Everything You Need to Know About El Txikiteo

pintxos-kalimotxos

Pintxos and kalimotxos in San Sebastián

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).

spanish-beer-and-wine

Spanish beer and wine

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.

pintxos, tapas, basque country

Grab all the pintxos you want directly from the bar!

When Can You Txikitear?

El Txikiteo is for the midday and evening, from about noon-3pm and 7-11pm.

Deep-fried artichoke, wrapped in bacon.

Deep-fried artichoke, wrapped in bacon.

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.

Why Txikitear?

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!

People off to txikitear in San Sebastián

People off to txikitear in San Sebastián

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.

De pinchos en Plaza Nueva, Bilbao

De pinchos en Plaza Nueva, Bilbao

My favorite places to Txikitear:

Bilbao

  • Calle del Maestro García Rivero
  • Calle Licenciado Pozas
  • Plaza Nueva (in the Casco Viejo)
  • Calle Somera (also in the Casco Viejo)

San Sebastián

  • Calle 31 de Agosto
  • Calle Pescadería
  • Barrio de Gros
  • Anywhere in the Parte Vieja!

Vitoria

  • Calle Eduardo Dato
  • Plaza España

 

Comments

  1. Melanie Murrish says

    I’m drooling….I’ve been to San Sebastian twice, but only for the day as we were staying with friends in France; it was beautiful, the food was delicious, the drinks were intoxicating and the beach…….hmmm. The only downside was we couldn’t stay. OK, after reading this post I am looking right now for a housesit for our family; thanks for the memories.

  2. says

    Mmmm, I can’t wait to get my hands on some pintxos and just food from País Vasco en general. I’m thinking of doing Cantabria/Euskadi/Asturias road trip during a 2 week break from grad school next spring, and am planning to allow plentyyy of time to stop at the renowned establishments up in el norte. May be emailing you for suggestions in the future!

    There’s actually a txikiteo festival here in New York next week and I actually squealed when I saw the advertisement for it…so that’s a completely normal reaction…haha but your blog is makin’ me hungry!
    Julia recently posted…simple pleasures in the eternal cityMy Profile

  3. Austin says

    Hi Christine I’ve just discovered your site, thanks for posting this! I’ll be visiting Basque in 3 weeks can’t wait to do this!

  4. says

    My experience with Southern Spain is mostly in Extremadura, but it seems to me that they do txikiteo (chiquiteo?) at least as much as the Basques. It seems very odd to me that you’d note this as a difference. I’ve never seen anywhere quite as nice as the San Sebastian casco viejo, though, for sure.
    Erik R. recently posted…Ian is Two Months OldMy Profile

    • says

      In my experience from living in both the south and Basque Country, as well as talking to locals in both places, the difference is the speed, and time of the day in which it takes place. In Andalucía at least, tapeando is much slower-paced, whereas here in the Basque Country bars are switched up every 10 minutes or so. Also, never saw people tapeando at 11am in the south, which is not an uncommon sight in el País Vasco. Admittedly, the differences aren’t astounding, but the point of this post is merely to describe a Basque tradition, not to focus too much on the comparisons.

  5. Cathy navarro says

    I love love your blog!! We (family of 5 adults) from California will be in Madrid, San Sebastián and Barcelona dec/jan. can’t wait to use many suggestions. My question to you is where we should rent a apt in Barcelona? What area will be lively, safe and clean for us to walk around?

  6. says

    Thanks for sharing this, Christine! I’ve lived in the Basque country for few years, but haven’t been back for over 15 years now. Your post brought back so many great memories. We are planning a trip to San Sebastian next year. Cannot wait to bar hop and enjoy delicious Basque food.
    frankaboutcroatia recently posted…Random facts about Brac IslandMy Profile

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