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Small pleasures by the ria

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Any day is a good day to unwind from Bilbao’s busy pace taking a walk along the ría, the estuary of the Nervión river that runs through the city, and let our gaze trace the outlines of architectural landmarks such as Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum or Cesar Pelli’s Iberdrola Tower. And, after this first leg of our stroll, it’s time for a stop: the small, cozy “La Gallina Ciega” (“The Blind Chicken”) will make us feel at home right away amidst the paintings and drawings signed by some of its customers hanging on the walls–visual references to the venue’s name. The tasteful interior has been carefully crafted down to the tiniest detail by Jon, the owner, who offers a fine selection of drinks from all over the world and highly original versions of the local appetizers known as pinxos.

With our energies renewed, we continue on our way along the river. Walking by the fine arts museum–the Museo de Bellas Artes–, the Guggenheim, and an assortment of design shops, we reach the city’s Ensanche neighborhood. In the Alameda Mazarredo we come across Zortziko restaurant, led by chef Daniel García, the proud bearer of a Michelin star. His philosophy associates cuisine with a journey through new flavors and textures: a must.

And on we go. We reach the city’s old quarter, gastronomically famous for its pinxos, like the ones we find in the Plaza Nueva, in bars and restaurants such as Víctor Montes.

Returning to the river’s edge, near the Marzana dock, which owes its name to the old tower-house located here, we come across another culinary landmark: Mina, a restaurant where you can sample seasonal cuisine (a tribute to the views overlooking the nearby market known as the Mercado de la Ribera), with products supplied by nearby farms.

Another route well worth exploring crosses the bridge of San Antón and heads into the old town known as Bilbao la Vieja, a hopping neighborhood with new art galleries, upcoming designer shops, vintage clothing stores, and much more.

In the center of Bilbao, in the Abando neighborhood, a good place to find local products, both to take home and to eat on the spot, is Casa Rufo.

The unusually warm atmosphere in this shop, where we seem to have entered a time warp and ended up in an old-time,
exquisitely decorated grocery store, also permeates its restaurant, where the dishes live up to our expectations of this cozy, enveloping environment.

And after this long walk through the city, we can let the water lead us down the estuary all the way to Getxo, where it meets the sea. Bordered by cliffs and beaches, with peaceful, open landscapes and an admirable architecture, this small city is host to a large number of excellent options for a meal, a stroll, and much more. This is where we find the Restaurante Embarcadero, located in the hotel with the same name, a good choice for exploring an appealing menu and enjoying the excellent views over the Abra bay.

Another landmark we won’t want to miss is the Puente Colgante, the hanging bridge that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and cross over to the left bank of the ría. From there, we can continue on to Santurtzi, and treat ourselves to the best fresh fish and traditional cuisine at Currito.

Here we can sit and gaze at the freighters sailing out to England, or the small fishing boats returning to the port of Santurce and reminding us of the area’s seafaring past: the perfect setting for sampling the excellent fish for which it is so well known.

Francis Gainzarain de bulthaup bilbao.



Source images:

 Bilbao 1

 Bilbao 2

 Bilbao 3

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