Many digital nomads will look to the sun-filled coasts of Eastern and Southern Spain, but those on the hunt for the Spanish way of life, but with a cooler microclimate might want to explore Northern Spain’s Basque region. We look at two cities in this region, Bilbao and Algorta to discover a part of Spain ideal for solo travelling digital nomads and families alike.
Bilbao and Algorta are two coastal cities in the Basque Country region of Spain, located about 15 minutes apart by train/underground. Bilbao is the larger and more cosmopolitan of the two, while Algorta is a smaller, more laid-back beachfront town loved by families and those who are keen to socialise.
Both cities are popular tourist destinations, but they are also becoming increasingly popular with digital nomads, thanks to their fast internet speeds, affordable cost of living, and sociable and family-friendly atmospheres.
- Fast and reliable internet: Both cities have excellent internet infrastructure, making it easy to stay connected and work remotely. However, if you are reliant on the WiFi in your accommodation, always make it crystal clear before booking to confirm that WiFi is of a high quality. Otherwise, you can always hook up to your mobile phone’s hotspot, but that could get costly if you don’t have a local mobile phone plan.
- Affordable cost of living: The cost of living in Bilbao and Algorta is relatively low compared to other major European cities. Take advantage of market days to get fresh produce and the tapa/pintxo culture. You’ll be surprised how filled up you can get on pintxos! It is customary to not just visit one bar for pintxos but several. How the system works is you select the pintxos then keep the toothpicks (palillos) for each pintxo you’ve eaten and hand these over when you want to pay. However, you pay for drinks in advance.
- Family and dog-friendly atmosphere: Both cities are very family-friendly, with a variety of activities and attractions for children of all ages. It is common for children and the family dog to accompany you on an evening stroll and a stop in a bar or cafe to meet friends and family.
- Beautiful scenery and outdoor activities: Bilbao and Algorta are surrounded by green spaces and there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as skating, hiking, biking, and swimming.
There is a wide range of accommodation options available in Bilbao and Algorta, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels and short holiday lets. For families, renting an apartment or house for a week would be wise to get a feel of the place if you are considering a more permanent move. There are many websites and apps that make it easy to find and book accommodation in Spain, such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and Idealista.
Cost of living
The cost of living in Bilbao and Algorta is lower than in other major European cities, such as London or Paris. This makes it a great option for digital nomads who are looking to save money. According to Numbeo, the cost of living index for Bilbao is 57.38, while the cost of living index for Algorta is 58.26. This means that the cost of living in Bilbao and Algorta is about 42% lower than in New York City.
Food and drink
The Basque Country is known for its delicious food and wine. Bilbao and Algorta have a wide range of restaurants to choose from, serving everything from traditional Basque cuisine to international fare. There are also many bars and cafes where you can relax and enjoy a drink. In Algorta, for example, it is common for people of all ages to meet friends in bars and cafes for a drink in the evening around 8 p.m. Some stay on for something to eat while others head home for their evening meal. Children, depending on their age, may also attend and have a run around the cafe-lined squares having already eaten their dinner before.
- pintxo (tapa)
- a beer (cana)
- a small beer (zurito)
- typical white wine (txakoli)
- wine with cola (kalimotxo)
The evening stroll (bring your walking shoes)
It is customary for people to “dar un paseo” (take a stroll every evening) from around 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. or even slightly later depending on your schedule. The tradition was embraced by local doctor Pedro Bilbao and an Algortan doctor who encouraged a balanced diet and outdoor walks as his health formula. Residents in Algorta to this day take that advice and walk every day along the beach promenade and breakwater until they reach the lighthouse known as the “paseo del morro”.
There’s also Algorta’s Avenida de Basagoiti, a cafe and bar-filled street that turns into a tree-lined promenade (or walking street) made for strolling and socialising. You’ll see families and friends walking their children, couples holding hands and pretty much people of all ages simply winding down after a day’s work. Children enjoy this time as there are playgrounds en route to meet friends and burn off some steam after school. Check out Airbnb’s in Algorta/Getxo. If you can find one near Avenida Basagoiti it is an ideal location to be in the heart of the city accessible to everything including the old port (Puerto Viejo), Ereaga Beach and Las Arenas.
The green side of Bilbao
Bilbao is becoming a greener city despite its industrial past and has vast areas of parkland to walk, picnic, play and get fit. Here are a few to consider visiting:
Deusto Park: This is a green zone that runs along the river with views of Euskaiduna Concert Hall and the Paseo de Abandoibarra. There’s a skate park, a hockey field, a basketball court and park swings.
Dona Casilda Park: Feed the ducks here or have fun playing a variety of games here. In Albandoibarra there are activities including basketball popular on Sundays in the Spring.
Etxebarria Park: This extensive green zone that welcomes skateboards, bikes, skates, etc. It’s also home to the Aste Nagusia festival held in the area’s fiestas in August.
Europa Park: Located in the Txurdinaga district, this park is ideal for sporty ones. You’ll find people skating, cycling, jogging and taking long strolls. There’s even a sports centre within the park.
Bilbao and Algorta have fast and reliable internet speeds. This is essential for digital nomads who need to be able to work remotely. Most cafes and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi, and there are also co-working spaces available.
If you have children, you will need to find a school for them to attend. There are many public and private schools to choose from in Bilbao and Algorta. The public schools are free to attend, but the private schools can be pricey, but comparatively less expensive than many in the UK.
A sample itinerary
- Arrive in Bilbao and check into your accommodation.
- If you arrive at breakfast time check out the bakeries and pastry shops for local baked goods unique to the region.
- Take a walk around the city centre and visit the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. They have family-friendly activities and tours
- Have lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants in the Old Town. Here’s a list of restaurants to try around Bilbao.
- Visit the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.
- Take a boat trip down the Ria de Bilbao.
- Have lunch at one of the many restaurants along the riverfront.
- Visit the Vizcaya Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Get to Algorta for a stroll down the Avenida Basagoiti and have some dinner or pintxos (Basque for tapas) at one of the many restaurants in Algorta.
- Visit the Azkuna Zentroa, a former wine warehouse that has been converted into a cultural centre.
- Play in the Parque Europa, a park with miniature replicas of famous European landmarks.
- Have lunch at one of the many restaurants in the Abandoibarra district, which is not far from Dona Casilda Park.
- Visit the San Mamés Stadium, home to Athletic Bilbao football club.
- Have dinner at one of the many restaurants in the Indauchu district.
- Have lunch at one of the many restaurants in Getxo.
- Visit the Puerto Viejo de Algorta, the old port of Algorta. Have some snacks or a light lunch or dinner here. Here are some choices from Trip Advisor or just be like a local and stroll until you find something that suits everyone.
- Take a stroll down the Avenida Basagoiti and find a playground for the children or a nearby bar or cafe to get a cold drink.
- Take a day trip to San Sebastián, a beautiful coastal city located about an hour away from Bilbao by car, slightly longer by train if there are many stops.
- Visit the Parte Vieja, the old town of San Sebastián.
- Have lunch at one of the many restaurants in the Parte Vieja.
- Take a walk along the Playa de la Concha, a crescent-shaped beach. Or check out these other beaches here.
- Have dinner at one of the many restaurants in the surfer-friendly Gros district.
- Visit the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, a museum of fine arts.
- Take a walk through the Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park.
- Have lunch at one of the many restaurants in the Ensanche district.
- Visit the Bilbao La Vieja district, a former industrial district that has been transformed into a trendy neighbourhood with bars, restaurants, and art galleries.
- Have dinner at one of the many restaurants in the Bilbao La Vieja district.
Living in Bilbao as a Digital Nomad with a Family
Bilbao is a great city for digital nomads with families. The city has a variety of family-friendly neighbourhoods, such as Ensanche and Abandoibarra. These neighbourhoods are close to the city centre and offer a variety of amenities, including parks, playgrounds, and schools.
Bilbao also has a number of family-friendly attractions, such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Maritime Museum Bilbao, and the Bilbao Funicular. There are also a number of parks and playgrounds throughout the city, as well as a variety of restaurants and cafes.
Working in Bilbao as a Digital Nomad
There are a number of coworking spaces and cafes in Bilbao where digital nomads can work remotely. Some popular co-working spaces include Impact Hub Bilbao, Coworking Bilbao, and La Terminal. There are also a number of cafes in the city that offer free Wi-Fi and a relaxed atmosphere for working.
Some popular cafes in Bilbao that offer free Wi-Fi and a relaxed atmosphere for working include Cafe Iruña, La Venencia, and La Despensa.
Living in Algorta as a Digital Nomad with a Family
Algorta is a great option for digital nomads with families who are looking for a more relaxed and coastal lifestyle. Algorta is a smaller town than Bilbao, but it still has a variety of amenities, including restaurants, cafes, shops, and schools.
Algorta is also home to a number of family-friendly attractions, such as the Bizkaia Bridge and the Ereaga Beach. There are also a number of parks and playgrounds throughout the town, as well as a variety of family-friendly restaurants and cafes.
There are a few coworking spaces in Algorta, but the town is also a great place to work remotely from a cafe or home office.
Tips for Living and Working in Bilbao and Algorta as a Digital Nomad with a Family
Here are a few tips for living and working in Bilbao and Algorta as a digital nomad with a family:
- Learn a few basic Basque phrases. The Basque language is spoken by many people in Bilbao and Algorta, and learning a few basic phrases will show that you are making an effort to integrate into the community. However, it is not an easy language to learn. Spanish is widely spoken in the region.
- Join a local expat or digital nomad community. There are a number of expat and digital nomad communities in Bilbao and surrounding Algorta. Joining one of these communities is a great way to meet other people, get advice, and find out about upcoming events.
- Take advantage of the free and family-friendly activities in the area. There are a number of free and family-friendly activities available in Bilbao and Algorta, such as visiting the parks, playgrounds, and museums.
- Make time for yourself and your family. It is important to make time for yourself and your family, even when you are working remotely. Be sure to take breaks throughout the day to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Bilbao and Algorta.