Bilbao, the Bilbo city
There is spanish saying about the north of Spain which is “en el norte, se come bien” (in the north, we eat well), not only we eat well but also it is cheap so when I told to my friends that I’m going to visit Bilbao, it was the first thing they told me.
Bilbao is located in the Autonomous Region of Basque Country, exactly it is the capital of the Biscay province (in spanish Vizcaya) and very famous for the work of Frank Gehry, the architect who built the Guggenheim museum.
It took me more or less 6 hours of driving from Barcelona to reach the city, of course it would take me
less time by plane and surely cheaper because at the end, between the fuel, the tolls and the parking, the car may not be the best transport but my plan was not only to visit the city but also other towns/cities in the north. In your situation, if you plan only to visit Bilbao, don’t rent a car !!!
Leaving early and arriving just in time to lunch, the first thing in my mind was to find a place to lunch and to check if the saying it is true !!! But first, find a place to park the car. In the downtown, all places are not free so driving and driving, at the end I parked it near the metro station san inazio. No problem to let it there all day, even during week because the zone is totally free. At this point, I can’t recommend you a hotel because I slept in an apartment of a friend in the downtown.
Bilbao was founded during the 14th century although archaeologists found out some remains dating between the 3rd and the 2nd century BC in the Malmasin mountain and some ruins dating between 11th and 12th century under the San Anton church. Crossed by the Bilbao ria (also known as Nervión ria or Ibaizábal ria), the city is also called Bilbo (no relation with Bilbo the hobbit of Tolkien) in euskera (the basque language), this name can be seen on all bus for instance.
Taking the metro and getting off at moyua station, I was in the downtown. To go to the old district, I should have getting off at casco viejo station but the visit of the old area was part of my later plan. First lunch, then the museum and at last the old district.
Walking on the gran vía de don diego lópez de haro street to the circular square, there are a lot of places to eat but I was looking for something typical and at the end, I chose a restaurant called la granja at the square. The inner is very big and the decoration (tables, chairs…) was if I was back in the 1900’s !!! I really like it and the food was like the saying. I ordered a menu which included a salad as a starter, a steak for the main dish, a pie of the house for the dessert and water. Conclusion, the plates were so big that I couldn’t finish my dessert, I think that the menu should be for 2 persons and not for 1, the food was good and cheap, only paid around 15 euros !!!
Amanun Portus was the name of the city given by Pliny the Younger (full name Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus), born in 61 AD, he was a lawyer, author and magistrate of Ancient Rome. And Flaviobriga given by Ptolemy (full name Claudius Ptolemaeus), born in 90 AD, he was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer and a poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. Those data can confirm that the city, even if it was a small village, existed long before its real foundation in 1301 after that the king Ferdinand IV of Castile confirmed it.
The architecture of the Guggenheim museum is very beautiful, I like it a lot, its construction lasted 5 years from 1992 to 1997 and to keep its door, be careful of the big dog !!! In fact, it is Puppy, a dog statue made of flowers by Jeff Koons so it is very kind, he likes that people take pictures of him. And behind the museum, there is Mamá, a big spider statue made of bronze, steel and marble by Louise Bourgeois. Inside the museum, the exhibition changes frequently but for example, some works of Michelangelo and Albrecht Dürer are part of the permanent collection.
After the visit, I walked along the ria to the old district, a very nice walk, above all during a sunny day. This area has a lot of shops and bars and after some minutes walking on those narrow streets, I got lost and stumbled on the nueva square (also known as baria square) where I decided to make a stop and order a drink in one of the bar terraces before to meet my friends in front of the provincial council palace on the gran via street.
Before to go to dinner, we went first to a bakery to buy our breakfast at suiza (calle marques del puerto 4) before the closing. They have really good things and a very delicious brioche. Once done, we walked on the diputación street, near the palace where there are tapas bars, to eat at el globo, very good and the one I like a lot it is a banana with bacon and apple compote, strange combination but an exquisite taste.
Then we went to old shanghai (calle ledesma 10 – (+34)946005991) to dine, it is a chinese restaurant with nicely decoration mixing between the lounge touch and the old tradition, the food is good and one advice, if you want to go on friday or saturday, call to reserve a table. If you don’t like this kind of food, around this area, there are also a lot of tapas bars, the street is very animated during night time.
To end our night, we went first to a place called café iruña (jardines de albia), just next to the restaurant, a very nice place divided in 2 areas, one is decorated with blue ceramics and the other with a mudejar-style decoration. It is absolutely a place to visit !!! Then we went to the old district in different bars until 2h AM, the closing time of all bars in the old area.
If you plan to go to Bilbao, I would recommend also to visit the 2 parks of the city, the etxebarria one where at the top, you will have a view on the city and the doña casilda one for a romantic walk and/or to visit the fine art museum, also there are a lot of areas for children. The other tapas place, I recommend, is bitoque (calle alameda mazarredo 6), it has a restaurant area so don’t need to be on feet to eat its good tapas. For panoramic/scenic pictures, check my photo website Concept RT.