Bilbao  with your dog

Bilbao is becoming an increasingly fine place – it’s a city that is constantly undergoing transformation –. Every time I visit, I’m surprised by something new. This time it’s been the red railing bearing the name Bilbao that entices you to look out over the viewpoint on Mt. Artxanda and discover its dog-friendly side. 

I was in Bilbao in August 2018, and stayed at one of the city’s longest-established hotels – the  Ercilla–  where we pooches are made to feel like just another guest. Well, actually we are shown a lot more affection than is shown to the humans staying there, ha ha! The hotel is right in the city centre and you’re welcomed on arrival with some little gifts from  Dog Vivant  and natural food from  Dingonatura . And if your human companion happens to have forgotten your bed, relax - just ask for one and they’ll give it to you together with a very cool drinking bowl. The hotel admits dogs of any size and allows us to stay in any of the common areas except the restaurant and the breakfast room. 

Using the Ercilla as a base camp, I then set off to explore the Basque metropolis. Staying in the centre, the fact is you end up walking to many places, although public transport comes in handy from time to time.  In this respect, local Bilbao doggies are lucky to be allowed on the tram and Euskotren trains (any size, provided they are on a leash) and also on local Renfe services (any size, but on a leash and with a muzzle). In the case of the Metro, there are no restrictions on line 3, but on lines 1 and 2 a regulation remains in place which, in view of the scenario I’ve just told you about, is completely behind the times:  only dogs up to 8 kilos in weight can travel, and must be carried, although I suppose this rule will end up changing on both lines. By the way, forget the buses because they only allow small dogs in pet carriers.

We dogs of any size can use the Puente de Vizcaya (one of the cabins) to cross the Bilbao estuary between Getxo and Portugalete, and this bridge is a top tourist attraction. It’s been operating since the late 19thcentury and was the first of its kind to be built in the world. You can see it in action on my video, on this page.


And as I said in the introduction to this text, if you’re heading for Bilbao, make sure you go up to the viewpoint on Mt. Artxanda where, as of this year, there is a long red railing bearing the words BILBAOBILBOBILBAOBILBO, etc. I was there and I got some photos taken that you can above. From here there are some great views over the whole city. To get there, make sure you take the Artxanda funicular, which is just a few minutes’ stroll along the estuary, just after crossing the Calatrava bridge (Zubizuri). This funicular, which has been operating for over a century now, is exemplary, as we dogs are allowed to go up without any restrictions (in the dog-friendly area) and, what’s more, free of charge (unlike the funicular up Mt. Igledo in Donostia, where we have to pay a mere 3.15 euros!). In three minutes you climb up from Bilbao… to heaven.

Otherwise, I didn’t come across any museum-type tourist attraction or church where we dogs were allowed to enter, and so the plan involved walking (it hardly rained at all – amazing!) and then walking some more. The most iconic route is the one along the estuary, from Grúa Carola and Palacio Euskalduna to the old town, and along the way, the indisputable focus of attention being the Guggenheim Museum. Although pets are not allowed inside, the good part is that we furry friends can indulge our fantasies in the works of art outside, ranging from the incredible building itself to the giant dog made of flowers by the Pop artist Jeff Koons (the rain spoilt my photo with Puppy). However, I immortalised myself with Mamá, the 9 metre-high spider created by Louise Bourgeois which belongs to a series of arachnids that the late artist has spread around the world. 

A nice surprise awaiting me in Bilbao was the large number of fountains there dotted all over the centre, and so if you’re heading to the city in summer during a heatwave (unlikely, but possible), you’ll be able to freshen up on every corner. Extra kudos to the city hall (or whoever are in charge of fountains)!

More things: the Bilbao City Hall has fitted out several recreational areas for dogs where we can be let off the leash. Further information available at the municipal website. I should also give a special mention to the Doña Casilda Park right in the centre – an English-style park built in the early 20th century which is worth taking a walk through. 

There are a fair number of bars and restaurants in Bilbao that allow dogs to enter. In some establishments, which theoretically don’t allow dogs (and for this reason we can’t name them), we were even allowed to enter to make a quick purchase (such as the most classic cake shops in Bilbao….mmm….those butter rolls that are so typical).  I recommend you consult the website of our friends from Dog Vivant, as it provides special coverage about the city.

Well, all I have left to say is that, if you’re heading for Bilbao, you have to get over to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT A GAME OF THRONES FAN (the series used this incredible place to recreate the Dragonstone fortress). The increase in number of tourists has been such that a  ticketing system for free-of-charge access has had to be established there in high season.During my visit, the people in charge asked me to tell you that older dogs should avoid the busiest times, as the chapel is accessed by climbing up some narrow steps full of people and they might end up having a bad time. Well, you’ve been told.  

Discover this beautiful place (I never get tired of using adjectives to describe it) at the end of my video. 

Winter’s coming. Amen.