Miro Hotel

Bilbao, The Basque Country, Spain Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Stylish design hotel opposite the Guggenheim, with the Old Town a short stroll along the river
Bilbao is a city that changed overnight with the opening of a museum. It is probably why you are on this page reading these words. The Guggenheim threw open its doors in 1997 to wild acclaim. It stands on land that was once part of an industrial port. Not that you you’d ever guess. An epic refurbishment of the riverside here has transformed this lovely city, and these days the Nervión sweeps by serenely with attractive pedestrianised avenues hugging each bank. Elsewhere, Philippe Starck has recently crowned a new cultural centre with an impossibly cool rooftop swimming pool. Bilbao is a city reborn.

Hotels have mushroomed as a result. Miró, a design hotel conceived by Antonio Miró, was clever enough to bag itself a prime spot 300m upstream from the museum. It is just as close to the fantastic Museo de Bellas Artes, which means this cool little hotel is a great base for cultural exploration. Inside, its chic décor and 50 attractive bedrooms are heaped with comfort and style. There’s an open-plan sitting room with the daily papers, and if all that walking wears out your feet, you can get a massage on your return. As for other delightful distractions, don’t miss the Old Town and its pintxos (Basque tapas) bars or the lovely beach at Getxo.

Highs

  • Great staff - friendly and helpful
  • A complimentary bar offering soft drinks, and a convenient 24-hour room service
  • Stylish rooms are decked out in minimalist black, white and red, and the black marble bathrooms are utterly gorgeous
  • Perfect for design buffs, and popular with couples
  • Whatever you think of the art inside it, the Guggenheim is a mighty sight

Lows

  • Rooms aren’t overly large
  • Breakfast is very expensive
  • No other meals are served (except via room service), but there are fabulous restaurants an easy stroll away

Best time to go

Bilbao is a year-round destination, a big city where there’s always something interesting going on. The Guggenheim is closed on Mondays, worth factoring into your visit. The fiesta runs for a week from 15 August; expect the streets to be busy with people partying through the night.

Our top tips

If you're interested in football, here's a story about Athletic Bilbao (not Atlético, note). Football arrived via shipbuilders and steel workers from Britain, and from Basque students returning home after studying in England. The English spelling of their name neatly served to differentiate the club from Spanish teams. When Franco was in power he insisted they add the ‘o’. When he died, it was struck off immediately. The Club is owned by its fans and only Basque nationals can play in it. They play in red and white because a student returning home from England was charged with the task of bringing back a kit for the new team. Having failed in London, he headed to Southampton to catch his boat. In desperation he tried the football club, which sold him 50 full strips. The rest is history.

Great for...

City Style
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 50
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The hotel was designed by Antonio Miró, a Catalan fashion designer. The style is contemporary and minimalist - smart black carpets, crisp white linen. Walls are white to soak up the light, cushions are red to add some colour (and possibly reflect the colours of the city’s football team). You get flat-screen TVs and DVD players, WiFi and ADSL connection points. There’s air con, too - always welcome when it’s 36 degrees outside. All rooms have oversized power showers in divine black marble bathrooms. A few come with a bath, too.

Bedrooms range through several categories and many have views of the Guggenheim museum. Bigger rooms also have white leather sofas and windows that jut out. The second-largest rooms - the Junior Suites - are especially lovely, with lots of space, plus a wall of glass to frame the view and white leather window seats to enjoy it from. Biggest of all, the Master Suites are enormous, with equally good views and a double-ended bath in the room. But if you can sacrifice a view and extra space, one of the smaller rooms will suffice. All beds are kingsized (or twins by request).

By the way, if you can’t find your room, look at the foot of each door. ..

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron (on request)
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The continental breakfast is served in an airy first-floor dining room, expect to see some good art on the walls and lots of local healthy dishes to choose from.

The bar serves soft drinks free of charge, a great little touch. If you’re passing the hotel during the afternoon, you can drop in for refreshments. There’s usually a tray of patisserie to keep you going. Room service runs 24 hours: soups and sandwiches, hamburgers and fish, plates of ham and cheese.

Dinner in Bilbao is a chance to dig into some lovely rustic Basque food. You have 2 choices: pintxos bars or restaurants. This Basque equivalent of tapas has far more attitude and flair. The idea is you stop in a bar for a quick drink, help yourself to some lovely food, then move on to the next place. You’ll eat cherries stuffed with blue cheese, squid croquettes, tacos and tortillas, chorizo and cheese, perhaps grilled scallops served on potatoes. Gatz and Irrintzi are both excellent and next door to each other on Calle Santa María. Bitoque was the winner of the golden beret for best pintxos - it’s close to the hotel.

Restaurants are plentiful, too. Those getting good reviews during our visit were Etxanobe, which has a Michelin star and a roof terrace for river views, and Café Iruña on the Jardines de Albia, a Bilbao institution for over a hundred years. Bear in mind that most restaurants close on Sunday nights and that you might end up eating pizza in the Old Town, as we did, if you don’t indulge in a little forward planning.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • You can’t come to Bilbao and not see the Guggenheim. The collection is a bit hit and miss but what’s good is excellent and the building alone is worth the entrance fee
  • Nor can you miss the Museo de Bellas Artes. It’s an important Spanish museum and it opens to the side onto the Parque Iturriza Doña Casilda
  • Hire a bike from reception and cycle along the river to the 14th-century Old Town. You’ll find good shopping, great pintxos and the gothic cathedral of St James
  • Take the underground up to Getxo, an attractive Basque town where Bilbao’s well-off citizens live. Drop down to its lovely beach or take to the skies and ride a gondola across its impressive transport bridge. You’ll be 65m above the river
  • Head out to the hugely symbolic town of Gernika (Guernica), bombed by the Luftwaffe in 1937 on Franco’s orders, prompting Picasso to paint his masterpiece that bears the town’s name. Check out the old parliament, its beautiful debating chamber, the Tree of Gernika and the peaceful park. Market day is Monday
  • Head south into the mountains and discover the Zeberio Valley with its huge hills and simple restaurants. You’re only 15km south of the city, but you’ll feel as if you’re lost to the world. There’s great hill walking and mountain-bike trails
  • Follow the coast west to Bermeo, an attractive fishing town where you can eat excellent fish on the harbour. You can surf at Mundaka or cross the estuary and find a string of lovely beaches north of Kanala; we loved Laga beach

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming

Kids

Children are welcome, but it's not really a family hotel. Arty teenagers will love it here.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Suites can each accommodate 2 adults and 2 children

Babysitting:

By arrangement

Our guests' ratings...

7/
Rooms
7/
Food
9/
Service
7/
Value
8/
Overall

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