There´s always an area in every city in the world that is widely visited by tourism, forgetting about other places that may be even more interesting. Bilbao is not like San Sebastian, which offers an unparalleled natural beauty as well as a better known gastronomy. The “Guggenheim effect” has brought tourists to this formerly ignored city, but the vast majority just stay a night or two and then leave, missing some of the charmest spots in town.
What follows is a quick very short list of some of the places I like in Bilbao (ordered as they come to my mind), that you normally will not visit as a tourist (and at very fair prices):
1) Bar EME, www.baremebilbao.com, absolutely the best sandwiches in the whole world (and I´m not exaggerating), locals love this place, you can have them either at the bar or to take away, it´s amazing how many hundreds of them they sell every day. Made with a special bread and a secret sauce, they are a treat. Quality remains untouched over the years. At 2,20 euros each, a bargain!!
2) La Tabernilla de Pozas, in Licenciado Poza street (known as “Pozas”, the most popular street for having some drinks before the soccer matches), you´d never enter here because it doesn´t even have a sign outside. There are no bars like this anymore. Wine coming from wooden barrels behind the bar, drunk in “porrón”, it´s popular to have (non-peeled) peanuts and wonderful tuna sandwiches (real ones with huge chunks of fish and wonderful crusty bread), an ageless counter, unaltered premises for ages,…, and the legend says that the two brothers behind the counter haven´t talked to each other for years..
3) Melilla y Fez, in Iturribide street (Old Town), just entering the street on your left hand side, a huge variety of potato omelette (Spanish omelettes) served in big portions at very good prices. Also, “pinchos morunos” (real kebabs) and a lively local atmosphere.
4) Bar Estoril, in Plaza Campuzano (downtown), the best long drinks in your life, together with wonderful french omelette pintxos. Can´t miss it screw driver made with real orange juice and the gin & tonic.
5) Bar Rio Oja, in El Perro street, the best cazuelitas (tapas), Old Town (Casco Viejo), homemade cuisine at popular prices.
6) Azak restaurant, in Pablo Alzola st, in the Basurto district, you can have selection of Iberic specialties and cheese for as less as 14 euros…and so big you´ll need to have another bottle of their wide (and cheap) wine list. A rarity in this district. Huge selection of meals, appetizers and beers.
7) Taberna Taurina, in Ledesma street (center), small but authentic with dozens of pictures of bulls and bullfighters.
8) Mina restaurant, a small restaurant in the heart of the Old Town, facing the Ribera Market. A bit pricey, but worth every cent spent at it. The chef Álvaro Garrido deserves a Michelin star, at least. Menu changes weekly, always surprising, always delicious.
9) Maestro García Rivero street, in the very center of town, full of bars where you can have a “zurito” (small beer) or a glass of wine together with some pintxos in any of its several bars. Lively outdoor atmosphere, the place to meet to start the night for many locals.
In your next visit to Bilbao, try to visit any of the places mentioned above. You´ll get a true feeling of what this city is about.