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A Weekend in Bilbao Spain

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.

(Editor Update 2021)

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 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.

To Travel Too Tip

The Guggenheim Museum is one of the top things to do and see in Bilbao.

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

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

Bilbao Spain We will return

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

Bilbao Spain
One of the many Pintxos dishes you can expect

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. You can even take a Basque cooking class

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.

Bilbao Spain we will return
Loved this bar in the Old Quarter – K2 Bilbao

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.

Bilbao Spain
Siete Calles in Old Quarter

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.

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

Bilbao Spain
Bar hopping

We did not do enough Txikiteo (bar-hopping to taste all the wines on offer).

La Ribera Municipal Market

La Ribera Market Bilbao Spain
Enjoying a glass of wine and pintxo

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.”.

Book your tour here


Gothic Santiago Cathedral

Bilbao Spain
Cathedral in Bilbao

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

Bilbao Spain
Plaza Nueva

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

Bilbao Spain
Iglesia de San Nicolas

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 in Bilbao Spain

Visit La Ribera Market

Our favourite market that 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 vary from Summer to Winter – click here to check opening times.

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.

Alhóndiga Bilbao

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.

Do It Yourself Walking Tour

Bilbao Turismo has 3 walking tours that you can do yourself:

  • Old Quarter (Casco Viejo)
  • The Ensanche of Bilbao – a route through the new districts of Bilbao
  • Aband0 – across the River to the Left Bank

If you are interested in a tour that is organised by a local around Bilbao click here.

“Transform your way of discovering Bilbao with a customized guided tour. This is as much about the people you meet as the places you see. Make your time in Bilbao more memorable as you get to know the city and experience it as a local does.” from Get Your Guide.

More things to do in Bilbao

  • Climbing 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

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. The Hotel Gran Bilbao is located about a 10-minute walk from the centre of Bilbao.

Sercotel Hotel Gran Bilbao: Calle Indalecio Prieto 1, Bilbao

Bilbao Spain


For more options of the best hotels in Bilbao Spain:

Hotel Miro: Alameda Mazarredo 77, Bilbao

Bilbao Spain

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao: Alameda de Mazarredo 61, Bilbao

Bilbao Spain


Melia Bilbao: Lehendakari Leizaola 29, Bilbao

Bilbao Spain


Hotel Bilbao Plaza: Paseo Campo Volantin 1 Bilbao

Bilbao Spain

Best Restaurants in Bilbao

For the top 5 restaurants in Bilbao we checked with Tripadvisor Bilbao for the latest reviews:

Casa Leotta: Juan De Ajuriaguerra 14, Bilbao

Blueizar: Calle Colon de Larreategui 9, Bilbao

Nido Bilbao: Calle Barroeta Aldamar 3, Bilbao

ad hoc Cascanueces: Heros 21 Bajo, Bilbao

Arandia de Julen: Encarnacion 10, Bilbao

For more details on the best restaurants in Bilbao click our link below:

Bilbao Spain




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

Bilbao Weather

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 

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 who then directs you to the airline’s website with no extra fees to pay.

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.


Travel Insurance

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.

If you are based in Australia click here for details.

If you are based outside of Australia click below for details.

Did you know that you can take our article with you while you are walking around Bilbao?



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Bilbao Spain


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Thanks for stopping by and welcome to To Travel Too – Australia’s top Baby Boomer lifestyle and travel blog, with an international worldwide audience in mind, run by the married couple, freelance writers and full-time travellers Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith. Come with us as we explore the world. Our two mantras that we live by are 'chase time not money' and 'age is no barrier when it comes to travel'.

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