BILBAO , SAN SEBASTIAN & LA RIOJA
Spain is a well-known destination, and many have heard of the beautiful southern regions and the islands. However, when talking to clients about Nothern Spain, we realize that this is still an unknown destination. Yet, Northern Spain is surprisingly a well-rounded MICE-destination.
The Basque Region, located in Northern Spain, is home to some of the world’s finest food, beaches, and avant-garde architecture. The two main destinations are Bilbao and San Sebastian. Bilbao is the main city in the area while San Sebastian is a picturesque coastal city. Both are ideal locations for meetings and incentives that offer the right infrastructure for any size. The weather is beautiful all year round but we would recommend the destination mostly from May to October, as this is the most stable time of the year. Many of our clients have doubts about accessibility, however, the Bilbao airport is well connected with Europe’s main cities.
Here are five reasons to consider Northern Spain.
1.- Discover Bilbao – the capital of the north
Bilbao is a lively metropolis with a population of over one million people. The great architectural and infrastructure projects have put the city on the international map. The Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, the Euskalduna Conference and Music Centre, and Norman Foster’s Underground are all examples of how dynamic the city truly is. Bilbao offers over 23 hotels and a total of 3000 rooms. All of which are located in a beautiful and walkable historic city centre. From Bilbao, you have the chance to visit forests, mountains, beaches, and steep coasts. Or you can connect into the Rioja wine region, one of the most well-known wine regions in the world.
Ovation Insider: If you have time, you should visit the Vizcaya Bridge “the Hanging Bridge.” This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most unique bridges in the world. Built in the 18th century, it is now the symbol of the European Industrial Revolution. After this, visit the village “Portugalete and enjoy some “pintxos” with the view of the bridge.
2.- Visit San Sebastián and the Basque Coast
San Sebastián, also known as Donostia, lies along a white sandy bay between two hills. Fishermen’s houses, a smart suburb and modern districts make it one of the most attractive cities on the northern Spanish coastline. The city hosts a famous International Film Festival once a year that is referred to as the “Cannes of northern Spain.” Neighboring coastal towns and the French border are perfect destinations to bring your group. With 17 hotels and a total capacity of almost 2000 rooms, San Sebastian could serve as a main hub for your meeting or incentive or a scenic day trip from Bilbao.
Ovation Insider: In case you are in San Sebastián, visit the old quarter and eat at one of the many Pintxos Bars. “Pintxos” are tapas on bread typical in this region. One of our favourite places is Txepetxa or Zeruko, right in the centre of the old quarter.
3.- Experience the RIOJA wine region
Of course, everyone knows the wines from La Rioja. This area of Spain has over 500 wineries and is internationally famous for the quality of its wines. This destination could be either a day trip from Bilbao or could act as the main destination especially when we talk about focus groups and wine lovers. Apart from beautiful wine regions, amazing bodegas, impressive monasteries and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the area is known for being the birthplace of the first written words in the Spanish language. The combination of wine, countryside and high-end Spanish cuisine make “La Rioja” an unforgettable destination in the north of Spain.
Ovation Insider: If you are in the area, you should really make sure to visit the bodega Marqués de Riscal one of the most known and impressive buildings in the area. Embedded in a town that dates back to 1067 the Canadian architect Frank Gehry designed this contemporary bodega and hotel with titanium. Here you can visit the bodegas, taste the wine, and enjoy lunch in the amazing setting. We even recommend it for small off-site meetings or post-tour options if you have a VIP group staying longer.
4.- Taste the high cuisine of the north
When we talk about the cuisine, you will be surprised that the northern area of Spain offers almost 40 Michelin-starred restaurants. Subsequently making it one of the best fine dining destinations in the world. From traditional to experimental dishes you will find it all in the area between Bilbao and San Sebastian. You can experience exceptional cuisine in an amazing location at a reasonable price. Should you have any VIPs in your group we can try to get you into the 3 Michelin Star range and you can be assured that your delegates will keep remembering this experience for the rest of their life.
Ovation Insider: It’s difficult to say which restaurant is the best – if you ask our team – you will get different answers. However many will mention ARZAK which offers signature cuisine, deeply rooted in the traditions of the region it assures a unique and unforgettable experience. It is usually difficult to get a table, but with some time and the right contacts, we can make it happen.
5.- Live the typical traditions
The Basque Country is rich in traditions, unique sports and amazing festivals, all fully integrated into the local culture. For your events and incentives, we can use those traditions and festival concepts and integrate them into your activities or evening events as entertainment. Sports like “Fronton” (the typical Basque ball game) and “Harrijasotzailes” a very ancient sport also known as “stone-lifting” can create fun moments during your meeting or incentive in the north of Spain.
Ovation Insider: Last year we did our Ovation Yearly Kick-off in Bilbao and enjoyed a unique day of Basque Sports. We tried all kinds of “unusual” activities while enjoying drinks, pintxos (tapas on bread) and typical music from the region. Amazing team building and a lot of fun.
Do you have clients that have been to Spain and are looking for a new and different experience? We are sure that the north of Spain and in particular the region around Bilbao and San Sebastian will prove to be that unique destination you didn’t know you needed.
To discover and learn more about Spain please visit Ovation Spain DMC.