Local Tips To Experience Bilbao, Spain

Coming to Bilbao? Don’t forget your umbrella!

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.

Bilbao metro

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.

Pintxos in Bilbao

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.

Fine Arts Museum in Bilbao

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.

Liz Pitt is a Wisconsinite who transplanted to Bilbao, Spain. You can check out her stories and photos on her blog, http://www.lizenespana.com/p/who-is-liz.html

Photo credit to Cassandra Gambill  for pintxos and museum.

4 Responses

  1. Elaine says:

    I went to Bilbao for the first time last October. Yes, it rained, but we stayed in a lovely Pension right next to the Cathedral, wandered down by the river, failed to go inside the Guggenheim, then walked right along the banks and through a park. I loved it. Actually, I liked it more than Madrid. I’m going back next March, and taking a side trip to Burgos.

    Thanks for the tips Liz.

  2. admin says:

    Elaine, that has been the reaction of many: you love it or not. I am not a fan, Nancy loves it, so there you go! I think my issue with Bilbao is the rain. I am from Oregon and the two times I’ve visited Bilbao it poured buckets. I love the food though, I’d go back for the vermouth alone!


  3. They changed the free day schedules at Fine Arts Museum. Now, it’s free on Wednesday mornings and Sunday afternoons, just in case someone goes there on a Wednesday afternoon and finds it closed 😉

  4. The Spain Scoop says:

    Thanks for the update.

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