Yes, there is there life beyond eating pintxos in Bilbao, but barely. Writer Liz Pitt gives The Scoop on easy living in Bilbao. The people are friendly here, proud of the renewal of their city, and love their umbrellas. The average of 13 days of rain a month doesn’t stop this city.
By Liz Pitt
It’s no secret that I love Bilbao, and think that everyone should put it on their list of Spanish cities to visit. Here are some insider tips to the city that will make your time in Bilbao even better.
1. Bring an umbrella.
Bilbao is known for rain. If you make it three days without so much as a sprinkle, you’ve gotten really really lucky. I always make sure to throw my mini umbrella in my bag, even if it doesn’t look like rain. It can be blue skies and sunny, but in an instant, clouds can swoop over those mountains and let loose. Trust me, or you’ll be spending a lot of your time under building overhangs.
2. Use the metro.
Bilbao’s metro is phenomenal. It’s clean, it’s safe, and it can take you virtually anywhere you would want to go in Bilbao and the surrounding areas. It’ll even take to beaches along the Basque coast. The metro runs all night on Saturdays. You don’t have to rely on taxis or wait til 6:00 a.m. to get back after a night of partying.
3. OpenCor is open on Sundays
I went a few weeks living in Bilbao before I discovered this gem. Yes, in some bigger cities in Spain you’ll find grocery stores open on Sundays, but in Bilbao, not so much. Then, I discovered OpenCor. True, it is more expensive than the other chains, but when you realize you forgot to buy food Saturday night and have nothing in the cupboards, you’re willing to shell out the euros. It’s on Alameda Recalde, 27, and it’s open til 1:00 a.m. every day.
4. Pintxo time is not the same as tapa time
I’ve had quite a few friends come from other parts of Spain, try to go out for pintxos around 9:00-10:00 p.m., and be surprised to find them being put away. While tapas can often be in place of dinner, pintxos are eaten earlier, usually from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Pintxos aren’t typically meant to be dinner, just to hold you over until you eat a larger meal.
5. Remember the Guggenheim’s little sister
The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is one of Bilbao’s best kept secrets. It sits in the shadow of the world-renowned Guggenheim, and in some ways, it’s everything the Guggenheim is not.
The Guggenheim is large and looming; the Fine Arts Museum is smaller and modest. The Guggenheim has large open galleries; the Fine Arts Museum has dozens of small rooms packed with etchings, sculptures, and paintings from Velazquéz to Chillida. The Guggenheim is only free once a year and the Fine Arts Museum is free every Wednesday. Stroll ‘The Duck Park’ (as referred to by the locals) where the museum is located.
Photo credit to Cassandra Gambill for pintxos and museum.