Upon arrival in Bilbao, we headed to the Artxanda mountain which was close to the airport to get a panoramic view of the whole city.
From the top of the mountain we get a good view of the whole city of Bilbao including the world famous Guggenheim museum.
We then drove to our hotel at the city centre which much to our surprise was changed to the 5- star luxurious Carlton Hotel! Our guide just gave us 30 mins to go up our rooms and freshen up before we started our walking tour. I can’t imagine having only half an hour to unpack and take a shower but nevertheless beggars can’t be choosers and this was a golden opportunity I could not refuse.
The 5-star luxury Carlton hotel is one of the Landmarks of Bilbao. Centrally located in the Plaza de Federico Moyúa square, it is one of the most important commercial and business areas of Bilbao.
This square is surrounded by iconic buildings such as the Palacio Chavarri, whose peculiarity is that all its windows and balconies are different, the Hotel Carlton, and the striking entrances to the Metro, called “Fosteritos” in honor of their designer Sir Norman Foster, plus one of the most commercial areas of Bilbao, the pedestrianized calle Ercilla, that leads up to the center of the Plaza de Indautxu.
There is a Metro just beside the hotel and in front is a flower strewn colourful park specially during spring.
After that much needed shower and change of attire we proceeded to walk around the city towards the direction of the Old Town and Plaza Nueva for our late lunch. Well lunch in Spain is always late for us as it usually starts at 2pm 🙂
In the Plaza de España (also called the Plaza Circular) stands the statue of the founder of the city, Don Diego López de Haro, at the start of the Gran Vía, the main street and heart of Bilbao. The fifty-metre-high statue of the Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart) at the western end of the Gran Vía is the point that marks the end of the city center.
Statue of Don Diego López de Haro
The Old Town of Bilbao called Casco Viejo is an area of ancient buildings, narrow streets and squares in the centre of the city. This zone is popular among citizens and tourists because its gastronomy, atmosphere and for its churches and traditional buildings.
It has more than 500 shops, as well as the largest covered municipal market in Europe, all in a pedestrian area where you can enjoy yourself and spend some free time.
We took our lunch in one of the Bars at the Plaza Nueva or New Square. This square is one of the most interesting neoclassical squares in the Basque Country, where this kind of monument is common: Vitoria, San Sebastián… The construction of the square came about as a result of a period of major economic expansion in which, from the end of the 18th-century, a number of different areas of the city were rebuilt.
Our lunch was at the Cafe Bar Bilbao and we tried for the first time the most delicious Pintxos of the Basque region!
After that sumptuous meal, we again walked around the Old Town with our guide Ana, explaining the various buildings along the way.
After a half hour or so we again entered another bar this time to try another round of Pintxos and Txacoli.
I just had to take a photo of this unique Pintxo in this basque country called Gilda. The name was based on Rita Hayworth’s character in the movie Gilda. I will do a separate post on that. Suffice it to say that it is made up of Anchovies, Pepper, and Olives with the picture below soaked in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
For a while I thought we will be having the Iberico ham so I excitedly waited and watched as he used the special machine to thinly slice the pieces.
But then it was not part of the meal 😦 Instead we again had another round of great tasting pinchos and Txacoli to wash them down.
We then proceeded to rush to catch our River Cruise and we made it! We went straight inside the boat as it was quite warm outside.
We took the River Cruise to see more of Abandoibarra by boat. Abandoibarra district, the former site of port activity with its 348,000 sq. m., represents the exaltation of architecture and urban planning, and is undoubtedly the area par excellence of the new Bilbao. The old wharfs, quays and piers gave way to the grassy areas now surrounding Bilbao’s grandiose buildings which provide needed space for rest, relaxation and recreation.
Below are the various sights we viewed during the one hour cruise.
“Simple, elegant, ecological and sustainable” is how Argentine architect Cesar PELLI defines his latest project, “The Tower”, deemed to be a new architectural icon in Bilbao. The imposing skyscraper is now the headquarters of the Iberdorla electric company of Basque origin. Making his fame in other high altitude construction feats such as the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia.
The Zubizuri (Basque for “white bridge”), also called the Campo Volantin Bridge or Puente del Campo Volantin, is a tied arch footbridge across the Nervion River in Bilbao, Spain. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, the bridge links the Campo Volantin right bank and Uribitarte left bank of the river.
Opened in 1997, the bridge’s unusual design consists of a curved walkway which is supported by steel suspension cables from an overhead arch. The structure of the bridge is painted white and the bridge deck consists of translucent glass bricks. Access ramps and stairways are located on both banks.
The Zubizuri offers pedestrians a convenient route from hotels to the nearby Bilbao Guggenheim Museum.
It was a restful hour long river cruise but such a great feast to the eyes and all our cameras just kept clicking away.
To be continued….