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Things to Do in the Basque Country

Things to Do in the Basque Country

The Basque Country is a region in Spain known for its sprawling valleys and rugged mountains. The region attracts millions of tourists every year, as Argia reports that 4.5 million tourists visited in 2015 — a number that is likely to have only grown since then. If you’re planning a trip of your own to this beautiful region, read on for a list of things to add to your itinerary.

Explore the cathedrals

By Dflandre – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16413873

One of the best ways to appreciate the Basque’s unique landscape and architecture is to explore its two most famous cathedrals, the similarly named Saint Mary’s Cathedral and Sainte-Marie Cathédrale. The former, also called the Cathedral of Santa María, is located in Vittoria-Gastéiz, the peaceful capital of the region. The intricate details of the gothic cathedral were chiselled during its construction in the 13th and 14th century. Not too far in Bayonne, Sainte-Marie Cathédrale’s unique infrastructure makes it a popular site to visit, too. The building is made entirely out of locally sourced red and white stones and overlooks two local rivers. Both landmarks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites and host regular tours for their visitors.

Go on a food crawl

The Spanish people have a rich food culture and history — a fact to take advantage of on your trip. An obvious place to start is with staples like paella, ham, and tapas. We’ve personally confirmed that Spain is home to the most mouth-watering tapas, and these are definitely something you shouldn’t miss out on during your visit.

In the Basque Country specifically, the place to look for is La Bretxa in San Sebastian-Donostia, a market known for its fresh and high-quality seafood. The variety of things at the market are from nearby ports, straight from the fishermen.

Visit a gaming centre

Espaldazo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

For the complete European experience, you can head over to either of the two available land-based casinos in Bilbao or San Sebastian. Gran Casino Bilbao is an excellent choice if you enjoy classic table games like Blackjack and Roulette. Poker tables for games like Texas Hold ’em are also available in the facility.

Of course, the rise of online gaming portals has been both a boon and bane for land-based casinos like Gran Casino Bilbao. Although foot traffic and revenues have undoubtedly taken a hit because of the emergence of online gaming opportunities, these have also made experiences in gaming centres all the more unique, and introduced more people into the excitement of different casino activities. With this in mind, online gaming and casino magazine Expat Bets continues to provide comprehensive casino guides for expats and travellers from around the world on top of giving them a taste of popular games like Big Bad Wolf and Dragon Dance. That’s because there is much more to enjoy on both sides of the spectrum, which sites like this and Gran Casino Bilbao stand as a testament to. If you plan on dropping by the casino at Bilbao, keep in mind that you can play the slot machines from 10 am until 5 am the next day, while table games run from 5 pm until 5 am.

Learn from the museums

Bilbao is also the home of one of the world’s best museums — The Guggenheim Museum. Filled with contemporary and modern art, this attraction is a must-visit for the artsy tourist. The unique curves and appearance of the building itself is considered a masterpiece designed by architect Frank Gehry, who is known for his unconventional style.

A quainter option is found in Bayonne, in the Musée Basque. It houses over 2,000 artefacts that tell the story of Bayonne and the Basque Country, and is the largest ethnographic museum in the region.

All in all, there are hundreds of things to do for travellers who find themselves in the Basque Country, where enriching one of a kind experiences await at every corner. We love talking about Spain and other famous food destinations here on Dominique Rizzo, because like this breath-taking Spanish region, there is a myriad of places around the world to learn about and explore, sights to see, and food to taste — all just waiting for you to get there.

Why Spain, why Catalonia?

Savour the World with Chef Dominique Rizzo
Why Spain, why Catalonia - map of the world

Why Spain, why Catalonia?  It’s hard not to think of Spain without thinking about flamenco dancing, red wine and tapas.

One of the questions that I am often asked is why I choose Spain and why Catalonia for my upcoming food tour.

It is the flamenco, the red wine, the tapas and all the amazing garlic-rich prawns “gambas al ajillo” and even more it is about the rich history of food, culture and art of this region that rubs shoulders with the borders of France.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Gambas al ajillo                                                                                                        Photo by School of Tapas

Catalonia has beautiful sandy beaches like Costa Maresme, reaching into the Mediterranean Sea, unlike those other feet-breaking pebble beaches, that were until more recently were unknown to tourists who happily headed south of Barcelona to Sitges (although Sitges is still a favourite). Many locals of Barcelona preferred to head north where many owned their weekender beach apartment – white tiles throughout, clean and cool in the summer months.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Beach Maresme Photo by Travel.365

What do you do after a day swimming at the beach but eat fresh seafood and this is where the famous fish markets at Arenys de Mar comes in to play. They say it is something else to watch the fishing boats come into port in the late afternoon, followed by flocks of seagulls hoping to feed on some fish. There is a fish auction at the port at night – perfect to take home the freshest of fish to cook for dinner.
Why Spain why Catalonia - Arenys de Mar Photo by Best Maresme

The history of food in this area is what really is fascinating – from sauces introduced by the Phoenicians, olive oil brought in by the Greeks, and then the influence of the Romans, Carthaginians and Jews bringing with them their own exotic flavours and spices.

While paella is the traditional food of Spain, the Arabs instilled the love of almonds and gazpacho, while the Christians introduced Spanish jamon (ham) previously banned by the Jews and Arabs alike. Garlic, garlic, garlic – it’s gastronomical flavor making even garlic soup a must-do.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Spanish Jamon Photo by Jamon.com

When not at the beach or eating bocadilos – the amazing bagette with Spanish ham or drinking carva the champagne of the area or rich coffee, then it is total immersion in the art and culture of Barcelona with major art galleries from the classics to street art, stunning libraries and museums.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Bocadillos Photo by Ricardo

Wander the streets, gazing at the Medieval buildings, Roman walls from the 13th century, the Gothic quarter between the Ramblas and Via Laientana.

Sometimes the reasons why I chose Catalonia are endless.
Why Spain, why Catalonia - Dominique Rizzo's tour to Spain

The low down on bars in Barcelona

After a day of art, culture and history, then do as the locals do and head to one of the many fantastic bars in Barcelona. Here is the low down on bars in Barcelona as a starting point.

Can Cisa Bar Brutal – Natural wine bar and Wine Shop .
This has one of the best Natural Wine selections in Barcelona you can buy everything at takeaway prices.

L’Anima del Vi – is so Spanish, great food, great local vibe.
Lots of bottles on the walls but as always, ask for anything you are chasing. They have an extensive off list cellar and back vintages of great things!

Vila VIniteca – A great wine shop with big vibes, near the marina.

Boadas – Pretty cool spot for a cocktail. Has been open since the ‘30s and is one of the oldest art deco buildings in the city.


www.cool-cities.com

La Cova Fumada – This is a classic tapas basement restaurant with heaps of attitude and charcoal grilled vegetables and smoked meats.

Bar del Pla – another classic tapa place, good natural wine too . This is a good lunch spot.

Bar Mut – Super old school place. Ask to eat in the bar upstairs that always has live music and gets rowdy. Great cocktails and old school wine list.
Image by M. Quim

ABaC Restaurant – Michelin star – definitely worth considering.

ABaC Restaurant

Quimet y Quimet – some of the best smoked, canned, and dried, pickled seafood and meats in the city. Canned Quail is the hot tip here.

Tickets – Adrias bros tapas – it is really good but you will want to book or line up early.

Bodega 1900 – Adria’s Vermut Bar. Its actually opposite Tickets. Must book for dinner.

Cal Pep – an absolute institution, sit at the bar, drink heaps of beer and eat heaps of seafood from the Plancha.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

El Tres Porquets – the three pigs, pork, pork and more pork. Fantastic flavours and dishes.


www.restaurants.com

With thanks to a Chef in Barcelona for sharing.

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