The Casco Viejo is Bilbao’s Old Town, made up of seven main streets (Las Siete Calles) dating to the 1400s and located across the river from the newer part of the city.
Casco Viejo is full of sites such as the Plaza Nueva, surrounded by pintxo bars, the Bilbao Cathedral and the Mercado de la Ribera – Europe’s largest indoor market, where there are dozens of food and drink stalls and groceries to buy. There aren’t any big or luxurious chain hotels in this area of Bilbao, but it is filled with cute bed and breakfasts, small budget pensiones and a couple of boutique hotels. Here are some of the best spots to stay to be in the heart of the action.
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The Hotel Tayko Bilbao occupies a 150-year-old building that was only the fourth in Spain to be constructed using concrete. Step inside, and you’ll discover chic industrial design, with exposed brick walls, minimalist lines and shades of grey. To see the city’s Old Town come to life in the morning, book one of the Tayko Street View rooms. These stylish doubles look out over the surrounding streets (those on the lower floors also have balconies). While there are hordes of restaurants on the doorstep, take time to check out the hotel’s exceptional culinary offering. The gastrobar and fine dining restaurant boast menus by Martin Berasategui, a Basque chef with 12 Michelin stars.
Accor’s four-star Mercure Bilbao Jardines de Albia is well placed for exploring both the older and newer parts of the city. Located on the other side of the estuary from the Casco Viejo, a 15-minute walk away, it offers accommodation ranging in size from doubles to family rooms for four, with views over the skyline or an internal courtyard. All of the bedrooms have smart blue and white interiors, while the bathrooms are clad in polished stone. Secure parking is available for a daily fee, and there’s a decent on-site bar serving up drinks and snacks, although there are also several popular pintxo joints in the vicinity.
The businesslike Hotel Sercotel Coliseo is a good option if you’re in Bilbao for work, as it offers full or half-day office rentals. If you opt to stay the night, there are various room sizes to choose from, and all have a bright and modern aesthetic. Stays include access to the casino next door, and on-site facilities include a partially covered terrace, gym and reading room.
Vincci’s ultra-modern Consulado de Bilbao outpost sits on the western riverbank, next to two of Bilbao’s most distinctive structures – the Salve Bridge and the Guggenheim Museum. Look out over the estuary towards the Casco Viejo (reached with a 15-minute walk) from the first-floor terrace, where you can also enjoy cocktails, locally produced wines and snacks. At Restaurant Kondutxo, the Basque cuisine is as vibrant and contemporary as the decor. A buffet breakfast is served every morning, and underground parking is available.
If you’re looking to unwind as well as roam the Old Town, check out Barceló’s Occidental Bilbao, situated on the edge of the Casco Viejo and a 20-minute stroll from Plaza Nueva. Its shared amenities include an outdoor pool and terrace (open from June to September) and, for an additional fee, a spa with an indoor pool and a well-equipped gym. All of the 200 rooms wear light, conservative colours and can accommodate up to four, and the outward-facing superior doubles have city views.
The three-star Petit Palace Arana is located on the edge of Bilbao’s Casco Viejo and lies within walking distance of many major sights. Its rooms are cosy and compact, as well as sleek and modern in black-and-white tones, with all the necessary mod-cons. The hotel also has a breakfast room and charming lounge area, and it offers bike hire services.
The Caravan Cinema is a quirky cinema-themed boutique pensión in the heart of the Casco Viejo. It features just five rooms and two apartments, with decor based on famous films, actors and directors. Book the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired apartment, decorated in bright 1970s-style wallpaper, silhouettes of birds across the ceiling and a shadow of a person painted across the shower door. Or for something a little more Spanish, try the Pedro Almodóvar room, decorated with his old movie posters.
The two-star Hotel Bilbao Jardines is located in the heart of the Casco Viejo and is both spacious and contemporary. The decor is simple and functional with lots of natural wood, green walls and pictures of plants, reminding guests of being in a garden. Rooms feature everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay. There is also a breakfast room, a separate dining room and free bikes for exploring the city.
Located on the edge of the Old Town, not far from the Bilbao Cathedral, the Hotel Arenal Bilbao is housed in a beautiful old red building with lots of character. The rooms are spacious and uncomplicated but are decorated in light colours with wooden period furniture and large windows. The hotel also offers a basic breakfast room and a meeting room.
Named after the seven streets that make up Bilbao’s Casco Viejo, 7 Kale Bed and Breakfast is a charming little place with 23 en-suite rooms and a very homely feel. Decorated in shades of beige, white and teal, the rooms are comfortable and offer everything you need during your stay, including TVs, complimentary toiletries and free Wi-Fi. A continental breakfast is served in the bright dining room, and packed lunches can also be made upon request.
A great value-for-money hotel, Basque Boutique may only be a two-star pensión, but it rivals even some of the finest hotels in the city. Right in the centre of the Old Town, it is delicately decorated with handmade wooden furniture, eccentric sculptures and lots of wood. Original features such as beams and exposed brick walls also add to the ambience. There are just nine themed rooms, which are individually decorated and centred on Basque culture. Choose from the Gernika room, the txakoli (Basque white wine) room or the Basque language room.
Mark Nayler contributed additional reporting to this article.
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