Bilbao Spain! You surprised us! We loved wandering the old town, finding interesting architecture and searching out your amazing Tapas Bars. You will be surprised as well when you visit Bilbao.
Up until 1992, Bilbao was a polluted industrial city in decline and today it has been heralded as one of Europe’s best-known success stories – a vibrant colourful city that you want to spend time in discovering its charms.
Spain is the perfect winter destination for visitors who can enjoy the warmth of the coastal cities or head inland to experience Spain’s winter sports destination.
Our Bilbao City Guide will show you how best to spend a weekend in Bilbao, you may even want to extend once you arrive, we wish we had.
Are you a first-time visitor to Spain or are you a returning traveller? It is definitely worth arming yourself with the latest Spain travel information to assist in planning your visit in advance e.g. when to go, how to travel around, where to visit and more.
The Guggenheim Museum is one of the top things to include in your Bilbao itinerary.
Guggenheim Hours: 10.00 am to 8.00 pm.
“Embark on a 2-hour tour of the collections and learn about the history of the Guggenheim Museum. Admire the work of many postmodern artists and enjoy the magnificent architecture of the Frank Gehry-designed building. Benefit from skip-the-line access.”. This tour is available from Get Your Guide. Book your tour here.
Where is Bilbao Spain
Bilbao is located in Northern Spain in the Basque Country 16 km south of the Bay of Biscay.
Bilbao is located 398 km from Madrid, the capital of Spain and 102 km from San Sebastian.
Bilbao Spain Map
Things to do in Bilbao
Although we were there for 2 full days before embarking on a Repositioning Cruise to Panama we missed out on seeing a lot of Bilbao due to very wet weather. We had fallen in love with Spain and had fallen in love with many of the cities that we travelled to e.g. Valencia, Granada, Seville and Barcelona.
Eat Pintxos in Bilbao
A Basque tradition that should not be missed. Pintxos is different to the tapas that you can enjoy throughout the rest of Spain. Pintxos are different layers of food held together with a toothpick which you are charged by the number of toothpicks left on your plate. Throughout Bilbao, there are many bars offering Pintxos as a little something to eat between glasses of wine or beer.
San Sebastian (102 km away) is also on our travel list for Pintxos, such a range of bars and establishments to enjoy this unique Spanish Basque tradition.
Our recommended Pintxos Bar – for the vibe and good beer and Pintxos – K2 Bar, Calle Somera 10
K2 was one of the first Pintxos bars that we found in Bilbao. It was so good and with such a good range of Pintxos to choose from, we returned the next night.
Casco Viejo Bilbao
Since 1300 Casco Viejo has been the commercial hub of the city. Nowadays there are over 400 shops, 200 hotels and the gastronomic La Ribera Municipal Market.
The Siete Calles (7 streets) which make up Casco Viejo; Somera, Artekale, Tenderia, Belostikale, Carniceria Vieja, Barrenkale and Barrenkale Barrena are a maze of squares and alleyways with 3 different styles of architecture – Baroque, Neoclassical and Art Nouveau which all make up the heart of the Old City.
If you have more than 2 days in Bilbao you should consider taking a tour of the Old Town.
Get Your Guide has an Old Town Walking Tour: Streets, houses, a town tucked behind a defensive wall, whose gates can still be seen today with a handful of conserved details. Discover the legends that are told in the Old Town and meet the founder of Seven Streets. Book your tour here
We did not do enough Txikiteo (bar-hopping to taste all the wines on offer).
La Ribera Municipal Market
The largest covered area of any market in Europe. Small bars mingled with fruit and vegetable, fish, meat and cheese stalls. Enjoy Pintxos with the locals at lunchtime but get there early to get a seat. There are so many choices of Pintxox and wines, you may have to just visit more than once!
Are You A Game of Thrones Fan?
Get Your Guide offers the following tour “Discover the most spectacular filming locations from Season 7 of Game of Thrones during a guided tour from Bilbao. Visit Dragonstone and King’s Landing and learn everything about the sites and the filming process of this hit TV show.”.
Gothic Santiago Cathedral
This 15th-century Cathedral is on the Santiago Pilgrimage Northern Coastal Route and is dedicated to St James the Apostle the patron Saint of Bilbao. After a decade of extensive renovations, it was reopened in 2000.
Plaza Nueva Bilbao
Built in 1821 in Neoclassical style the Plaza is the meeting place of locals and travellers alike. You will be spoilt for choice for Pintxos Bars and Restaurants that line the Plaza. On Sundays, there is a flea market where you can wander around coin, stamps, books, birds and flower stalls. The city council has provided a free wifi zone for the Plaza.
Bilbao Museum of Archaeology
Visit exhibitions of human occupation dating back more than 100,000 years ago. The Bilbao Museum opened in its current location in 2008 to connect Bilbao’s past with Bilbao’s society of today.
Iglesia de San Nicolas Bilbao
A Baroque Church located in Plaza de San Nicolas which was constructed in 1756. A church with a history and a few closures. The first closure was during the War of Independence, it was struck by lightning in 1816 and then was used as a Military Warehouse during the Carlist Wars.
Free Things to do on a Bilbao Weekend
Our favourite market is open from:
- Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 2:30 pm
- Friday 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
- Saturday 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
The Flower Market of Bilbao
The Flower Market is located at the Arsenal and is open on Sundays from 9.00 am to 2.00 pm.
The Maritime Museum of Bilbao
The Maritime Museum is free to enter every Tuesday from September to June.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 11:00 – 19:00 · Monday: Closed …
Address: Ramón de la Sota Kaia, 1, 48011 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain
The Museum of Fine Arts Bilbao
The Museum of Fine Arts is free on Wednesdays. There are over 8000 works of art to see from artists such as Chillida, Soroya, Goya, El Greco and also Van Dyck, Tapies and Bacon.
Address: Museo Plaza, 2, 48009 Bilbo
The old wine centre is free to visit. It has been turned into a centre of activities. Inside there are 43 columns which represent culture, wars, architectural styles and religion.
Address: Arriquíbar Plaza, 4, 48010 Bilbo
More things to do in Bilbao
- Climb the 311 steps to the Calzadas de Mallona from Plaza Unamuno
- The Artxanda Funicular Railway for panoramic views over the city
- The romantic and elegant gardens along the Paseo del Arenal
Accommodation in Bilbao – Bilbao Hotels
If you are visiting Bilbao to embark on a cruise or to visit the stunning Basque Region the Hotel Gran Bilbao is a well-located, 4-star hotel situated a ten-minute walk from Historico Centre. We enjoyed our 3-night stay in one of the largest hotel rooms in Bilbao and enjoyed a scrumptious buffet breakfast.
With direct access from the A8 Motorway, the hotel is only a 15-minute drive from Bilbao Ferry Port. Buses to the city centre stop outside the hotel, and Atxuri Tram station is just 750 m away.
Guest review: Very easy online check-in and app-based keys saves time. Easy to find, safe parking and very comfortable spacious rooms. Breakfast was great with some unusual healthy options as well as a great variety of more traditional breakfast options.
Sercotel Hotel Gran Bilbao: Calle Indalecio Prieto 1, Bilbao
More Bilbao Accommodation
Best Restaurants in Bilbao
For the top restaurants in Bilbao we checked with Tripadvisor Bilbao for the latest reviews:
Casa Leotta: Juan De Ajuriaguerra 14, Bilbao – great for pizza and Italian cuisine
Nido Bilbao: Calle Barroeta Aldamar 3, Bilbao – for delicious Basque food
ad hoc Cascanueces: Heros 21 Bajo, Bilbao – a must try is the dessert bowls
Arandia de Julen: Encarnacion 10, Bilbao – a traditional Basque restaurant
For more details on the best restaurants in Bilbao click our link below:
Restaurants near the Guggenheim Museum
Bistro – located at the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum at Abandoibarra Etorb 2
2 minutes from the Guggenheim Museum is Restaurant Porrue located at Alameda de Recalde 4.
Our articles to inspire your travels around Spain:
How to make the most of your visit to Granada
How to eat cheaply in Barcelona
Walking Tour of Triana in Seville
When is the best time to visit Bilbao? The hottest months are July, August and September which coincide with the busy tourist season. The months with the heaviest rainfall is in the Spring months of March and April. December and January are the coldest months.
Time in Bilbao
Time in Bilbao is GMT +1.
Getting In To Bilbao
You can pre-book a private transfer from the airport click here for more details.
If you are travelling from San Sebastian a private transfer is available click here for more details.
Flights are available to Bilbao from many European destinations. Skyscanner allows you to find the cheapest flights to Bilbao (from hundreds of airlines including Iberia, British Airways (BA), Lufthansa) without having to enter specific dates or even destinations, making it the best place to find cheap flights for your trip.
Flights to Bilbao
Find the cheapest flights with Skyscanner our go-to when researching and booking flights throughout the world.
Train Travel: If you are planning to travel Spain and Europe by train you may want to consider purchasing a Eurail Pass click here for prices.
A journey from Barcelona to Bilbao takes about 9 hours and goes via Madrid whereas Madrid to Bilbao takes anywhere between 5 hours and 8 hours depending on the time of the day.
Car Rental: Rental cars are available from the airport and city centre click here for latest deals.
Bus Travel: We have travelled all over Spain by bus and can recommend it.
The recommended time to take our travel insurance is when you pay for your flights, or pay a deposit on accommodation, cruises or tours. You are covered from that date if you need to cancel due to health reasons. Please read all policy guidelines carefully before committing to the policy and understand any pre-medical conditions that you may have and how it could affect claiming on your policy.
Did you know that you can take our article with you while you are walking around Bilbao?
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We hope you have enjoyed our Bilbao Travel Blog. We would love to hear from you if you have visited Bilbao to let us know what you enjoyed the most. Feel free to share our weekend in Bilbao article with family and friends.
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