Camino del Norte Days 7 & 8: Bilbao

Our view of Bilbao from Monte Avril as we hiked into town.
Our view of Bilbao from Monte Avril as we approached town.

 

October 7, 2015

Zamudio to Bilbao, 5 miles

We were excited about today’s destination: Bilbao.  The week before starting the Camino, Dale and I had spent a night in Bilbao with our friend Tamara, and it had been a great experience.  We stayed at an Air B&B apartment in the city’s historic city center, known as the Seven Streets, and it was charming, with lots of restaurants, panaderias, pastelerias, and even a chocolateria or two.  And it was in Bilbao that we were introduced to the sublime pleasure of eating Basque food.

Now you see it…
Now you don't. Eating seafood pasta at our favorite restaurant, Amarena.
Now you don’t. Eating seafood pasta (and cleaning my plate) at our favorite Bilbao restaurant, Amarena.

 

And so after a week on the Camino, our return to Bilbao almost felt like coming home.  We opted to stay in a youth hostel not far from the city center and took a rest day to spend more time here.

Bilbao is an important industrial and banking center and the largest city in the Basque Country.  It underwent major growth and transformation during the Industrial Revolution and has been highly industrialized ever since; however, in recent years it has undergone an aesthetic revitalization that started with the construction of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which opened in 1997.  The Basque Government had approached the Guggenheim Foundation in 1981 and offered to completely fund the construction of a Guggenheim museum in the location of Bilbao’s port, once a vital part of the city’s infrastructure but now decrepit and dilapidated.  So the Basque government paid hundreds of millions of dollars to have the museum designed and built.  Renowned architect Frank Gehry designed the museum, and it is considered to be an iconic piece of modern architecture, bringing in millions of tourists a year.

Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum, on the Rio Nervion.
Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum

It has an art museum within, but from we read, the art displayed is far less spectacular than the building itself and is mostly on loan from other Guggenheim collections.  But it does have a gigantic puppy covered in living plants, which makes up for everything!

Guggenheim puppy sculpture
The Guggenheim flower dog

As we later learned, the Seven Streets area of town is a popular location for filming movies.  We were eating lunch when a horde of people wearing face paint suddenly appeared on the street.  The next thing we knew we were being asked to move to a different table on the other side of the restaurant as the street was going to be used to film a dance scene for a movie.  I believe the film was called Day of the Zombies or something like that.  It’s sure to win all kinds of awards!  According to our waitress, movies are constantly being filmed in Bilbao, and reportedly one of the James Bond movies from the Pierce Brosnan era was partially filmed here.

A scene from the movie being filmed in Bilbao
A scene from Day of the Zombies
A few of the "zombies" happily posing for pictures
A few of the “zombies” happily posing for pictures

 

Here are a few other pictures from Bilbao:

Bilbao 9
Bilbao’s majestic town hall

 

Bilbao 7
The Cathedral of Santiago. The historic city center radiates out from the Cathedral.
Bilbao 1
The Gothic Basilica of Begona. The bell tower has 24 bells, one of which weighs a ton.
Bilbao 4
The Basilica of Begona

We’ve written a lot about Camino del Norte!  Read more of our Camino blog posts here.