How To Spend A Weekend In Bilbao
So as lots of you will have seen from my incessant posting on Instagram, I spent last weekend in Bilbao and San Sebastián. I'll be writing about both destinations, but today I wanted to focus on the former and show you how to spend a weekend in Bilbao. After spending a couple of days exploring the city, I've come to the conclusion that Bilbao is the perfect location for a weekend city break. There's plenty to see and do, the food is incredible and on the whole, we found prices to be a lot more reasonable than other European cities. Plus we had sunshine and temperatures in the late twenties the whole time we were there - what more could you want?!
We checked in to the Cosmov Bilbao Hotel for our trip and I couldn't recommend it more. Our room was lovely, it was great value and it was literally a stones throw away from the Guggenheim museum. It was also super easy to get to from the airport - literally one stop on the bus, which cost us a teeny tiny €1.45.
The bed was huge and really comfy and the shower was on elf the best ones I've ever used at a hotel. Plus I was kinda in love with the polka dot wallpaper - reckon I can convince Sam to let me have some in my house somewhere?!
Visit the Guggenheim museum
The Guggenheim museum is pretty much the main attraction in Bilbao and it was top of our bucket list for the trip. The collections here are amazing - from the impressive Puppy that stands waiting for you at the entrance to Warhol's One Hundred And Fifty Multicolored Marilyns. We also thoroughly enjoyed just wandering around the grounds and taking in the building from all different angles - it is totally incredible and we particularly loved watching the light bounce off it at golden hour.
Take a stroll along the river
Bilbao is a city split in half by the beautiful Nervion river, and wandering along it is a great way to kill an hour or so. We started at the Guggenheim and strolled all the way down to the old town, taking in the sights along the way. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Zubizuri (Basque for white) bridge which is particularly impressive.
Catch the funicular to the top of Mount Artxanda
One thing you might not know about Bilbao is that it's surrounded by two small mountain ranges. A lot of people had told us that the best view of the city was from the top of Mount Artxanda so we decided to head up there and see it for ourselves. It was a really hot day so we decided to save our legs and catch the funicular up which was cheap and fun too! The view was worth the trip - I reckon it would be even better at sunset!
We headed here on the recommendation of one of Sam's friends, who also happens to be the head chef at Basque restaurant, Pintura. He told us to make a reservation and order the tasting menu and we were so glad we followed his advice - the food was incredible. Every course was filled with flavour and the restaurant was buzzing with locals making the most of a Saturday night. It was also super reasonable - we both opted for the 7 course tasting menu and shared a bottle of wine, and our bill came in at less than €70.
Mercado de la Ribera
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time then you'll know that I love to scope out a good food market whenever I'm exploring a new city. Luckily for me, Bilbao is blessed with a great one and Sam and I had a fab little afternoon enjoying the grub on offer at Mercado de la Ribera. The nibbles we tried were delicious and the whole market was absolutely buzzing with locals watching the football - it was super fun.
Bilbao is famous for it's pintxos, which are basically the Basque equivalent of tapas, and a great place to eat them is in Plaza Nueva. Make like the locals and head out for a bit of a pintxos crawl - you basically enjoy a drink and one or two dishes in each bar before moving on to the next place, and as Plaza Nueva is jam packed full of pintxos bars, you never have to walk far!
This place is definitely off the beaten track and it isn't the easiest place in the world to get to, but my WORD it is worth the effort! It's about a 15-20 minute walk from the funicular station at the top of Mount Artxanda and there are a couple of hills involved, but the food here was the best that we had on the trip and I'm still thinking about it now. You basically order steak by the weight and cook it on a little coal BBQ that they bring to your table - fun and yum! The outdoor terrace where we ate was teeming with local families enjoying their Sunday lunch and Sam and I thoroughly enjoyed people watching over a glass of wine.
Are you even on a holiday if you don't enjoy a cocktail on a rooftop bar?! I reckon not, and thankfully Gran Hotel Domine has a gorgeous rooftop bar that has a cracking view over the Guggenheim Museum. Head up here at sunset for allllll the golden hour vibes.
Casco Viejo is Bilbao's old town and it's a great place to head out for a drink or two. Enjoy a beer on the terraces that spill out onto the little cobbled streets, or better still, opt for a copa of gin tonic. I thoroughly enjoyed people watching and enjoying the warm air, and I reckon it's probably a super fun place to be in the wee hours!
We actually visited this little place twice in one day - in the morning for our flat white fix, and then again in the evening for a craft beer. Sam and I both loved it here - the decor was amazing, the beer selection was fab and it's very handily located within spitting distance of La Mercado de Ribera. Definitely worth checking out if you're a coffee or beer fan.
So there you have it, my tips for how to spend a weekend in Bilbao. Have you visited the city before? Would you like to?