“Stylish design hotel opposite the Guggenheim, with the Old Town a short stroll along the river”
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. ..
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.