Words by Kirsty McCormack
A trip to sunny Spain is no doubt at the top of everyone’s wish list this year, but before the summer holidays arrive, what about booking a city break to get you in the mood?
Bilbao is situated in northern Spain and is the largest city in the province of Biscay and in the Basque Country as a whole. Full of culture, history, and plenty of good bars – it’s a city packed with plenty of character and the hustle and bustle of any good city.
The NH Collection Villa de Bilbao hotel is located in the heart of the city on Gran Vía, one of Bilbao’s main streets. Although it’s a large space, the entrance from the outside is understated whilst the lobby is light and airy, yet very welcoming with plenty of seating and even a bar at the back.
The building was completely renovated in 2012, so while the décor may not be as trendy and arty as other hotels, it’s certainly not dated.
The hotel’s restaurant is the perfect place to sample the Basque region’s famous cuisine, while the small bar can serve you pre-drinks or perhaps a night cap. Guests are welcome to use the rooftop gym free of charge and there’s also private parking for those who are travelling by car.
Rooms and suites
The hotel has a total of 142 guest rooms, including 30 premium rooms which have an incredible sweeping view of Gran Via. Simplicity is key at NH Hotels, and in Bilbao it’s no different as every room is fairly neutral, decorated in a chic, contemporary style.
Understated white furniture matches the crisp white bedding, and looks even sleeker against the dark grey curtains and twinning sofas. Pops of colour come in the forms of sofas and rugs and each room comes with tea and coffee making facilities as well as free Wi-Fi.
For those who really want to treat themselves to a luxury stay, the hotel also has several junior suites which have their own private terrace.
Food and drink
There’s one restaurant situated at the hotel and it goes by the name of Le Bol Blanc. Headed up by chef Jon Gotzon, it serves delicious Basque dishes in a stunning dining room decorated with candles and fresh flowers.
Local specialities include fresh fish, such as cod and turbot, served with slices of bacon. Le Bol Blanc’s cuisine offers authentic flavours with high quality products carefully prepared by Chef Gotzon.
Perhaps the most appealing factor of The NH Collection Villa de Bilbao hotel is its central location. The hotel is situated near to all of Bilbao’s best attractions, including the Congress Palace and the Guggenheim. For those who love a museum, there’s also the Museum of Fine Arts as well as the Maritime Museum Bilbao. Of course, you’ll want to make the most of the Spanish sun too, so why not take a walk along the River Nervión and relax in any of the nearby parks, which are also just a stone’s throw away from the hotel?
When it comes to nightlife in Bilbao, you should definitely head to the neighbourhood of Casco Viejo, where there’s plenty of restaurants and traditional taverns. It’s also where you can find Mercado de la Ribera, which is the biggest covered market in Europe, spanning a total area of 10,000 square metres. Here, you will find plenty of food stalls flanked by pintxo bars serving Basque tapas on sticks. I would recommend heading out early before dinner and visiting the Santiago Cathedral, which is a 14th-century landmark rising to a dramatic Gothic spire.
For those who are always on the hunt for a great photo opportunity, it’s worth taking a ride to the top of Mount Artxanda on the old funicular cable railway, which dates back to 1915. At the top, you’ll not only witness incredible views, but also beautiful walkways and a number of great restaurants.
Just like most cities, it’s easy to get around in Bilbao, especially thanks to their Metro service. There are several stations just a walk away from the hotel and Bilbao Airport is no more than 20 minutes by car. Travelling by bus will take around 25 minutes to get to the centre of the city and is considerably cheaper, costing just £2.50.
In a nutshell
City breaks are often more about the sightseeing as opposed to the hotel, and The NH Collection Villa de Bilbao fits that bill. It may not have a pool and a rooftop bar, and might not be a hotel you necessarily want to spend the majority of your time in, but it’s the perfect place for a good kip (and a delicious breakfast come morning) – especially when you’ve been pounding the pavements of Bilbao all day.
Rooms can be booked from £72 per night.