Our Basque Lover Araiz Mentxaka–a travel enthusiast born in Mungia–enjoys discovering new places and sharing them by posting her photos on social networks. It is travelling abroad that has made her appreciate the unique character of Bilbao even more. “The more I travel, the more I love Biscay–this wonderful place I am lucky to live in."

To get to the roots of Biscay, the first piece of advice that Araiz has given us is to spend time in any of its towns or cities to soak up everything around us: pubs filled with friends that sing and have txakoli wine accompanied by pintxos, the small delicacies that are displayed on its bars; restaurants that serve traditional or avant-gard dishes, inspired by old-school recipes and always using the best local produce from our ‘baserris’; shops featuring the most traditional craftmanship; and local festivals, occasions for rejoicing, where people perform folk dances and play typical instruments like ‘txistus’ and ‘tamboriles’ in an unparalleled ambience.

Our personal ambassador and Basque Lover Araiz has had the opportunity to visit other countries and see other cultures, but her conclusion has always been the same, ‘there is no place like Biscay’. We totally agree with her, so we recommend you not to miss the chance to walk around the local fairs in Bilbao Biscay, where local products are the main attraction; visit the local museums to learn about our fascinating history; watch our spectacular ‘herri kirolak’–local sports–demonstrations; or listen to the melodies and rhymes composed by our ‘bertsolaris’–bards who improvise verses in Basque–either at informal gatherings or championships.

To better understand the character of the mountainous regions of Biscay, at the same time as we enjoy a day out with the whole family, our personal ambassador and Basque Lover Araiz has invited us to become shepherds for a day. This unique experience will allow us to look after a flock of Latxa or Carranzana sheep, learning to do the daily tasks that Biscayan shepherds have carried out for centuries: herding flocks to fresh pastures helped by loyal sheep dogs, milking sheep to make well-known local varieties of cheese such as Idiazabal or Karrantza, or bottle-feeding the lambs. All this takes place in an incomparable natural environment, namely the three nature parks Biscay is so privileged to have: Armañón Natural Park, Gorbeia Natural Park and Urkiola Natural Park.

In addition, in the summer months, we can help the shepherds shear sheep the traditional way. The raw fleece is afterwards conventionally treated too: separated, carded and combed by hand until it is ready to be turned into any item of clothing–an activity apprentices of all ages can take part in.

Basque Lover Araiz also recommends going to La Arboleda, where you can still see the vestiges of the area’s iron mining past–an activity that transformed its landscape completely when the rocks were ripped out of the ground and artificial lakes were created. To get to La Arboleda, which is nowadays a recreation area for all the family, you can take the Larreineta Funicular, a funicular railway that has operated since 1926. Apart from the open-air activities and sports that can be done there, everyone should taste the appetising alubias con sacramentos–Basque red beans with braised meats–that have given fame to the restaurants of the area.

We can also enjoy the All Iron experience–a tour around the main mining sites that once buzzed with activity at the mouth of the River Nervión, in the region of Enkarterri.

Lastly, if you visit Bilbao Biscay, you must definitely watch an Athletic Club game live to understand what the club really means to Biscay. It is a highly enjoyable experience, not only for football fans but for people at large, since the joyful and magic atmosphere that is created at San Mamés, the home of Athletic, is truly spectacular.

Before the match, you should mingle with the supporters in the traditional ‘poteo’ areas in Bilbao; places like Pozas or the stadium’s surroundings. Then, singing and showing off the club colours, everyone will move towards La Catedral–what San Mamés stadium is also called–, where an almost mystical union takes place between the team and its supporters.

In order to know more about the idiosyncrasy of such a special club, our personal ambassador recommends us to visit the Athletic Museum and immerse ourselves in the history of a hundred-year-old club that has been playing in the elite category of both national and European football since its foundation. The cups won by the club are on exhibit at the museum, plus you can tour San Mamés and see its dressing rooms and the presidential box, as well as the press conference room. But the most exciting part of the visit is, without doubt, the walk out of the tunnel, when you step onto the field close to the benches–an unforgettable experience whether you like football or not. Aupa Athletic!

Our personal ambassador and Basque Lover Araiz has had the opportunity to visit other countries and see other cultures, but her conclusion has always been the same, ‘there is no place like Biscay’.

  • The character of Biscay has been forged by the sea and the mountains. They have shaped the local customs that have survived to this day, now intrinsic to the way we live our lives.