Spain 2024-Bilbao, Let's sum it up

Spain 2024-Bilbao, Let's sum it up

Bilbao has been worming its way into our hearts. Here are the strengths:

  • A glorious riverwalk
  • Nearly car free
  • A beautiful integration of city and nature
  • Harmonious architecture focused on oriel windows
  • Them dawgs

This glorious riverwalk

We missed our walking tour and ingested our history of the city largely through our visit to the Maritime Museum (more to come later). That museum told a story of industrial collapse in the 1980s followed by an re-invention and re-imagining of the city around the Nervión River. The riverwalk that emerged is broad and green, laced with pedestrian bridges and varied architecture.

Miles of riverwalk and pedestrian bridges aplenty.

Rippling river reflections

A flowering tramway runs alongside the river

Nearly car-free

This is the fewest cars we've seen in an urban core since Berlin. There isn't much space devoted to cars; little street parking, narrow streets, largely absent garages. You can stroll across the street rather than waiting for a hole to open up so you can dash across. Spain not being Germany, you can even cross against a 🛑don't walk light (in Deutschland, this would get you a stern lecture from any grandma in view). Few cars means little street noise, no exhaust to snort.

In Lisbon, pedestrians had the clear right of way, and cars would politely stop if you even glanced at a crosswalk. Here, you sometimes don't have the right of way, but there's only a third the number of cars.

Integrating city and nature

Much of the city is dense with dwellings, with 5-8 story red brick apartments.

Urban density

And green hills rise behind those apartments, close enough to touch.

The city is tucked tightly in its valley with the river tracing its center.

This is nearly a linear city, just 2-4 km across and 20km long. The metro doesn't sprawl, it stretches.

A metro for a linear city.

That architecture

I came here expecting to compare this to Porto, another riverine, turn of the century, Iberian city. Yet Bilbao is much more harmonious. Part of what makes it so is what must have been an absolute craze one hundred plus years ago for adding Oriel windows.

What are those? I had to look it up too. Oriel windows are large, frequently cast-iron, bay windows that look like they were grafted onto existing apartment buildings.

I'll take the blue and the black please

Them dawgs

Finally, because Ginnie is a dog person, this city is swimming with them. They're frequently off the leash in polite little groups, wrasslin' and sniffin'.

Go for the throat, Jimmy!

We've had three crisp but mostly clear days here. Blue sky, green hills, and five powerful reminders of what we like.