Liz P. recently moved back to the Midwest after spending two years teaching English in Bilbao, Spain. What was a random placement in the Basque Country turned her into a Bilbao enthusiast (see Liz en España for proof) and, now that she’s stateside, she spends most of her time telling people why it’s one of the best places in the world. Here are a few of her favorite things about the city she misses so much.

Bilbao is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is on a walk along the Nervión River.

Get the best view of the city from Artxanda Hill. (Photograph by Juan Carlos Rojo, Flickr)

Get the best view of the city from Artxanda Hill. (Photograph by Juan Carlos Rojo, Flickr)

Summer is the best time to visit my city because that’s when there’s the least rain (usually).

You can see my city best from Artxanda Hill — take the furnicular to the top and get ready for an amazing view. On clear days you can see all the way to the ocean.

Locals know to skip regular white wine and check out txakoli, Basque-made wine, instead.

The Casco Viejo (Old Town) is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Fernando Llorente, Jon Kortajarena, and Miguel de Unamuno have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Guggenheim because even if you don’t go inside, the outside architecture is amazing, and can keep you occupied for hours.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that it’s fairly walkable, but the metro is easy, extensive, cheap, and very well designed.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is at any of the countless parks or plazas.

My city really knows how to celebrate football matches because we have one of the best teams in the Spanish league, and the most dedicated fans.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they’re speaking Basque.

For a fancy night out, I go to the new opera house, Palacio Euskaduna.

Casco Viejo (Old Town) Bilbao. (Photograph by Ignacio Gómez Cuesta, Flickr)

Casco Viejo (Old Town) Bilbao. (Photograph by Ignacio Gómez Cuesta, Flickr)

Just outside my city, you can visit dozens of charming Basque villages, like Mundaka or Gernika, that each have their own flavor and personality.

My city is known for being industrial, but it’s really full of art and design.

The best outdoor market in my city is the Sunday flower market on Arena.

Cafetería Hola Bar is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Bar Motrikes, which makes amazing mushroom pintxos (little bites of food on bread that are usually under 2 euro), is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the 20 Minutos newspaper.

My city’s biggest sports event is anything the Athletic Bilbao football team does. Watch them work their magic at San Mamés Stadium (aka “The Cathedral”).

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go out for pintxos. You can have a delicious and diverse meal for under 10 euro.

To escape the crowds, I head to the beach or one of the nearby mountains.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Kristen Stewart because even though it’s gloomy at times, it manages to grow on you.

Grab some pintxos for a relaxed (and cheap) snack. (Photograph by Travel in Shots - Kebrantin, Flickr)

Grab some pintxos for a relaxed (and cheap) snack. (Photograph by Travel in Shots – Kebrantin, Flickr)

The dish that represents my city best is bacalao pil pil, a traditional cod dish, and kalimotxo (red wine mixed with Coke) is my city’s signature drink.

The Alhóndiga is my favorite building in town because it’s got everything — a gym, cinema, library, and art exhibits, along with amazing restaurants and an awesome rooftop terrace.

The most random thing about my city is the amount of umbrella shops, some which carry umbrellas that are more than 100 euro!q

Kafe Antzokia is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Fever.

Semana Grande/Aste Nagusia, the nine-day city celebration, complete with fireworks, bullfights, and traditional Basque strongman games could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should head to the Doña Casilda Park and sunbathe.

In the summer you should attend BBK Live, and outdoor music festival that hosts the best bands in the world.

Pack a picnic (and an umbrella just in case) and unwind in one of Bilbao's many parks and plazas. (Photograph by Alan Light, Flickr)

In the summer, pack a picnic and unwind in one of Bilbao’s many parks and plazas. (Photograph by Alan Light, Flickr)

In the fall you should take the metro to the beach, because it’s usually warm until November.

In the winter you should celebrate the Festival of San Juan, where students make huge bonfires and burn their papers and tests from the past semester.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the amazing playground next to the Guggenheim.

The best book about my city is The Basque History of the World.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Here Comes the Rain Again” by the Eurythmics.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because even though it’s not what you expect from Spain (sunshine and bullfights), it has such a unique personality that you can’t help but love it.

Catch Liz’s take on reverse culture shock and Midwestern goodness on her blog and on Twitter @amidwesternlife.

Comments

  1. Gary Yeates
    Sydney
    June 1, 2013, 12:28 am

    Love that angle you had on the Guggy. I wish I’d known about it when I was there 6 years ago. You can see my less than impressive attempt on http://www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com

  2. Stephanie
    Miami Beach
    July 23, 2013, 9:24 pm

    Thanks so much for all your fab info on BIlbao. Moving there next week to teach at the American School.

  3. Katherine Kelly Bravo
    San Antonio, Texas
    March 3, 12:01 pm

    Great blog, Liz!
    I am a teacher, have taught in the USA & Mexico and would love to teach in this area. I was in Bilbao 20 years ago.
    Can you recommend any schools?
    Thank you,
    Sissy Bravo