Bizkaia, an Experiential Destination in the Basque Country
Tourism and cultural representatives from Bilbao and the province of Bizkaia showcased their region’s highlights during an event held recently at Irish chef Andrew Rudd’s newly-opened restaurant, Medley, on Dublin’s Fleet Street East.
During that evening, TheTaste.ie had the opportunity to meet local representatives of Bilbao and Bizkaia who eagerly shared their passion for their amazing region with us. Calling it an “experiential destination”, they pointed out that in a very short distance there is a remarkable concentration of things to do, see, eat and enjoy: from surfing and sun-bathing on the coast, to visiting museums and the Bizkaia Bridge across the Nervión River, recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
“The Basque Country hosts 29 Michelin Starred restaurants, this is the world’s region with more establishments of this type per person: only in Bizkaia, with 1 million people, we have 11. More even than Tokyo or Paris”, said the representative, but as she later mentioned, Bizkaia is not just a hub for fine dining and there is good food for all tastes and budgets.
The local specialty, the pintxo, is a must-try. “A pintxo is a miniature portion of a meal and it is different to tapas which were originally bar food. People used to cover (“tapar”, origin of the name by the way) wine bottles with a piece of bread and then add something to that bread before eating it. Pintxos don’t necessarily go on top of bread, they are closer to a miniature version of a meal and the range of options is much wider.”
As they explained, “anything that can be crossed with a stick can be a a pintxo”.
Wine is also a great attraction. The local variety is called Txakolí and it’s made with a grape named Hondarribi Zuri. It’s a white wine, usually around 13% ABV and ideal for the sunny weather since it’s very refreshing and tends to show an elegant acidity.
Regarding places to stay, Bizkaia offers quite a mixture: from rural guest houses and bed and breakfasts to stunning four and five star hotels. “The quality of hotels in Bizkaia is so high that a four star hotel here is almost like a five star in some other places. And you have variety: you can stay in historical places like the Carlton or in modern ones like the Grand Hotel Domine, which is just across the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which features works by world-renown artists such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.
Sport fans can visit the home of the successful soccer club Athletic Bilbao and enjoy the ‘Ura’ attractions including exhilarating surf at Mundaka, which is famed for 4 metres high and 400 metres long tubes that have hosted Kelly Slater and other champions at the World Tour nine times. Mundaka is also a charming seaside town with plenty for the whole family to explore.
Those looking to enjoy nature will find amazing landscapes in the countryside of the Bizkaia province: with the Basque Mountains to the south and the coastline of Bermeo to the north, the diverse geography of the Urdaibai UNESCO Biosphere Reserve offers visitors a variety of activities, from getting lost in Oma’s Enchanted Forest and discovering the Pozalagua Caves.
For more information about tourism in Bizkaia visit mybilbaobizkaia.eus