Bilbao surprised me. It is a big city, young and chic, with an incredible night life. For some reason, I always got Santander and Bilbao mixed up, but I think I now know the difference. This was my first time visiting and I liked it very much. Too bad I was only there for one day—certainly need more than that to stroll around this magnetic city!
Chris and I took a bus from Santander to Bilbao. We arrived at Termibus—Bilbao’s bus station—and the first thing I noticed was the language. Signs were written in both languages, Spanish and Euskera or Vizcaíno, Basque Country’s other official language. I walked to an information window to ask for directions and the guy greeted me in Vizcaino. It almost felt as if I was in a complete different country. I couldn’t understand a word. That language is something else… so different from every sound I was used to in Spain.
It had been raining that day. We took the Tranvía (tram), which was also a different experience in Spain, on our way to the hotel. We stayed at hotel Bilbi, not too far from the medieval neighborhood Casco Viejo. (Even though this hotel is so close, I didn’t go to Casco Viejo because not enough time.) Anyway, this hotel had decent reviews when I booked it—not bad for public transportation connections either—but I wouldn’t stay there again. The bed felt like the Flintstones’ bed and the neighborhood was kinda strange (I’ll review it further soon).
The city of Bilbao is different, but in a good way. It is very modern. There’s a lot of energy. A lot of things to do, lots of bars. And I noticed men were a lot taller up there than in Southern Spain. Really, men were taller! Maybe I had too much Prosecco? Speaking of which! Bars in Bilbao carried Prosecco! It is Italian champagne, which I could find nowhere in Spain until then, and it is one of my favorites. After that discovery, I felt there was no need to go back to America, or Italy…
One thing they tell you to visit when in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum: modern and contemporary art. So we did. The building is an interesting look. Pretty? Not quite. But it’s a very interesting design. The giant flower-puppy dog sitting by the entrance looks more interesting though.
It was David Hockney’s month (or year?) when we visited and I’m glad it was because, otherwise, I would’ve been bored. I discovered Hockney’s art that day. His landscape exhibitions—David Hockney, a Bigger Picture—blew me away. And how he can draw on the iPad: amazing. We spent some time there.
So, here we continued wandering around this big beautiful modern city by the ocean, we had to try the seafood! Let me just say that Bilbao’s bars and restaurants serve out-of-this-world pinxos/tapas. Some of the most delicious I’ve had in Spain. A great range, too. Lunch was incredibly cheap. We went to a restaurant right by Plaza Moyua. It was just a random discovery that turned out to be really good.
On the other hand, for dinner, it’s too bad that we decided to go by Tripadvisor’s reviews (by tourists) because we ended up at an overly priced seafood restaurant. Booo. The food wasn’t bad, just ridiculously priced. I’ve noticed that Lobster in Spain is very expensive! They tell you one price and when la cuenta comes it’s another. Why is that?! Well, it is Spain. Nothing’s too clear there.
Later that night we visited the bar “district.” Most bars are packed around there. Especially, I remember one bar that was playing Latin music. We went in there, danced a little and had a great time. It’s no secret that Spaniards like to go out so streets in a big city will always be busy.
Bilbao is definitely not the kind of place to go to for just one day. I think we accomplished a few things in such a short time, but it can be exhausting. At least three days could, possibly, be enough. It’s a lot of fun and there’s a lot to see—and eat.