A few years ago a friend of mine told me that one of her favorite trips she’d ever taken was to the North of Spain and Bilbao. For reasons unknown we didn’t discuss it in dept, but ever since that conversation this city had been on my radar.
Our initial plans of a roadtrip through the Spanish Basque Country soon merged into a trip through the North of Spain, to add Bilbao and Biscay to the itinerary. Getting some bucket list stuff checked-off, yay!
Just like city life moves fast, I also tend to move fast when visiting a city. In Bilbao that was once again the case. We didn’t have a schedule to stick to as we had no bookings for the rest of our trip, but I figured a day to see the sights would be enough. It was late afternoon when we arrived in the city and by lunch the next day we had checked off all of our items on the list. Per-fect!
Arriving in Bilbao, we first made work of checking in in our homestay for the next night; Chalet Bilbao Aeropeurto. The host Gerard welcomed us very warmly into his home and offered us some advice on how best to get to the city by car and where to find the main attractions. Even though his place was very close to the airport, we didn’t have a single issue with the noise of the planes. And the neighborhood was very pretty and seemed safe – always nice when you’re traveling with a car full of stuff, including race bikes. So I can only warmly recommend this place!
There was about an hour of daylight left after we parked our car in the parking garage at Parkia – Arenal. We immediately headed for the old part of the city. The perfect place to find some evening ambiance and most importantly: good food. It was a Monday evening but the city was very much alive with people enjoying the end of their work day.
We strolled through the many small streets in the old quarter, stumbling across loads of bars where people were enjoying a plate of Pintxos. These small tapas-like snacks are very common in the north of Spain, so of course we had to try some. Definitely a winner! Even though we probably ended up in one of the most touristic places to eat our Pintxos – in Erreka on Plaza Nueva – they were SO good!
The rest of the evening we soaked up the incredible atmosphere of this city by night. Once again a confirmation of me loving cities in the evening.
Tuesday morning arrived and we set out to explore the rest of the city. Today we’d focus on the new part of Bilbao. We started off with a stroll along the river to the famous Guggenheim museum. This is the postcard picture of Bilbao and of course cannot be missed when visiting this city.
For those interested in modern art, this place is a gem and a must visit. But as you may know, that’s not my cup of tea. At all. So a visit to the Guggenheim wasn’t on our agenda for the day. But the architecture of the museum is remarkable enough to walk all the way to the building just to admire it from the outside.
From the Guggenheim we then made our way to the Federico Moyua enparantza, a park/square with gorgeous flower beds surrounded by stunning buildings. Here you can also find the tourist office. My dad insisted on entering to get an extra map of the city and came out with both a map and a great tip. I guess this means I’m never able to complain about him wanting to enter a tourist office mid-visit ever again.
To get an amazing view over Bilbao, we could take a funicular to Artxanda. Now thát is my cup of tea. After a small detour to get a glimpse of the Azkuna Zentroa, we immediately made our way to the lower station across the Zubizuri bridge. For only 4,3 euros, you can get yourself a roundtrip ticket. A bargain! Of course we could have also taken our car there, but where’s the fun in that?
The letters functioning as a railing are a pretty cool idea, right? Me gusta! Once back at the lower station, it was already pretty close to lunch time. Perfect timing to head to our last stop of this trip; the Ribera Market. The perfect place to score some food for lunch. I’ve already been to many markets in lots of cities and while they’re all similar, it’s always one of my favorite places to explore. The fresh ingredients and food to go is always worth it!
From the market, we returned through the old part of the city – just to get a last glimpse – to our car. Happy to have seen Bilbao, but not entirely blown away by it either. Of course my expectations were pretty high to begin with and the weather wasn’t all that great. It’s not exactly a destination I’d choose for a citytrip of only a couple of days, but added to an itinerary through the north of Spain, like ours, it’s a great piece of the puzzle.