6 ways to get off the beaten track on your next visit to Bilbao
After two decades of ripping up the urban rulebook, Bilbao continues to fast forward into the future with new projects like the colossal Zorrotzaurre island development. The city retains its traditional character, however, in the Old Town and its famous pintxo routes (the Basque spin on tapas). Check out our list of the 6 most offbeat things to do on your next visit to Bilbao.more info
Bilbao is in fashion
By Tensi Sánchez from actitudesmgz.com
t gives me great pleasure to debut as a writer for My Vueling City and, naturally, my first post is about Bilbao. Without boasting or bragging too much, it must be said that no other European city has anything of which “My City” could be envious of. See for yourself as you read on.
Bilbao has been able to reinvent itself to an extent that few other European cities have achieved. In less than fifteen years, Bilbao has gone from being an industrial city to a city where the focus is on services, and the constant change continues to this day.
There is no surprise then that the majority of large international companies have set up shop in Bilbao; the regional capital of Biscay. Bilbao can also claim to have put itself on the map as an architectural benchmark.
Residents and visitors alike can enjoy a highly varied lifestyle that includes a great combination of the modern, the traditional, good food and shopping.
Just one weekend is time enough to immerse yourself Bilbao’s lifestyle. Here are a few suggestions about my favourite places in the city.
Everybody knows that good food abounds in these lands and this is precisely one of the strengths in Bilbao. Restaurants can be found dotted all over the city and cater to a wide range of culinary tastes. Exploring the many options is a delight for all the senses as you are seduced by the cuisine and often spectacular visual treats.
Bilbao is also the perfect city for trend setters and trend followers. A clear example of mixing the modern and the traditional can be found at Enkarterri Concept Store; clothes, furniture and food, all franked by the Basque label.
When talking about fashion and design, I must mention Persuade, the quintessential temple to avant-garde fashion and, dare I say it, the most amazing shop I have ever seen in my whole life ( although not suitable for all budgets), and Shopa, which specialises in design, clothes, books, wine and much more, is located inside the iconic La Alhóndiga leisure building and was designed from start to finish by French industrial designer, Philippe Starck.
After a hectic morning of shopping, treat yourself to brunch in Plaza Nueva in the old town. You cannot come to Bilbao and leave without trying the famous Basque pintxos! Just take a short walk and you’ll see for yourself that there are countless bars just waiting to be discovered.
Visiting one of the many contemporary art galleries is another option but Epelde y Mardaras is undoubtedly the most peculiar. Located in an enormous flat dating back to 1840 with the chance to order lunch or dinner, it really is an incredible experience.
For vintage style at its purest, go to Almoneda Campos – an intriguing shop full of all kinds of items from times gone by. However, if you’re looking for something more exclusive and modern in terms of decoration and design, I have two excellent suggestions: Urbana 15 and Mosel.
Enjoying a carefully-prepared evening drink is a must in this city. My favourites are to be had at Corto Maltes, La Gallina Ciega, El txoko de Gabi and, of course, on the terrace at Hotel Domine with those marvellous and unbeatable views of the Guggenheim Museum – the perfect place to round off an evening in Bilbao.
And if that’s not enough for you, there is always an online agenda of cultural and leisure activities happening in Bilbao, ilovebilbao.com. I recommend you sign up for free before planning a trip to Bilbao because it will help you find information about everything that is going on, up to a week in advance.
Vueling offers a large selection of connections to the city so there is no excuse for not planning your “perfect weekend”. Bilbao is in Fashion… ¿What are you waiting for? Book your flight now!
By Tensi Sánchez from actitudesmgz.commore info
Hipster route in Bilbao
There's no doubt that the hipster and hipster fashions are here to stay. While the "hip" subculture dates back to the 1940s, the movement is again on the rise and is clearly marking out its territory.
Bilbao’s fame as a cultural mecca has reached as far as China and beyond, but people may not realise the extent of the hipsterisation of this former industrial city in the Basque country on the northern Spanish coast, thanks to the transformations undertaken in recent decades and the quirky, youthful pulse of contemporary Bilbao. Even the football team, known by its English name of “Athletic Club de Bilbao”, or “Athletic” for short, fits the hipster mould thanks to its peculiar philosophy. And it’s the sole team in the Spanish league that fields only local players.
There are plenty of place for visitors to sleep. One of our choices would be Basque Boutique, a small hotel located in the heart of the Casco Viejo or old city centre. Guests are immediately immersed in the culture, since each of its eight rooms is dedicated to a particular aspect of Basque life or gastronomy: the Karola (a giant red industrial crane that still stands), Marijaia (the rotund figure of the legendary lady who presides over the city’s annual fiesta), or the baldosa de Bilbao (the city’s traditional geometrically patterned paving blocks). The hotel achieves a perfect fusion of tradition and the avant-garde, mixing vintage décor with such modem comforts and television, Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and en suite bathrooms. It’s an unforgettable experience you sholn0’t miss.
Another spot that exudes charm is the little Pensión Caravan Cinema. Also in the city’s old quarter, it uniquely combines history, atmosphere, and comfort. Each of the five rooms is dedicated to a contemporary Spanish film director: Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro Amenábar, Alex de la Iglesia ,Julio Medem, and Fernando Trueba. Both comfortable and surprisingly economical. If you’re into Spanish movies, this is definitely for you.
Now that we’ve unpacked, it’s time to sample Bilbao’s famed mini food portions, known as tapas in the rest of Spain but pintxos in the food-obsessed Basque country. One place everyone should try is Brass, on Licenciado Pozas street. For breakfast, brunch, or an afternoon aperitif with a pintxo or three, this is where to go. Talented DJs also perform there after sundown, evenings, and you’ll probably want to stay all night. It’s the most hipster establishment of Bilbao, and the prices are quite reasonable.
On the same street is the la tabernilla de Pozas, an old-fashioned tavern that will take you back to the Bilbao of many decades ago. Instead of pintxos, what you’ll find on the high, wide bar are sandwiches made with tuna or anchovies (bocadillos de atún or anchoas), but you’re have to ask for them –there is no sign or indication.
Charlotte, in calle Heros, serves breakfasts, and then pintxos, as well as the most scrumptious pastries. It’s also famed for cocktails that some rank well above those concocted in New York. It’s American-style décor adds to its popularity amongst the local hipster community.
We mustn’t omit Mr Marvelous, on the same street , which is lined with interesting places. A variety of delicious croquettes, incredible loin of venison, poached eggs with truffle and mushroom sauce –you won’t be able to stop eating!
If you still have room after the pintxos, you may want a proper meal in one of Bilbao’s many excellent restaurants, such as la Camelia, for ecological sushi and the organically grown and exquisitely prepared vegetarian dishes. Who knew healthy food could taste this good?
Bascook,in Barroeta Aldamar street, belongs to the famed chef Aitor Elizegi, whose skills and inspiration have won him dozens of awards. Bascook combines traditions and innovation. The food is delicious and the atmosphere cosy. There a very affordable prix fixe luncheon menu.
For the gastronomically adventurous there is Kokken, where fine dining and fine art go hand in hand. The cuisine is Scandinavian and so is the décor –modern, functional, and very welcoming.
One further proposal is that you try Colombo, on Rodríguez Arias street. You won’t know how good croquettes, hummus or ceviche (marinated raw fish) can taste until you’ve tried them here. And the wait staff couldn’t be more attentive and charming!
When we’re able to rise from the table, we might think about hitting Bilbao’s astounding profusion of shops, Hitz for example, sells stationery supplies, gifts, and perfumes in a vintage atmosphere, set off by old steamer trunk, typewriters, and other antiques –totally hipster!
Another must is Flamingo Records, selling vinyl disks –including rare treasures and first editions– In every musical category and style. You won’t leave empty-handed.
The hipster clothing store par excellence is Arizona Vintage Clothing. It features 100% American style gear and accessories.
In the Bilbao La Vieja or Ibaiondo district you’ll find Vacas Flacas, the city’s most spectacular second-hand clothing shop, where goods of the highest quality can be purchased at bargain prices. But you must telephone an hour in advance for an appointment.
One of Bilbao’s most unusual establishments which no visitor should miss is La Casa de Atrás, with a huge selection of old books, many of them out of print for decades, as well as numerous vinyl records. There’s also an on-site tattoo parlour. Could you ask for anything more?.
One of our favourites is the famed furniture and decorations shop Almoneda Campos, on calle Bertendona. Its speciality is old-fashioned lamps and chandeliers, but there’s much, much more to see and fall in love with.
Time for a snack? How about one of city’s most hipster –and friendliest– bars,Residence, on calle Barraincúa, and very close to the Guggenheim museum. The best place in town for a tall gin and tonic or an exotic imported beer. Live music, too!
Another very special spot is La Catedral de la Cerveza, (“the beer cathedral”), a mecca for serious beer aficionados, on Carnicería Vieja street in the old quarter, featuring brews from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, and the Basque Country itself. You can even buy kits to make you own beer.
Let’s not forget bar Marzana, on the street of the same name, which has become a marvellous amalgam of the old and new. Don’t worry if there’s no table. You can sit on the street and enjoy the incredible river view.
A last drink, but where? How about La Karola? It is named for the famous crane that still towers above the site where Bilbao’s Euskalduna shipyards once stood, and which was named in its day for the young lady who used to cross the bridge over the river every day, and whose beauty transfixed the district's industrial workers and passers-by. The bar, opened 40 years ago, has enviable views of the river and food so delicious it will take you breath away.
But there are still more places to visit, such as the café-theatre La Ribera, in the lower part of the La Ribera (“the riverbank”) market. Great food and live music –chiefly jazz and indie. For atmosphere, there’s nothing like it in Bilbao.
If you happen to be visiting the city on the last Sunday of the month, you won’t want to miss The Sunday Market, inspired by such street markets as London’s Brick Lane or Spitalfields. The theme “A passion for pretty things” applies to everything you’ll see there, from decorative items and antiques to vintage clothing, cupcakes, handicrafts, gadgets, art, flowers, charming little shops, bars, and restaurants, live music, etc. Another street market, thel Dos de Mayo is set up on the first Saturday of the month, and is a great excuse to tour the neighbouring shops like Atakontu, Cultto, or Trakabarraka,and perhaps to sample a vermouth at one of the many local bars. If it’s a sunny day the atmosphere is amazing.
And here we end our hipster tour of Bilbao, first reminding you that there’s much more to this fascinating city that you’ll discover for yourself when you come. Now’s the time to book a ticket on vueling!
Photos: Fernando Sanz
Text: Tensi Sánchez de actitudesmgz.com
A route through Bilbao
The route starts in the Siete Calles area, in the pedestrian streets that alternate the more classical shops with the more innovative and brimming with bars and restaurants to sample the very best in Basque cuisine.
This metropolitan area has an outstanding architectural and monumental heritage, with civil and religious buildings of great interest and where the bars and shops truly come to life. El Arenal of Bilbao is the best Gateway to the city’s Old Town and its bridge, a watchtower over the Teatro Arriaga, a great centre of Bilbao’s cultural life, built by Joaquín Rucoba and Octabio de Toledo, who took inspiration from the Paris Opera in its creation.
We enter the Siete Calles through the Arenal and, at 2 calle Fueros, we encounter Lautxo, a small shop specialising in all types of take-away croquettes and cannelloni. The huge selection of croquettes includes Basque style cod, prawn and mushroom, baby squid cooked with onion, and chorizo, and the cannelloni delicacies include leek, Idizabal and mushroom.
To eat we were recommended to try Kasko, a colourful restaurant with oak columns offering modern cuisine combined with Basque products. It offers menus to suit all budgets.
Strolling around the Siete Calles you will come across interesting shops such as lu:la, in plaza Santiago s/n, which sells beautiful shoes, the latest fashion and one-off accessories. Another of the shops that caught our attention in the Old Quarters was La Casa del Yogur of Bilbao. Located at 2 calle Víctor, this outlet specialises in dairy products from Cantabria made from 100% natural yoghurt.
The Plaza Nueva, which is built in a defined neoclassical style and with 64 arches supported by Grecian columns, is teeming with bars. We loved Víctor Montes, with its huge array of pinchos (brochettes), but you can lose yourself in any of the many lively, popular bars and establishments in the square.
At number 2 Calzadas de Mallona, you will find the Archaeological Museum which houses the Basque Country history in a chronological route from prehistoric ages to the modern age.
Climbing the 213 steps of Mallona which start in the plaza Unamuno, takes you to the Basílica de Begoña, passing by the cemetery of Mallona. This stretch forms part of the Route of St. James via the Costal Route. From the viewing point you have the best views over the old quarters. And for the lazy, you have the alternative of going up in the Begoña lift.
Most noteworthy in the Etxebarria Park is the old chimney which still remains intact on the Aceros Echevarría steel factory. This is due to the fact that many of the industries were located inside the city.
Going down, you arrive at the river where you will find the Mercadillo del Nervión, a curious shop selling second hand items. Antiques, rarities and a little bit of everything. If you are a lover of vintage clothing, you must visit the market on calle Dos de Mayo which takes place on the first Saturday of every month. Here you can find second hand and new clothes, old vinyl, vintage furniture and much more.
Bordering the estuary we come across Zubizuri, which means “white bridge” in the Basque language, it is also known as the Campo de Volantín Pedestrian Bridge or Calatrava Bridge, which has become the new symbol of Bilbao.
Continuing along the path through Volatinse country you come to the plaza del Funicular which will take you up to Artxanda. The funicular railway was built in 1913 and during the journey which lasts a few minutes, you will pass through Ciudad Jardín (Garden City), an area of pretty houses with beautifully kept gardens.
A Artxanda has always been considered the lungs of Bilbao because the town was formerly the location of a lot of industry and the air wasn’t as clean as it is nowadays.
Once you are up there you will come across a park with grass, a children’s play area and a picnic area where the Bilbao inhabitants go up to sunbathe and relax after having lunch in one of the rotisseries. There are three good restaurants to eat in, the Sidrería Artxanza cider bar with a menu of cod tortilla. fried cod and drink for €28, the restaurante Txacolí with typical Bilbao cuisine and the restaurante Antón.
Picture by kurtxio
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