I’d read that Bilbao was an ugly, industrial city, best avoided except for a visit to the Guggenheim Museum. Despite this, Bilbao seemed to be the easiest way for us to get from London to San Sebastian – a quick flight to bring us into Spain and then a short bus ride to the coastal town of San Sebastian. We decided to stay in Bilbao for just one night before we quickly got the hell out of there.
Well, what I read was completely wrong!
Driving from the airport to our hotel, we passed through beautiful green countryside. Bilbao seemed to be surrounded on all sides by sloping hills covered in lush green, courtesy of recent rains.
Our taxi took us over a modern bridge, all red and green archways, and it was from here that we got our first glimpse of the city’s most famous landmark, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. With the sun slowly sinking into the hills, light bounced off the museum, turning its crinkled metal walls into all sorts of golden hues. It was a stunning sight – and I was too slow to capture it with the camera.
The next morning (after rescuing my credit card from a hungry ATM) we wandered through the centre of town in search of SIM cards for our phones and bus tickets to get us to San Sebastian. We passed beautiful buildings of all tones of pastels, their flower-bedecked balconies begging to be photographed.
And then we came upon the Guggenheim. This spectacular Frank Gehry-designed building is all twisting titanium and glass – a modern style that seems to still fit into the Spanish buildings surrounding it, all of which must be hundreds of years old.
I’m not a “museum person” and found the outside much more fascinating than inside.
It was a bit of a shame to be getting on the bus later that afternoon, feeling that we had more to discover of Bilbao.
Lesson: Don’t believe everything you read in guidebooks. Sometimes (most of the time!) you should go experience places for yourself – you may like it, you may not, but often you’ll be pleasantly surprised!