My trip to Spain began at the top. In the city of Bilbao which is located in the Basque Region of Northern Spain. Formerly seen as an industrial city (think Pittsburgh) it now offers a wonderful cultural experience. It can still be considered a hidden gem, because even during the summer months it isn’t over run by tourists.
I have to say that though the smallest it was one of the most inspirational cities I’ve visited while in Europe. When I returned to New York City, I found one café that reminded me of the quaint and casual set-up of most of the establishments in Bilbao. I included it in Writer’s Retreat New York City. Can you guess which one?
Bilbao has two regions, the Old Quarter (Casco Viejo) and New Town (Ensanche) and eight districts. The main districts are Abando, Begona, Deusto, Rekalde and Uribarri. I was able to navigate most of the small city on foot.
Old quarter is where many of the most historic landmarks are located. It is the center of the city. Most of the cafes are located around the public square of Plaza Nueva and a group of lively streets known as Siete Calles. The streets begin with Calle de La Ronda and end with Calle Pelota.
Also known as El Ensanche, has more of the concert venues and tapas bars. It is bordered by the scenic Nervión River.
The Best Cafes for Writers, Bloggers & Students In Bilbao
Kafe Antzokia, San Vicente Plaza, 2 http://www.kafeantzokia.com
A Basque centered cafe-theater with a great line up of Spanish musicians all year round. The café is located on the first level. It’s nice and quiet during the day and offers live music later in the evening. They also hold plays and show films. Check out their website for their schedule of shows.
Bar Cafe Bizitza, 1 Calle de la Torre (Old Town)
Is a lovely café with delicious homemade baked goods. They also display different photography collections from local artists.
Café Boulevard, Calle del Arenal 3
Beautifully decorated café and has a stupendous coffee menu.
Abaroa, Paseo del Campo de Volantin 13
Interesting menu and cozy environment.
Twiggy-Alameda de Urquijo 35
My favorite café. The 60′s décor and wallet friendly menu you can come in for breakfast and stay for lunch.
Catedral de Santiago
Not a café, but has outdoor seating and a quiet location.
In the Guggenheim museum. Enjoy their outdoor seating even during the fall. Their menu is inexpensive and delicious and they have the best Spanish omelet.
The Guggenheim isn’t the only noteworthy attraction in Bilbao. I loved walking around the city and stumbling into other smaller museums. Bilbao also has great bookstores with interesting travel and trade books. I had no friends in Bilbao so I ate out a great deal. I organized an eating tour, well specifically a pintxo tour.
Pintxos are a cultural fixture in Basque country. They are similar to tapas except they’re usually fixed to a piece of bread with a toothpick. They do have the same social aspect and are served in bars where you select them separately from your tinto or beer. I’ve listed the cafes with the most interesting, inexpensive and delicious pintxos.
Bilbao is very close to the Atlantic Ocean and right outside of the city you’ll find some very beautiful and quite beaches. Right by Sopelana are my two favorites and they are accessible by metro.
For the Eyes
Euskalduna Palace-Avenida Abandoibarra
A short distance from the Guggenheim, The Euskalduna is where the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra and the Basque Symphony Orchestra are held. It’s an amazing modern structure.
Teatro Arriaga, Plaza Arriaga
A Beautiful architectural structure.
Museum of Basque Archaeology, Ethnography and History.
For the science geek in me.
Arkeologi Museo, Calzadas de Mallona 2
An interesting historical museum.
For the Mind
Elkar bookstore, Calle de la Cruz Casco Viejo
Tintas bookstore, Calle del Generál Concha 10
Travel bookstore! Bought a great map of Brazil.
Librería Cámara, 6 Calle Euskalduna
A extremely wells stocked bookstore. Consider it a super newsstand; it has magazines from all over the world.
For the Stomach: Pick Your Pintxo Tour
Cafe Bar Bilbao, Calle Nueva, 6 (Old Town)
Central location, but never too crowded. You can work or chat with interesting people, both locals and visitors.
Irrintzi, Santa María (Old Town)
Most interesting pintxo menu.
Xukeia, Calle de Perro
Award winning pintxos, no really they’ve won culinary awards.
A beautiful public square with seating. Great for people watching.
For the Soul: Playas
- Playa de Arrietara
A rocky beach that reminds me of New England.
- Playa de Plentzia
You have to follow a hiking trail to this location, but it’s worth it. With white sand and blue water, you’ll feel inspired to take up painting watercolors.
Here are more pictures from my stay in Bilbao. If you’re interested in exploring the Big Apple you can purchase Writer’s Retreat New York City-The Best Cafes, Restaurants, Coffee Shops for Writers, Bloggers & Students. The free Writer’s Retreat Athens mini-guide is also available.
Next up–> Writer’s Retreat Montreal- The Best Cafes, Restaurants, Coffee Shops for Writers, Bloggers & Students.