Our two-night trip in Bilbao

Our two-night trip in Bilbao

The August Bilbao Festival: Aste Nagusia

Bilbao is beautifully different from Salamanca, which is what we needed after feeling landlocked for the past few months. Kyle says that Bilbao actually kind of reminds him of a sunnier version of this city in California called Pacifica. I really love Bilbao so far beacause you can feel the liveliness of the city the minute you step into it.

Since August is so expensive to travel, we decided to try traveling during the week. We arrived in Bilbao on Sunday night and walked right into the tail end of some kind of festival that was trailing off of the river. There were tons of vendor tents set up and colorful stages. The streets were full of rich smells of various grilled food, sweets, spilt beer and vomit.

Out of all of our price comparison we did in planning which northern city to travel to in Spain, it was pure luck that we happened to choose to travel to Bilbao during their nine-day festival at the end of August, Aste Nagusia. Not sure I really understand what the nine-day Bilbao festival is about yet, but apparently it has a mascot named, Marijaia, which we hear gets lit on fire at the end of the festival. Supposedly as a symbol for optimism. 

Unfortunately the train stop in Palencia was under construction and all of the trains were delayed by several hours. We were supposed to arrive in Bilbao at 8 o’clock Sunday and ended up arriving after 11pm, missing most of the festivities of the Bilbao festival for the weekend. Still, walking into the energy of the festival made the city of Bilbao that much more beautiful to arrive into.

Hostel review: PilPil

We decided to stay at a hostel called PilPil. It’s a pretty good location to everything in Bilbao and had good reviews online. It’s also about a skipping distance away from the Bilbao futbol stadium. I believe that we happened to arrive during a game day too – if only we knew sooner – that could’ve been a fun game to attend.

The hostel is pretty easy to get to (at least from the train station) and it’s really great sightseeing from the train station to the hostel.

The hostel itself is pretty nice. It has free breakfast, wifi, blankets, coffee, tea, a kitchen. It’s great. But I thought it was kind of weird that they asked us for so much personal information when we checked into the hostel. Kind of scary that they keep that kind of information loosely around. And for what purpose? I don’t understand. I feel like that’s more information than i’ve provided when buying a car. And the fact that it’s on half-sheet size paper makes it seem easier to lose. It made me more nervous to provide. I hope they shred that info when you leave. I tried to skip writing some information, assuming that maybe they don’t really need it, but the receptionist got mad and asked me for my passport and then filled in the information that was missing. I figured a credit card for payment should be sufficient info at this point. Maybe I’m too weird about identity theft paranoia? But I don’t think anything non-govenrmental or non-loan type should be allowed to ask for certain info.

The PilPil hostel gives you a bracelet so that you can get buzzed back into the building. Usually the bracelet’s sufficient enough to get you into the hostile building, but before buzzing us in, they also asked us for our name and room number. Extra security I suppose which is good. Just different.

The city of Bilbao


While Bilbaons understand Castellano Spanish, the natives actually speak Basque and are apart of the region that is fighting to gain independence from Spain to be their own country. You can see Basque writing throughout most of the city, along with the occasional Spanish translation. We think the language looks really cool. It’s fun to read too, lots of Ks and Xs and kakas. According to Wikitravel, the language has very little relation to any other existing language.


Here’s a couple of basic Basque phrases:

Hello. Kaixo. (‘x’ pronounced ‘shh’)
Please. Mesedez.
Thank you. Eskerrik asko.
Yes. Bai. (sounds like bye)
No. Ez.
Excuse me. Barkatu
I’m sorry. Barkatu
Do you speak English? Ba al dakizu ingelesez?


Bilbao has a very city-esque feel to it and quite modern compared to the parts of Spain that we’ve seen so far.