Flights to Bilbao or Santander get you to the Basque region of Spain where Pintxos replaces Tapas and rain replaces sun. The capital of the Basque region , Vitora is called the green capital. It’s the rain.
If flying into Santander there is a direct bus from the airport to Bilbao. The normal one is €6 which takes 1 hour 30 mins or the express for €11 takes 60 minutes. You will arrive at Santander bus station and from there you cn take the metro direct to where you want.
To travel around Bilbao you can buy a tourist card which gets you into the museums. It is much cheaper to get a Barik card for €3 and load it with some Euros. This is what the locals use and it can be shared between people. We got 17 Euros worth for two people and it did three days. Its €84 for the two tourist passes. If you plan to hit all the museums then the tourist card may be good for you.
The museums have a free day when you can get in for nothing. The Museum of reproductive Art it’s a Thursday, the Archaeological museum is free on a Friday.
Airbnb.com gives you a selection of apartments in the old city for €80 a night for 4 people, Casco Viejo. Staying in the old city gives a much better experience with its narrow streets. Choose carefully where you stay as some accommodation may be near a late night bar or restaurant.
IBIS in city centre is cheap.
Restaurants and Bars
Bihotz, 48003,Arechaga Kalea, 6,48003 Bilbao – The two owners are big fans of bikes and Mikkellar bars in Copenhagen. Sell a fine selection of IPA and other ales, four on draft. No pintxos.
Café Bar Bilbao, Plaza Nueva, 6, 48005 Bilbao – If only for the name go here for photo and drink on Plaza Nueva which is surrounded by good quality Pintxos bars. This was the best area in the Basque region for pintxos.
León de Oro, Chinese Restaurant, Calle de Fernández del Campo, 8,48010 Bilbao. This is an authentic Chinese restaurant and not like westernised Chinese restaurants you will know. If you have been to a Chinatown that is the closest I can think of. English menus available and two of the younger family speak English. Really enjoyed the food here where décor and ambiance was as if you are in real China.
Restaurante La Tagliatella, Italian, Calle Licenciado Poza, 55, 48013 Bilbao – This is a chain restaurant with about 15 outlets in northern Spain. English menus, excellent staff and something I enjoyed for a break from pintxos.
Ledesma Kalea, parallel to Gran Via has lots of bars and a great atmosphere.
Things to See
The Gondola Bridge is the worlds oldest transport bridge built in 1893 and is a World Heritage site. It is 40 cents for the ride, surely the best value ever.