After some friends convinced me that a weekend to Bilbao would be a great idea we jumped on a plane and took the short journey to Northern Spain. I was under the impression that we were on a mission to find the scene of where a castle stands in a Game of Thrones Episode and having got excited about the prospect of hiking along the Spanish coast line in search of said castle I packed my camera and got very excited.
As Spain is somewhere us British people tend to go a lot, it isn’t somewhere I’ve really thought about going much in recent years. I like to go to more remote places and try to find new thing’s to see and do. In fact it was 5 years since I’d last been to mainland Spain when I did a weekend in Barcelona, but it was really nice to be back and especially as for the whole weekend we only met one other English speaking person. We also all noticed that none of us had seen a single coffee shop chain until the return leg of the journey in the airport. Everybody was pretty much local and all spoke a mixture of Spanish, French and Basque with an extremely small amount of English which is always fun when trying to navigate or order food and read menu’s.
So Rhys, Dylan, Ally and I all checked into our apartment on the first afternoon and took a stroll into town. Below I will list all of the things that we did and hopefully it will show you a real mixture of Bilbao so you can decide whether it’s a place you’d like to explore as well.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
Despite studying history in my first degree, most museums are really not my thing. In fact it’s only really war museums that I’m interested in and this rang true here. I was bored and within about 15 minutes my 13 euro entry fee was a complete waste of money. I know there will be people who think I’m mad and loved this museum but for the four of us it was one of those thing’s you had to do to see for yourself. There are plenty of other museums in Bilbao as well but to be honest we did not even look into them and we much preferred the area outside this museum to explore, have food and drink, relax by the river and take photo’s of it’s incredible architecture. The museum is open until 8pm and the day we arrived happened to also be it’s 20th anniversary, so as we left and grabbed a beer we were suddenly surrounded by thousands and thousands of people all packed on the river’s edge and we watched the light show and celebrations take place.
Boat hire on the river.
This was by far our favourite hour of the weekend for fun. Just a little bit further down from the museum you can rent your own motor boat for 35 euros. We took it in turns driving up and down the river (Bilbao has a huge length of river and is a port city) and Rhys even decided to cool off by jumping in the river. I’m pretty glad I didn’t join him after seeing the size of the hundreds of fish swimming below.
Watch a football game in the San Mamés Stadium.
If you’re into your top flight Spanish football then a home game for Bilbao is the place to be. Ally being the keen football fan he is watched the Bilbao game vs Seville while we steamed up and down the river outside on the boat. We could here the atmosphere from the boat and he seemed incredibly impressed with the stadium.
Drink coffee and eat pastry pretty much anywhere you like.
My favourite thing about Europe is it’s cafe culture. Whilst Bilbao is nothing like Amsterdam for coffee shops and sitting outside it’s smaller population really do enjoy having a latte outside with a pastry in the glorious sunshine.
Eat Chinese food at the Shanghai restaurant.
Yep, I know eating another countries cuisine in another country seems a little strange but by the time we headed out for food on the Friday night it was already gone 11pm. We were all absolutely starving having not eaten since breakfast and passed this impressive little place. A 4 course set menu for 22 euros and cheap beer did not disappoint. In fact, myself and Ally both agreed this was the finest Chinese dumplings we had ever had the pleasure of eating.
Drink local beer and eat Pintxos – The Basque Country version of Tapas.
The city’s many bars are piled high with pintxos and this is a great way of sampling regional specialities for a few euros. This is honestly some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life. Below is a picture of my favourite place in Bilbao for Pintxos which annoyingly we didn’t find until the day we were leaving. Here you can enjoy amazing food whilst looking over the river.
Take a sunset cable cart to overlook the city.
The Artxanda Funicular is not only the cheapest way to travel in Bilbao (95 cents each way) and having been in operation since the 1915 this is a great way to climb Mount Artxanda for an unrivalled view of the city. Cable carts leave every 15 minutes or so and we did this just as the sun was going down for a nice sunset panorama of the skyline.
Side note: All public transport was cheap and efficient, taxi’s were not expensive either (25 euros from the airport to the centre).
Take the train to Bermeo and a taxi to Gaztelugatxe for the hike down and up the Game of Thrones filming spot.
Ok so when we were on our way here the boys finally decided to tell me that there was no castle. Annoyingly not only did I forget my camera memory card but I also didn’t check the area properly to plan taking photos. 2 really stupid mistakes on my part. However after laughing this off and finding out we had a good couple of hours hike ahead of us with incredible scenery and a rough coastline my excitement reached it’s peak again and we did some exploring. Having been here since the 9th century this really is a place you need to come and see. It would be better to have longer here and the surrounding towns and beaches with a car but we still had an amazing day out. The waves were fantastic battering the shore line and the views all around were spectacular. Whether you’re a game of thrones fan or not (like me) this is a great part of Spain.
Other useful information:
Cost: Similar to UK for food and drink, perhaps a bit less in local places.
Transport: Clean, fast, easy to use, plenty of variety and can get almost anywhere.
Hotels: Not too many to choose from, we opted for an apartment and took a short walk down the river into town. I tend to either use Air B & B or Booking.com for this in pretty much all trips: Bilbao hotels/apartments on Booking.com
Flights: We used Easy jet from Bristol. Took about 1:45.
Areas to explore near by: Santander, San Sebastian, Biarritz and the whole northern Spanish coast line look amazing.
Time needed: We did 3 nights but if you wanted to do the above anything from 5 nights +.
Tours: We didn’t do a tour here but there were plenty of local tour companies if you didn’t have a car and wanted to go further afield. I like to use Viatour when I’m away as well.
All photo’s have been taken by myself and using either my canon 750d or my iPhone. If you’d like to see more photo’s and videos from Bilbao and all my other travels then click here to follow my Instagram account.
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