13 February 2017

A WEEKEND IN BILBAO

When I was looking for a place to go for my Dad's birthday (which is conveniently the same week as Father's Day) last year, I wanted somewhere neither of us had been before, with cheap direct flights flying out early AM and returning late PM, and good weather.  The last time we went to Spain together was Menorca for my first birthday, so Spain it was!  After looking into Girona, Cadiz and Bilbao, I booked the latter for a long weekend as a surprise birthday present.  We had a great time; I've blogged about the chic, central place we stayed (Hotel Miro) and the best restaurant we visited (the Michelin-starred Andra Mari) and, as I was pretty snap happy, I'm sharing some photos from wandering around the pretty city for three days with my camera, along with recommendations for a lovely weekend break.

Andy Warhol at the Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

The biggest tourist attraction is the The Guggenheim, housed in a modern curved titanium building designed by Frank Gehry spanning three floors and filled with contemporary art from the likes of Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol.  Spending a few hours here should be top of every visitor's list.  From there, we walked along the Nervión river to the Casco Viejo (old quarter), which is the historic centre where the city was born and its first streets still stand.  Centred around the 700 year old Seven Streets, there are small squares, charming old bars, neo-baroque and gothic architecture, colourful shop facades, historical churches, lush jardines, pretty fountains, the grand Catedral de Santiago and footpaths lined with plane trees in the nearby Arenal Gardens.  My favourite building in Bilbao has to be the train station built at the turn of the twentieth century, with a beautiful art nouveau facade covered in pretty glazed tiles and lettering.  On the second afternoon, we walked over the famous Zubizuri Bridge and took the furnicular up Mount Artxanda for fantastic views from the green mountains in the distance on the left, the city below and along the river on the right to where it meets the sea.

Colourful buildings in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Flowers in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Cafe Bar Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain - London travel blog

We visited Aizian, the contemporary restaurant in the 5 star Melia hotel, opting for the 8 course tasting menu for dinner.  We started with a glass of the lovely, crisp Perelada brut reserva cava and shared a bottle of Puente del Ea rioja with the food.  For starters we had grilled oysters on cauliflower mousse, delicious tomatoes served in different textures on salted anchovies mousse with black olives and basil, and squid noodles with alioli pumpkin.  The three main courses were free range chicken ravioli with stew, pig's trotters and fried cabbage, red mullet loin on fennel butter whipped cream with spicy carrots, and suckling lamb rack with garlic sponge and sweetbreads.  For the desserts we had white chocolate curd with mango and passion fruit gelée, and French toast with rice pudding ice cream and cinnamon.  Another foodie discovery was the charming, cosy Café Iruña built in 1903 - I love old grand places like this - filled with Moorish mosaic tiles, traditional dark wood fittings and locals sharing inexpensive pintxos, jamon and drinking beers.  We had big G&Ts in the sunshine overlooking the river at Cervecería Aranbarri in the impressive Mercado de la Ribera, cava at casual wine bars, and seafood tapas sat at the counter of Serantes II.

View from Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Guggenheim exterior in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Flower dog in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Unbeknownst to us, the city comes to life on 15th June each year (like Nuit Blanche in Paris) to commemorate the signing of the municipal charter which led to the city being founded, on 15th June 1300.  White Night takes over the streets and squares with open-air celebrations, light shows and live music from local and international artists for one night only; what a happy coincidence it fell when we were there.  Other than a brief spell of rain, the weekend was perfect and Bilbao comes highly recommended - it's the ideal size for a few days.  Let me know if you go!


Emma Louise Layla in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

La Concordia train station in Bilbao, Spain - UK travel blog

Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Calle de Ercilla in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Fashion blogger in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Bougainvillea in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Dinner at Aizian in Melia hotel, Bilbao - UK travel blog

Beautiful architecture in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Guggenheim Museo in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Emma Louise Layla in Bilbao - London travel & fashion blog

Café Iruña in Bilbao, Spain - UK travel blog

River in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Aizian Restaurant, Melia Bilbao hotel - UK travel blog

Guggenheim flower dog in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Square in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Vintage tiles in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Steps in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

White Night lights in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Streets in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

The river in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Window flowers in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

G&Ts in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

Melia hotel in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog

White Night in Bilbao, Spain - London travel blog
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