Txikiteo! How utterly agreable it is to do the bar hopping in the Basque town Bilbao: going between small restaurants, tasting local wine or cider with some pintxos: mini gourmet tastings on a stick, called tapas in other parts of Spain.

So come along on a txikiteo tour to some of the best pintxos of Bilbao.

1. La Vina del Ensanche

Founded in 1927, still run in the same family and constantly packed with jamón lovers, wine drinking artists, philosophers, local bankers and pintxos gourmets in general. Try pintxos and mini dishes such as – among others – Iberian cured ham with tomato, virgin olive oil and oven baked ciabatta, marinated bluefin tuna, Iberian loin, melted cheese and foie on crystal bread, pork cheeks with mashed potato and apple sorbet with yoghourt foam. http://www.lavinadelensanche.com

2. Gure-Toki

Another family run pintxos bar, where the three siblings Begona, Yolanda and Ivan Siles are constantly rewarded for their innovative pintxos, still respecting the Basque heritage. If you feel like matured, grilled and sliced T-bone steak, this is also the place. The bar is tiny but there is plently of room outside in the sun, on Placa Nueva. Highly recommended. http://www.gureroki.com

3. Xukela

A very local, warm and genuine bar filled with people from the quarter and tourists. The chorizo pintxos are lovely as well as some red pepper and mushroom variations with seafood.

El Perro 2, in the Old Town.

4. Restaurante Rotterdam

This very local, sympathetic and tiny bar in the old parts of Bilbao that serves basic, but good, pintxos and small dishes where squid in ink is a favourite. Some locals claim that the croquetas of Rotterdam are the best in town. Eat them by the bar, with a glass of wine, as all pintxos.

C/Perro 6, Old Town

5. Berton

Some claim Berton has become somewhat touristic, including creating a small chain with three bars in Bilbao. There were no outsiders during my visit to Berton in the Old Town though, on Calle Jardines 11 (no tourists, apart from me, that is). The atmosphere is still authentic and robust with cured ham and garlic drying from the ceiling, red bricks and visible beams. http://www.berton.eus

6. Restaurante Markina

In splendid surroundings, only old oak and really no-fuzz-locals around, we had the best grilled and sliced T-bone steak ever, sitting down having dinner here at the Markina. Reserve a table in advance. Staff doesn’t speak a word English and may act a bit odd, or should I say not having been to the “customer is always right”-school; refused to give us some salt for the meat even if we insisted, which is a bit over eccentric in my eyes. (We finally got it, five minutes later but he didn’t approve at all to this “overdosing of salt”.) But there is an English menu and the pintxos are fine and possible to point at, if only snacking in the bar. http://www.restaurantemarkina.com

The three last photos are from Gure-Toki.

http://www.bilbaoturismo.net; http://www.spain.info/se

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