One Week in Basque Country - Help Me Plan!
November 24, 2016 11:58 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I will be traveling to the Basque Country during the 1st week of April 2017. Can you help us plan the specifics of our trip?

We will be flying into and out of Bilbao and we will be renting a car.

Our current hotel plan is to stay near Getaria (great rate), but we could also move around from hotel to hotel if that might make more sense.

We are planning as many lunches as we can secure reservations for at the "World's Best" restaurants in the area.

We would love suggestions on how to fill our days - which towns, which sites, which smaller restaurants must we see? Is it feasible to drive into France for an afternoon? Should we consider a train into Madrid (We love Madrid)?

We would love any and all suggestions for making the most of our time in the Basque Country!
posted by tmharris65 to Travel & Transportation around Spain (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was in Bilbao several years ago -- haven't been elsewhere in Euskadi yet -- and was blown away by the urban topography there. Like, they put parks on the tops of their hills. So you might allocate some time to exploring Bilbao itself, especially the Casco Viejo area.

If you like beautiful engineering, the Vizcaya Bridge, a bit north of Bilbao by subway, is a very poetic ride.

Have fun!
posted by bertran at 12:42 PM on November 24, 2016

I visited San Sebastian last year and would strongly recommend a night or two there, so you can enjoy an evening wandering around the tapas options in the old town. From San Sebastian it is plausible to spend an afternoon in France but that would be a heavy driving day for my comfort, personally I would make it an overnight and then drive all the way back to Bilbao the next day. I would definitely not try and squeeze in a trip to Madrid.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:30 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I liked Gernika - it was pretty awesome to go to the Foro and see the Basque tree.

I second just walking around in Bilbao. The urban architecture was totally awesome. I found a lot of cool shops: tea and cupcakes, antiques, etc.

I also liked the Guggenheim.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:41 PM on November 24, 2016

Either in Bilbao and San Sebastian, plan at least one of your meals around eating pintxos. These are bite-sized samples that you pick yourself from a tray on the counter, a bit like in some sushi bars. Toothpicks will have a small coloured flag indicating the price, and you'll be asked to pay at the end, accounting by the honor system: don't discard the toothpicks, as they are the ledger of what you ate, and you are expected to present them at the end!

The place to eat them is all around: you walk aroun the Casco Viejo (old historic center), wandering from bar to bar and having a couple of pintxos in each place. They range from the simple and traditional (deep fried cod with garlic) to the high-end: when I visited last with my Australian wife, we were surprised by a pintxo of duck encased in chocolate.

The typical wine of the region is called txakoli: it's a light white wine, served from a height in order to aerate it. Make sure you try it.

I miss the Basque Country, and I miss the pintxo crawls. Jealous!

Non-food notes:

If you like surfing, Zarautz is a popular European destination for consistent, if not big, waves.

Outside San Sebastián there is an art installation called El peine del viento (The Wind's Comb) by elder statesman of Basque art Eduardo Chillida.

Guggenheim is spectacular. The building and the temporary exhibitions are always good, but very particularly there is a lot of Richard Serra permanently installed there. I didn't know rusty iron could move me to tears.

You mention going to Madrid, which of course could be great. El Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Reina Sofia museums are there, and April might be the only time of the year when the weather is transitional between Madrid's two main climate systems: Hot and Hoth. The Bilbao-Madrid train is not fast, but the scenery is spectacular.
posted by kandinski at 4:09 PM on November 24, 2016

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