Bilbao baggings: the ultimate picnic road trip

It’s no surprise that a region with so many Michelin-starred restaurants is also home to world-class food producers. Time to fill up the picnic basket for a Basque country food odyssey

Price aside, eating at a one of the Basque country’s many Michelin-starred restaurants and sitting on a sea wall with a picnic have more in common than you’d imagine. The region’s greatest chefs – including Eneko Atxa, Elena Arzak, Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, and Victor Arguinzoniz of Asador Etxebarri – all say the fertile land and seas, fresh produce, independent artisans (cheesemakers, winemakers, bakers), plus a culture with food at its heart, make for a transcendent gastronomic experience. It’s this holistic convergence that made Bilbao the destination of choice for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants event this summer.

You’ll remember a meal in one of the Basque country’s restaurants for a lifetime. But visit the region’s artisan producers yourself and you’ll get the ultimate picnic – and a lot more euros left in your pocket. I set off on my epicurean treasure hunt from Bilbao, visiting shops, food producers, and wine and beer makers, to enjoy the tastiest treats and finest drink in the most scenic picnic locations.

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Travel | The Guardian

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Travelling in Bilbao

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If you are planning a vacation to Northern Spain, you might be tempted to visit somewhere like San Sebastián and Guernica, however, where you really want to go in just an hour away from Guernica; Bilbao. Here is the why and how!

A city of duality

Bilbao almost has a split personality, catering to most desires and tastes with its contrasts. For example, you can explore the urban landscape but marvel at the country elements. Between the futuristic trams and old architecture, you will feel as though you are time traveling without moving. In the fish markets, you can buy local handmade wares and then pop into a hidden high-end boutique for a designer Wang piece. Afterward, you could check out the stunning silver Guggenheim Museum Bilbao that’s set on a background of beautiful green mountains. This place really is something.

Feel like a local

Bilbao is mostly untouched by tourists and even the more commercialized places of the city, such as the Guggenheim are certainly not overrun with crowds, as one might expect, even during peak times! The locals speak Basque, and you can jump on the Euskotren Tranbia to explore the whole city for just 1.5 euros, via a single line, running in two directions – nothing is unnecessarily flashy here.

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Who would have thought that one of the richest Spanish museums (outside of Madrid of course!) could be found in Bilbao! The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is a fantastically curated collection, spanning across several art styles and periods and is a must-see for anyone interested in art.

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is the perfect neighborhood for a walk (and a subsequent glass of wine or two in one of the bars!). The river is a lovely feature, and there is plenty of architecture to enjoy as you walk. Visit one of the open-air food markets to stock up on delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables while you are here.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Rated the number one thing to do in Bilbao, you cannot miss the architectural masterpiece that is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao! Even from the chrome and metal building, you will be blown away, but venture inside to explore the collection of modern and contemporary pieces too.

Plaza Nueva

This beautiful square is perfect for people watching as you settle down at one of the cafes outside. Plenty of choices for food and on match days the square has a fantastic atmosphere as many of the bars show soccer!

Dona Casilda Park

The most extensive park in Bilbao, Dona Casilda Park is worth a visit to enjoy the trees, wildlife, and fountains. Grab some food from one of the markets and head here with a picnic one afternoon – bliss!

Playa de Plentzia

When in Spain…! This stunning beach is just half an hour from Bilbao and worth the metro journey it takes to get there. The water is clean (and warm!) and some people enjoy surfing in the water. If you prefer to be a little more laid back, there are some fantastic bars and restaurants to enjoy the views from.

So when you are looking to book a vacation to Northern Spain, give Bilbao a chance, and we are sure you won’t regret it!

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Bilbao city guide: what to see plus the best restaurants, bars and hotels

In the 20 years since the Guggenheim opened, the Basque port city has not looked back – the museum acting as a magnet for great art and architecture as well as buzzing nightlife and restaurants

This year sees Bilbao celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, an institution that brought art and its lovers to the north coast city, and started an urban relaunch in which its industrial past was overlaid with fluttering palms, promenades and a proliferation of wonky, asymmetric, eye-popping glass and steel buildings by many of the world’s best architects – Norman Foster, Philippe Starck, Santiago Calatrava and Arata Isozaki among them. Thankfully, Bilbao’s old Basque soul remains intact. The additions enhance the old city, and tourism hasn’t disrupted the enviable lifestyle of its inhabitants, in which lifelong friendships, culture, pintxos (Basque tapas), and the spirit of football figure large.

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Travel | The Guardian

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