For my last trip during my study abroad experience, I wanted to explore more of Spain before leaving. After having explored the central, southern, and Mediterranean regions of Spain, I really wanted to explore the northern regions of the country. I was in between Asturias, Galicia, and the Basque Country, but I chose to go with the Basque Country and I am so glad I did!
There are two main options of getting to Bilbao from Madrid, which are either by train or plane.
- Train: The Renfe train can take either 4hr 45 min - 8 hr depending on what train you book
- Plane: The direct flights to Bilbao are about an hour long
I personally took a plane to Bilbao because I got tickets a month in advance but the fast trains were unavailable, and I didn't want to spend 16 hours on transportation for a weekend trip!
This beautiful city located on the ocean is only an hour bus ride away from Bilbao! As soon as I got off the plane at the Bilbao airport, I took a bus straight from the airport to San Sebastian (runs every hour, costs $7-17 euros). The landscape view from the bus was absolutely breathtaking as I saw the beautiful green, rolling mountains of the Basque Country the entire time.
Concha Beach: Named for its shell-shaped feature, this beach is one of the most iconic landmarks in San Sebastian. I recommend starting from the side near the Old Town and walking along or on the beach to the other side, as it is a very small inlet and only takes 30 minutes!
The Comb of Wind: These statues are located on the opposite side of the Conchas Beach from the Old Town, and I really recommend it! The statues are located on the rocks in the ocean, and every time there is a wave, the vents on the ground shoot up air and mist which was so fun to experience:)
Mount Igueldo: On the same side of the Conchas Beach as the statues, this mountain offers the best view of the Conchas Beach from a high point. I took a funicular up to the top, and there is a fun amusement park up there to enjoy while looking at the view of San Sebastian!
Old Town: This part was one of my favorites as I got to enjoy the beautiful, narrow streets and architecture of the city. It is a very small town so I recommend getting lost while walking around for the best experience! (this area also has the best pintxos)
Guggenheim: This modern art museum designed by the architect Frank Gehry is definitely one of the most grand, unique sights of the city! I didn't enter the museum but the atmosphere around the building was just absolutely amazing with the buzz of music, sculptures, and people. Don't forget to check out The Puppy at the entrance decorated with flowers!
Parque Casilda Iturrizar: This park was right near the Guggenheim and it was a really fun spot to relax in the city atmosphere.
Gran Via: If you are interested in shopping, this street is a must as it has all of the shopping malls/stores for you. In addition, the Christmas lights kn the evening was a spectacular sight as well.
Casco Viejo (Old Town): This beautiful little area is also known as the Seven Streets, and you'll find the older buildings in Bilbao. Wander the narrow streets and don't forget to stop by Plaza Nueva for some of the best pintxos!
Very similar to tapas, pintxos are small portions of food enjoyed with drinks. One difference is that they are more bite sized portions than tapas that are usually bigger and can be shared among a few people. Pintxos are usually bite-sized so you probably won't be able to share it with anyone.
Pintxo hopping is a huge culture in the Basque Country and people go from one bar to another multiple times in an evening trying several different pintxos. Being able to try a bite of every different pintxo was one of my favorite parts of my trip, and I 100% recommend it!
Ordering the pintxos can be a bit stressful as some bars make you write your order down and hand it to them, and for some you just have to go up to the bar and order all the pintxos you want. And the bars are often crowded so you'll see many people standing or eating outside, but it's a really worthwhile experience.
I hope you enjoyed!
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Hi! I am a junior studying Education Studies and Psychology on the pre-health track at Amherst College. In my free time, I love to paint scenery, go on long walks, and sing my heart out to my favorite pop songs.