Bilbao in 24 Hours

In October we went to the north of Spain for a long weekend. In true Sobcoe style, we saw a heck of a lot in four days and this blog is all about our first stop: Bilbao.

Bilbao is the capital of the Basque region and is a wonderful city to explore – we did it all in a day but there’s definitely enough to see and do to fill a weekend. We thoroughly recommend it, along with the surrounding area, which we'll tell you about in our next few posts.

But before we go any further, you can experience Bilbao for yourself in a 360 virtual reality video we have made as part of our VRlog (VR vlog) series. The next few blog posts about this long weekend compliment the VR experiences we've already released about the trip. If you want to try them out, ask Santa for an Oculus Go for Christmas and join Morning Calm in VR.

Okay, back to reality. We landed in Bilbao early on the Thursday morning, figured out the public transport from the airport to the centre of town, and eventually made it to our hotel. It was a lovely business hotel that we stayed in for FREE thanks to Rewards that we have saved from all our other trips. We were too early to check in so just dumped our bags, got our equipment ready for 360 filming, and began our whirlwind tour of the city.

Our first stop was the Guggenheim museum – probably the most famous attraction in the city. It is a phenomenal piece of architecture and is one of the 12 National Treasures of Spain. This long weekend actually featured TWO National Treasures of Spain but you'll have to wait for the next post…or watch the VR video from the Bay of Biscay!

The Guggenheim is an art museum but the design of the building and the surrounding sculptures are pretty artistic in their own rights. It's as striking in its beauty as any building can be and has revitalised the old port area of Bilbao.

As usual, we did not go into the art museum. Similar to most castles, we find the exterior more interesting (and free!) than the sometimes disappointing inside. We normally find art museums boring and I think it's often too much of the same (albeit interesting) thing with not enough variety. It would be like going to an ice cream museum and eating 20 varieties of ice cream over a couple of hours. It sounds great as an idea but in practice, too much sweetness and not enough variety. You'd be craving some crisps or something to cleanse your pallet. That's what it's like with paintings and artists’ creations. It's like watching two films back to back - my curious mind can't handle the consistent and predictable entertainment.

After the ‘Heim, we explored the bridges, buildings, and old town. The Casco Viejo (old town) is full of cool sights and we easily could have spent a whole day there if we’d gone at a calm pace. We were more like Morning Excited though, as we only had the one day, so we hurried around snapping memories of the beautiful architecture. I was particularly fond of the bridges and the cathedral, which left the strongest impression.

Outside of the old town, there was the usual plethora of plazas and old stone government buildings that grabbed our attention. Bilbao is a bit smaller than Valencia and easily explored by foot, though ours were pretty sore by the end.

The final major site we're going to talk about is the hill of Artxanda, which is just on the edge of the city. There is an old cable car that takes you all the way to the top and it is a great place to get a panoramic of the city. It was a fantastic view and a must-do when the weather is good enough; the hills surrounding the city, the view of the river and Guggenheim, and the never-ending Bilbao signage make it an interesting place to spend an hour.

The surrounding park is worth a wander as well but the San Roque church (signposted) is NOT worth the effort. In the midday heat, with all our camera stuff, we walked the mile and bit to get to a tiny chapel on top of a hill. The views were somewhat obscured by trees and it was a little disappointing. After the delight of the mirador close to the cable car, our expectations were not met!

Our now tired and sweaty legs deserved a little respite and that came in the form of a delicious ice cream from a fancy shop. This isn’t the only thing we ate in Bilbao and I haven’t mentioned one of the other big attractions we visited, Ribera Market. That's because Katie will talk about all things edible in a separate post in a few weeks. And the food in this region is quite distinct, so that’ll definitely be worth reading.

That’s it for Bilbao. Next time we'll tell you about the second day of the trip, when we drove along the Bay of Biscay, which you can also explore with us in full 360 virtual reality! For now, we'll leave you with some of our favourite photos.

This is the view from the top of the hill. I'd say it was worth the walk but we took the train up!

The disappointing church at the end of the sweltering mile-long walk

And here are our photos of the Guggenheim...there are loads because it's a stunning building and just so photogenic, we couldn't choose our favourites!