Bilbao is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city on the Bay of Biscay, with the most innovative restaurant scene in Western Europe. Even if you can't run to the exclusive Michelin star restaurants of the region, enjoy a pintxo crawl around Bilbao's version of the tapas bar. With cheap flights from London, it makes for a delcious city break.
Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) offers direct flights to Bilbao from London Stansted. Outward flights start from £26.99 and inward flights from £16.99. Even when you add on baggage charges and credit card surcharge, you should be able to snap up a round trip for around £75, and less if you just take hand baggage.
Pintxos are Bilbao's trademark bar snack, elevated into an art form in some establishments. They start with a base of toasted bread, and the toppings can be as simple as an anchovy or can reach the sort of elaboration that would make them worthy of a place in Bilbao's Guggenheim museum.
Unlike a tapas crawl, pintxos are often sampled in the daytime, in the afternoons at weekends. Start in the Casco Viejo, Bilbao's maze of old town streets, and wander where the locals are heading or where the pintxos look particularly alluring.
Irrintzi (www.irrintzi.es), in Calle Santa Maria, is at the cutting edge of pintxo preparation, coming up with creations like langoustine with sesame seeds and gazpacho, tuna with caramelized melon, and salmon and avocado.
For contrast visit the very traditional Victor Montes (www.victormontes.com) in the Plaza Nueva square, for a taste of old Bilbao service and a huge range of delicious pintxos.
Prices for pintxos range from 1.50 to 3 euros depending on the establishment, and occasionally more for very elaborate constructions. Wash them down with a small beer or cider or the very dry local Txacoli white wine
Pintxos become addictive, and you find yourself going back and ordering just one more. Don't be surprised if you find you are a little heavier on the return trip than when you boarded those cheap flights from London.