Day Trip to Portugalete


Portugalete next to the Nervion River

I had never heard of Portugalete before I arrived in Spain but Lauren’s friend Begona, whom I would later meet in Madrid, loaned us maps of Basque Spain and told Lauren that to see the Vizcaya bridge in Portugalete was a must.  “I’m not sure that it’s worth going all that way to see a bridge,” Lauren told me, “but she was so insistent that we may as well check it out.”  I’m all for adventure and taking a trek to a place I know nothing about is all about exploring to me.

It was easier to get to Portugalete than we expected.  The day before we stopped at the tourism office near the Guggenheim and they were very helpful in explaining how to get to our planned destinations.

 Metro station in Bilbao

Approaching the Indautxu Metro station in Bilbao

Portugalete is was only a Metro ride away from downtown Bilbao.  The Metro station was within walking distance from our hotel so we stopped for café con leche and torta de potatas at an outdoor café on the way.

Bilbao Metero2

Indautxu station

The Bilbao Metro was clean and efficient.  Lauren bought one ticket that we both could use.  It was very similar to our BART in the San Francisco Bay Area.  We waited about 10 minutes for the Santurtzi train and away we sped.


Vizcaya Bridge

The Metro stopped in Portugalete and we disembarked into the City at the top of the hill.  I adored it right away.  Lauren asked for directions to “the bridge” and we headed down toward the sea.


Monument to Don Víctor Chávarri, by sculptor Miguel Blay.

Monumento a Don Víctor Chávarri

Close up of Monument to Don Víctor Chávarri

The City was charming and quaint, built on the side of a hill.  Soon we reached the Nervion River where people walked along the promenade.

IMG_6603Portugalete certainly has a Basque feel to it, more than any other city I visited.  The Basque flag and men with the traditional black beret were visible where ever we wandered.

The “bridge” turned out to be Vizcaya Bridge and wasn’t really a bridge at all but a structure to hang the suspended ferry that transported cars and people to the city on the opposite side of the river, Las Arenas.

Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete

Vizcaya Bridge is also known as Puente Colgate, meaning “hanging bridge”.

As we got closer we could figure this out, and it was something unusual.

Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete9

The Vizcaya Bridge is a transporter bridge that connects the towns of Portugalete and Las Arenas across the Nervion River.

Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete2

This is the world’s oldest transporter bridge built in 1893. It was a solution to link the two towns without disrupting maritime traffic.

Bridge ticketWe were to discover that you could walk across the top of the ‘bridge’ to see the magnificent views for 7 Euros, a relatively new option for tourists, or take the suspended transport for 50 cents.  Of course we wanted to take the high road even though I wondered if I would have a fear of heights way up there.  Another tourist we met in the gift shop assured us that it was safe and we rode the elevator to the top to begin the walk.

Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete5

The walkway across the top.

We were the only ones up there.

Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete10The view was fabulous and it was safe as promised.  Definitely worth it.

Las Arenas

Las Arenas

As we approached the other side of the bridge we could look down on the city of Las Arenas.  We had hoped to find a beach in Las Arenas but there was a marina instead so walked along the seawall enjoying the lovely view of the bay.

Then we headed toward the heart of town to find a place for lunch and stumbled across Don Peppone with a large outdoor terrace.  It was perfect; families having their Sunday afternoon meal while their kids road their trikes amongst the diners.  Funny.  From my perspective children appeared to be more independent in Spain, in comparison to California, in that they seemed content to entertain themselves without requiring constant parental attention.  I enjoyed witnessing that.

We could have taken the Metro back to Bilbao from Las Arenas but we wanted to experience the gondola ride back across the river to Portugalete.  The trip took about 90 seconds.  Walking back up the hill to the Metro station in Portugalete the previously busy streets were empty.  Where did everyone go? I wondered.  Siesta.  It was somewhat eerie, the streets were either super crowded or deserted.  Definitely something to get used to.  It was an amazing day.


3 thoughts on “Day Trip to Portugalete

  1. What a beautiful day we had; the weather, the food, roaming around, people watching! And proof that sometimes just taking someone’s advice and going with it is worth it! Neither of us really knew what to expect but it brought us to another town to get a taste of a day in the life of a Sunday in Basque country!

  2. Portugalete. I’ve never heard of this city either until you mentioned it here. Just from the pictures I can see why it was love at first site. It looks very charming and has an old world feel to it. I love the buildings and, of course, the bridge. It looks like the perfect place to explore and have lunch or coffee.

    It would be interesting to know more of the history of this town. The name itself conjures up Portugal and makes me wonder if there’s some connection to that country or if it’s purely a coincidence with the spelling. This is something I will certainly explore for myself. The city has created a uniqueness with having the oldest transport bridge. And I must say, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s amazing, too, that they’ve kept it maintained and operational.

    For all appearances it looks like a romantic city. The picture of the street while it’s raining really gave me that impression because, although romance goes with any season, this particular shot made it seem more so. I think in,use be reminding me of some old black and white movie set somewhere in Europe. Perhaps Humprey Bogart and Lauren Bacall or even something similar to Casablanca. No matter. Great images.

    Now, I must hide the microfilm and catch my flight to Madrid before they spot me…

  3. Ancillary information: the name of the town is derived from:

    Portugalete, town, Vizcaya provincia (province), in the comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) of the Basque Country, northern Spain. The town, a northwestern suburb of Bilbao, lies at the mouth of the Nervión River, on the western side of Bilbao Bay. It was founded in 1322 by María Díaz de Haro, wife of the infante Don Juan, prince of Castile, and was named for its function as a portus galorum (Latin: “galley-slave port”). The town’s Gothic church of Santa María dates from the 13th century.

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