Bilbao, Northern Spain
Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country of northern Spain. Located on the northern tip of the Iberian Peninsula and only 19km from the Bay of Biscay the city is surrounded by forests and mountains giving you the impression you are in the middle of a volcanic crater. You cannot help but be charmed by the friendly, family orientated atmosphere of Bilbao and one of the best times to visit is during its largest festival in August with open air concerns, bull fights and fireworks.
With so many unique buildings and wonderful statues throughout the city, there is something around every corner to marvel you. The main attraction is the stunning Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art which was designed by the renowned architect Frank O Gehry. The building is an incredible work of art in itself and its unique contemporary look is certainly a talking point for most visitors and architects. Exhibits include artists such as Picasso and Andy Worhol and it would easily take a whole day to fully appreciate all there is to see.
The old quarter of the city is near the Plaza Circular where you will find the Cathedral and the 14th century Church of Santiago. Along the banks of the river is the Kiosko de la Musica and Bilbao’s oldest theatre, the Ariaga. There are several restaurants down by the marina and cruises that will take you along the river down to the sea. If you wish to explore the shopping Gran Via and Plaza Moyua is where the best shopping can be found.
The neoclassical square, Plaza de Espana, is typical of the elegance of the 19th century period. From Calle Esperanza is an elevator that will take you up to the Begona Basilica. Not only is it of architectural interest but you can also get wonderful views of the city. From there you can also see the Puente Colgante, a hanging bridge which connects the banks of the river.
There are two main parks in Bilbao; the Parque Doña Casilda de Iturrizar with the dancing fountain and the Parque de Europa which has a variety of sculptures to admire, as well as a roller skating track for the children and a wall for squash enthusiasts. This is where you will also find the locals favourite cafe, the Cafe Iruna.
If you wish to stay somewhere a bit special, not far from Bilbao is the town of Limpias which has its own Parador Limpias, Hotel Palacio de Eguilior. The Parador is a 19th century palace and while King Alfonso XIII was in power the palace was often used for ministerial meetings. Set in 5 hectares of beautiful parkland with a tennis court and outdoor swimming pool, the park is filled with Laurel trees which are over a hundred years old and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
The rugged coastline and beauty of this area provides a picturesque drive which will take you to the Txakoli Winery for a private tour. If you want to head to the beach, San Sebastian is considered to have the best but Getxo is much closer and is an excellent alternative.
Bilbao has its own airport and car hire is very inexpensive so combining your trip with Limpias and Bilbao will bring a real difference to your holiday.