Here is our ideal strategy for food lovers planning a quick trip to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Yes, Frank Gehry’s masterpiece is amazing. But so is the Basque Country itself, a world-renowned culinary Mecca whose landscapes (and seascapes) and cuisine definitely deserve your attention. San Sebastian is your home-base on this trip – trust us, it’s more charming than Bilbao, totally strollable, with a pretty waterfront, a fine market, and an incredible tapas scene (oh, yeah, and more Michelin stars per capita than any city in the world).
The trip includes:
- Two nights in a 19th century villa that is now an elegant boutique hotel in the center of San Sebastian (double occupancy);
- Advance tickets to the Guggenheim Bilbao;
- A guided stroll that will give you a sense of Bilbao’s history and design moxie (take a look at Calatrava’s Zubizuri bridge!) and orient you at the Guggenheim Museum;
- A walking tour with a food-loving local guide who will to introduce you to the delights of San Sebastian – its port, market, and Belle Epoque personality, plus advance tickets to Chillida Leku, sculptor Eduardo Chillida’s park-museum;
- A tapas tour to turn you on to Basque pintxos;
- Two breakfasts and two lunches (lunches include selected wines). In San Sebastian, one is your tapas tour; for the other, in Bilbao, choose between a caserio country grill or a traditional favorite in Bilbao’s Old City;
- Insider tips on top restaurants for your evening meals. The choices here run the gamut from rustic cider houses to homey local gastronomic clubs to Michelin 3-star marvels. We’ll help you decide and make any reservations you need;
- A rental car and personalized routes and maps for your excursion to the Guggenheim (and anywhere else you need to go, including to and from the airport);
- Local Eusko-Tram tickets for buzzing from the Old City in Bilbao to the Guggenheim;
- Gratuities at included restaurant meals.
Available year-round upon request for parties of two or more.
$1250 per person, double occupancy.
Many of our travelers have asked our advice in planning a “quick trip to the Guggenheim” in Bilbao. The museum is a fantastic place indeed – after 10 years, still an awesome sight. Go.
But whether you’re intending to make the jaunt from Barcelona, Madrid, or points south, you have some ground to cover – this is really more than a day trip. Here is our best strategy for an efficient and delicious introduction to the museum and its remarkable Basque Country setting.
We start and end the trip in San Sebastian, a jewel of a small city, set right on the Cantabrian Sea. (You’ll notice when you get here that locally the town is fondly and officially known by its Basque name, “Donostia.”)
Depending on the season and on your ramblings – for this is an eminently walk-able town – you might decide the bars in the Parte Vieja are Donostia’s true heart. Locals practically make a religion of grazing pintxos, the Basques’ supremely flavorful small plates. On this tour, you’ll join them in the company of a food-loving guide.
We’ll also lead you on a good walk that reveals a broader view of the Basque personality. Small fishing boats in the port are evidence of tough adventurousness, while the boardwalk along La Concha beach reveals more bourgeois leanings. La Bretxa, the market, suggests delicious goings-on in home kitchens. And Chillida Leku offers crazy contrasts between native son Eduardo Chillida’s enormous iron works and their 16th century farmhouse and garden backdrop.
But any good introduction to this region will inevitably circle back to the subject of Basque cuisine. We’ve already mentioned the down-and-dirty yet delicious pintxos thing for which Donostia is rightly famous. Well, rest assured refined dining here can also knock your socks off. There are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Donostia than in any other city in the world. When you book, we’ll talk about whether Arzak, Akelarre or Mugaritz might be for you – we’ll help you reserve in advance of your trip. Or if you prefer something unforgettably homey, we can get you in to one of the local cooking clubs (formerly for men-only, a few of these fabled “sociedades gastronomicas” are now more open to women and visitors).
The Guggenheim Museum is probably what got you to think about coming to the Basque country in the first place. It’s one of the most fabulous buildings in the world by one of the most famous architects in the world. ’Nuf said.
The Museum is in Bilbao – a little over one hour away by car. We’ll arrange your rental car, provide you with maps, and mark out your route. If you’re the kind to take your time getting back, we’ll map out an optional side-trip to a fishing town along the coast.
You’ll have a half day of guiding in Bilbao, so no worries about getting your bearings, glimpsing the Zubizuri or other sights, and learning about the museum and what’s on exhibit during your visit. We’ll book a terrific lunch for you for afterwards.
This tour shores up the lightening-fast trip to the Guggenheim you wanted with a real taste of Basque culture and cuisine. It includes lodging in a charming 4-star villa hotel in San Sebastian and tickets to the Chillida Leku museum there and to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. You’ll have a rental car, and a half-day of expert guiding in each city (including a “pintxos” tour in San Sebastian). And it leaves you a bit of free time to savor what the New York Times calls “the culinary capital of Europe.”
The trip price covers double occupancy accommodations and all the meals, touring, and transport as outlined.