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.
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.
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.
(Editor Update 2020)
- 1 Where is Bilbao
- 2 Bilbao Spain Map
- 3 Things to do in Bilbao
- 3.1 Eat Pintxos in Bilbao
- 3.2 Casco Viejo
- 3.3 La Ribera Municipal Market
- 3.4 Are You A Game of Thrones Fan?
- 3.5 Gothic Santiago Cathedral
- 3.6 Plaza Nueva
- 3.7 Bilbao Museum of Archaeology
- 3.8 Iglesia de San Nicolas
- 4 Free Things to do in Bilbao Spain
- 5 Airbnb Bilbao
- 6 Best Restaurants in Bilbao
- 7 Restaurants near the Guggenheim Museum
- 8 Our articles to inspire your travels around Spain:
- 9 Bilbao Weather
- 10 Time in Bilbao
- 11 Getting In
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We did not do enough Txikiteo (bar-hopping to taste all the wines on offer).
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.”.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
The Flower Market is located at the Arsenal and is open on Sundays from 9.00 am to 2.00 pm.
The Maritime Museum
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
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.
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
“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
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
For more options of the best hotels in Bilbao Spain:
Hotel Miro: Alameda Mazarredo 77, Bilbao
Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao: Alameda de Mazarredo 61, Bilbao
Melia Bilbao: Lehendakari Leizaola 29, Bilbao
Hotel Bilbao Plaza: Paseo Campo Volantin 1 Bilbao
Airbnb Bilbao has a large range of accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes.
If you have not booked an Airbnb property before we have a special $$$ discount voucher for you to use.
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:
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:
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.
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
For the latest flight deals compare prices on Skyscanner here:
Travelling from the USA – click here
Travelling from the UK – click here
Travelling from Australia – click here
Travelling from the rest of the world – click here
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.
If you are based in Australia click here for details.
If you are based outside of Australia click here for details.
Did you know that you can take our article with you while you are walking around Bilbao?
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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’.