In honor of Spotahome launching its first properties in Bilbao.
People from Bilbao are said to be cold, closed-minded, exaggerated and impossible to flirt with. However, don’t trust whoever says that, as these are only a few of the stereotypes said about ‘El Botxo’, the Basque word locals use for their city.
Formerly known as a heavy industrial city, Bilbao has left behind its grey and traditional image to become a vibrant city with music festivals and museums, an enviable food scene and a legendary football team. Bilbao will slowly win you over.
1. Live music
If you’re a music fan, Bilbao BBK Live is just one of the reasons you should visit Bilbao. Taking place on top of Kobetamendi Hill, with a breathtaking view, the event is already considered one of the best ones in Europe. Radiohead, Tame Impala, New Order, Arcade Fire and Pixies are only a few of the amazing bands that have played at the festival which takes place in July every year.
For the cold season (although October has been actually warm this year), there is another festival that brings international bands to Bilbao: it’s BIME Live. If music enthusiasts are not satisfied yet, check out the programme of venues such as Kafe Antzokia or Santana 27.
“La hora de potear”, “irse de pintxos” are very common expressions in Bilbao’s vocabulary, probably almost at the same level as “ir a San Mamés” (the football stadium). The Basque Country can not be explained without food, which is present in bars in the form of small “pintxos”, “tortillas” and “kokotxas” (hake cheeks): Globo’s “txangurro”, “gildas” (the legend says they were named after Rita Hayworth “picante” character in “Gilda”) from Portuberri Barria, “pinchos morunos” from Iruña and EME’s sandwich are only a few examples. If you are after larger portions of food and more comfort just check out the huge list of restaurants available across the city and surroundings (some of them with Michelin stars).
Gastronomy is a big rivalry with their neighbours of San Sebastian (the other is… you guessed it right: football), as they are always competing for the best “pintxo” in the North of Spain. Don’t forget to try the typical “txakoli”, dry white wine normally served as an aperitivo (appetizer) in a tall glass.
3. “Sentimiento” Athletic Club
If you ever lived in Spain or met any Spaniards you have probably noticed that football is the national sport and the country’s prefered debate (only overcome by politics these days…). Every town has a football pitch and a team, and every child learns to play football at school. In some parts of Spain the passion reaches levels of craziness and devotion, being Bilbao at the very top of that league (also known as “Sentimiento Athletic”).
Athletic Club, or just “Athletic” is one of the most legendary football clubs in Spain and one of only three clubs that have never been relegated from the First ision (the others Real Madrid and Barcelona). The club was founded in 1898 and since then been a very competitive contender winning 8 Leagues and 23 Cups. Although, if you ask locals what’s the most important thing about Athletic Club, most of them will say to be part of a big family, football is secondary.
4. Basque Coast
The Basque Coast isn’t your typical Spanish beach destination. You’re more likely to carry an umbrella than a towel and you won’t find paella, sangria, or crowds of tourists. Instead, the 200km coastline is considered the Mecca for European surfers and hosts plenty of surfing tournaments, some of them being world-class international events. Mundaka, Sopelana in Vizcaya and Zarauz and La Zurriola in Guipuzcoa are some of the best surf spots.
5. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Another popular spot in the Vizcaya coastline is the very small islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Located near the town of Bermeo, and connected to the mainland with a man-made bridge, Gaztelugatxe hosts a small church that dates back to the 10th century. The Medieval heritage and magnificent surroundings grabbed the attention of Game of Thrones crew who are filming scenes for season 7 at the islet. SPOILER ALERT: Jon Snow’s resurrection theories are now shot down. He just wanted to visit Bilbao after all…
6. Old Bilbao
The list of museums, palaces, theatres and other historic buildings in Bilbao never ends. Walk through the Casco Viejo (the Old City) and you will encounter religious buildings with several centuries of history like Catedral de Santiago or Basílica de Begoña. The majestic Teatro Arriaga, along the banks of the Nervión River, it’s famous for its music concerts and operas and it’s named after Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga, also known as the Spanish Mozart. Also worth visiting the Fine Arts Museum located inside Doña Casilda Iturrizar park.
7. Guggenheim effect
The city, once industrial and grey, has turned into a vibrant cultural city especially after the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and brilliantly shown by Pierce Brosnan in [James Bond’s The World is not Enough](http://(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InWhPtZ9hOo)
(expect a big celebration in 2017 for its 20 years anniversary).
Contemporary Art fans should visit La Alhóndiga, originally a wine warehouse transformed into a multi-arts venue that today hosts erse festivals from videogames to photography, live arts, exhibitions and workshops of all types. Other examples of Modern Art within the city are the tube stations or “fosteritos” (Norman Foster), Zubizuri Bridge (Santiago Calatrava), Torre Iberdrola office building and the brand new San Mames football stadium. None of these major constructions can compete with the charming Puppy, Jeff Koon’s topiary sculpture of a terrier made of flowering plants that every visitor to the city wants to be photographed with.
Virginia Aranaz was born in Bilbao, left the town when she was 18, but still thinks ‘El Botxo’ is the best city in the world. She now lives in Madrid, working for London based company Nuji.