Sometimes it is good to get away from the traditional tourist route and get lost in the secret places in Bilbao. If you already have visited Bilbao, you will understand why it has been chosen as European City of the Year. Now, if you’re ready, we’ll show you a different way to explore its streets…
The Birthplace of Unamuno
It is difficult to tour the city without feeling the presence of Miguel de Unamuno, an author of the ’98 generation. His hometown has dedicated many tributes to him, such as Unamuno Plaza. What is less well known is that at the address of 16 Calle Ronda, very close to the Plaza, is the house where the writer was born and raised. You have to be careful not to miss it because it usually goes completely unnoticed.
‘Basque Museum’ (Archaeological, Ethnological and Historical)
In the nearby Miguel de Unamuno Plaza you will find this fascinating museum (see schedule), in which you can find a comprehensive explanation of the Basque civilization. The museum covers everything from the mysterious origins of the Basques (a subject that has attracted eminent figures such as Humboldt and Luis Luciano Bonaparte) to the present day, including all historical stages and branches of human activity. Pay special attention to pieces such as the Idol of Mikeldi (a large stone boar placed in the courtyard), a reproduction of the impressive Crucero de Kurutziaga and the portrait of the magnate Sir Ramón de la Sota (a work of Ignacio Zuloaga).
Atxurri and Abando Train Stations
Nearly opposite each other, as if guarding the Nervión River from opposite shores, are the train stations of Atxuri and Abando. Atxuri Station is a neo-Basque style building built in 1912, from where the tram and train lines leave for the Urdaibai Nature Reserve, ending in Bermeo. After walking along the riverbank, you can cross the Areatzako bridge and go up to the circular square to enter Abando-Indalecio Prieto station, a classical-style building inaugurated in 1948. Here, you can see the spectacular stained glass window of the Union of Glass Artists of Irún and the sculptures of Agustín Ibarrola (who is known for being the architect of the Oma Forest).
Bilbao’s Museum of Reproductions
Near the previous museum, at the address of 14 Calle San Francisco, you will find this museum which is ignored by the general public, but cherished by art lovers from Bilbao, both for its pedigree and for having one of the best collections of copies of classic sculptures that can be found in Europe. A visit here (see schedule) offers the opportunity to fully enjoy the main classical sculptural works without the hassle of a crowded museum; it is truly a unique experience.
The Azkuna Zentroa Swimming Pool
Can you imagine taking a bath on the third floor of a cultural center? Known as the Alhóndiga de Bilbao (Arriquibar Plaza), the Azkjna Entroa (see schedule), houses an olympic pool inside. This old wine warehouse has a modernist style and is the work of architect Ricardo Bastida. For just 6.65 euros, anyone can take a bath and then relax by having a drink on one of its roof terraces, enjoying the view!
The Neighbourhood of Irala
Just 10 minutes away from the city centre is the neighbourhood of Irala. This is one of the secret places in Bilbao that is noteworthy for its colourful houses built at the beginning of the 20th century. They are designed in an English style and are far different from the image of the more grey and avant-garde Bilbao. You’ll feel like you’re in London or even, when you find yourself on a hill, you can be reminded of the Victorian-style of San Francisco. The most picturesque ones are between Zuberoa Avenue and Baiona Street.
The Chill-Out Zone in Zorrotzaurre
Hidden in the Zorrozaurre neighbourhood, you can find one of the most scenic secret places in Bilbao. We do not know the creator of this improvised chill-out zone, but it is an interesting ecological project. Everything is made with recycled materials and you can enjoy a swim in the estuary, even though it is far from being a spa. It has trunks to sit on and even an old cable reel that now acts as a table. This secret place in Bilbao is a haven of peace in the middle of the big city.
Bilbao by canoe? It’s possible!
Although it is not strictly one of the most secret places in Bilbao, this option is perfect for those who want something adventurous and affordable. For 9 euros you can get on a single kayak, and for 15 euros you can get a double one. You can paddle along the Nervión River and discover the most emblematic buildings. Bilbao Bentura (Plaza Patxi Aita, 7) offers three different itineraries– check them out and see which one you like best.
Do you know more secret places in Bilbao? Share them with us! (We are always in a process of review and revision).
Text by Paloma Díaz Espiñeira
Traduction by: Shannen Smith