Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Weekend In Bilbao

What better remedy for the winter blues than jetting off to somewhere with blue skies and sunshine? My trip to Korea feels like too long ago and without the promise of a Middle Eastern Christmas this year, a weekend in a sunny new city was just what I needed. Coincidentally, Hannah, had visited Bilbao back in October so I had plenty of tips of what to do and where to eat.

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!

things to do in Bilbao
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. 
things to do in Bilbao
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. 
things to do in Bilbao
A misty selfie - as we walked around the Guggenheim's lake a mist suddenly appeared (and quickly disappeared again!). The weather was amazing for December - sunglasses definitely needed! None of the city's attractions were too crowded - Bilbao is a chilled out place and it's perfect if you want to explore a new city but also have time out to enjoy the cafe culture (and maybe some sneaky Zara shopping). 
things to do in Bilbao
My favourite photo from the trip - blue skies and water reflections. The sculpture is Tall Tree and The Eye by Anish Kapoor. 
things to do in Bilbao
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. 
things to do in Bilbao
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. 
things to do in Bilbao
The best views of the city are at the top of the Funicular - the two minute ride up costs less than one Euro! There's not a lot to do at the top but it was a good Sunday morning activity (most of the shops are closed on Sundays so I didn't make it to Sephora much to my wallet's delight!).  
things to do in Bilbao
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. 
things to do in Bilbao
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. 
things to do in Bilbao
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!). 
things to do in Bilbao
Bilbao is known for it's dining scene and when in Bilbao you have to try pintxos - the Basque version of tapas. Bilbao residents hop between bars eating and drinking and even in December the crowds spill out onto the street. I sometimes struggle to get my G&Ts on trips abroad but Spain loves a good free-poured G&T in a giant glass! 
things to do in Bilbao
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.  
Getting there: BA flies from Heathrow to Bilbao in 1 hour 50 minutes (EasyJet also fly to Bilbao from Stansted). The airport bus to the city centre is less than €2 and takes around thirty minutes or a taxi costs around €20.

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!

Share:

3 comments

  1. Ah now this is on my never-ending list. Thanks Lily!
    Sophie
    x

    A Story of a Girl

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ahh so weeeird, I lived in Bilbao for a little while! I've never seen anyone blog about it before! I was studying at Deusto and used to have that view of the Guggenheim everyday on my walk to class. It's an amazing city, glad you enjoyed it :) xx

    Beth | Alphabeth

    ReplyDelete

I ♥ comments. Questions? It's probably easier to Tweet me (@LilyLippy) as I'll reply faster.

© Lily Lipstick | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig