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Bilbao BBK – the Northern Spain Festival

Bilbao BBK has been with us for twelve years now – that’s quite a feat. A well consolidated festival which manages to compete with some all-powerful musical events in Barcelona and Madrid within a similar timeframe. The reason for its success is simple – its lineup of artists has been steadily growing in prestige and popular appeal. BBK, which is held this year from 6 to 8 July 2017, features some awesome names. The lineup of markedly varied musical styles is headed by Depeche Mode, Phoenix, Fleet Foxes, Die Antwoord, The Killers, Two Door Cinema Club, Justice, The Avalanches and Brian Wilson, among others. If you want to attend the concerts, there are still available some 3-Day Tickets and room in the campsite, should you prefer to steer clear of hotels and instead be more adventurous.

One of the hallmarks of this festival is the grounds it is set in. Monte Kobetas (also known as Kobetamendi), is one of the city’s iconic playgrounds. This elevated, forested area affords spectacular views of Bilbao, apart from acting as one of its lungs and a spot where Bilbaines do sport and go for picnics. However, the precinct is off limits to the general public for the duration of BBK, when it is repurposed solely to music. Access to Kobetamendi is a simple matter; in fact, a couple of free bus lines are laid on for the event by the organisers, facilitating access to the festival precinct for all attendees.

Over and above the musical offerings, BBK provides the perfect excuse for getting to know other places in Bilbao, too. Here are a few proposals for early risers eager to explore the city on foot.

The Best “Pintxos”

It’s a cliché, but it’s actually true – if you visit Bilbao, you simply have to eat pintxos more than once. It is an unwritten norm. And, Bilbao happens to have some of the best bars serving up this culinary speciality. To score a bull’s-eye with your pintxos, the best thing is to head for the city’s historic centre, an area crammed with restaurants of tried and tested quality. Four of them we can highly recommend are Gure Toki,Txiriboga,Motrikes and Askao Berri.

A Touch of Art

As luck would have it, BBK coincides with one of the pictorial exhibition highlights of the year, which is still on in the Guggenheim Bilbao, namely Paris, Fin de Siècle, an exhibition showcasing the work of the most prominent late-19th-century French and European painters. It would be unthinkable not to dive into the museum to see paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac and Redo, among others, before going up to the Kobetamendi precinct to soak up the festival. Oh, and while you’re about it, make sure you don’t miss the museum’s permanent collection, featuring works by the likes of Robert Motherwell, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Rosenquist, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter.

Power Records – Bilbao’s Temple of Vinyl

When in Bilbao, dropping in on Power Records is almost as important as eating pintxos if you’re a music aficionado.This legendary store has over twenty-five years’ history behind it. Located on Calle Villarías, near the Old Town and the Nervión estuary, this establishment has a mind-blowing selection of vinyls, both second-hand and imported. This is a veritable sanctuary for music lovers hunting for rare records by their favourite groups. Apart from second-hand albums, Power Records is also dedicated to CDs, reissues and the latest releases. So, if that seven-single by Depeche Mode, or a vinyl of “Pet Sounds” by Brian Wilson has been eluding you, you’re probably going to find it here.

Book your Vueling to Bilbao and let yourself be swept away by the music waves of one of the standout festivals in Spain.

Text by Xavi Sánchez Pons