3 reasons to take a trip to Bilbao, Spain

Monday, March 16, 2015

Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza or dare I mention it - Benidorm (if I'm talking to some of my British colleagues) are the destinations that most of us consider when planning a holiday to Spain. However, I feel it's my duty to let you know there's actually a whole world of other interesting cities and towns in Spain all worthy of exploring - full of colour, art, music, delicious food and bright, friendly people.

One such city is Bilbao in Northern Spain, where hubby and I recently had a long weekend break in search of some winter sunshine. While it didn't end up being too sunny (sigh), we did have a cool time exploring somewhere new.

Here are 3 damn good reasons why you should take a trip to Bilbao, Spain...

1. The awesome architecture...
Bilbao is now one of my favourite cities in Europe for interesting architecture - boasting a long list of buildings designed by famous architects including the Guggenheim Museum (Frank Gehry), Metro system (Sir Norman Foster), airport (Santiago Calatrava) and community centre (Philippe Starck) among many more. A photographers paradise!

'Maman' by Louise Bourgeois the giant bronze stainless steel spider outside the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain
'Maman' by Louise Bourgeois
the giant bronze stainless steel spider outside the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain

Bilbao's own Guggenheim Museum opened in 1997 and is admired by critics around the world as one of the most important architectural works completed since 1980. The Guggenheim Museum is a landscape of curves and shiny titanium points that reflect the light and colours surround that it...

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at dusk
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at dusk

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao - looking golden in the afternoon sunshine
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao - looking golden in the afternoon sunshine

Zubizuri pedestrian bridge - Bilbao, Spain
Zubizuri pedestrian bridge - Bilbao, Spain
 
giant puppy garden by Jeff Koons - Bilbao, Spain
giant puppy garden by Jeff Koons - Bilbao, Spain

2. Delicious pintxos and 3-course lunch menus
A pintxo is a small snack usually eaten in bars and washed down with a glass of vino. In Bilbao pintxos were the food of choice in the evening and the old town was full of small bars serving wine by the glass and impressive displays of pintxos galore.

pintxos laid out at a busy bar in Bilbao, Spain
pintxos laid out at a busy bar in Bilbao, Spain

Each evening we bar hopped, trying a small bite here and a small bite there long into the night. I lost count of the number of places we visited, but believe me they were all amazing and incredibly good value. At each bar we ordered a glass of wine each and one or two pintxos - and the bill never came to more than 5 or 6 Euros at the most.

a pintxo bar that served amazing homemade cheesecake!! - Bilbao, Spain
a pintxo bar that served amazing homemade cheesecake!! - Bilbao, Spain

pintxos and wine - Bilbao, Spain
pintxos and wine - Bilbao, Spain

In Bilbao people tend to have a large meal at lunch and nibble on smaller snacks (hence pintxos) in the evening. Lots of local restaurants serve a 3-course lunch menu that include wine and coffee, which is incredibly good value. Here's what I had for lunch one day for the grand sum of 14 Euros...

lunch starter: salmon salad - Bilbao, Spain
lunch starter: salmon salad - Bilbao, Spain

lunch main: steak and potato fries - Bilbao, Spain
lunch main: steak and potato fries - Bilbao, Spain

lunch dessert: tiramisu - Bilbao, Spain
lunch dessert: tiramisu - Bilbao, Spain

3. A breath of fresh air and some outdoor activities
Just a fifty minute bus ride from Bilbao is the famed seaside town San Sebastian. Usually awash with tourists in summer, it was pleasantly quiet in February, and we practically had the beach to ourselves apart from one lone sand artist...

'sand artist' in San Sebastian, Spain
'sand artist' in San Sebastian, Spain

Set right on the beach was La Perla Spa. With a variety of thermal pools to choose from and a ocean view it was the perfect spot to spend the afternoon, while getting some exercise. And for those who like a challenge it is customary to have a dip in the sea before plunging into the warm spas (I was too much of a wimp to do this)...

La Perla Spa on the beach in San Sebastian, Spain
La Perla Spa on the beach in San Sebastian, Spain

We did our fair share of walking while in Bilbao and San Sebastian too - along the river, through both old downs and along the seashore, trying our best to burn off the mountains of food and wine we were consuming.

a view of Bilbao city, Spain
a view of Bilbao city, Spain

along Bilbao canal, Spain
along Bilbao river, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian, Spain

All in all, a fantastic weekend away filled with culture, activity and most importantly - good wine. Next time you're planning a trip to Spain I recommend you consider Bilbao.

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8 comments

  1. It seems worth considering !! Strangely enough, whenever we go to Spain, we also tend to go to the south (Murcia is one of my favourites), but we always "neglect" the north...

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    1. Yeah, I have a few spots in Europe I tend to revisit again and again - just cause they're so awesome! It was really nice to see somewhere a bit different this trip though.

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  2. I've never honestly considered Bilbao, but it sounds fun!

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    1. Spain is a pretty fun country :)

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  3. Yay that there is a 'Maman' there - we just saw one in Ottawa too. I would love to see them all!

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  4. Great post! We are heading to San Sebastian for the first May bank holiday weekend so I'm looking forward to spending a little time in Bilbao then too!

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    1. Enjoy San Sebastian. And enjoy the pintxos!

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