Land in Bilbao, the mystical capital of the Basque region and a very apt place to start a tour through 2020’s highlights. There is the old city, where church bells chime out, and small plazas are traditionally adorned by cafe terraces. Across the river, you will find the neoclassical architecture of the late 19th century, broad lanes and elaborate decoration a different insight into the past. Then there is the Guggenheim, Frank Gehry’s magnificent structure was the start of Bilbao’s contemporary, forward-thinking design. Like much of Spain, these three distinctive areas have their own ambience, yet all seem to create an idea of harmony.
Touch down at Bilbao International Airport, and you will be transferred to a hotel in the pedestrianized old city, where an al fresco terrace makes for a welcome lunch with your guide. Spend the afternoon on a walking tour, connecting the paradigms, including a 16th-century cathedral, grand townhouses, and the inquisitive interior of the Guggenheim. During the evening, you celebrate another side to 2020. Bilbao hosts the World’s Best 50 Restaurants this year and has recently been awarded as a national culinary capital. While you will not be at the awards, you have a night at Azurmendi (number 38 in 2017), a purveyor of traditional Basque cooking delivering on a fine dining scale. Azurmendi also took first place in Elite Traveler’s 2017 list of the top 100 restaurants in the world.