It doesn’t take long after one’s arrival to Basque Country to discover that Basque culture is distinct from Spanish culture. This shouldn’t come as a shock, since historically, Basques and Spanish are different people–but you’ll still find the odd tourist wondering where they could see a flamenco show in Bilbao (not to say it’s not possible, it’s just not at all common like in Andalucía.)
As I’m nearly 6 months into my new life in Basque Country, I’ve discovered a few cultural traditions that I didn’t experience down in Southern Spain, the first of which is El Txikiteo (also known as Poteo).
What is El Txikiteo?
El Txikiteo is the simple act of a group of friends (called a cuadrilla here) getting together to ir de pintxos from bar to bar while drinking small glasses of wine or cider (txikitos), or a small serving of beer (zurito). It’s bar-hopping at it’s finest; sampling delicious local wines and specialties of the region, catching up with friends and family, and getting to try out a varied selection of bars in the area. Since they say that The Basque Country has more bars and restaurants than many European Union countries have as a whole, there’s no shortage of places to txikitear.
When Can You Txikitear?
El Txikiteo is for the midday and evening, from about noon-3pm and 7-11pm.
Where in Spain can you Txikitear?
El Txikiteo is mostly done in The Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja, Cantabria and in the northern part of Burgos.
El Txikiteo is a social institution that’s designed for friends and family to meet up outside of the home over sips and small bites, before a sit-down meal. While it’s origins are unclear, it’s certain that it was designed to relieve the stresses of daily life!
How to Txikitear
Meet with your friends in one of the many zonas de pintxos; located in every Basque city (and nearly every town too!) You’ll know you’ve found a good one when you see lots of bars packed into a small area, locals with drinks in hand and a bar that’s almost too busy to take your order. Almost.
Often, friends will elect one friend to be in charge of el bote–the money that everyone pools together to ir de pinchos. This guy or gal will be the one responsible for paying the group’s tab in each location.
Then, you’ll head straight to the bar, pluck whatever pintxos tickle your fancy straight off the bar itself, order yourself a txikito or zurito, and throw your napkins to the floor when done. Yes, really! In a few minutes be ready to repeat the process all over again in the next bar…and again, and again. Bar-hopping in Basque Country is fun, fast-paced and not for the faint of heart.
My favorite places to Txikitear:
- Calle del Maestro García Rivero
- Calle Licenciado Pozas
- Plaza Nueva (in the Casco Viejo)
- Calle Somera (also in the Casco Viejo)
- Calle 31 de Agosto
- Calle Pescadería
- Barrio de Gros
- Anywhere in the Parte Vieja!
- Calle Eduardo Dato
- Plaza España