Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Discovering Bilbao and Eating Pintxos

When you think of Spain, what city springs to mind? 
Barcelona and Madrid? There's a lot more to discover in Spain than these two magnificent cities.
Bilbao, a unique little city in the beautiful Basque country in northern Spain
is a treasure trove of art, culture, architecture and culinary delights but is often overlooked and skipped on Spain itineraries. Bilbao is one of the most charming places to see. Spend at least some of your holidays exploring Bilbao's hidden gems and immerse yourself in a pintxos crawl.

 My favourite neighborhood in Bilbao is its old quarter and at the centre of it is the Siete Calles or Seven Streets, the same streets that formed the original medieval town. The historical seven streets are: Somera (upper), Artekale (middle street), Tendería (shopkeepers), Belostikale (rapid street), Carnicería Vieja (old butchery), Barrenkale (lower street), and Barrenkale Barrena (lower lower street). 

Casco Viejo, a lovely old neighbourhood in Bilbao.

This beautiful structure located by the river housing Mercado de la Ribera  was registered to be the largest covered market in Europe in the book of Guinness World Records in 1990. With a surface area of 10,000 square metres and three levels packed with excellent range of fish, seafood, meat, fruits and vegetables, it was just incredible. On top of that, a fantastic food hall is located on the second level with heaps of counters filled with a variety of pintxos ready to be tasted, it was simply divine. Mercado de la Ribera is truly a foodie paradise in the heart of Bilbao.You mustn't miss this one.

The stunning stained-glass entry along Erribera Kalea. 
To be looking up at this great architecture for the first time was a pure delight.

Like many cities in the Basque country, Bilbao is noted for its excellent cuisine particularly the small tapas known as pintxos.
So what are pintxos? Pintxos (pronounced like "peen-chos") are the Basque Country's equivalent of Spanish tapas but the serving size is smaller. The word pintxos comes from the Spanish verb 'pinchar', which means 'to pierce'. Hence pintxos are held together by a toothpick. These skewered small bites usually consist of a bread topped with a variety of ingredients. A typical bar in Basque country will have its counter filled with these yummy nibbles. Locals eat them standing up with a glass of txakoli, a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine.

Unlike La Boqueria in Barcelona, this market is not yet swarmed with tourists.

I felt like I've gained weight just by looking at these little bites of heaven.

Goat Cheese with Caramelised Onions

The humble bocadillo jamon iberico is easily the most delicious sandwich on earth.

Nervion River

Bidebarrieta Central Library, the unsung gem of Bilbao, known only by locals and often missed out by tourists. Located in the heart of Bilbao and housed in a French eclectic style building it contains more than 100,000 books available to borrow, as well as computers, music CDs, audiobooks, videos, newspapers and other items. For lovers of books and great architecture, do yourself a favour and visit this gorgeous library. 
The stair case leads up to an impressive stained glass window that dates back to 1880's.

Detail of the rose window on the building's facade. On the right, a beautiful vintage cast iron radiator in the Study Room.

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