Bilbao travel guide

Bilbao Tourism | Bilbao Guide

You're Going to Love Bilbao

The largest city in Spain's Basque Country, Bilbao is a cultural magnet, attracting millions of art lovers to its galleries and museum. But it's more than that; with great food, sport and coastal attractions in the area, Bilbao rewards everyone who visits.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Bilbao

1. The Bilbao Guggenheim

Opened in 1997 and designed by superstar architect Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim is one of Europe's most spectacular galleries and is packed with modern and post-modern masterpieces.

2. Plenty of Other Museums and Galleries

A great complement to the Guggenheim, the Museum of Fine Arts houses a wonderful collection of pre-19th-century art, there's an engaging Basque Museum and an equally fascinating Archaeological Museum to explore.

3. The Beautiful Riverside Old Town

Central Bilbao (the "Casco Viejo") dates back over a thousand years. Don't miss churches like San Nicolás de Bari and the cafes and boutiques on the Siete Calles.

4. A Gorgeous 19th Century Cathedral

Another gem of the city's attractions is the Cathedral of Santiago, a key link on the pilgrimage route to Compostela. It's a stunning work with Gothic decorations and an astonishing feeling of peace and tranquility.

5. Lively Cultural Festivals

If you love rock music, July's BBK Live is one of Spain's biggest events, while the BAD dance and theater event in October is a showcase for the finest Basque talent.

What to do in Bilbao

1. Museo Guggenheim Bilbao: A Gallery Inside an Architectural Masterpiece

Designed by Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is itself a work of art. Established in 1997, the museum lies on the Nervion River and is a worthy addition to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation museums. The gallery houses a collection of modern art that includes masterworks by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Clyfford Still as well as contemporary pieces by Jenny Holzer, Francesco Clemente, Anselm Kiefer and Richard Serra.

2. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao: Travel Back to the Middle Ages

Located in the Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao -- The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum -- is the second-largest museum within the Basque Country and features an impressive collection of Basque, Spanish and European works ranging from the Middle Ages to the present. Highlights include masterpeices by El Greco, Goya, Van Dyck, Cranach, Murillo, Ruisdael and Bellotto as well as works by James Ensor, Henri Le Sidaner, Sorolla, Mary Cassatt, Peter Blake, Gauguin and Francis Bacon.

3. Euskal Museoa Bilbao Museo Vasco: Discover Prehistoric Treasures

Set in a 16th century convent, the Euskal Museoa Bilbao Museo Vasco focuses on life in the Basque Country with insight into Basque culture, history and farm and maritime life. With works dating back thousands of years to the Iron Age (including animal drawings as well prehistoric artifacts found at the Santimamiñe caves at Kortezubi), the museum also showcases scale models of the region dotted with its bugling mountains and the five peaks of Vizcaya, from where the general assemblies were called.

4. Museo de Arqueología: A History of the Sea and Land

Celebrates the history of the Basque region with two floors displaying prehistoric artifacts as well as contemporary pieces. Intended to preserve the archaeological finds of the Basque Country, the museum highlights fishing and pastoral culture, the steel and shipbuilding and traditional crafts such as pottery and weaving as well as kitchen utensils, keys, axes, iron wedges, coins and religious items.

5. Parque Casilda Iturrizar: An English Country Garden in Bilbao

Designed by Ricardo Bastida and Juan de Eguiraun in 1907, the Casilda Iturrizar Park, also known as Doña Casilda Park, is a stunning 100-year-old English-style garden housing a central pond with ducks, swans and peacocks as well as century-old trees. The park also features a pergola, which hosts live performances, a cybernetic fountain, which offers holiday sound and light shows, and an antique carousel. The Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao is located in the park.

1. Museo Guggenheim Bilbao: A Gallery Inside an Architectural Masterpiece

Designed by Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is itself a work of art. Established in 1997, the museum lies on the Nervion River and is a worthy addition to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation museums. The gallery houses a collection of modern art that includes masterworks by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Clyfford Still as well as contemporary pieces by Jenny Holzer, Francesco Clemente, Anselm Kiefer and Richard Serra.

2. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao: Travel Back to the Middle Ages

Located in the Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao -- The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum -- is the second-largest museum within the Basque Country and features an impressive collection of Basque, Spanish and European works ranging from the Middle Ages to the present. Highlights include masterpeices by El Greco, Goya, Van Dyck, Cranach, Murillo, Ruisdael and Bellotto as well as works by James Ensor, Henri Le Sidaner, Sorolla, Mary Cassatt, Peter Blake, Gauguin and Francis Bacon.

3. Euskal Museoa Bilbao Museo Vasco: Discover Prehistoric Treasures

Set in a 16th century convent, the Euskal Museoa Bilbao Museo Vasco focuses on life in the Basque Country with insight into Basque culture, history and farm and maritime life. With works dating back thousands of years to the Iron Age (including animal drawings as well prehistoric artifacts found at the Santimamiñe caves at Kortezubi), the museum also showcases scale models of the region dotted with its bugling mountains and the five peaks of Vizcaya, from where the general assemblies were called.

4. Museo de Arqueología: A History of the Sea and Land

Celebrates the history of the Basque region with two floors displaying prehistoric artifacts as well as contemporary pieces. Intended to preserve the archaeological finds of the Basque Country, the museum highlights fishing and pastoral culture, the steel and shipbuilding and traditional crafts such as pottery and weaving as well as kitchen utensils, keys, axes, iron wedges, coins and religious items.

5. Parque Casilda Iturrizar: An English Country Garden in Bilbao

Designed by Ricardo Bastida and Juan de Eguiraun in 1907, the Casilda Iturrizar Park, also known as Doña Casilda Park, is a stunning 100-year-old English-style garden housing a central pond with ducks, swans and peacocks as well as century-old trees. The park also features a pergola, which hosts live performances, a cybernetic fountain, which offers holiday sound and light shows, and an antique carousel. The Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao is located in the park.

Where to Eat in Bilbao

Bilbao has some of Spain's finest tapas restaurants, but standouts include the Michelin-starred Zortziko, Mandoya at the heart of the old town and Irrintzi, specialists in "pintxos" (tapas served skewered on a toothpick). Expect main meals to cost around EUR20-25 and tapas to cost EUR3-5 per portion.

When to visit Bilbao

Bilbao in February
Estimated hotel price
$67
1 night at 3-star hotel
Bilbao in February
Estimated hotel price
$67
1 night at 3-star hotel

Weather-wise, June and July are good times to go, with sunshine and warm weather almost guaranteed. You can see the sights (and perhaps avoid peak season crowds), while the beaches of San Sebastian are within reach as well.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Bilbao

Plane

Plenty of regional airlines fly into Bilbao Airport. From there, take Bizkaibus A3247 (EUR1.45, 25 minutes).

Train

Renfe trains run from Madrid and Barcelona. Fares from both cities range from EUR14-30.

Car

From Barcelona, take the AP-2, then the AP-68 at Zaragoza, before taking the AP-15 at Alfaro. From Madrid, take the E-5, the AP-1 and then the AP-68.

Bus

ALSA and PESA run intercity buses into Bilbao from San Sebastian, Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Burgos. Buses from Madrid take around 5 hours and cost EUR15.

Airports near Bilbao

Airlines serving Bilbao

Lufthansa
Good (1,376 reviews)
United Airlines
Good (2,465 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (3,901 reviews)
KLM
Good (292 reviews)
Air France
Good (298 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,074 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,656 reviews)
British Airways
Good (938 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (357 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (930 reviews)
Iberia
Good (667 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (640 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (196 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (370 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (74 reviews)
Ryanair
Good (1,167 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (306 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (201 reviews)
Finnair
Good (450 reviews)
Vueling
Good (263 reviews)
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Where to stay in Bilbao

The Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao is a great option near the Guggenheim. The Hotel NH Collection Villa de Bilbao is a good city center upscale alternative and the Meliá Bilbao is another comfortable luxury option.

Popular neighbourhoods in Bilbao

Casco Viejo - Bilbao's oldest neighborhood, Casco Viejo is utterly charming, featuring attractions like the cathedral and hundreds of cafes, restaurants and stores.

Indautxu - The city's liveliest neighborhood Indautxu is crammed with bars and clubs and is also home to Athletic Bilbao, one of Spain's biggest soccer teams.

Deusto - One of the best places in town to try Basque tapas, Deusto is home to gourmet eateries like Antioqueño and La Gabarra as well as thousands of students.

Where to stay in popular areas of Bilbao

Most booked hotels in Bilbao

Hotel Gran Bilbao
Excellent (8.7, Excellent reviews)
$100+
Pension Arriaga
Excellent (8.7, Excellent reviews)
$106+
Hotel Melia Bilbao
Excellent (8.5, Excellent reviews)
$209+
NH La Avanzada
Excellent (8.2, Excellent reviews)
$134+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Bilbao

Public Transportation

Bilbao has a subway, buses, trams and regional trains. Single journeys cost EUR1.20 minimum and you can save money by purchasing a rechargeable Barik Card.

Taxi

Taxis in Bilbao charge a meter drop of EUR4, followed by around EUR3 for every subsequent mile.

Car

Car rental options in town include Thrifty, Avis and Budget, with rates starting at around EUR15 per day.

Car hire agencies in Bilbao

Hertz

Hertz
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The Cost of Living in Bilbao

Shopping Streets

Gran Via and the Plaza Federico Moyua are the city's main shopping areas, where you'll find elite apparel stores like Max Mara or Carolina Herrera and plenty of international chains.

Groceries and Other

Supermarkets include BM Supermercados and Opencor, where you can expect to spend around EUR3.30 on a gallon of milk.

Cheap meal
$20.76
A pair of jeans
$133.61
Single public transport ticket
$2.51
Cappuccino
$2.65