Bilbao – the most interesting sights, things to see and do!
A few things to do in Bilbao, Spain
Located on the northern coast of Spain, Bilbao is an epic city to visit if you’re traveling through the Basque Country. It is one of those cities that seems to become even more popular with each new visit. In addition, there are so many new and interesting places in Bilbao every month that each visit is completely different.
Bilbao has a great historic center and old city charm, but it also has the energy of a young city, which makes it such an interesting place to explore.
That’s why I want to show you a few of my favorite things to do in Bilbao on your next trip there. Just don’t forget to bring elastic pants for all the pinchos (a small sandwich, a light snack served in bars in Spain with beer or red wine – author’s note) that you’ll devour.
Our impromptu map with a few photos will help you get to know the city better:
So, Bilbao, landmarks, Spain.
Built about 20 years ago, the Guggenheim Museum is not only one of the best attractions in Bilbao, but also one of the most iconic buildings in the Basque Country.
Not only does the Guggenheim house one of the best collections of contemporary art in Europe, but the building itself is an incredible work of art. Honestly, it’s too beautiful to miss. No matter how many times I visit Bilbao, I always have to see the Guggenheim before we leave.
Once you’re here, be sure to check out the Jeff Koons Tulips (outside) and the huge Jeff Koons Puppy that sits proudly at the entrance.
Afterwards, stop by the Nerua Guggenheim Bilbao Diner for some of the most delicious food.
Yes, it’s a little more expensive than most restaurants in the city, but the food is incredible and worth the price of admission. We really liked it here.
By the way, according to statistics, every third tourist sooner or later is thinking about buying an apartment in Bilbao, but we recommend you to stay in this city first (since you liked it so much), as the locals say, to rent. Learn what the weather is like here, not from websites, photos or videos on the internet, but in person.
If you want a little break from city life, head to the beautiful coast around San Juan de Gastelugatxe. It’s about a 50-minute drive from downtown Bilbao, but it’s worth the trip if you want to see the stunning Bay of Biscay.
On a small island (connected by a bridge to the mainland) is a small house that served as a hermitage back in the 9th or 10th century. To get here, you have to climb a few hundred steps, but it’s worth it.
More recently, Gastelugatxe was filmed as Dragonstone in Game of Thrones (in season seven, I’m told). Oh, and don’t forget to ring the bell three times once you’re on the island and make a wish. I still don’t understand why they do it all, but hopefully my wishes will come true!
Txikiteo and Pintxos
There’s no denying that I’m a real foodie when I travel. I love to try everything. And you know what, the Basque Country is one of those places where you can literally eat your fill day and night.
Once you’re here, be sure to head out for a Txikitear night, which is literally a huge attraction here. Basically, it consists of visiting local Bilbao bars and drinking a small glass of wine (txikitos) with a few pinchos. You’ll end the evening satiated and maybe a little fun!
So, if you use phrases like “what to eat”, “where to eat”, “traditional dishes of Bilbao Spain” in addition to the query “Bilbao what to see” – you’ll understand me!
Casco Viejo, or Old Town, consists of the quaint and utterly original seven streets that housed the medieval city. Today, this is one of the places to visit in Bilbao if you want to see a little slice of old Bilbao and get to know the historic Basque buildings.
After a short walk, if you’re feeling a little hungry, stop by one of the cute taverns and try the pinchos. They’re a bit like tapas, but more bread-like (although that’s a very simplistic way to describe them).
The Arriaga Theater is located next to the bridge that connects Casco Viejo to the Ensanche neighborhood. It is the oldest theater in the city, named after local composer Juan Crisostomo Arriaga, who died at the age of 19 and has been called the “Spanish Mozart.”
The theater still has its original furniture and equipment from the 19th century, making you feel like you’re back in time. The theater is still in use today, so you really should go and see the local culture.
El Ensanche district
The El Ensanche neighborhood is the beating heart of Bilbao and a great place to eat and shop. Walking around this neighborhood, you’ll find many bars and restaurants in small streets that branch off from the main boulevard, Gran Via Don Diego Lopez de Haro. Don’t worry, you won’t have to remember the long name, it is known as Gran Via.
Once you’re here, be sure to make a reservation at La Vina del Ensanche to try their tasting menu. The fried cod fillet is delicious!
La Ribera Market
La Ribera Market is located in the southern part of the old town and is the largest covered market in Europe. The market has been there since the 14th century, although the building in use today was not built until 1929.
If you want to try the local cuisine (honestly, you should have lunch here), go to one of the many stalls that call this market their home. You’ll walk away satisfied…
Alondiga is another of Bilbao’s most iconic buildings. A former wine warehouse, today it’s a place where you can see exhibitions, theater performances, or just have lunch.
If you feel like grabbing a bite to eat, check out the Yandiola restaurant, which serves only locally sourced food. It’s a real tasty trip into Basque cuisine.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts or Bellas Artes is one of the best Spanish museums and definitely one of the best things to do in Bilbao if you’re an art lover!
With a fairly extensive collection of more than 10,000 works of art, you’ll need quite a bit of time to see everything, and there really is a lot to see. However, it’s all about prioritizing, so do your research and make sure you focus on the main galleries you want to see.
After strolling through the museum, take a stroll through Don Casilda Park and work up an appetite to visit Batzoki de Abando Restaurant. The restaurant is just a short walk from the museum and has an excellent selection of local wines and Txakoli. Even better, the prices here are also quite decent.
Located in the hills overlooking the city, Begona Basilica is one of the best attractions in Bilbao to see some of its beautiful buildings. The basilica itself took over 100 years to build (back in the 16th century), but it’s worth the wait… The basilica is stunning.
There are several key festivals throughout the year in honor of the Virgin of Begona, so plan your visit for August 15 or October 11 to see them. However, if you’re not particularly “into it,” I’d suggest just stopping by the church to see it itself.
The Artxanda Lookout is the name of the hill that offers a great view of the city, and one of the best places to view Bilbao.
On our last visit, I was told that the locals sometimes call Bilbao “botxo” or “hole” in English. This is supposedly due to the city’s location between the mountains (surrounded by hills), and the Artxanda Lookout is one of the best places to see.
You can climb to the top on foot or take the cable car (like me) from Funicular Square. It’s a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, especially at sunset.
Best 10 things to do in Bilbao, Spain
Best 10 things to do in Bilbao, Spain
Video: 10 things to do in Bilbao / Where to go, what to see? ? Spain 2022, September.
Over the past 20 years, the Basque city of Bilbao has become a major center for art, architecture and design and is home to many museums, galleries and architectural wonders. Here are a few of our favorite things to do in the city.
Admire in the works at the Guggenheim Museum
When it opened in 1997, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao definitely put the industrial northern Spanish city on the map. Housed in an interesting metal ship building designed by Frank Gehry, the museum features works by artists such as Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Eduardo Chillida, Yves Klein and Ansel Kiefer. Many of the larger works are also displayed outside in what is known as the “Art District.”
Eat your way through the city’s pintxos bars
The Basque Country, of course, is well known for its pintxos bites – small pieces of bread topped with all the local ingredients, from meat and seafood to vegetables and cheese. Bilbao, as well as San Sebastian and Vitoria Gastais, are home to some of the best pinto bars in the country, so make sure you check them out while you’re here. Check out our guide for some of the best spots.
Wander the streets of Casco Viejo
Bilbao’s Old Town, known as Casco Viejo, is an interesting place to explore, full of narrow winding streets, colorful architecture and an interesting array of stores and bars. Some of the main attractions of the Old City include the Catedral de Santiago de Bilbao, the Archaeological Museum, Plaza Nueva and the churches of San Nicolás and San Antón.
Browsing the stalls at La Ribera market
The famous La Ribera market is located on the edge of Casco Viejo, next to the river, and is a good place to explore the famous food in Bilbao, as well as pick up some local products to take home. The market is located in a historic building designed by Pedro Espizua and built in 1929 on the site of an old market dating back to the 14th century. Here you will find not only stalls, but also bars, restaurants and live music venues, making it a great place for a lively night out. Covering more than 10,000 m 2 , it is the largest covered market in Europe.
Visit the collection at the Museo Bellas Artes
The Museo Bellas Artes or Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most important fine art collections in the Basque Country and has been open since 1914. The collection includes works from the 12th century to the modern day, as well as artists such as Francisco de Goya, El Greco, Paul Gauguin, Francis Bacon and Eduardo Cillida.
Take a boat ride on the Ria de Bilbao
One of the best ways to explore the city of Bilbao is by boat, along the Ria del Nervión or Bilbao, as many of the main attractions are along its shores. Take a walk with Bilboats to see places like the Guggenheim Museum, the Ribera Market, the historic Arenal Bilbao Hotel and the Ayuntamiento (City Hall).
Drive to the top of Mount Archanda for fantastic views of the city
If you’re a fan of breathtaking city panoramas, take a ride to the top of Mount Archanda on the old funicular cable car built back in 1915. At the top, you’ll find not only stunning vistas, but also beautiful paths and plenty of great restaurants.
Check out the Cathedral de Bilbao
The Cathedral of Santiago de Bilbao is located in the center of the Casco Viejo neighborhood and is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Dedicated to the Apostle St. James, it was built in the 15th century and has a Gothic style. The cathedral also has two porticos, one Renaissance and one Neoclassical.
Explore the projects at Azkuna Zentroa
Azkuna Zentroa, formerly called Alhóndiga, is a cultural and entertainment center housed in the city’s old wine exchange. The modernist building was redesigned by French designer Philippe Starck and now rests on 43 unique pillars or columns – each a stunning piece of art. Even if you don’t see the exhibition or exhibit here, it’s worth taking a tour to look around.
A stop for a drink at the atmospheric Plaza Nueva
Located in the heart of Casco Viejo, Plaza Nueva is home to several cafes, bars and restaurants. Built in the 19th century, it was built in 1851 and is surrounded by elegant neoclassical portico arches and arcades. On Sundays, locals come here to buy and sell collectibles and antiques.