Today I'm going to hand over the reins to my guest editor Peter Brooker to talk about his recent trip to Bilbao, Spain. Next year Bilbao will host some UEFA cup games so anyone travelling for the footie might find this interesting. Also as Peter will no doubt discuss, it's a veritable James Bond location.
Hello everyone, I'm going to give you a breakdown of things to do (and avoid) if you're planning on spending a weekend in Bilbao.
WHERE TO STAY in BILBAO
I have been twice to Bilbao and have stayed in both the COSMOV Hotel and the MERCURE hotel. The latter being more convenient for business, the former being a nice bag-drop boutique hotel that is equipped well enough for an enjoyable stay.
Both located centrally and a minute’s walk from the Guggenheim.
BEST MUSEUMS in BILBAO
The first things you'll discover a distinct lack of decent museums in Bilbao. I have to put the Guggenheim down as a disappointment. The building itself is beautiful. Made of Titanium, Glass and Limestone. It's reminiscent of a beached ship, an ode to the lustrous ship making history of Bilbao.
It's also incredibly vast inside. Unfortunately no photography of any nature is allowed inside, but in all honesty, the Modern Art fails to live up to its incredulous chassis in which it is housed.
That said, if you're staying at the Cosmov hotel, I recommend buying your admission tickets at the hotel lobby as it will include breakfast. 24 Euros each, and the breakfast was one of the best we (my girlfriend and I) had all weekend.
FINE ARTS MUSEUM - in Bilbao was far better. Perhaps because I'm into photography more. The current photography exhibition of Los Zubiaurre. Memoria grafica is utterly beguiling.
Have a look at this photo of a mother and father receiving a letter from their son. It's the reason why we should all write more. Much more. Admission 10 Euros each.
BILBAO ATHLETICO - the stadium tour is undoubtedly the best attraction in Bilbao, no matter what your views on soccer are. It's an hour long, immersive and you get a sense of what it's like to be a professional footballer. With access to the press box, the changing rooms, the dugouts and the trophy room.
WHERE TO EAT IN BILBAO
This is what let the city down big time. Not enough variety and not enough middle tier pricing. There are 22 Michelin-starred restaurants in Bilbao, but when you're traveling on a budget, minimum course orders starting from 50 Euros are a definite no-no.
The drop off then is quite staggering. We did find a quirky dig called Coppola, inspired by the owners love for the director Francis Ford Coppola. Decent pizza, nice decor, even prices. But Pizza?! Do I have to schlepp to Spain to get a decent pizza?
We only stumbled upon this little place by accident as all other half-decent restaurants were shut at 6pm. Some only taking bookings after 9pm. Come on Bilbao! What about Johnny foreigner that likes his dinner done by 7pm and his slippers on by 10pm latest?
A friend of mine called me out after my seemingly blasphemous rant about the Spanish and their fixation on white bread. Apparently it's 'part of the culture. The bread isn't like the white bread you get in Tesco. It's much lighter and really good. Taking away that thread would be like stopping serving chips in a chippy. (Sic). It's not for the tourists at all'.
Well with the last part, I have to agree.
We did find one restaurant that provided excellent service and quality food. Called The Premierk. Out of the way, but you can find it on the way to the Bilbao Stadium.
Being a James Bond fan you will at least get to see a James Bond location. The spot where Pierce Brosnan landed as he abseiled out of a Swiss Bankers balcony can be found directly across the Guggenheim and in front of the Jeff Koons Puppy.
I have written extensively about getting to the balcony, (not open to the public) on my blog here.