Bilbao's Old City, also called Las Siete Calles (The Seven Streets) in reference to the seven streets of which it once consisted, is the oldest neighbourhood and original nucleus of the city. Today it is a pleasant neighbourhood for walking and going out for "pintxos" in the middle of the day or in the early evening. It's also a popular nightlife spot for the young.
Below is tapas route that will allow you to see the main points of interest in the neighbourhood. This area is livelier during the weekend at midday (around 13:00 for the best tapas) and from Monday to Saturday around 19:00. If you visit during the week at midday, it won't be as bustling but you'll be more comfortable as the crowds are smaller and it's easier to find a table!
- Cross the street from the tram stop and keep walking in the same direction as the tram. Turn left at Calle Santa María. At number 8 is Irrintzi, a "pintxos" bar somewhat more modern and innovative than others. The mushrooms stuffed with foie gras are exceptional, as is the codfish omelette or the small cuttlefish croquettes ("pintxos" 1.50€, "zuritos" 1.10€) ("zuritos" is draft beer served in small amounts so as to be able to go from bar to bar and keep drinking beer without becoming too dizzy...).
- Continuing to the end of the street, and turning to the left at Calle Perro, you'll find, on the right, Rio Oja, a traditional bar where more than the "pintxos" you should try the casseroles (it's a good alternative if you're tired of standing up and want to eat sitting down!). The squid prepared in its own ink (9€) and "anchoas a la cazuela" (anchovy stew) (8€) are out of this world, though the truth is everything here is delicious. Accompany with the house Txacolí (1.50€) (txacolí is the regional white wine).
- Continuing on Calle del Perro and taking the first right (Bidebarrieta), you'll come to the Gothic-style Cathedral of Santiago. It's worth walking around, paying attention as well to the Basque-style houses surrounding it and the stores set into the walls of the church.
- Take Calle Tendería and turn right onto Sombrerería. A little further ahead, on the right, you'll find one of the entrances to Plaza Nueva, a gorgeous square in the style of the Plazas Mayores of many Spanish cities. Here you'll find two of the most emblematic "pintxos" bars in Bilbao: Café Bilbao and Víctor Montes. Both have outdoor seating where you order pintxos (though the prices are slightly higher). In any case, check out the interiors as well, as both restaurants have a lot of character.
- In Café Bilbao, the plate of fried calamari (8.50€) and all the "pintxos" are very good, especially the veal crepe and the "merluza" (hake) with a tomato reduction (1.80€). Glass of Txacoli 1.80€; soft drinks 2.50€.
- In Victor Montes, the "txangurro" and the tuna belly with peppers "pintxos" are very tasty (1,75€). Glass of Txacoli, 1,60€.
- If you're in the mood for shrimp, on Calle de Los Fueros (parallel to Sombrerería on the other side of the square) is Bar Los Fueros, where for 16€ you can enjoy a delicious plate of "gambas a la plancha" (grilled shrimp).
- Leaving Plaza Nueva on Calle Sombrerería and turning right onto the lively Calle Correo, you'll come to El Arenal, with the Arenal Bridge in front, the Arriaga Theatre to the left, and San Nicolás de Bari Parish Church to the right.