A weekend in Bilbao
Not being from Bilbao when you visit Bilbao could be a problem. It’s tough keeping up with the well-known “endurance” of the natives from the capital of Biscay. And on this weekend route, we’re going to treat the tourists like locals. Three days jam-packed with activities, walks, hills, downhills, lunches and dinners, that all include the best Basque gastronomy.
You’ll probably need a holiday from your holiday and will have to ask your boss for Monday off, but all the unforgettable memories you’ll take back of the Estuary of Bilbao city will be worth it.
Itinerary day 1
5:00 PM-6:00 PM
We will start our tour in this lively square that is full of bars and which has been, since its inauguration in 1851, the centre of Bilbao residents’ social life and witness to traditional ‘Regocijos’ festivities.
6:30 PM-8:00 PM
Walk up the steps of the Calzadas de Mallona to explore this 16th century temple dedicated to the patron saint of Biscay, the ‘Amatxu’ of the city for the people of Bilbao. Learning about its turbulent history is worth the effort.
8:00 PM-9:30 PM
From Etxebarría park, with its brick chimney that is retained in homage to the foundry that it was built over, we descend to the monumental 19th century City Hall and the Arenal Gardens next to the estuary.
9:30 PM-11:00 PM
For a riverside dining experience right in the city centre, head to the elegantly-designed contemporary Ibaizabal Restaurant located on the ground floor of Hotel Barceló Bilbao Nervión. Expect exquisitely prepared local cuisine, made with top-calibre ingredients, and best enjoyed with some wine from the sizeable and formidably-crafted wine list
Itinerary day 2
A former popular and ‘cheerful’ neighbourhood in Bilbao is today a bohemian and multicultural one, where gentrification has followed closely on the heels of cultural projects such as BilboArte and BilboRock, an event hall hosted in the La Merced convent church.
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
After crossing the river, we find ourselves in the birthplace of Bilbao: we take a stroll down Siete Calles where the city began to emerge in 1300. This calls for some tasty pintxos at emblematic places such as the Santiago Cathedral and the Ribera Market.
2:30 PM-3:30 PM
The Spanish expression ‘tranquillity and good food’ fits Prudencio García (better known as Pentxo) and his family’s restaurant like a glove. His daily menu, that includes eight entrées, eight mains and eight desserts to choose from, never fails.
4:00 PM-6:00 PM
To let lunch digest, and when the weather is fine, there are few better options than to relax and take a walk along the nearby golden beach of Plentzia, located in a charming bay next to the mouth of the Nervión estuary.
6:30 PM-8:30 PM
On the way back, take a detour down through the picturesque Algorta marine port, before walking down to the Bizkaia Bridge, inaugurated in 1893 and recognised as the first transporter bridge to be built from metal in the world.
Casa Jauregi is waiting for us on the other side of the Bizkaia Bridge, in Portugalete. This traditional grill restaurant specialises in meats and fish. A family restaurant where you feel at home.
Itinerary day 3
This centre of contemporary art, inaugurated in 1997, is a perfect synthesis of Bibao’s industrial past and its current cosmopolitanism. Frank Gehry created the city's museum, which quickly became a universal icon.
The charming red funicular, inaugurated in 1915, takes us into the clouds and over the city to the top of Mount Artxanda, where residents of Bilbao have never tired of visiting since the 19th century. The views of Bilbao are spectacular.
High on any tourist’s to-do list in Bilbao is to taste txakoli wine and eat grilled chops, the star dish at this restaurant whose style pays homage to the Arxanda mountain region—and the many open-air eateries—where the traditional txakoli wine was cultivated.
The sobremesa [time spent digesting after meals] this afternoon will be spent walking along the estuary and crossing the Euskalduna bridge into the student district of Deusto, presided over by its famous university.
We will then visit Plaza Moyúa and the Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro and explore the Foral Palace, ‘fosteritos’ and the monumental architecture of the Ensanche, built in the 19th century.
One of the best restaurants in the city, at reasonable prices. This tapas and pintxos house was established in 1927 and its specialities include Iberian ham, grilled cod and croquettes.