Public transport getting from Zaragoza train station to the city centre hadn’t been the easiest, and I didn’t think it’d be a much better journey on Easter Sunday. Instead, I indulged and opted for a taxi to make the short journey that had taken me ages just days before. Another four and a half hour train ride later, I arrived in Bilbao. I wasn’t in the best mood as I had spent the entire journey with the lady next to me tapping my leg with her foot and I was tired, but determined to give Bilbao a chance!
Making the short walk from the station to the hostel, I saw a truck driving down the road with people in the back singing and a crowd following them. A friend who lives in the area had told me there was a festival on that weekend, so I planned to drop my bag off at the hostel then get out to explore and enjoy the festivities.
First impressions of the hostel weren’t great, coupled with the dreary weather and my tiredness…I was not happy to be there. I had a tiny meltdown…just tiny…before giving myself a stern talking to and deciding to try and make the most of the short time I had in Bilbao. I soon found that today was the last day of the festival, and things had wrapped up already, so I wasn’t able to see any of that. Ah. Never mind, but wasn’t helping my mood.
Setting off to explore the city, I wandered out of the hostel in what I thought was the direction of the old town, an area that had been recommended. What I actually did was walk in the complete opposite direction towards the shopping area, where everything was closed and I saw about three other people over a long period of time. Turns out Easter Sunday isn’t the best time to be exploring Spain – who knew?! I had a wander through the park, sat at a great viewpoint and just tried to reorganise my grumpy self. The quiet was perfect for taking some time to reflect on the amazing opportunity I had to travel, and just because I hadn’t had a great day or great first impressions of Bilbao today, it didn’t mean it would be like this again tomorrow. I stopped to grab a bite for dinner then had an early night, keen to give the city another chance tomorrow.
A good night’s sleep did me the world of good, and I woke up feeling super positive and raring to go! Coat and scarf on, I was ready for the delights of the Bilbao weather. The second I stepped outside, it was straight back to drop off my coat and scarf – the weather was absolutely stunning and completely in contrast to yesterday.
Riverside walks in the sun are one of my favourite things to do in a new city, and after enjoying a croissant for breakfast overlooking the river it was time to explore in the sun. Through a spacious park and alongside the river, I soon spotted a market, which I always find impossible to resist. Just a small one, I had a look around the stalls then took a seat to watch some buskers playing nearby.
Next up was a trip to the old town, in the right direction this time! The streets in the old town have much more of what I think of as a Spanish vibe than the rest of the city, and I found myself at the Cathedral in no time. Another thing I can’t resist, I stopped in and picked up what can only be described as the most boring audio guide ever. The cathedral itself was interesting, but after about five minutes of the audio guide that was quickly left silent.
Back to the riverside and it was time for another market – Mercado de la Ribera. I love food markets, especially those with ready to eat food, and this place didn’t disappoint. I’ve since found out there are two floors to this market, but I must have been so distracted by the epic amount of pintxos on offer, as well as paella and burgers that I forgot to check out the rest of the market!
Next door to the market is another church, St Anton, and as my ticket for the cathedral included entry to both I stopped in and was given another audio guide. Although just a small, square church, the audio guide was just as boring as the cathedral so I only stayed for a quick look around before moving on again.
As I left the church I spotted a huge hill that looked like it could offer some great panoramic views of the city. You know it’s hilly when they have escalators in the street, and I of course made use of them because…I’m not silly! A few snaps from a viewing point, then back down to the riverside where I took time to sit in the sun and catch up with a friend from home.
Heading back to the hostel, I spotted signs for a funicular. Always a fan of a high spot for good views and photos, I followed the signs and soon found myself at the top of the hill with amazing panoramic views of Bilbao. The hills in the distance and the city sitting in the valley really reminded me of Bergen. Of course I had to take a million and one photos of the views in every possible variation, before heading to the Guggenheim to find that it had already closed.
Deciding to call it a day, I stopped for a delicious Spanish omelette pintxo on the way back to the hostel before relaxing with Netflix in the common area of the hostel. Not overly comfortable, I went to bed relatively early as I had an early start the next day to catch the train back to Madrid. Although I’d had a nice day in Bilbao, I hadn’t really fallen for it in the same way I have other Spanish cities. We’ll see if it gets another shot…