The estuary of Bilbao
Water born anew.
Half a century ago it was considered one of the most polluted waterways in the world. Today it is a spectacular sight. Dolphins can be observed gambolling in the Abra from the port of Santurtzi, right by the mouth of the estuary. As do other cetaceans. In fact, if storms stir up the Atlantic, it is not surprising to catch some seals seeking shelter under the shadow of the Guggenheim.
Patient fishermen spread their lines along the shores with their baskets ready for a good catch. Waterfowl and marshland birds flit over the waters. At this time of the year, a couple of cormorants often dive under the Zubizuri, preying on the shoals of mullets.
Next to Itasmuseum Bilbao – and at other spots as well – you can hire canoes and paddle surf boards to discover the town from the water’s surface.
Several leisure boats dock near the City Hall bridge from where guided tours of the urban planning, history and industry of Bizkaia are offered: they sail through the port district of Olabeaga, illuminated by terraces, event spaces and restaurants; drawing their trails in front of the island of Zorrozaurre, which is reinventing itself: exiled from industry, it now counts with a circus and dance school, some exhibition centres, bars inspired by Central European bohemian modernity, an essential independent theatre, start-ups and a handful of other activities.
Beyond, the historic Deusto canal shelters a new residential area, which overlooks a magnificent riverside promenade, little known even to city dwellers, with flowerbeds, wide steps overlooking the water and a rowing pavilion from which trawlers and rowing boats launch and dock.
Downstream, on the right, you come to Erandio, full of flavour and authenticity. On the other bank, the renovated Barakaldo, Sestao and Portugalete, the elegant lady of the left bank, with its medieval layout, its Renaissance church, its 700 years old, its atmosphere and the iron ferry known everywhere as the Hanging Bridge.
Towards the mouth, the fishing town of Santurtzi and the hidden Zierbena, where seafood lovers make their pilgrimage to. Along the other bank, the cliffs of La Galea, the beaches of Getxo and Sopelana, the small palaces of Neguri and, full of flavour, the Old Port of Algorta.
Accommodation to suit all tastes and restaurants with prices ranging from the very affordable to the astronomical can be found on both shores.
It is highly recommended to dedicate a day to enjoying the source of this flow that gives Bilbao its essence and articulates several valleys: the Nervión waterfall, in Urduña. It will take you just forty minutes. And almost an hour on the RENFE commuter train line, which allows us to understand a different territory upriver. The waterfall that gives birth to the Nervión is the highest on the peninsula at 221 metres. A real eye-catcher.
From this point the estuary was always born anew.
New Basque Cuisine facing the Sea in Getxo.
Terrace facing the cliffs. Spectacular pintxos bar.
Arriatera beach – Sopelana