Spain’s Basque Country Capitals in 3 Days

Photo by Harshil Shah

Discover the historic, cultural and culinary idiosyncrasies of each

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“Go on a thrilling journey through time to discover the three Basque capitals: transport yourself to San Sebastián’s Belle Époque, to Bilbao’s industrial past, and to the Middle Ages and Napoleonic Wars in Vitoria-Gasteiz. This adventure is a fascinating experience, which will allow you to become intimately acquainted with each city’s character.”

Day 1: San Sebastian

Begin by discovering San Sebastián and its bay, which is one of the most beautiful in the world. There is no better vantage point for admiring the bay than that offered by Igueldo Mountain, which offers stunning views of the city below. Make your way to the foot of the mountain by cable car, to be greeted by Eduardo Chillida’s Wind Comb. This sculpture acts as a buffer against the Cantabrian sea.
For lunch, a good plan is to make your way to the Old Part, which is the Mecca of bite-sized cuisine in the Basque Country. The array of pintxos laid out on the counters of the city’s bars offer an endless kaleidoscope of colours and flavours that you simply mustn’t miss out on. Enjoy a stroll along the streets, do some shopping and visit the Plaza de la Constitución, the Santa María del Coro.

This is one of the world’s culinary capitals par excellence. All Basque restaurants serve up dishes to delight the most discerning of palates. If you are a fan of haute cuisine, however, why not treat yourself and dine out in one of the many Michelin star restaurants in San Sebastián.

Pintxos route around the three main cities
Pintxos workshop / Pintxos gastronomic workshop
Peine del Viento (The Comb of the Wind)
Donostia-San Sebastián Old Town
The Basilica of Santa María del Coro

Day 2: San Sebastian and Bilbao

In the morning enjoy a pleasant stroll in San Sebastián’s romantic area, where French-style buildings are reminders of the Belle Époque, such as the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, the Maria Cristina Hotel or the casino which has since been converted into the City Hall.
Now make for the cosmopolitan metropolis of Bilbao, a city which it is definitely worth exploring in-depth. First visit the historic hub of the city, known as the Seven Streets, where culture and cuisine walk hand in hand. While you are indulging in some pintxos, you will be able to visit the Plaza Nueva, the Basque Museum and the Santiago Cathedral; if shopping is your thing, there are a multitude of shops which make this zone a highly attractive commercial area.

To finish off the day, we recommend visiting the Ensanche (or widening), which is the most elegant district in the city. It is home to some of the most representative buildings, streets and plazas in the city, such as Gran Vía, Plaza Moyúa or the Palace of the Provincial Council. The Ensanche, which has become Bilbao’s centre and focal point, also offers a wide variety of cuisine and leisure activities.

Pintxo-making and wine pairing courses
Victoria Eugenia Theatre
Old Town – Seven Streets
Plaza Nueva Square
Basque Museum. Basque Archaeological, Ethnographic and Historical Museum
Santiago Cathedral
Palacio de la Diputación de Bizkaia Palace
Sailing in Bilbao

Day 3: Bilbao, Getxo and Portugalete

Kick off the day by visiting the Guggenheim Museum, which is  highly valued and coveted due to both Frank O. Gehry’s striking design of the building and also the quality of the collections it houses. Located in the old hub of industrial and port activities in Bilbao, this building has become a symbol of the city’s urban regeneration.

This regeneration has extended all the way along the ria, where parks and walking areas have sprung up, and where some of Bilbao’s most emblematic constructions are to be found. These include the Euskalduna Palace, the Isozaki Towers and the Zubizuri Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

To complete the journey back in time to Bilbao’s industrial past, visit Vizcaya Bridge, which is the first metal transporter bridge in the world, and whose construction displays certain similarities to the Eiffel Tower. Make your way to the highest point of the bridge and to walk along its pedestrian walkway. The views up there are spectacular and will certainly make it worth your while. You can make your way back to Bilbao for dinner or, if you prefer, you can choose to dine in Portugalete or Getxo; the food here is equally exquisite and you will then have the option of taking the metro back to Bilbao.

Guggenheim Bilbao + Bizkaia Bridge
Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall

Itinerary compliments of Basque Tourism.

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