Basque Country’s vibrant capital is nestled between the mouth of the Bilbao river and the coastal mountains lining the Bay of Biscay. The world’s cosmopolitans, foodies, culture vultures and fashionistas all flock to the stunning city for a dose of Euskadi charm. Bilbao’s most iconic landmark is, without a doubt, the Guggenheim Museum.
The modern titanium building is as much a masterpiece as the contemporary art waiting inside, and you can spend hours lost in its compelling folds. The old is just as captivating as the new, and Bilbao is a city for wanderers. Small enough that you could easily walk its length in a single day – two, if you’re stopping for pintxos – walking is the best way to get to know the city.
The streets blend artisan boutiques, historic landmarks and old fashioned taverns with modern shops, contemporary buildings and fusion eateries. Lose yourself in the Old Town, Alde Zaharra in Basque, and you’ll find plenty of hidden gems in the narrow, winding streets. Head to lively Plaza Moyua and you can enjoy a nightlife offering that puts to shame the karaoke bars and foam parties of Spain’s livelier destinations.
Visit Bilbao in the late spring or early autumn for a pleasant climate. The weather is warm, but you won’t find the sweltering temperatures of the Mediterranean – nor the crowds.
Alde Zaharra is the Basque way of saying Old Town, and this picturesque maze of narrow streets lined by pretty buildings is one of the most charming. Stay here and you’ll not only feel the beating of Bilbao’s vibrant heart, you’ll be close to every one of its major attractions. It’s also a great place to start a pintxo route. Pintxos are the Euskadi version of tapas and are just as delicious – if not more – than the Spanish classic. Especially when you wash them down with a glass or two of txikiteo, Basque country’s very own white and rose wines.
The area around Plaza Moyua square is downtown, Bilbao. Like the Old Town, it’s central enough to walk to Bilbao’s main attractions, including the Guggenheim. Foodies and urbanites will especially enjoy staying in this area, which is home to the Chavarri Palace, one of Bilbao’s most stunning architectural feats dating all the way to the nineteenth century. It’s also a stone’s throw from the lively Abando districts, perfect for shopaholics.
Located just 12 kilometres west of Bilbao and nestling on the west side of the Bilbao river is Portugalete. The quaint coastal village is full of historic treasures, including the famous Bizkaia Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 19th century, the bridge connects Portugalete with the neighbour village of Getxo and has become the most important landmark in the village. It’s not the only one, and the winding, narrow streets of the Old Town are the place to go for more. Stay in Portugalete if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life – but want to be close enough to everything Bilbao has to offer.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Spanish city with more museums than Bilbao. Here you won’t find unending history lessons or boring art showcased in generic-looking buildings, but unique arts and culture centres as vibrant as the city. The Guggenheim is a must visit. The building is as compelling as the contemporary art exhibitions hosted inside. Other museums include the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts, where works by Picasso and Goya are displayed, the Maritime Museum and the Euskal Museum – perfect to learn about the city’s rich past.
Wander the streets
Bring your walking shoes and lose yourself in Bilbao’s vibrant streets. Grand open squares like Plaza Berria or Plaza Moyua are lined with cafés and bars – perfect for people watching and to experience a taste of local life. Continue your stroll and you’ll find many beautiful buildings, including the Bolsa de Bilbao, the Arriaga Theatre or the regal City Hall.
Shop at the Mercado de la Ribera
The Mercado de la Ribera market sometimes referred to as “la Plaza,” is a must during your city break in Bilbao. The indoor market is the biggest in Europe, and the building dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century. Open Monday to Sunday from 8 am until 2 pm, it’s the perfect place to sample some delicious local produce.
Enjoy panoramic views of the city
Take the Artxanda Funicular to the top of a hill a little outside the city and enjoy striking views of Bilbao’s stunning surroundings. The journey is just as worth as the panoramic views waiting when you get there, and you’ll definitely have plenty of opportunities to take some beautiful snaps to bring home.
Basque Country cuisine
Though Basque Country’s cuisine shares similarities with the rest of Spain, the region’s gastronomy is definitely unique. Here you’ll find pintxos instead of tapas and txikiteo instead of Rioja, and they won’t disappoint. Some of the best pintxos – which are very much like tapas but some would argue more delicious – include traditional eel, wild mushrooms in garlic, and anything featuring cod. The produce is some of the best in Spain, and it’s no surprise many of the greatest chefs in the world hail from this foodie region.
Bilbao’s vibrant restaurant scene will satisfy even the fussiest of eaters. Visit one of the many pintxos routes to experience the city’s gastronomy like a local, starting at Gure Toki in the Old Town – their award-winning pintxos are something else.
Bilbao is an urban delight surrounding by rugged greenery. An old city with a modern heart, it’s the perfect place for a cosmopolitan escape.
Booking your holiday to Bilbao with easyJet holidays is a great way to get to this top destination hassle-free. You’ll also get great deals when you book your flight and hotel together.
If Bilbao is not for you, check out more Spain destinations for something that suits you and you can get set to jet off somewhere special.