Northern Spain is a different World – fun with the kids in Bilbao!
Spain is always a popular destination for Irish Tourists and this summer it is more so than ever with a predicted increase to 1.4 million in 2016. But when we think of Spain all too often we choose popular destinations like Barcelona or the Costa Del Sol but Northern Spain is having a Renaissance for a number of reasons and I’ve been checking them out.
I recently returned from Bilbao nestled in Basque country and close to the other jewels of the region, San Sebastian and Pamplona.
With the kids in tow we arrived on a Wednesday and checked into the Gran Hotel Domine in Bilbao, set across the road from the glorious Guggenheim Gallery. I didn’t know about Puppy, the lovely doggy covered in flowers who sits outside the gallery – an incredible living sculpture that children especially will love to touch. We spent our first day cycling around the city on bikes with a guided tour – it was three hours long and I wondered if my teens would be giving out but on the contrary they adored seeing the city while doing an activity. Next day we took the unusual perspective of seeing the city from the river. Once the most polluted in Europe it is spotless and full of fish after a massive cleaning that cost the city millions. It was money well spent as we were able to kayak freely up and down on our two hour trip.
Any activity like this works up an appetite and Bilbao is a wonderful city for food lovers.
I’d recommend it for couples or girlie weekends and my kids adored the pinxtos which are a different kind of tapas to the usual you will find around Spain.
The transport system is excellent and shopping condensed in the one area which was perfect for my 12 year old daughter to get to see all her favourite stores. Bilbao is a masterpiece in design and layout. In the seventies many of the ugly industrial buildings that hugged the river were demolished and the infra structure was developed to a high aesthetic and working standard.
San Sebastian is only an hour away by bus and a beautiful city – why not do the coastal route and creep along the unspoilt beaches that hug the Atlantic. Another popular activity that has brought millions to Northern Spain is the Camino. Most pilgrims walk the final section of the 800 mile pilgrimage which is over 110km and get their passports stamped along the way in various hostels and guest houses. It seems to be a wonderful experience and life changing from anyone that I have spoken to who has done it. I’ve put together some deals below from Irish Tour operators and links to the Bilbao Tourist Board and the beautiful Gran Hotel Domine Where we stayed in Bilbao.
Travel Tuesday on TV3’s Midday chat about Bilbao – click here for link Bilbao on Midday
Aer Lingus operates a daily service from Dublin to Bilbao with up to two flights on Saturday. One-way fares including taxes and charges start from €49.99 including taxes and charges
Most popular package – Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago
This is the most popular Camino route known as the French Way. This trail captures the perfectly captures the essence of the Camino de Santiago. You will meet fellow pilgrims, discover local traditions and enjoy the unique atmosphere walking through Galicia’s green countryside. This route finishes in the historic town of Santiago where you will collect your pilgrim certificate.
Price: A 6-night self-guided tour on the French Way from Sarria to Santiago starts from €560 per person sharing for 6 nights. More details here: French Way
Another popular option is the last section of the Camino Portugues from Tui to Santiago
The Portuguese Way is the second most popular route among pilgrims to Santiago but you don’t have to trek all the way from Lisbon to discover this classic Camino trail.
Start from the town of Tui in Galicia, separated from Portugal only by the River Minho, and walk to Santiago in just a week. Tui is home to a wonderful historic centre and spectacular medieval cathedral-fortress. On your way you will reach the coast in the fishing village of Arcade, where you should taste the famous local oysters.
Price: A 7-night self-guided tour on the Portuguese Way from Tui to Santiago starts from €746 per person sharing. More details here:Camino Portugues
All prices include: Half-board accommodation, luggage transfers and holiday pack with route notes and practical information.