Bilbao’s calling card may be its futuristic Guggenheim art gallery, but when it comes to retail therapy the city has decided that looking back is the best way forward. This compact Spanish metropolis has become a surprising hotspot for vintage shopping and nostalgic eateries. Here are Bilbao’s top places to step back in time.

Flamingos and Baster

Buy clothes in bulk at Flamingos vintage store, which sells them by the kilo, then haul your gear to nearby Baster, a chic café with alfresco seating. Watch locals drift in and out of shops while you munch on dinky homemade quiches, pintxos and satisfyingly dense chocolate cake.

Sylvia Marqués
Sylvia Marqués in her shop / Image: Joseph Fox

Sylvia Marqués

This eponymous vintage emporium-cum-doll hospital is a model paradise. With its glass cabinets full of everything from original issue Barbies to wedding dresses and knitting bags, the city’s oldest vintage shop also specialises in repairing dolls or, as Sylvia says, "restoring dreams".

El Cinnamon

Immerse yourself in the whole vintage vibe by stopping at '70s-inspired El Cinnamon for its highly respected brunch. This retro-loving café’s menu has great Bloody Marys and coffee, and is the perfect place to lose yourself in a dusty old paperback. Find it at 3 Calle San Vincente.

Arizona Vintage

The brainchild of two twenty-something influencers, Arizona Vintage was opened in response to the appetite in Spain for retro and has become an empire, responsible for putting teens countrywide in varsity jackets and old Levi’s. It makes a perfect backdrop for photos of your haul.

Bar El Eme
Bar El Eme's sandwiches have achieved cult status / Image: Joseph Fox

Bar El Eme

The sandwiches at Bar El Eme have given this monochrome spot cult status in Bilbao. It was established in 1950 by Emeterio Serrano, whose secret sauce keeps the locals coming back to this family-run business. Make sure you order the famous Torres stack – an anchovy-filled flavour powerhouse.

Café Iruna

Founded in 1903, the gilded Café Iruna is designed in the Islamic architectural style more commonly found in southern Spain and was one of writer Ernest Hemingway’s favourite spots. From its vaulted ceilings, marble tables and vast mirrors to the intricately carved wooden archways and geometric tiles, this breathtakingly beautiful café aches with old-school glamour.


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