Craving a unique Spanish experience? Side step the mainstream and consider Bilbao, offering the perfect blend of fiesta, playa and sangria in a glorious bohemian setting. Here's where to head to get the most from this artistic, creative city...
Spain’s Northern metropolis is without doubt the perfect location for a short getaway (or your future home?). Less crowded than popular Barcelona or Madrid, it has much to offer in terms of culture and diversity. Plus, with a city centre located less than an hour away from a rolling beach AND mountain range it’s the perfect destination for all sporty types and sun lizards alike.
If you’re looking for an off-beat experience, mingle with the artistic/bohemian crowd in the following places:
ZAWP : a year old urban development plan (that should totally exist worldwide) aiming to transform its surrounding industrial neighborhoods into creative hubs. This old factory has become a zone of artistic expression that hosts exhibitions, artistic projects, screenings, workshops and much more. ZAWP’s Motto? “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”
BilboRock : Anyone could make the simple mistake of confusing this old building with a 17th Century church. But don’t be fooled – BilboRock will teach you not to judge by appearances since this religious monument hides a multi-functional cultural centre that attracts the coolest kids in town. Housing a cinema and theater and playing host to experimental installations and lectures, it’s not hard to see why this creative environment is the top meeting spot of every on-the-pulse local.
Bilbao La Vieja and San Francisco are two of the best areas to wander around if you’re looking for craft beer and alternative bars with funky decorations. Make sure to pop by Marzana and Bihotz café, both recommended by locals thanks to their lively, laid-back and friendly atmosphere. There are plenty of other small bohemian-styled bars along the streets, just keep an eye on the retro decor (or follow the street art and buzzing noise of happy drinkers) and you’ll be sure to spot loads.
Luz Gas: This is no conventional bar : events here are often improvised or imagined, giving a spontaneous thrill to customers every night of the week. Friday nights are particularly special since the bar allows any artist to perform whatever they wish – your golden opportunity to experience something unusual, or even release your own secret talent on the world.
Did someone say FOOD?
Foodwise, the Basques have many culinary surprises to offer and their cuisine often appears to be a blend between French and Spanish influences. If you’re looking to get your paws on some typical Basque munch, head to the “Plaza Nueva” in Casco Viejo, the best area for trying unlimited amounts of “pintxos” (a yummy type of tapas that comes in various forms). There are vegetarian options but the meat-free or vegan foodies might prefer popping to Camelia Bar (vegan food inspired by Japanese cuisine) or the Bohemian Lane (cute vegan bakery with gluten free options and banging fresh juices). Whatever your food preferences, don’t miss out on the world’s biggest indoor market (according to the Guinness World Records): the vibrant Ribera Market, which offers Basque specialties (among the trillion other types of food).
GOOD TO KNOWS
If you happen to be in Bilbao on the first Saturday of the month, there’s the “2 de Mayo” flea market in Casco Viejo where you’ll find all the second-hand and crafty treasures of the city.
Visiting in mid-August? Check out the “Semana Grande”, a nine-day festival that hosts popular dances, gastronomic competitions, but most importantly…. an egg and flour fight in the streets of the city. Unless of course getting dirty and smelling like fresh pastry isn’t really your thing…
Still not convinced? Perhaps these images of the iconic Guggenheim Museum –an architectural masterpiece – and the massive sculptures surrounding it will prove to you that ultra hip, ultra modern Bilbao deserves a visit….
That’s what we thought….
We warn you now, if you visit Bilbao, it might just be a one-way trip….so better start packing…