What can you do in Bilbao?
Every June for three days, and thanks to the Bilbao BBK Live festival, music becomes the main character in the very Nobel city of Bilbao. But there are still thousands of plans for you to enjoy before making your way up to Kobetamendi.
Bilbao for culture lovers
If there was anything that put Bilbao on the map in the late ’90, it was the Guggenheim Museum; building designed by architect Frank Gehry, with Puppy (artists Jeff Koon’s giant dog), safeguarding the entrance and Mamá, an almost 9 metre spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois that stands by the river. Guggenheim will hold three unmissable exhibitions that coincide with Bilbao BBK Live: Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois and the School of Paris, with Picasso, Kandinsky and Brancusi. Among many others, they will be the stars of the museum this coming summer.
And even with the Guggenheim being the crown jewel, the Museum of Fine Arts has nothing to envy. Located in one of the cities lungs, the Doña Casilda Park holds some of the most interesting retrospectives and avant-garde proposals in the city. Wednesdays offers free access all day and under-25 year olds do not pay on Sundays from 14:00 to 20:00.
Did you know that Bilbao has been named European City of the Year 2018 at the Urbanism Awards for having transformed itself from the post-industrial economic doldrums of the 1990s through investment in culture?
What used to be old wine warehouse in the XX Century was reformed by the architect Philippe Starck, turning the building in to one of the cities most important cultural hallmarks. Azkuna Zentroa– Also known, as La Alhóndiga– is a cultural haven with cinemas, a library, restaurants and an amazing terrace, perfect to enjoy a cocktail on. What most stands out is the buildings atrium, composed of 43 columns with different architectural styles. While enjoying a stroll through them, do not forget to look up to get a good look at the swimmers in the transparent floored pool above your heads.
The Arriaga Theatre and the Campos Eliseos Theatre also deserve a place in your photo album thanks to the impressive neo-baroque style architecture of the first and modernist of the second.
Pintxos and pots
Use a highlighter to mark these three places on your map: Pozas, Diputación and the Casco Viejo, the true pintxo experience happens there. The Licenciado Poza Street, with San Mamés in the background, is the perfect place to start your first course. After, make your way down Diputacion and Ledesma to try out the cities gourmet proposals and finish at the Casco Viejo, where the most historic taverns and the most modern venues live and mix in harmony in Bilbao’s oldest neighbourhood. When visiting the Casco Viejo, also known as ‘Las Siete Calles’ (the seven streets), remember these names: Plaza Nueva, Santa María street, Somera and Barrenkale, the ideal places to refuel before returning to Kobetamendi.
If you want to know directly where to go, here are a few places with the best pintxos in the city.
If you prefer homemade beer and nice coffee bars, Bilbao La Vieja is your place. You will find this colourful re-emerging neighbourhood opposite the Casco and just across the river, a place always full of interesting proposals.
Bilbao wasn’t going to be any less and has quickly joined this fast growing trend, the curing breakfast/lunch for late night festivalgoers. Many places offer brunch in the city, each with unique proposals like La Ribera, located south of the stunning market known by the same name, one the best choices for forgetting that hangover and refuel energy levels after dancing the night away at Kobetamendi. Continue to enjoy music with their jazz band and live acoustic concerts.
Take a stroll
Even though Bilbao can be walked from one end to the other, there is many travel alternatives around the city: bus, tube, tram or train, whatever choice you pick, they will all help reach the farthest corners. If you prefer to pedal, don’t miss the Paseo de Uribarte. From the Museo Marítimo to the El Arenal bridge is a pedestrian road, always side by side with the Nervión River and considered one of the most beautiful walks in Bilbao. You will cross the park Parque de Doña Casilda, the Guggenheim, the Palacio Euskalduna, the Puente de la Salve or the Zubizuri de Calatrava, and if you should get tired, you can always stop at any of the many bar terraces at the Muelle de Ripa.
You can also travel on the river, for everybody’s luck, the Nervión River is not what is was 30 years ago, it is now completely regenerated and clean. There are many options to enjoy the city from the water, canoes, boats or the most fun choice of all, on a table SUP. You choose.
Bilbao from above
The city sights from Kobetamendi will make your Instagram feed literally be on fire, but a little get away to Artxanda is always recommendable. Like the Botxo it is, mountains surround Bilbao. The panoramic views from Artxanda are spectacular and you can reach the area without sweating thanks to the cable car, that by the way, has just turned 100 and will take you from the centre to the top in just five minutes.
Nothing better than a visit to the beach to recover completely. Not many cities can brag about having a tube that takes them from the city centre to the beach line in less than 30 minutes.
With Getxo and Sopela so near, it would be a shame to not enjoy a bit of surfboarding at Arrigunaga, Larrabasterra, Barinatxe or Atxabiribil
If you haven’t come with your complete festival look already, the cities ideas to make sure you are on fleek, are endless. Find world known brands at Gran Vía and the Casco Viejo, where you will also find some of Bilbao’s oldest and most traditional shops.
Don’t miss Indautxu and Bilbao La Vieja, both full of small shops and alternative and local designers where you will find the cities trendiest proposals.