Saturday, 30 January 2021

Best Bilbao Bizkaia........

Coronavirus, COVID-19 travel restrictions and lockdowns have prevented so many of us for experiencing the full joys of travelling, either for business or pleasure. Summer, autumn, winter holidays in 2020  were either booked and cancelled or never booked at all. The start of 2021 hasn't looked that much better, in fact for some it has been worse, but there is light at the end of this very long tunnel.  The new vaccines are being rolled out and slowly, very slowly we'll be able to emerge from the long human hibernation of 2020/2.  

A great option for when you are allowed to come out, travel, enjoy and experience once again is the simply beautiful Basque Bilbao Bizkaia.

Let's just explore a little......

The Bizkaia Bridge
With more than 125 years of history, this is the first metal transporter bridge to be built in the world, a World Heritage Site since 2006. This spectacular structure transports passengers and vehicles in a suspended gondola and has an upper walkway for enjoying unique views.

A true delight and indeed a marvel of the European Industrial Revolution, its intricate metal latticework,  its super-strong cabals, its gondola all vie for the eye's attention.

One of the best ways to experience the bridge in all its glory is to travel one way in the gondola on foot from just 45 cents and then walk back along the footbridge up the top for around €9 and enjoy the wonderful view.  Get more info here

Bilbao Guggenheim Museum

Did you really expect me to talk about the best bits of Bilbao and not mention the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum?  Really?  

This is perhaps one of the greatest examples of culture in Spain and well worth a visit for both art aficionados and folks like me that just wanna go and have a look at the pretty pictures and explore exhibitions. 

In addition to its famous building, the Guggenheim offers exhibitions created by undeniable top names in art and culture, including Olafur Eliasson and the great Wassily Kandinsky. 

I can't find the right words to describe the building as a whole,  even the atrium leaves me breathless in wonderment.  The sweeping wide spaces, the curved walls,  the floating glass, the sharp corners,  the strangeness of it all is captivating and all-encompassing.  Yes, it is great to look at videos and photos, they give you a taste, a flavour if you will,  but being there, in person,  that's the only way you can really enjoy the feast.   

Check out the website for more details and prices,  but booking online in advance will save you a couple of euros. The museum is open right now, but like pretty much everywhere,  there are special safety procedures to be aware of, such as mandatory facemasks, card only payments, temperature checks,  social distancing, no big bags and keep to the assigned routes. 

The New San Mamés Stadium

Athletic Club, one of the great emblems of Bilbao Bizkaia, has won the Super Cup competition after defeating two of the best teams in the world, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The San Mamés Stadium is perhaps one of the most impressive constructions in the area, especially for a sporting stadium. It has been home to some stonking top-class matches and there is more to come as it has been selected to host some of the games for the Euro 2021 competition.

It is such a prominent feature of the city,  that you'll have to and want to go and see it,  walk around it,  view it and wonder how long it took to build or even clean. 

Inside are a number of eating places,  but one to get a special mention is La Campa De Los Ingleses, or The Camp of the English, which takes its name from a time in the nineteenth century when British sailors played an unknown sport in Bilbao, that was the origin of football in the city and country.  According to the club, this is the place where the drink tastes like football and the food tastes like VICTORY!  I dunno about that,  but it reasonably cheap, tasty and served well plus it has a view over the pitch.  Oh and a pretty decent cheesecake too! 

More details here

Now that I've mentioned food,  well you'll be spoilt for choice here, not only does the area has no less than 11 Michelin-starred restaurants but has hundreds of others where your tastebuds can come alive to tastes of Basque food.  Great flavourful Pintxos are little snacks you can find everywhere and give you a treat, and so inexpensive as well.  More traditional Basque dishes include cod in a special sauce - bacalao al pil-pil or vizcaína, or baby squids - txipirones, and a really yummy and jolly filling ratatouille type dish like papa used to make!

I'm sure I could tell you loads of other things to do, or ways to spend lots of your hard-earned cash, but on a fine day, one of the absolutely best things to do, that won't cost you a single cent is walk!  The city is a great place to walk, be free and enjoy the great mix of architecture, styles, experiences and just immerse yourself in the local culture. The narrow streets and avenues of the traditional old town are so atmospheric that it is like walking back into history - which I suppose is understandable as the area is about 700 years old and a national heritage site!

You can download a free guide here. 

As you would expect, the city and the region off thousands of places to lay your head and rest after a long full filled day of exploring. There are hotels, apartments and small local establishments to cater for all budgets and I'm not going to bore with you oodles of recommendations, long lists of this and that, I'll just give you five different options because if you're anything like me,  half the fun of travelling is choosing where you're gonna stay!

Hotel Tayko Bilbao.

A relatively small, arty hotel with a top-class restaurant and stylish rooms with clean lines and a minimalist feel.  

Great location and great service. 

Check out reviews and way to book on tripadvisor

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao

This is a recently renovated 5-star hotel in front of the aforementioned Guggenheim Museum,  which is rather stylish and in keeping with its surroundings. Because of its location, it offers great views from many rooms - get a Guggenheim view room so you can feast your eyes on the crazy building opposite if you can. The hotel is, I suppose you could say a work of art in its own right and the rooftop bar takes advantage of the location. 

Check the hotel's website to see when it will be opening again. 

From the same group,  just 150 metres away and also in front of the  Guggenheim is the Hotel Miro, which has some nice comfortable rooms, stylish without being ostentatious, popular without being pretentious.  

Hesperia Bilbao
Another, perhaps slightly more pretentious,  avant-garde hotel also just over the way from the museum and offering some pretty funky rooms. It can be rather expensive at times, well most of the time really, but the location is great and the welcome friendly.

Hotel Carlton
This is more a classic style hotel, it was started back in 1926 and stepping through the doors you feel you are transported back in time when travel was more exclusive and ever so much for romantic. Nice rest

Read others views on the Hotel Carlton at tripadvisor

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