One of the top destinations in Northern Spain. Unlike the south of Spain, the North only has a handful of big cities that tend to compete in terms of tourism and things they offer.
Bilbao is one of the big ones, as well as San Sebastian (great beach), Santander, and (if you would like to include) Logrono. It’s a small list, and this is mostly because you wont find big cities in the North. This is farming and crop country, great for wine and vegetables, olive trees lining the roads, and, interestingly enough, mushrooms.
The city is located in Basque Country. It was my first time interacting with the Basque language. All of the street signs and roads were in Basque. There the language is referred to as Euskaltzaindia. (Say that five times fast.)
Bilbao used to have a large port at its center that made it a major hub during the 19th and 20th century, causing the city to become one of the biggest in the north just behind Barcelona.
There is a canal that runs the length of the city, beautiful, and many different bridges. One of the more famous bridges is the Zubizuri. Crazy enough, our Air BnB was actually directly in front of the bridge- the perfect location to see both the old parts of the city and the new. Air BnB is always my go-to way to stay wherever I go. I’ve had enough amazing experiences to prefer it to hostels. The hosts are always amazing, kind, great for getting local information, and they often offer experiences you couldn’t get just as a visitor. Our host this time offered to take us to the water or hiking if we visited again.
I went there for just the weekend, staying over in Haro Friday night before heading out that morning by bus to Bilbao. Getting to Bilbao by bus is actually a bit much. From Calahorra, I travel to Logrono, then to Haro, then from Haro to Bilbao. But it was nice to spend the evening in Haro, drinking once again delicious wine and meeting new people. I also was able to see some main viewpoints of the town. I will say this, even though most of the towns up here are in the middle of no where and quite small, you can’t beat the view of the mountains surrounding you.
Even from Calahorra and my piso window, I can see mountains.
Saturday we went to La Ribera Market. This place is so cool! Located on the river, the building is old and easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. The first floor is a restaurant, the second a place to eat pinchos, drink wine, and hangout, and the third is a fresh food market. The market is complete with fish, veggies, fruits, still-warm bread, and, of course, an extensive meat-counter, including pig heads. Yes, the entire head.
The pinchos were amazing here. I’ve been eating an assortment of these small snacks for ages now, but this place had crazy things I couldn’t even name, and others that were packed with flavor.
The city is easy and fun to wander about, with tons of shops and small, adorable boutiques lining the cobblestone streets. That afternoon we went to the Guggenheim Museum (6 euro for students, 10 for adults), famous for its outward structure and the pieces it contains. There was a really cool giant sculpture to weave through on the first floor, created by (interestingly enough) a sculptor from California, USA.
The night ended with Italian (the struggle in finding good Italian in Calahorra is real) at a great place near Grand Via.
Sunday was a lazy day. Because guess what I forgot. Everything closes on Sunday. Everything except cafes to eat and drink at. But everything after that, yep, done. Note to self: never visit a Spanish city on a Sunday unless its Barcelona or Madrid. You will find yourself and the streets empty. But we wandered in typical Spanish fashion, found a cool spot to eat and drink and talk away a few hours, then made our way towards the Stadium because there was a game between Atletico Bilbao and Atletico Madrid. Feeling the energy in the bars near the stadium was awesome, and everyone was out and about in ridiculous hats and red and white. (Which was also kind of like playing a crazy, pointless game of Where’s Waldo…)
Random luck of the day: We ended up outside the hotel that Atletico Madrid was staying in just as their bus pulled up to get them. We were a part of a small crowd that got to watch them come out of the hotel one by one. If I had any knowledge of Atletico Madrid, I would have lost my mind just as much as the rest of the crowd surrounding us did. Spanish and their futbol. Mwah.