When The Scoopettes travel and hit a city they have never been to, a compass of neighborhoods gives direction. Liz Pitt gives us her take on five diverse hoods in her spirited city – a city which has made a major come-back from its polluting steel factories and coal producing days. The riverside is alive with amblers and rollerbladers.
By Liz Pitt
1. Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo is the typical old town that you’ll find throughout cities in Spain. Winding streets, ancient buildings, and lots of people characterize this area. Casco Viejo sprang from seven streets (Zazpikaleak in Basque), and has expanded. The neighborhood is loaded with cafes and shops, and one of the largest retail markets in Europe, Mercado de la Ribera. The Casco Viejo is a lively place to spend a night on the town, but if you’re staying there, don’t expect to get much sleep as it is loud, especially on weekends. It is also tapas heaven.
Decidedly quieter than Casco Viejo, Abando is an upscale neighborhood that runs along the river towards the Guggenheim Museum. The architecture is elegant, and there is a river-walk that is lovely on days it’s not raining. Many art galleries paint the neighborhood.
I may be biased, as I lived in Indautxu and loved it, but it’s my absolute favorite neighborhood in Bilbao. It’s high energy, discos pound and bars are on every block. The Alhóndiga, a library/cinema/gym/community center, is located in the heart of Indautxu. Flooded with people when the local football team, Athletic Bilbao, plays, fans hit the bars to watch the games. Rowdies in the streets guzzle kalimotxo, half Coca Cola and half red wine. The stadium is at the end of Calle Pozas, and the environment is charged during the games, whether it be home or away. If it’s not a game day, make sure you cruise Pozas for delicious pintxos!
4. San Francisco
Every city has a neighborhood that gets a bad rep, and Bilbao is no exception. San Francisco is known as the bad neighborhood in Bilbao, but if you look past the drug deals and prostitution (which aren’t even that prevalent here), you’ll find it a contrast from the rest of the city. As it’s the immigrant neighborhood, you can find a variety of foods and spices that you can’t get at the local Eroski or Corte Inglés. It’s also a gay hotspot, with tons of fantastic discos for dancing the night away.
Across the drawbridge lies Deusto, the student area. While it may not be as beautiful as other parts of Bilbao, you get a sweeping city view with The Guggenheim Museum shining like a wild outer space creature. Discount stores, pet shops, and veggie stores are common. Since it’s outside the city, prices on drinks and food are cheaper. At festival time, typical Basque foods, like talos, which are corn flat breads stuffed with sausage, bacon or lamb, are hawked. Famous Basque white wine flows.
Try one of these hoods on your next visit to beautiful Bilbao.