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Radisson Collection Bilbao: a review

Radisson Collection Bilbao: a review

niclas dehmel unsplash

A luxury sojourn in Spain’s Bilbao

piotr musiol/unsplash
The Guggenheim by Piotr Musiol/Unsplash

Radisson Collection Bilbao: a review

It is my first visit to Bilbao, and arriving in the Basque city, from London, on a sunny spring morning, I know I am in for a treat.  Wedged between coastal hills and the sea and along the banks of the Vervion River, Bilbao is glinting in the morning sunshine.

Ideal Bilbao location

It takes only twenty minutes to reach the Radisson Collection Bilbao from the airport and thanks to an early flight arrival and swift exit through customs, I’m at the hotel two hours before check-in time.

“No problem,” say the front desk, “we can have your room ready in less than an hour”.  They suggest a walk through the nearby Old Town in the sunshine and unravel a map to point out a few must-sees while I am in Bilbao.

the Radisson Collection Bilbao Pool
the Radisson Collection Bilbao Pool

It doesn’t take long to realise that the hotel’s location, on the corner of Gran Vía Bilbao, at the edge of a glitzy shopping precinct and the financial district, and a stroll away from the historic Old Town, is ideal.

I head out of the doors, cross the Plaza Circular, walk over the Arenal bridge above the river and in five minutes am beside the neo-baroque style Arriaga Theatre, at the entrance of the Old Town.  Although you can get good pintxos (the Basque version of tapas dishes) anywhere in Bilbao, it is in the narrow alleyways and squares like Plaza Nueva, here, that many of the city’s most popular bars are found.  

After having a look around Bilbao’s 15th century cathedral I walk back to the hotel via riverside parklands and by crossing another of the city’s ornate bridges.

Art Deco Splendour in Bilbao

the Radisson Collection Bilbao
the Radisson Collection Bilbao

Arriving back at the hotel, I look up at its imposing facade and assume it must have once been a bank.  This turns out to be right, it is located in the former headquarters of Banco Hispano Americano, built in 1945, and became Radisson’s second luxury property in Spain, after the one in Seville, two years ago. 

The hotel has 137 rooms over six floors and features a stylish Art-Deco style design and one of Bilbao’s very best rooftop terraces, with exceptional views from its alfresco bar as well as a brand new Basque restaurant.

The Radisson Collection Bilbao’s elegant interior design is full of  marble, natural stone and wood, and its palette of colours leans on earth tones complemented with gold and blue hues, intended to reflect the glow of the city’s the river estuary.

Rooftop suite with a private terrace at the Radisson Collection Bilbao

Presidential Suite at the Radisson Collection Bilbao
Presidential Suite at the Radisson Collection Bilbao

For my three night stay, I am extremely fortunate to have been allocated one of the hotel’s most luxurious rooms, a rooftop suite with its own private terrace and sunken hot tub, all enjoying great views down on the streets below.  With the weather mostly sunny this weekend, I fill the jacuzzi on each late afternoon of my stay and it’s particularly lovely soaking in its hot waters during a squall of rain on my final afternoon.  On sunny evenings, there is an outdoor seating area and a wooden lounging space arrayed with cushions on which to relax with a book and drink.

the Radisson Collection Bilbao
the Radisson Collection Bilbao

Inside, my room is elegantly modern, with soft-grey coloured walls and drapes and a rich navy blue panel above my Uber-comfortable King sized bed.  Central to the room is a gold-metal two-way, floor-to-ceiling stand, with a flatscreen television facing the bed on one side and a small marble-topped writing desk/make up area with chair on the other.  This is modern minimalism at its finest and is mirrored by the bedside light fittings, with globes suspended in what look like oversized metal paperclips.

the Radisson Collection Bilbao
the Radisson Collection Bilbao

While a relatively narrow suite, it packs a lot in, with twin vanities and shower room and separate toilet secreted alongside the outdoor terrace and a wardrobe for clothes and mini bar along the entrance hallway, as well as a designer round table in a corner.

Overall the feel is of understated modern Basque charm and a calming space in which to unwind following busy days of visiting the world-class Guggenheim museum – which looks like a giant titanium space ship in the midst of the city – and bar hopping across Bilbao, eating incredible food.

NKO Rooftop Bar at the Radisson Hotel Bilbao
NKO Rooftop Bar at the Radisson Collection Bilbao

Eneko Basque, dining in Bilbao

Speaking of food, I am lucky enough to be staying at the Radisson Collection Bilbao just after its new restaurant, Eneko Basque, has opened on the top floor.  This is a new venture on the site of another Michelin-starred restaurant by Executive chef Eneko Atxa and if my six-course tasting menu is anything to go by, this will soon become one of the stars in the Bilbao food scene.

It begins with a lovely aperitif at the rooftop bar, in the evening sunshine, before I move inside for dinner.  The design of Eneko Basque is crisp and a la mode, with lots of dark wood but plenty of light, and red banquette seating as well as modern art hanging on walls and displayed in glass-fronted cabinets.

RCollection Bilbao EnekoBasqueBilbao EditedPhoto 050
RCollection Bilbao EnekoBasqueBilbao EditedPhoto 050

The food in this new restaurant derives its flavours and textures rooted from traditional Basque cooking and notably draws on home-cooked dishes like his grandmother’s stews.  Beautifully presented and technically extraordinary, the tasting menu delivers delight after delight.  Most memorable for me are the grilled fresh asparagus entree with Idiazabal cheese (slightly smoky and made from unpasteurised sheep’s milk). 

Every dish here feels like it opens a deeper  connection to Bilbao and the Biscaya region (Bay of Biscay) of the Basque country.

Early courses come accompanied by a Basque white wine – Txakoli.  I end with the most delicious dessert of traditional Goxua (like a creamy, custardy creme caramel) and homemade caramel ice-cream that I fall stomach-over-head in love with.

Al fresco Breakfast in Balbao

While breakfast cannot match the extraordinary standards of dinner, it is plentiful and on two sunny mornings I enjoy it, with views of the hills surrounding Bilbao, on the rooftop terrace. 

The buffet has a generous display of local cheeses, freshly baked breads and pastries and lots of creamy yogurts as well as freshly cut fruits, fresh juices and there are two self-serve coffee machines for the all-important caffeine injections ahead of busy days of sightseeing. 

NKO Rooftop Bar at the Radisson Collection Bilbao
NKO Rooftop Bar at the Radisson Collection Bilbao

There is also delicious Basque cheese cake on offer and a la carte hot dishes include poached eggs Benedict.

Basement spa and pool

With all the walking I do around this compelling city, I am ready by my final afternoon, to book in for a massage in the basement spa.  I’m a bit late arriving for my appointment, having spent the morning travelling out to see the World Heritage listed Bizkaia suspension bridge, at the mouth of the Nervion river, so the therapist gives me the option of cutting my ninety minute session down to an hour, or losing the fifteen minutes I am late.  I opt for the latter.

the Radisson Collection Bilbao
the Radisson Collection Bilbao Pool

It is a good treatment from a therapist that has a surprisingly firm touch and helps restore my body to top form ahead of two weeks road tripping and trekking in northern Spain.  I am also entitled to a half hour using the warm spa pool, more a therapeutic water feature than a place to swim lengths, and the sauna and this, combined with the massage, leaves me feeling very relaxed before a final evening seeking out pintxos in Bilbao’s bars.

The best Bilbao base

Lobby at the Radisson Collection Bilbao
Lobby at the Radisson Collection Bilbao

You don’t book a hotel in Bilbao in order to spend your whole visit inside, after all it is one of Spain’s most intriguing cities and in the Guggenheim museum has an attraction where you could easily spend days.

However, for me, on this first visit, it has provided a stylish, comfortable home and, looking back, the very best meal of a trip through one of the most lauded food regions in the world. 

Nor can the Radisson Collection Bilbao be beaten on location, with a station on the excellent, clean and efficient metro system – just look for the sexy glass entrance canopies designed by renowned architect Norman Foster — on the doorstep and everything central, including the Guggenheim and the Old Town, within strolling distance.

Radisson Collection Bilbao

Gran Via Bilbao

Website: radissonhotels.com/en-us/hotels/radisson-collection-gran-via-bilbao

Email: info.bilbao@radissoncollection.com

Telephone: +34 946 056 75


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