By Laila Lange (2021-23, Groningen and Bilbao)

City Lifestyle: Sporting in Bilbao

For many students, sports are an essential part of student life. Besides the positive effect on the overall health and wellbeing of the students, participation in sports activities has been researched to positively affect the academic performance of students, as well as broaden the social ties to fellow students. Whereas some studies concluded that there is a relationship between violence, alcohol consumption and sports participation, the overall importance of university sports should not be underestimated.

Although all universities in the Euroculture network offer some sort of sports activities, the support of the universities in promoting physical activities among the students differ greatly. In the Netherlands, for example, 65% of all university students participate in university sports and this trend is observable in Groningen: For many students in Groningen, student life is connected to sports associations from the university. The ACLO – Academische Centrale voor Lichamelijke Opvoeding, translated the academic centre for physical education – is part of the University Groningen, used by around 19.000 students and encompasses 51 student sports associations, ranging from scuba diving, rowing, dancing, underwater hockey, kickboxing, fencing, e-games, survival run, horse riding to all ball sports one can imagine. Sports associations, and the social activities around the sport, are a lively part of student life in the Netherlands, foremost because it’s affordable for students and heavily promoted by the university. The situation in Bilbao, at the University Deusto, is quite different.

Sporting in other Euroculture cities, such as Groningen:

Concerning sports, the University Deusto has a website as well as a dedicated office in their main building. Whereas the university sends an email informing the exchange students about sports facilities and university teams, the sports teams are not as easily accessible as in, for example, the Netherlands. The university has its own gym and contracts with local gyms, in order to provide the students with discounts. Moreover, on its website the university names several sports clubs, such as basketball, judo or rowing, however, these are not solely student clubs and not necessarily located in the city. In comparison to other Euroculture cities, such as Groningen, the offer from the university is not diverse, not specifically fostering student networks and relatively expensive. One reason probably is that with 10.880 students, the private university in Bilbao is three times smaller than the University Groningen (36.420) and, therefore, is more dependent on local sports facilities. No matter the reasons, sports are an essential part of many (Euroculture) students’ lives and students should not be deprived of this part of their life due to the city they live in.

Openly accessible sports facilities in the city of Bilbao

In comparison to other cities, Bilbao has many sports facilities on the streets and parks. For anyone going on walks or runs in the city, this is quickly observable. Partly due to the warm/mild weather in Bilbao, there are not only uncountable playgrounds and basketball/football fields but also sporting facilities for elderlies. These facilities are widely used and are a reason, why Bilbao is such a lively city on sunny days.

Sporting facilities for the elderly close to Ribera de Botica Vieja, 5 meters from the Estuary of Bilbao.

Even though sporting without a group may cost self-motivation and doesn’t foster socialisation with other students, it’s a good way of getting to know the city better while staying fit. The two following options may be interesting for enthusiast runners, people aiming at improving their fitness or anyone interested in inspiration for new walking routes.

Calisthenics parks

Calisthenics parks are outdoor fitness training areas/outdoor gyms and “most are free to use by the public. Calisthenics parks have equipment like pull-up bars, monkey bars, parallel bars, (…).”. These types of sporting facilities can be found all around the city and are often a meeting point for motivated athletes. Often located close to parks or walking routes, they can be utilised by everybody, notwithstanding the level of fitness. As said before, these parks are located nicely in the city centre and often offer an amazing view.

Park Number 1: Located in the Etxebarria Parkea, the training in the park can be combined with a run in the park and, above all, some altitude training. The Park is relatively big and can be used for a diverse training.

Sporting facilities for the elderly close to Ribera de Botica Vieja, 5 meters from the Estuary of Bilbao.

Park Number 2: Located just a few meters away from the river, this relatively small park is ideal for some warming up before a run. While warming up or doing exercises here, the view has to be appreciated, since it has a pretty view onto the Guggenheim Museum on the other side of the road. With its location next to a playground and in the middle of trees, the park is often occupied by kids or other pedestrians.

Park Number 3: Located in the Casilda Iturrizar Parkea, in an area with many green spaces, there are many opportunities to combine the training at this park with a run or exercises in the park. The park has multiple ponds and water dispensers, ideal for a good training.

Park Number 4: Located close to the river, the park is a good training spot after a run along the river. Despite it not being a calisthenics park per se, but rather a mix between a playground and a park, the equipment can still be used for a good training, with the advantage of a large roof and a rubber floor. Especially on rainy days, it’s occupied by many motivated athletes.

Running Routes

Bilbao is a city surrounded by mountains and hills, making the city hilly and not ideal for running. However, along the river, there are wide pedestrian paths and green areas, making it an ideal spot for runners, who do not want to conquer many altitude meters. Another advantage is that the paths are on both sides of the river and multiple benches and stairs (leading up to bridges) allow for a dynamic training or a good stretch. A possible route starting in Casco Viejo is going on the one side till the end of the pedestrian path, then going back on the same side, crossing the river on the bridge leading to the University Deusto, from there to the Stadium and back, and then walking back to Casco Viejo on the other side of the river. Together, this route is 9 km but can, of course, be shortened or extended at will.

If one does want to train one’s altitude running, there are multiple possibilities, such as the Etxebarria Parkea close to Casco Viejo. Surrounding the park takes 2 km, and there are various ways to extend the route by running in the park. A major advantage of running in the park is the beautiful view over the city.

A last interesting route is a 5.7km-route from Casco Viejo to the Europa Parkea and back. Here, the way to the park is along streets and not the river, however, this route lets one discover another part of Bilbao which is not located directly in the city centre. If one wants to extend this route, again there are multiple ways to do so by walking different routes in the park itself.

Of course, there are plenty of more good routes to run or walk in Bilbao. Nonetheless, these three can be recommended due to their easiness to remember – allowing to run without a phone – and their interesting views.

Hopefully, these ideas can give the (Euroculture) students some inspiration and motivation to start/continue running or walking in Bilbao. If someone has suggestions or tips for sports in Bilbao, don’t hesitate to share them with the rest of the Euroculture community!

Picture credits: Laila Lange and Jorge Fernández Salaz

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