Best Of Bilbao! ad hoc Cascanueces Restaurant

Tomates de Lodosa
Tomates de Lodosa.  ad hoc Cascanueces.  Bilbao, Spain.


Heros 21, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

Less than a 10 minute walk from the Guggenheim Museum, ad hoc Cascanueces consistently delivers one of most memorable dining experiences in Bilbao.

Chef Diego Valdivielso and sommelier Oscar Vila’s customer service and attentiveness is based in the belief that the best wine “is not necessarily the most expensive, but the one that is shared”.

Some of the better known dishes at ad hoc Cascanueces include Japanese pasta with lacquered bacon, octopus and spicy mayonnaise, scorpionfish with wild rice, and red tuna tatami.  The dessert known as Postre Bosque Dulce (sweet forest dessert) is smash hit with diners.

ad hoc Cascanueces (Cascanueces = “Nutcracker” in English) is consistently one of the highest rated restaurants in Bilbao.

Travelers will find presentation of all dishes in fluent English when desired.

Postre Bosque Dulce (sweet forest dessert). ad hoc Cascanueces
Ad Hoc Cascanueces
ad hoc Cascanueces. Bilbao, Spain.
Tataki de atun rojo
Tataki de atun rojo (tuna tataki).  ad hoc Cascanueces
Picanha brasileña
Picanha Brasilena.  ad hoc Cascanueces

Photo credit: ad hoc Cascanueces



Breathtaking Views in Bilbao, Spain! Gran Hotel Domine


Only hotel in Bilbao overlooking the Guggenheim Museum.  Gran Hotel Domine.


Mazarredo Zumarkalea, 61, 48009 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain

Gran Hotel Domine commands one of the best possible locations in Bilbao.  Just a 15 minute drive from the airport, guests will stay at the only hotel in Bilbao overlooking the Guggenheim Museum and the famous giant Puppy topiary.

Gran Hotel Domine is surrounded by world-class views, and its’ interior is designed to match.  From the street view, to its’ restaurants, rooms, and bars, Domine keeps aesthetics at a high level throughout.

The Gran Hotel Domine experience is also crafted to match, with widely-known excellent customer service, rooftop terrance breakfasts, and highest-tech gym equipment.

Guests can choose from Premier, Deluxe, and Superior rooms; all well-appointed.  Note that Gran Hotel Domine enjoyed a complete renovation in 2017, stepping up the already high-level experience.

Atrio • _81Q4038_B
Atrium. Gran Hotel Domine, Bilbao, Spain
Deluxe Suite Guggenheim Views • 7538_39_40_41
Deluxe Suite. Grand Hotel Domine
Premier Guggenheim Views Baño • 7583_4 1_5
Bathroom, Premier Guggenheim Suite.  Gran Hotel Domine.
Superior City Views Baño • 7257_9
Superior City View Room.  Grand Hotel Domine.
Terraza • _81Q2866_8
Rooftop terrace overlooking the Guggenheim. Gran Hotel Domine.
Food Beltz • 0079_B
Dinner at Beltz the Black Restaurant at Gran Hotel Domine, Bilbao.
Gimnasio • 7713
Exercise with a view of the Guggenheim.  Gran Hotel Domine.
Le Café • 0748_50_B
Street level restaurant across from the Puppy topiary.  Le Cafe.  Gran Hotel Domine.
Le Café • _81Q3938_B
Street View.  Gran Hotel Domine.

Photo credit: Gran Hotel Domine

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Beginner’s Guide to Eating and Drinking In Bilbao

A big part of the Bilbao experience is food and drink, and the people around the food and drink.

Here’s a quick beginner’s guide to eating and drinking in Bilbao:

Drinking: Spain’s bar tabs look about the same as those in the United States. According to the World Health Organization’s study on alcohol use, half of Spain’s drinkers prefer beer (same as the U.S.), while a third choose spirits (again same as the U.S.). The rest of the drinkers in both countries take wine.

San Miguel is the main beer of choice in Bilbao, and most bars and restaurants serve San Miguel in bottles. San Miguel is a sponsor of Atletico de Bilbao (the local football a.k.a. soccer team) as well as other big name sports teams throughout Spain. San Miguel is sort of the Budweiser of Spain, but with higher alcohol content.

You won’t find many crazy drunks in Bilbao, as Spain generally does a great job of holding their alcohol. Alcohol disorders in Spain, which has a legal drinking age of 18, occur in just 2% of males. In the U.S., that percentage is five times higher. Spain also holds their alcohol better than most of the European Union. Most Spanish beer brands offer non-alcoholic beers alongside the regular beer, which helps keep people under control.

Note that in Bilbao, drinking at the bar doesn’t really kick in until about 11:00 PM. You can go to the bar before that, but expect to be lonely until later.

Dining: Seafood is everywhere in Bilbao, thanks to the nearby coastlines. You’ll find plenty of seafood on display at most restaurants, sort of like Red Lobster does with lobsters in their locations. The seafood in Bilbao is affordable, as the supply is plentiful. Clams, lobsters, oysters, and crabs and fish of all kinds are on the menu.

Meat selection in Bilbao is also favorable, thanks to plenty of cattle in the surrounding area. Again, you’ll find cuts of meat on display in many restaurants as you enter, often behind the bar area.


Above all, Bilbao is famous for a delicacy known as a pintxo. A pintxo (also known as “pincho” outside of the Basque region) is a small bite size morsel similar to a Spanish tapa. Pintxos are as common, and as important, to the Basque culture as popcorn is to a movie theater. Pintxos are usually served alongside a beer, and in some cases are provided automatically – sort of like beer nuts in the United States, but more tasty.

A pintxo uses a small slice of bread as the base, and then piles on the good stuff. Typical Pintxo toppings include various seafoods, bites of meat, and vegetables, but can really include anything edible. Everything on a pintxo is usually held together by a toothpick, and is often crafted into a small work of art.

A couple of important administrative notes on dining in Bilbao: 1) Be sure to clear your plate in Bilbao, as taking home leftovers is frowned upon. 2) There is no need to tip after dinner, as Spain generally does not observe tipping. Go ahead and get an extra San Miguel instead.

Bilbao Event Calendar

In the world of finance and urban development, Bilbao is known as an upcoming “magnet city”. This means Bilbao has been highly successful in drawing people, business, and tourism to the city.

Bilbao has developed this magnetic pull with some big investments, and also some interesting cultural events. Some of those events include:

Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition: Bilbao’s magnetic pull attracted this competition for the first time in September 2014. The competition uses the La Salve bridge over the Nervion river behind the Guggenheim Museum as the 27-meter (90 foot) diving platform. The Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition attracts top cliff divers from around the world, performing dives like the “back armstand with blind entry”, “inward double half”, and so on. Picture the Olympic high dive, just much, much higher to supply more time to twist and flip.

You can watch this event for free along the riverbank streets or the North terrace of the Guggenheim, but expect some big crowds. Or, if you can somehow get a kayak into the Nervion river, you can watch from there, too.

the La Salve Bridge - platform for the Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition
the La Salve Bridge – platform for the Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition


Aste Nagusia Festival: Aste Nagusia (translation: “big week”) is a nine-day festival taking place at the end of August each year. It’s the largest festival in Spain – attracting over 100,000 people – outplacing even the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. This festival atmosphere fits somewhere in the neighborhood of Carnival in Brazil and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but is just a touch more family friendly.

The events during Aste Nagusai include music, dancing, a huge food fight, and of course bullfighting. Each night of the festival includes an international fireworks competition. Note that Bilbao has an actual event called Carnaval that coincides with Carnival in Brazil, but is a bit smaller than Aste Nagusia.

Bilbao Tango Festival: There is a scene in the movie “Scent of a Woman” where Al Pacino takes Gabrielle Anwar onto the dance floor to teach her how to tango. This scene could have easily taken place at the Bilbao Tango Festival. This festival attracts professional dancers from around the world, and at the same time offers classes for beginners. September or October is the typical timing of this event.

Bilbao Fantastic Film Festival: This film festival is a bit more specific than the Cannes film festival and others like it. The Bilbao festival focuses on the genres of Fantastic, Horror, and Science Fiction. Think of films like “The Wolfman”, “Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman”, and “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. The Bilbao festival usually features around 30 long and short films, and is known to conduct screening of classics like “The Shining” and “Rosemary’s Baby”. Plan for early May to catch this event.

Bilbao Night Marathon: Each October, Bilbao hosts the premier night marathon in Europe. The running events start and end at the Guggenheim Museum, and feature a full marathon, half marathon, and 10K race. You’ll have to stay up late to run or watch the event – it kicks off at 10:00 PM. Timing for the 2015 event is set for October 18, with registration fees around 40€ ($50 U.S.).

The Best Of Bilbao: Surfing

Bilbao may not be the first place you think of for a surfing vacation.

However, Bilbao belongs to the Basque Coast, which also includes the towns of Mundaka, Menakoz, and San Sebastian. Each of these towns near Bilbao are known in the surfing world, and make their own unique mark on the surfing landscape. Some highlights:

Mundaka: About a 40 minute drive Northeast of downtown Bilbao, Mundaka plays host to the Billabong Pro Mundaka World Tour competition. This is the biggest approval stamp for surfing on the Basque Coast. Mundaka is famous for its’ long left-breaking wave, which allows experienced surfers to travel well along the coastline. It is known for having some of the longest “tube rides” in the world.

Menakoz: Beaches at Menakoz are tougher to access, and rockier than other Basque Coast surf towns. But if you can get there, you’ll find the biggest waves in Europe. Waves of 20-ft in height are common at Menakoz, and it’s only about a 20-minute drive from downtown Bilbao. Menakoz is known as an “expert only” surf location.

San Sebastian: San Sebastian is the best choice along the Basque Coast for beginning surfers. It has the best combination of beginner-friendly atmosphere, and a sandy ocean bottom.   Falling off your surfboard into a rocky bottom (like in Menakoz) can hurt your feet (or more) and cut your recreation time short. San Sebastian also maintains some focus on surrounding activity and nightlife. 10€ ($12 U.S) per day for unlimited drinks, anyone?

Another highlight: You get all of these things along one convenient coast, rather than hopping around different islands.

Regarding surf vacation timing: surf season on the Basque Coast runs from September to April. The Gulf Stream helps keep the Basque Coast warmer throughout this time. Water temperature dips to around 60F in December, which is pretty warm considering.

If you are in fact new to surfing, it may be best to start at Wellentime surf school. Wellentime, a 30-minute drive North from downtown Bilbao, has instructors that are trained lifeguards and registered with the local Surf Federation. Like tourists spots in Hawaii or Australia, Wellentime teaches in small groups of five or six people. Classes begin on the sand, and spend considerable time on the sand introducing you to the surfboard. You’ll need to know how to paddle, how to stand up, where to stand, how to stand, and how you’ll be anchored to the surfboard.

Note: you need to wear a shirt when surfing. The tops of surfboards are like sandpaper to help grip your feet. As you paddle out into the water, you are basically laying on sandpaper.

Balancing on the surfboard is up to you once you catch a wave.   Instructors suggest getting in surfing shape with some balancing and strengthening exercises for a few weeks before you hit the water.

Surfing classes at Wellentime range from one day in length, up to six days. To give you an idea of pricing, a four-day course will be around 180€ ($225 U.S). Surfboard rental will be 20€ ($25 U.S.) per day.

After you fall in love with surfing, you’ll need your own surfboard. Central Bilbao has several shops that sell surfboards alongside skateboarding and snowboarding gear. Plan on spending around 720€ ($900 U.S.) for a decent surfboard.