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The Basque capital Bilbao has more highlights than the famous Guggenheim museum. Although it is one of the mandatory visits of your trip, the city has a lot more to offer: gastronomy, fashion, culture, art… Here I will help you plan a one day long minibus or coach trip to the Basque Country’s capital, with a recommendation list of the places I consider one can’t miss.
Tell your coach driver to go to the Euskalduna palace’s parking lot, at Abandoibarra 4 avenue. When you come out, you’ll get a glimpse of the impressive University of Deusto and Euskalduna palace, aesthetically very attractive. You’ll be able to take two different routes; one will take you to the famous Guggenheim museum, and the other to the maritime museum:
Walk towards the east along the riverside, at Abandoibarra Avenue, where you will arrive at the city’s biggest touristic attraction, the astonishing Guggenheim museum. Not only the magnificence which characterises its exterior, but also the exhibitions held inside and the sculptures that surround it are what confer to the museum its grandeur. The fact that it is one of the two Guggenheims of world, together with the New York one, gives it an air of sophistication and its worldwide recognition. You can get your tickets online or at the ticket office, and the price depends on the exhibition. You’ll be able to check which exhibition is interesting for your group at their website, although there are certain ones available throughout the year, like the matter of time, by Richard Serra. Furthermore, students and disabled people have special priced tickets at their disposal, which you can also request online. Moreover, those who go in groups of more than 15 people will have to make the reservation online, calling +34 944359023 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The museum opens its doors from Tuesday to Sundays from 10am to 8pm, and will be closed on Mondays during 2014.
The second option is walking on the opposite direction, coming across the maritime museum. It counts with permanent exhibitions, whose intention is to go back in time to understand Bilbao’s river’s history and development over years. Moreover, the museum also holds temporary exhibitions, which vary according to the season. At the website of the Maritime Museum you can choose what to see. From some time until now, the museum, along with the collaboration of other entities, also organises activities such as kayaking, paddle surf, cycling, etc., which you would be able to pay for when buying the entrance ticket. Adults’ price is €6 and students, disabled, children and unemployed people get in for €3.5. As well as the Guggenheim, it closes on Mondays and opens from 10am to 8pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Additionally, Tuesdays are free of charge during the school year.
However, which museum to pick is in your hands. If you’re an early bird and active you might have enough time to see both museums in depth. If you’re travelling with children or want to take it easy, I would pick Guggenheim.
In between both museums, you’ll see the Zubizuri Bridge (which means ‘white bridge’ in Basque), designed by Calatrava, architect of Bilbao Airport. Within a few minutes you’ll arrive at Funicular Square, where chairlifts depart every 20 minutes, costing €0.92 each trip. Once you’ve got in, it will take 2 minutes to arrive at Artxanda’s viewpoint, whose panoramic view awaits you. San Mamés football stadium -where the lions of the Athletic of Bilbao make history-, Isozaki towers, the Iberdrola tower, etc., are some of the attractions you’ll see from the top. Agree with the coach driver to wait for you at the parking lot where he left you.
You’ll take the bus again, where the driver can drop you at Iparaguirre 18 street. You’ll have to cross Henao street and turn right at Mazarredo street until you see the Albia Gardens, which welcome the ‘pintxo’ (Basque tapas) bars area. Iruña Café is a good candidate to eat something and rest at the heart of Bilbao. Spacious and comfortable, the staff serves the menu of the day at €14 during the week and €16 on the weekends. Furthermore, it obtained the Best Spanish Café award in 2000. The traditional pintxo moruno is one of the specialities of the house.
Don Diego López de Haro Avenue is two minutes away from this centric area in which you’ve rested, where you’ll enjoy yourself doing some shopping. The well-known Zara is one of the most abundant shops in the capital, and the boys can stop at Pul&Bear, a Spanish chain as well.
Once you’re inside the coach again, it will leave you at the Arenal’s parking lot. As soon as you get out you will see Nervión River on your right, and you’ll have to keep going straight on Areatza Street. You’ll pass by the distinguished City Council and Arriaga theatre, whose facades resemble those of the Opera of Paris.
It is here where the modern and old town separate from each other. Your group will enter the medieval area of Bilbao, strolling along the seven streets (Somera, Artekale, Tendería, Belostikale, Carnicería Vieja, Barrenkale and Barrenkale Barrena) that configure it. Bars, restaurants, local shops, tattoo studios, vintage shops, squares, ancient buildings… is what you’ll find wandering around. You will experience in first-hand where Basque people go out and how they spend their time, encouraging you to join a pintxopote (tapa + drink). One of the best places for this purpose is the bustling Plaza Nueva (New Square), surrounded by bars, in which the counters are always full of very appealing and tasty pintxos. At Bar Charly, for instance, you’ll have the chance to try the most typical Basque food. Spanish tortilla, octopus, anchovies, jamón, etc… Moreover, if you prefer a full menu rather than giving many pintxos a try, there are also restaurants at Plaza Nueva. Victor Montés, for instance, serves typical food such as Pilpil or Bizkaina cod.
When the sun goes down who knows… you might end up going for a drink while you listen to Basque music, and coming back home happy that you discovered this spectacular city. If you’re staying in Bilbao, the bus will arrive at your hotel shortly. If you have gone on this tour from San Sebastián or Sopelana, you still have some time left to use the reclining seats in your coach and doze away while the bus driver drives you home.
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