We flew with Aer Lingus direct and they have great fares for early or late season, we only paid €96 return including taxes. The hotel we stayed in was the Silken Indautxu, a fantastic 4 star right in the city centre and within walking distance of all the central sights. At the time of my stay, the hotel was undergoing some renovation work, but this didn't interfere with our stay one bit. The rooms were spacious and nicely decorated and the hotel had a fantastic bar area with live music at the weekend. The bar staff could have been a bit more pleasant and the receptionist couldn't have been any friendlier.
Bilbao is a small compact city, so you can reach almost everywhere on foot or take the very efficient metro if you don't fancy walking. We walked almost everywhere. The Guggenheim Museum is well worth a visit and was only a 15 minute stroll from our hotel. There are some fantastic exhibitions of modern art on display with new exhibits on all throughout the year.
Having met up with friends for dinner at their home on the first 2 nights we arranged to go out for dinner on the Saturday night to a Japanese Restaurant called Shibui. Now, I'm not a fan of sea food per se, but I will try anything once. As there were 8 of us, we all ordered a couple of small dishes and shared with each other, the calamari rings were out of this world. I usually find them a bit rubbery, but not these, they were just fantastic. The sushi was amazing as were the breaded prawns, I would highly recommend this restaurant for a lovely evening meal.
It was then out for a few drinks in a very lively bar with good music, a little too busy maybe and it took a while to get a drink at the bar.
There didn't seem to be a specific area for the night life as when we were moving from bar to bar, each were 10 minutes walk apart. The Casco Viejo is the old city, lovely by day and comes alive at the weekends with young student types drinking and dancing until the very small hours of the morning, so this area seemed to have a higher concentration of bars catered to the younger college crowd.
The shopping in Bilbao is good too, with the main centre called El Corte Ingles, very much like Arnotts but great value to be had and I picked up a few nice bargains, this is only 10 minutes from the hotel.
I would highly recommend a trip to Bilbao, great people, great food and only a short hop from Dublin direct. I'm already looking forward to going back next year for a few days.
If you are planning a trip and would like some more info, please don't hesitate to call me on 059 8633 836, I'm more than happy to help you.