skyscanner or Kayak

Conclusion

This route is a lot about wining and dining so we recommend to go with your loved one or with a group of friends. 

It can be a nice trip with your kids too but do think twice if your kids will really enjoy long dining in different restaurants before booking those, as many of these have a set menu which can take many hours. 

Any way you decide to go, you’ll find your perfect rental car from Rentalmoose! A cabriolet for the two of you? Minivan for a group of friends or a big family? Or a sedan for your small family? Rentalmoose has you covered: LINK HERE. 

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