The city is small but perfectly formed. Everything is walkable and it's so, so photogenic! Art lovers are very well catered for and Basque cuisine is world renowned. This trip really showed me another side of Spain and I definitely want to see more of the country - despite countless childhood holidays to the Costa Del Sol and trips to Madrid and Barcelona, this city break made me realise how vast and varied Spain is - San Sebastian, Seville and Valencia duly added to my travel wishlist!
|Yes, the coloured glass windows was the main draw for staying here! It was a great hotel for a weekend away. More on where to stay at the end of this post.|
|First stop - the Guggenheim. The structure dominates the city - you really can't miss it! I re-introduced myself to Louise Bourgeois' spider sculpture "Maman" which used to be outside the Tate Modern in the long ago days when I lived in that part of London.|
|My favourite photo from the trip - blue skies and water reflections. The sculpture is Tall Tree and The Eye by Anish Kapoor.|
|Tulips by Jeff Koons. I loved the Koons exhibition at the Pompidou in Paris which I visited back in March so it was great to see more of his work here - although slightly disappointing that there is none inside the gallery. The steel structures by Richard Serra inside the gallery are pretty cool but for me the architecture was by far the highlight.|
|Puppy by Jeff Koons - an icon of Bilbao, the puppy sculpture was intended to be temporary when it was installed in 1992 but the town's residents fell in love with it and it couldn't be taken away! The puppy is watered by an internal irrigation system and looks different depending on the time of year. We also visited the Belles Artes museum which focuses more on fine art but had a temporary poster exhibition which was really interesting.|
|Street art in the old town - the old town is great to explore with it's narrow streets and tiny cafes. A big contrast from the centre of town with it's Oxford Street-esque shopping street and international chains.|
|A flower market in December - I'd forgotten what summer smelled like! I found myself thinking "I wonder what it's like during the winter here" and then realising that this is winter here.|
|Walking back from the old town. You can see the funicular track going up the hill. I clocked up 25km walking around the city so definitely earned my super rich, Spanish-style hot chocolate enjoyed at an outside cafe (again, in December!).|
|Pintxos are ordered 2-3 at a time so you can go back for more of the ones you like! It's not the most veggie friendly pursuit but as a fish-eater I found enough to eat and everywhere offers the famous Spanish omelette! Pictured are mushroom and ham pintxos, pork meatballs, squid an da smoked salmon morsel all in El Globo - one of the most famous Bilbao eateries. The streets in this part of town are packed with bars - seating is hard to come by so don't expect a relaxing meal but it's a fun experience (even for a resolute non-sharer of food)! Also pictured are some sweet treats - I totally missed out on having churros which I'm still sad about.|
Staying: We stayed in the Hotel Hesperia which was in a great location and served up a good buffet breakfast. Hannah stayed in the Hotel Miro which looks great, too.
The cost: Bilbao is great value not being as touristy as Barcelona - entrance to the Guggenheim is €13 and to the Belles Artes €7, food and drinks are well-priced (€4 for a very large G&T and around €10 for a main course) and the nicest thing to do in the city is to walk and take it all in - totally free!