After seeing pictures of Getxo I decided we had to take a day trip from Bilbao. First I have to say traveling Spain by train has been amazing! The stations and trains are the cleanest I have seen anywhere in the world. They are NEVER late and go almost anywhere you need to go. We took the train to Getxo for the day which is a pretty quick ride from Bilbao, about 35 minutes. The town is about a five or ten minute walk from the station we got off at, so we decided to walk the bay area first. A quick stop in the Visitors Information Center then set our course for an amazing day. (There are Visitors Information Centers everywhere in Spain and they are incredible! The people are friendly, knowledgeable and full of ideas on how best to enjoy your visit. They usually spoke at least four languages and were happy to pass out free maps.)
The whole reason I wanted to go to Getxo was to see the cliffs and the windmill on the La Galea walk. I felt like a nice day along the sea would be good after all of our city touring. What I didn’t know, which is for the best, is that the La Galea walk would end up being 16 miles for the whole day. Had we known this I think we may have decided not to go which would have been a major loss.
The scenery of the cliffs and the sea is absolutely gorgeous. It is so peaceful and undisturbed in most places that you can really just lose yourself in the soft sea winds and the crashing waves. The La Galea walk goes from Getxo town all the way along the shore and up onto the cliffs so no need for special gear or clothing. There are no guardrails along the walk (it is not the US so you are on your own to watch yourself) so stay away from the edge and just enjoy the scenery. Along part of the path there is a tree lined sidewalk which weaves through this little town where there is a park full of kids playing, a great place to stop and have coffee and then the La Galea Fort and the Aixerrota windmill. I am not sure if it was the unsuspected miles or just the beauty of the sea but we found the La Galea Fort and the Aixerrota windmill to be pretty underwhelming. It did give us a good reason to be on this journey though so it was worth going. We continued past the windmill and wound around the cliffs before our stomachs took over and we headed back for a bite to eat. (There is a great place to get burgers-even a veggie burger!-in the dip between the two cliffs. The prices are great and the people are really cool.)
After lunch we headed into town walking the other way along the bay. We were shocked by the huge mansions lining the street. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there was a boom of building which resulted in these incredible mansions lining the coast. Each one is unique (although most of them were built by the same architect). There are plaques lining the wall of the bay which give great details about the architecture, the architect, and the families who commissioned each house. It is amazing that most of them are still private residents, many still the original families.
At this point, we were pretty much dragging, we had walked about 14.5 miles and had been without ice cream or coffee for too long. After we figured out we had walked about 12 miles we were just driven by seeing how far we could make it that day without giving in to the temptation of a cab. We started to head back to the train station in the city until someone told us about the Bizkaia Bridge (Hanging Bridge) we needed to see. I have no idea what possessed us to make the decision to walk another mile to see this bridge, maybe just pure determination to leave nothing undiscovered in this town, but we did it. The beach promenade gives way to a busier city and a large red bridge with a suspended cable car underneath for passengers and vehicles. It was absolutely the coolest thing to watch and ride on. It cost about 1.00 each way to ride if you are on foot. The car sways gently under the bridge as you ride from one side to the other. It is the only one of its kind and provides some pretty great views from both sides of the car.
As our feet cramped and our legs ached we made our way back to the train station and back to Bilbao. It was such a great day walking, talking, laughing and learning. Spain continues to surprise and delight us with each new place we visit. So definitely take the time to make the day trip to Getxo and walk along the cliffs, the beach promenade and then taking the Hanging Bridge from one side to the other. You won’t regret it and will love the break from tourists, crowds and cobblestone streets.