Bilbao – a city crammed full of culture and culinary delights


As you might have gleaned from the short history of this blog so far, one of the boy’s favourite things to do is eat (and I’m not exactly averse to the idea!) So for the first weekend break we took together last year, we opted for the Basque region of Spain which is known for its gourmet food (both cheap and high-range),.  We started off in the city Bilbao – renown for its art and food alike.

As our flight landed early, we couldn’t check in to our hotel and so headed straight to the Bilbao Guggenheim.  


I’ve been longing to go to this gallery ever since visiting the New York version a number of years ago and seeing a fantastic exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang. The main exhibition when we visited, l’art en guerre, was thought provoking but the art itself wasn’t exactly to my taste, however its worth heading to the gallery whatever the main exhibition. The building itself is so striking, especially with the early morning sunshine glinting off its curved titanium surfaces. 


And the more permanent pieces, such as the Puppy and Tulips by Jeff Koons, are a sight to behold.


The gallery also has a michelin star restaurant (naturally!) and a more casual bistro overlooking the river…the perfect spot for a coffee to take the edge off our very early start.

Once we’d managed to settle in to our room we wandered across to the old town or ‘Casco Viejo’ for our first foray into pintxos (northern Spain’s answer to tapas) and txakoli (the local white wine which is slightly sparkling).  The tightly packed medieval streets are crammed with buzzing pintxos bars, offering sensational bites which range from the traditional (Casa Bilbao) to the more inventive and modern (Irrintzi). With all the deliciousness just laid out on the bar in front of us, it took a certain amount of self-restraint to hold back in anticipation of dinner…although the slightly fuzzy photos suggest I wasn’t so restrained when it came to the txakoli!


We stayed in the Melia Bilbao, a brilliant hotel located close to the Guggenheim and only a fifteen minute walk or so from Old Town.  The hotel is set around an open indoor courtyard which means the lobby is really spectacular, and there is a focus throughout on design and space.  Our room was light and clean with a huge marble bathroom but the best feature of the hotel was the wellness centre comprising a gym, sauna, spa and, the creme de la creme, a semi-outdoor infinity pool with a wonderful view out over the river .  As we had already booked so many meals in, we didn’t try the hotel restaurants or bar but I understand that they are a pretty good showcase for the amazing regional food.

After an incredible dinner at the nearby three michelin star Azurmendi, we headed to San Sebastian. Check back for next week’s #throwbackthursday for more!

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