This is a surprisingly exciting small city in the north of Spain, situated just a hop and a skip from the ocean and tucked into the mountains, it has varied landscape and weather, as well as a pile of cool things to see and do.
The tram is awesome. It basically circles all the fun stuff in the city, and is extremely easy to figure out. You will need to get single tickets which are only 1.50 unless you are staying a while. Longer stays might warrant stopping into a Tobacconist Shop and purchasing a tram card, which you can top up for much cheaper.
But really, most of the city is walkable. We walked most everywhere, and only needed the tram for the ride to and from the bus station, and even then it was only on account of our luggage.
Cyclists be warned: this city is extremely hilly. Many of the inclines are 45 degrees or more. Unless you fancy steep hills or carrying your bike all the time, my personal recommendation is the old fashioned two-footin’ style.
SEE & DO:
Crazy awesome art and cultural space. A Philippe Starck thing.
Epic, architecturally stunning museum. Side note - you can see this from the funicular train (see below).
The Santander Train Station
This is one of my favorite views from across the river, with its colorful entrance. Step inside to find a handful of shops and businesses... Oh, and I almost forgot...you can also travel by train here!
St James Cathedral (Santiago)
You don't need to be a pilgrim to embrace the beauty of this cathedral, and the history behind it!
This is a beautiful indoor market on the river designed after a ship. A fascinating food, history, architectural experience!
If you’re so inclined…
Go on the Funicular train for just 1.90! This awesome red train designed to scale the incline on the east side of Bilbao takes you to a beautiful park overlooking the whole city. From there, you can see the mountains in the distance, all of the city including an awesome view of the river, the Guggenheim and more to the north and south.
Spend a day in Casco Viejo
This is the Old Town - a tightly woven group of narrow streets chock full of shops, bars and eateries and adorned in beautifully restored Gothic architecture.
Casco Viejo offers a host of local and individual shops from shoe stores, to boutiques and specialty stores. There are a many other places to shop, I’m sure, but this seemed to be the most recommended and naturally attractive place to hang out. Here were my favorites:
- Vaho - cool upcycled vinyl things! (AKA Nukak)
- The funky shops at the base of Alhóndiga (see above)
- Skunk Funk - unique and colorful apparel