The lively, unassuming, inviting city of Bilbao sits on the verdant northern coast of Spain in the Basque Country.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Bilbao staked its claim as an important industrial city in the Iberian peninsula. The city continued to develop and expand during the centuries that followed, and by the beginning of the 1900s, it was seen as a very important Spanish city and a true icon of the Basque Country.
The 20th century saw the creation of Frank Gehry’s exquisite Guggenheim Museum on the edge of the River Nervión, and today there are a number of art galleries, museums and other cultural attractions spread throughout the city and its surroundings. Bilbao also boasts the impressive San Mamés stadium, home to the all-Basque football team.
The city is a haven for food-lovers. Pintxos, the traditional Basque tapas, are slices of baguette adorned with various toppings – from ham to tuna to crab to paté – all carefully combined and artfully designed to produce mini pieces of art that look almost too good to eat. (Almost…) Tapas bars line the streets, just inviting you to spend an evening sampling the vast variety of pintxos on offer, accompanied by a glass of traditional Basque wine, txakoli.
The city is gradually finding its place on the tourist’s map of Spain. Small but perfectly formed, Bilbao is an ideal destination for a weekend away, to explore the culture and authentic atmosphere of the vibrant Basque city.
Whilst you’re there…
Blend in with the locals and use the word ‘agur’ to say goodbye
Indulge in a glass of wine and a pintxo in picturesque Plaza Nueva
Laze in the park and enjoy the sparkling fountains
Browse the art exhibitions in the awe-inspiring Guggenheim Museum
Amble through the city’s old town, Casco Viejo
Organise a day trip to San Sebastián and check out the tortoise-shaped island
Other experiences not to be missed include snapping a photo of Jeff Koons’ fabulous Puppy creation, taking a trip on the funicular to enjoy views of the entire city, marvelling at the innovative metro entrances designed by Norman Foster and browsing the eclectic mix of exclusive and high-street shops on Gran Vía.
Stay in the heart of the city at the historic Hotel Carlton – located on central Plaza Moyúa, this luxury hotel was inaugurated in 1926 and continues to offer decadence, charm and an impeccable service.
Culture lovers will be seduced by the Miró Hotel, where art and elegance are combined just a few paces from the Guggenheim Museum, whilst others will be tempted by the funky decor and views of the river at the Hotel Melia Bilbao.
Or, enjoy ocean views just outside Bilbao with a stay at the High Tech Tamarises Beach in the area of Getxo.
Alternatively, stay just outside Bilbao, in a former palace dating back to the 17th century, now home to the Palacio Urgoiti Hotel & Golf, or go further afield and explore the Basque countryside with a trip to Ibaia Hotel in the tranquil town of Gordexola.