Holidays in
Bilbao

A brilliant Basque city

Bilbao city breaks are a visual treat before you even get started on the many attractions available. Set among lush green hills just south of the Bay of Biscay, the city has pretty parks, plazas and promenades and a railway station with a stunning Art Nouveau façade. It also features an impressive urban centre that has been blessed over the past couple of decades with shiny new structures from architectural rock stars, like Frank Gehry, Norman Foster and Philippe Starck.

The food scene is every bit as appealing. The largest city in the Basque Country, Bilbao is a mere stone’s throw from the coast, so the region’s take on Spanish tapas, known as ‘pintxos’, includes plenty of fresh seafood. A pintxos bar crawl, hopping between venues snacking on a variety of these bite-sized morsels, is known as ‘txikiteo’ and is a brilliant way to start an evening. If you’re down for getting lively with the locals, there’s no shortage of banging bars, as well as a few very respectable music venues.

There’s also a great selection of beaches – Las Arenas, Getxo, Plentzia – that are all handily within the metropolitan area. For a city break with a difference, Bilbao’s beautiful buildings, bars and beaches are just a few reasons to give this buzzing Basque favourite a try.

Three tips for a top trip

The metro is a mustNorman Foster, no less, designed the curvaceous entrances to Bilbao Metro. The lines run all the way to the beaches outside the city, and they also run all night on Saturdays.
Time your bites rightWhile similar to tapas, pintxos are more of a lunchtime or pre-dinner snack – tapas is an evening main meal. Don't get confused and over-order.
Grab a market bargainEven the locals’ second-hand clothes are stylish. Snap up their cast-off gems at the monthly El Rastro Dos de Mayo flea market, complete with live music and craft stalls.

Best attractions to see in Bilbao

Mercado de la Ribera

This extremely pretty, giant riverside market is an Art Deco landmark. It’s also where the local Michelin-starred chefs go to grab their daily veg, meat and inspiration.

Artxanda viewpoint

Climb – or ride the more relaxing funicular – up to this lofty vantage point for spectacular views across the city, where you can see terracotta roofscapes ringed by distant mountains.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

This crazy hunk of glass and stone, dressed up in titanium scales, dominates the skyline of Bilbao and houses important works by artists Jeff Koons and Richard Serra.

Your Bilbao questions, answered

Quite possibly. Unusually for Spain, Bilbao gets 128 soggy days on average each year. Locals are well prepared and there’s loads to do indoors. ‘Pintxos’, anyone?

Football. Uniquely, local side Athletic Bilbao only hires and fields players from the Basque region, so they only play for love and not just big money. Result.

Try Bilborock. It’s a 500-capacity music venue in a handsome converted 17th-century church. It also hosts film screenings, art installations and dance workshops.