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My Experience in Bilbao, Spain - by Itziar

What's it like living in Bilbao? Would you recommend it?

Bilbao is a very vibrant city, a cement and concrete giant surrounded by mountains which somehow fits right in with the green countryside, estuary and the almost always cloudy sky. It's often quite a gloomy city, since the mountains that surround it tend to trap clouds within the basin. This isn't a problem though, since the weather in Bilbao is never an excuse for not living life to the full: going out, studying, working, having fun, and getting to know people.

What's the student life like in Bilbao?

I understand that the student atmosphere in Bilbao is nothing like what you'll find in Vitoria-Gasteiz, but weekends are the times when the young people go out in Bilbao. It doesn't matter whether you're a student or not - on Friday and Saturday night, all the young people go out.

It's true that there aren't many faculties located in Bilbao, since many of them are located on the outskirts in places such as Leioa or Portugalete. This means that there's less of an obvious student atmosphere than there is in Vitoria-Gasteiz, but there are lots of young people living here and the streets are always full of groups of friends meeting in bars to have a drink.

How expensive is everyday life in Bilbao?

  • 300-400 euros for accommodation, bills included
  • 7 euros for the menu in the university cafeteria
  • 10-12 euros for the menu of the day in restaurants
  • 50 euros maximum for your weekly shop
  • 1. 10 euros for a cup of tea or coffee
  • 1. 20 euros for a coffee with milk, hot chocolate or coffee with cream
  • 1. 80 euros for a beer, pika (beer with lemon soda), a kalimotxo, or fizzy drinks (Coca Cola, Kas, Fanta, juices... )
  • 80 cents to 1 euro for a small glass of beer, a kalitxiki (half a kalimotxo), or a pikatxiki (half a pika)
  • 1-1. 20 euros for bread
  • 6-8 euros for a trip to the cinema
  • 74 cents for a one-way trip on the metro with transport card
  • 72 cents for a one-way trip on the tram with transport card
  • 70 cents or so for a one-way trip on the bus with transport card
  • 20 euros per year to use the public bikes in Bilbao (you pick the up from and leave them at the designated stations, such as the tourist information centre or public buildings)

Did you find it hard to find somewhere to live in Bilbao? Do you have any tips for flat-hunting?

I'm from Bilbao, so I've never had to look for a flat here, but I'll give you some advice I give to everyone: don't pay anything for a flat you haven't seen! It's very common to see adverts on display in the faculties offering flat shares and I don't think it's difficult to find somewhere to live at all. It's better to rent a room in a hotel, student hall of residence or in a shared flat for a few weeks while you look for your own place. The student halls of residence are the hardest ones to get into of course - don't leave it until the last minute!

What's the food like in Bilbao?

The five stars I've given it above say it all! The most famous dish in the Basque country... the pintxo. Here we eat pintxos for breakfast, we eat them as a mid-morning snack, and before we eat our lunch, for starters we have pintxos. When we go out for a drink, we have a pintxo with it - make sure you try out a pintxo bar! They're our most popular meeting places. Apart from this, try the menu of the day now and again and ask the waiter for advice on what to try.

Dishes you have to try:

  • Bilbao cod
  • Bilbao ratatouille
  • Fish casserole
  • Marmitako!
  • Guernican eggs with potatoes and pepper
  • Toulouse beans
  • Idiazabal cheese (made with sheep's milk) with quince jelly

What places do you recommend to visit in Bilbao?

It seems unbelievable that there are so many interesting places to see and do in such a small city. The seven streets and the Old Town, the Maiona stairs and the Begoña basilica, the Artxanda mountain via cable car, a picnic in Kobetamendi, the Hanging Bridge, the Abando train station, the Alhóndiga (Corn Exchange), the Guggenheim Art Museum, the metro, Moyua Square...

What about eating out in Bilbao? What are your favourite places?

Kafé Antzokia has great food, but where doesn't in Bilbao? In the Old Town there are lots of restaurants, and some very good (and expensive) ones, but make sure to look around your own neighbourhood too. Additionally, they have great pintxos morunos on Calle Iturribide, mushroom motrikes on Calle Somera, and 'txapelas' or 'traineras' in Askao bar on Calle Askao.

What are the best places for partying in Bilbao?

Calle Somera in the Old Town, Kafé Antzokia and Mazarredo.

Do you have any advice for future students coming to Bilbao?

Bring clothes suitable for wet weather and be prepared to have fun. I can't give any more advice than this: integrate yourself and get to know our culture. Just getting to know other Erasmus students is and never has been an option for me, but everyone knows what they're looking for. We (the Basque) are a bit scandalous and crude, but get to know us and we'll be there to help you out the whole time you're here.

Share your Erasmus Experience in Bilbao!

If you know Bilbao as native, traveler or as exchange student... share your opinion on Bilbao! Rate different characteristics and share your experience.

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