Bilbao according to Alija / 2

The young chef born in the Basque Country guides us through his favourite places in town

We’re back on the streets of Bilbao with chef Jo

We’re back on the streets of Bilbao with chef Josean Alija, for years at the helm of Nerua (tel. +34.944.000430), inside the Guggenheim Museum. Even the Bistró Guggenheim Bilbao, with its beautiful view, is among the places recommended by our very special guide to the city

(see part one)

Without leaving the casco viejo, visiting the Plaza Nueva is a must. This is one of the few areas where fathers leave children run and play while they have a drink or eat some pintxos in one of the many, small taverns scattered around the porch. Bar Plaza Nueva (Plaza Nueva, +34.944 15 06 94) stands out: it is a fun, themed place with an important cellar, in which Jon “the snake” will capture us and let us have a very good time.

We leave the casco viejo and find ourselves in front of the majestic Arriaga theatre, a point of reference in town, and with a touch a luck it is worth being touched by attending a show in a place that is so rich in history.

In front of it, there’s the Arenal, an area delimited by the estuary where all sorts of popular and gastronomic competitions are held, such as salted codfish, marmitako or sukalki contests. Here too there is a porch with a kiosk, a reason for many stories and anecdotes that are being passed on through the generations.

Crossing the estuary, on the left bank, we can find the new part of town and the Gran Via, the roads get larger, the buildings also host banks and fashion firms. Close to Gran Via, by Palacio de la Diputación, the centennial building of the La Viña del Ensanche stands out, where one can taste the delicious jamon ibérico Joselito.

A few metres from this establishment, there’s Calle Licenciado Poza, known as “Pozas”, the most direct way to get to the football cathedral, San Mames. Down the road, we can stop to taste some good wines selected by Juanma at Mugi (Licenciado Poza, 55 +34.9444130116). Close by, in Calle Maestro García Ribero, we can bump into one of the most authentic establishments in town, Asador Indusi (Maestro García Rivero, 13 +34.944417176), a popular restaurant and meeting point in Bilbao.

The beautiful and welcoming terrace at Baita Gaminiz

The beautiful and welcoming terrace at Baita Gaminiz

One of the most beautiful experiences that we can enjoy in town is visiting a “txoko”. As long as someone invites us because these are private places, reserved for their members, with good food and wines, where historically only men have cooked and eaten. Each person participating is specialised in something. Traditional dishes are served and there’s a balanced blend of friendship and gastronomic enthusiasm. A unique experience. An authentic one.

Getting closer to the area of the Guggenheim we can glimpse Bilbao’s new landscape and inside the museum we discover Bistró Guggenheim Bilbao, with an informal yet rigorous and original offer, where touches of high cuisine in an excellent prêt-à-porter environment make the difference. A little further, looking at the estuary from the beautiful terrace, Baita Gaminiz appears, with its market cuisine, based on sea and vegetable garden. Chef Guillermo Fernández personally cultivates and selects the products he serves in his restaurant. Fantastic.

As a counterpoint to the city life observed from the estuary, that is from below, we have the possibility to enjoy its panorama from the hills surrounding it or from Mount Artxanda, which can be reached easily and quickly from the city centre. Here we can find one of the few “txakolis” still open in Biscay, Oscar’s Txakoli Simon. In the middle of the countryside, you can taste sirloin with salad, chorizo e blood sausage while enjoying a breath taking view of the Txorierri valley.

What can you eat at Txakoli Simon? This picture should give you a rather clear idea (and perhaps even make you a little hungry...)

What can you eat at Txakoli Simon? This picture should give you a rather clear idea (and perhaps even make you a little hungry...)

And after so much food, one certainly would fancy a gin-tonic. In Calle Maria Diaz de Haro there’s Corto Maltés. In this small sanctuary, ideal for an aperitif or a drink, we can gulp the best drinks, champagnes and spirits in Bilbao. Master Gorka Argul has a secret trick that will certainly surprise us.

Bilbao is undoubtedly a town to be enjoyed in company, a place where to meet new people and discover its inhabitants. Because its essence is in our personality, in the relationships, the capacity to enjoy, share and in the desire we have to be ambassadors of its small charms. On Egin!

2. the end

Chefs' life stories

Men who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view


Josean Alija

born in 1978, he's the chef of Nerua restaurante, which is a part of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Bask Countries

Author's articles list