Last year I started my Spain discovery tour with a trip to Madrid, followed by Barcelona and Valencia, because I realized that I haven’t traveled to Spain at all, even if I am loving it more and more as far as I discover new corners of this beautiful country. This year I decided to add a new city to my Spain discovery tour: Bilbao. I had many friends who visited it and they all loved it, then I decided to book a long weekend with a friend there and I must say that it was great!
We arrived on an early afternoon and once we left our luggage at the hotel we headed by tram to my third Guggenheim museum out of four in the world (Bilbao, Venice, New York and Abu Dhabi – the one that I haven’t visited yet): I wasn’t disappointed at all! I loved the modern architecture of this museum and I loved the most famous pieces exposed outside: the “Puppy”, a floral puppy by Jeff Koons as well as his famous Tulips also exposed in Milan at the Fondazione Prada, or the big spider “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois. I was lucky enough to find there many pieces by Jenny Holzer, one of my favorite artists, who also dedicated a permanent installation to the city of Bilbao. Her colored neon art tells stories of migrants, solitude and fights, it was a pleasure to admire her art for real for the first time in Bilbao.
After a few hours lost in this beautiful museum we headed back to the Plaza Nueva and we enjoyed the Spanish “pintxos” time. The Place is full of bars where you can eat the most delicious pintxos, the Basque Country version of the famous Spanish tapas, with the best local red wine (vino tinto) – I will give you my favorite addresses in the Plaza Nueva at the end of the post. It’s the best moment to enjoy the city at its best: full of people, sparkling and creative!
The next day we had a very long walk around the city (the good thing about Bilbao is that you can easily walk to visit it as it is quite small) starting from the amazing area where we stayed, Bilbao La Vieja: we admired it at night and it has the best spots for drinking, probably the most visited by young people, but during the day we could admire its great street art: graffiti and murals are a must when you visit this old mining area that went from popular to trendy in the last decades. You can still see the entrance of the old mine near one of the restaurants along the river and you can recognize it by the mine graffiti on the wall (just in front of the Ribera market). Then we headed to the old town, Plaza Nueva again, the beautiful Plaza de Unamuno with the famous staircase and the Pensión Matilde, the Cathedral, the amazing art nouveau building of the Abando train station (possibly my favorite building in town) and all the tiny streets where it’s so easy but also so pleasant to get lost. In these little streets you can also find Flamingos Vintage Kilo (they have many shops in other Spanish cities like Barcelona), possibly my favorite vintage shop in town, where I bought two little 80s dress for less than 10 euros and I can’t wait to wear them!
Before heading to the “new” area of Bilbao we stopped at the Mercado de la Ribera, an institution in town, beautifully decorated food market where you can also eat meat, fish or of course pintxos, like we did (with a glass of red wine) at the Vermutería. The food was excellent and so was the wine…we got ready for a busy afternoon towards Plaza Moyúa and the newest part of Bilbao with big streets and modern shops…a bit boring for us! Then we decided to take the Artxanda Funicular to find some peace on top of the hill and to admire a wonderful view of Bilbao from the top! Of course all this peace made us ready for the crowd of the Plaza Nueva and for another night of pintxos, wine and music in Bilbao!
We spent our last day in Bilbao far away from the city: we took a bus up north to see the Basque Coast, more precisely the lovely city of Getaria to visit the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum just near the curated central square of the town. The museum is definitely worth a visit not only for the comprehensive view of the designer life and creations but also for its beautiful modern architecture: a black cube from the outside but great light and pink walls inside! I loved this museum dedicated to one of the most important designers ever, also one of my favorite of all times!
The village is very famous for the museum but also for the wonderful beach and for the restaurants near the beach where you can eat the best fresh fish but be careful: you need to book a table before and to choose carefully the restaurant as some of them are really incredibly expensive! After our dose of fresh fish and blue sea we headed back to Bilbao for our last festive night in Plaza Nueva first and in Bilbao La Vieja then!
As promised a last word to my favorite spots for pintxos in town, all in the big square Plaza Nueva. We loved Zaharra, a new spot with delicious food and wine and we ADORED the historical Café Bar Bilbao (one of the oldest bars in town where we switched from pintxos to fried calamari as it is the plate they are famous for!) and the traditional Victor Montes for the excellent pintxos and wine.