Plans for visiting Green Spain for a week or more
We suggest a route from east to west covering the four regions that make up part of Green Spain: the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. The route starts and finishes near two important airports with several international connections: Bilbao, and Santiago de Compostela.
There is also an option to travel through this area on the tourist train. This is the Transcantábrico Train, which connects Bilbao (Basque Country) with Santiago de Compostela (Galicia).
DAY 2: Bilbao in the Basque Country
- 1 Donostia – San Sebastián
- 2 Bilbao
- 3 Santander
- 4 Altamira
- 5 Picos de Europa National Park
- 6 Oviedo
- 7 Gijón
- 8 Ribeira Sacra
- 9 Santiago de Compostela
Distance from Donostia – San Sebastián: about 100 kilometres. How to get there: by car, using the AP-8 motorway. There is also a regular bus service. Line E-1 of the Euskotren trains connects both cities in about 155 minutes. Bilbao airport is just over 10 kilometres from the city and has a regular bus service. The port has direct ferry connections with the United Kingdom.
Morning in the old town
Our suggested route around Bilbao starts in the origins of the city. Our starting point is the Paseo del Arenal, next to the river. On one side you can see the council building and on the other, the Arriaga Theatre. After that you’ll head to the old town. This is one of the busiest areas and it is brimming with small bars with counters full of pinchos, small pedestrianised cobblestone streets and squares such as Plaza de Unamuno and Plaza Nueva. You simply must walk along the so-called “Seven Streets” (Somera, Artecalle, Tendería, Belosticalle, Carnicería Vieja, Barrenkale and Barrenkale Barrena). These are the origin of the city (although they were initially only three: Somera, Artecalle and Tendería) and their medieval past is preserved as they have remained relatively unaltered. At one end they lead to the Cathedral of Santiago and at the other, to the La Ribera Market.
A large part of the route is within the former walled area of Bilbao, which you can still see remains of on Calle Ronda. When it’s time for eating you can choose between the bars in the old town, trying Basque cuisine in the La Ribera Market or crossing the Ayuntamiento Bridge to eat in the Ensanche neighbourhood, near the Albia gardens.
An evening of contemporary art
Did you know that for many people Bilbao is an open-air laboratory of contemporary architecture? To see this, we suggest exploring the triangle formed by the Albia gardens, the Guggenheim Museum and the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall, and the surrounding areas. For example, in a route of barely one kilometre you will see buildings by up to four Pritzker Prize winners: Frank O. Gehry (Guggenheim Museum Bilbao), Rafael Moneo (Deusto Library), Álvaro Siza (University assembly hall) and Norman Foster (entrances to the metro stations). If you head to the river, you will also see the set of sculptures surrounding the Guggenheim, with works by Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons and Anish Kapoor. Finally, save some time to visit the Guggenheim Museum. It is the symbol of the city and one of the best known contemporary art museums in the world. You will also find the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao nearby, with around 30 other art galleries in the area.
More ideas in Bilbao
- - Take a boat trip along the river and discover the new architecture on the river bank as you go. - Take the funicular up Monte Artxanda for one of the best panoramic views of the city. - Visit the first iron transporter bridge constructed in the world, which remains in operation today. It is located in Portugalete (some of the boat trips along the river will take you there, about 15 kilometres from Bilbao) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. - “Ir de potes” (a way of saying “go for tapas” in the Basque Country) to taste the pincho-based Bilbao cuisine. Some popular areas include around the “Siete Calles” and Calles Diputación, Ledesma and Ercilla in Ensanche.
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