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Visit Bilbao

How to Spend Your Downtime in Bilbao

A vital part of learning any language is immersing yourself in the culture of the country you are in and getting a feel for the daily life and customs of the people that speak it. Bilbao is a great place to do this as you are not only experiencing life in a typically Spanish coastal and cultural city, but you are also gaining a valuable insight into the Basque traditions that permeate the region and make it a truly unique place for students learning Spanish here to experience.

What to Do and Where to Do it

The city of Bilbao is scattered both sides of its river, with a large hub of activity to be found on the East side in the 'Casco Viejo' (Historic Quarter). Pinchos and partying are the main orders of the day here and you could do worse than to while away a few hours wandering the streets and sampling a few of the snack-sized delicacies that adorn every counter. The modern, new city as such, is to be found on the West side of the River Nervión and here you can delight in the architecture and sheer variety of the buildings, parks and gardens. Additionally, if you're feet aren't tired out yet, then head to the Abandoibarra which is a recently renovated walkway situated at the side of the river. It provides a pleasant stroll during the day and quite a magical one at night when the boardwalk is lit up and the city lights dazzle in the river.

It is in the Abandoibarra where the impressive Guggenheim Museum is to be found. This architectural and cultural masterpiece was constructed in Bilbao following a decision and application by the Basque Government to build a Guggenheim Museum in its then somewhat decrepit port area. The Museum opened in 1997 to much critical acclaim and has been quite the success story ever since, generating a huge amount of tourism in the city. A visit here on your time off from Spanish classes is a must-do! Whilst the permanent collection may not compete with the likes of Madrid's Prado, it is always host to interesting temporary exhibitions and the exterior and interior design in itself are fascinating to see, peppered with maritime influences and swirling, shining designs and not forgetting its giant flower puppy, it is as much a work of art as the content within.
Whilst the Guggenheim might seem to dominate the Museum scene in Bilbao, there are many more equally engaging Museums spread throughout the city that merit a visit. The Museo de Bellas Artes boasts a collection of around 6000 works of art, amongst them Francis Bacon, Goya and El Greco, and is located just six minutes away from the Guggenheim. So you could easily put away a days worth of culture in these two enjoyable museums and re-energise with a few cañas and some artesenal pinchos at the end of the day.

Another cultural delight to be experienced is the Museo Vasco, in the Historic Quarter. It is a brilliant idea if you want to learn something of the history and concept of what is the Basque culture, with plenty of archaeological displays and etymology exhibits. Whilst you are in the Historic Quarter you could also check out the attractive Parisian-style Teatro Arriaga, the Gothic-style Catedral de Santiago and the busy Plaza Nueva.

Something to Take Home With You

As you will come to realise pretty soon after setting foot in the city of Bilbao, it is a city that loves its food, and not only that, but it is fiercely proud of its gastronomy and the art of creating the perfect dish or pincho. These colourful and creative fancier cousins of the tapa bedeck the bars of Bilbao and make for a perfect Pinchos Tour. There are a number of companies that offer a walking pinchps tour throughout the Old Town of Bilbao where you can learn about the elaboration of these delicacies and, of course, wash some of them down with a good glass of Spanish wine.

If you think you might like to get a bit more involved then why not look into one of the many culinary schools in Bilbao and pick up a few tips from the experts in a country with over 120 Michelin stars, most of them to be found in this region. You might also wish to combine your Spanish language course with Cooking lessons at one of the many Spanish schools in Bilbao.

As good as the food here may be, lets not forget that there is also much more to this city with a coastal setting. If you are feeling particularly active or energetic during your stay here, you could try out one of the many surf schools in Bilbao and the neighbouring towns and hang five for a while in the fresh Atlantic Ocean. Some Spanish schools also offer this as an addition to your Spanish lessons. You should also take the time to explore both along the coast and inland from Bilbao and take a well earned day trip, perhaps at the weekends with your Spanish school classmates. The nearby small coastal fishing town of Bermeo is without a doubt worth a see, as is the much larger San Sebastian. Biarritz in France is also well within reach as a destination and a bit further inland, best known for the horrific bombings carried out there at the hands of the Germans during the Spanish Civil War, but delightfully charming and great for catching a game of the local Basque sport, Pelota, is the town of Guernica.

When you have done all or even some of this, I am sure you will have gained a valuable and unforgettable insight into life in this enthralling and inviting city and you will have picked up some Spanish skills to boot. When it comes to the end of your Spanish course maybe you won't want to go home after all!