North of Spain & Dragonstone
San Sebastián and Bilbao was a fantastic getaway from the Barcelona heat. We started at the food capital of Spain, San Sebastián, and made our way to Bilbao to visit “Dragonstone” from the well known show Game of Thrones and the famous Guggenheim Museum. The basque language is quite interesting because no one really knows where it originated from, though I got by fine just speaking English and Spanish.
Bring cash and small change. Half of the restaurants I went to didn’t accept credit cards and you will need small bills/change for the bus/metro rides around town. We went at the beginning of August and if you didn’t already know many of the locals go on vacation and shut the stores/restaurants for the entire month.
Travel Cost Breakdown
Flight from Barcelona (BCN) –> San Sebastián (EAS), then Bilbao (BIO) –> Barcelona (BCN) on Vueling Airlines: 90.76€ Total
Hotel – Pensión Riberas del Urumea – $154 USD – I used a voucher for $115 USD from hotels.com = $39 USD
Bus from San Sebastián to Bilbao – 6.65€ with Alsa Bus
AirB&B Bilbao – $64/night – Josune is a fabulous host and I highly recommend staying here!
1st Stop: San Sebastián
I must say we both almost didn’t make our flights due to the Barcelona Taxi Strike. I was okay getting to the airport with public transportation however they literally blocked the road to the airport by parking their taxis on the road. Not only that, they were attacking Uber and Cabify drivers and that made me so mad I told myself I would never take a taxi here in Barcelona ever again.
The flight to San Sebastián is a short duration of 1 hour. Upon arrival you can take a taxi to the city center for about 25€. If you’re on a budget like me, the nearest bus stop is a 10 minute walk from the airport. Take the 25/27 bus (1.70€) to the Colón 43 bus stop and across the street there is a train station. Then take that train (2.55€) into the city – our stop was Amara-donostia. We dropped our bags off at our hotel and then we began our eating adventure.
There is the main train/bus station where you can store your belongings for 24 hours for just 5€.
Weekdays 7:00 am – 9:45 pm
Weekends 9:00 am – 9:00 pm.
Where To Eat:
Expect to eat a ton of yummy cheap pintxos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here are the places I recommend:
Bar Sport – One of the few pintxos place that opens at 10:00 am. Great variety of affordable pintxos.
Borda Berri – this place gets packed so I recommend coming here when they open at 12:30 pm and again at 7:30 pm.
Here are some of my recommendations: pork kebab, risotto, veal cheek, gazpacho, squid ink ravioli, and pig ear. We got all this and 3 glasses of wine for under 30€.
Gandarias Jatetxea – Opens at 11:00 am until midnight
La Cuchara – Opens at 12:30 pm and then again at 6:00 pm. Get the beef cheeks, foi gras (very very generous portion), and ugly tomato salad.
Besides stuffing our faces with food, we did hang at the famous La Concha Beach. Then we did the Hop On & Off City Tour Bus for 12€. Definitely was not worth it because there is only one bus at a time so if you hop off anywhere along the route then you have to wait for an hour for the next bus to come. You’re better off doing the city train ride for 5€.
2 full days here and then we were onto the next city, Bilbao, which is a 1 hour and 15 minutes bus ride and the cost – 6.65€.
2nd Stop: Bilbao
Navigating in Bilbao
Purchase your Barik card for 3€ at a metro station. Trust me, this card will save you around 40% for fares on the bus, tram, and metro and be sure to scan IN & OUT for EVERY ride. You can top off with a minimum of 5€ each time.
Metro ride: 1.60€
Tram ride: 1.30€
Day Trip to Dragonstone AKA San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (Don’t worry – I still cannot pronounce the last part)
Before You Go
* When I arrived, they asked me if I had reservations? WHAT?? No – I didn’t know anything about making reservations but they were nice enough to let us in. That being said, reserve your tickets by clicking here.
* Don’t be like me and wear thong sandals – The first half of the hike is a steep downhill and I was panicking the whole way down thinking that my sandals were going to break at any moment.
* Bring water – there is one water fountain at the base of the stairs…and no bathrooms when you reach the top.
How to get there: **Please note these prices may change**
* Find your way to Placa Moyua. You want to take the bus to “Bakio #3518” that stops in front of the Levis Store. It comes at :15 and :45 of the hour.
Cost without the Barik Card: 2.55€
Cost with Barik Card: 1.70€
Get off the stop that has the “Information” Building. Don’t forget to scan once again on your way off the bus. The clerk working at the desk will provide you with maps. Then the next bus #3517 will arrive. Get off the next stop and you’ll walk down the curved street on the left. You’ll reach the entrance after the parking lot. The hike up to the church isn’t so bad. Once you get up there make sure to ring the church bell 3 times for good luck! Best time to go is early in the morning to beat the crowds and the heat.
After taking a million photos we hiked back up and took a bus to the next city, Bermeo (5 minute ride and less than 1€) and then took a train from Bermeo to Mundaka to check out the beach (also less than 5 minutes and less than 1€). We spent the rest of the day soaking up the sun. Then it was time to go home. There is a train that goes from Mundaka to Bilbao (1.5 hours with stops) for 3.30€.
Tip: Sign up for FREE to be a member. This enables you to skip the line to buy tickets (16€/ticket) once you reach the museum. When I went the line was 100 people deep so this came in handy. You can take plenty of photos outside of the museum but when you’re inside no photos are allowed of the artists’ work. (I mention this because I didn’t know and I got yelled at a couple times – whoops)
Your Barik card works here as well and you can go up for .60€ each way. Without the card the cost is 1.75€ each way.
Where To Eat
Cafe Iruña – Opens 7am – 1am – one of the oldest cafes in Bilbao. Beautiful interior and my favorite pintxo is the salmon with nutty cream cheese. Obsessed!
El Perro Chico – Opens 12:30 pm – midnight – I really enjoyed this sit-down restaurant. Order the suckling pig and the crispy chicken. The spring rolls were amazing and the cheesecake dessert was to die for.
El Globo – Opens 8:00 am – 11:00 pm – Always busy because their pintxos are yummy.
Coppola Bilbao – Opens 1:00pm to 11:00 pm – If you’re tired of pintxos, this Italian restaurant should solve the problem!
Getting To The Airport
Head to Placa Moyua. The green airport bus #3247 will pick you up in front of the cream colored building “Delegacion De Hacienda.” It comes every :15 and :45 of the hour. Cost: 3€.