As the largest city in the Basque Country, Bilbao is very modern but still retains its charm from the old quarters. Splendid architectural heritage and pioneering works have helped the Spanish city of Bilbao become a bright spot on the European tourist map! So, is Bilbao worth visiting, what to do in Bilbao and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Bilbao for the first-time? Let’s check out our Bilbao travel blog (Bilbao blog) with the fullest Bilbao travel guide (Bilbao guide) from how to get to Bilbao, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit, what to eat and top things to do in Bilbao to find out the answer!
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With nearly 1,000 years old of history has left Bilbao with many magnificent churches, universities and museums. The government cleverly exploits that strength with the most modern transport system in Europe: In addition to an international airport, from Bilbao, there are all kinds of transport system from metro, bus, railway… to going to other regions of Spain and neighboring countries.
Bilbao is one of the most popular tourist cities in Spain. Bilbao is bustling with a modern lifestyle but still retains its ancient, charming features with quaint neighborhoods and pioneering architectures that have helped this city become a bright spot on the European tourist map. If you are planning to visit this city, please refer to the Bilbao travel guide shared by Living Nomads in this article below.
Bilbao blog: Overview of Bilbao
Bilbao is an ancient and beautiful city located in the northern Spain. Bilbao is located right next to the river Nervion and is considered the most important industrial city of Spain. With a history of nearly 1000 years of establishment and development, Bilbao today is a modern city but still retains the ancient look with luxurious and modern buildings… Coming to Bilbao, you will have completely new experiences. It is unlike any other city in Europe.
Bilbao is a port city in northern Spain and the largest city in the Basque Country. Bilbao is located beside the river Nervion and is considered one of Spain’s most important industrial cities. With a history of nearly 1,000 years of establishment and development, Bilbao today is a mixture of ancient charm and ancient architecture with luxurious and modern buildings…
Along with peaceful natural landscapes, historical sites from the Middle Ages and Renaissance are the unique highlights when referring to Bilbao. Traveling to Bilbao, visitors will have to admire many stunning cultural spaces, splendid architectural heritages and have many completely new experiences.
Bilbao travel guide: When is the best time to visit?
Due to Bilbao located in the north, so it has quite pleasant weather and climate. Winter in Bilbao is not too cold and summer is not too hot. Therefore, you can visit Bilbao at any time of the year. However, the best time to visit this city is in August. This is the time when the weather is most pleasant. Especially, August is also the time when the vibrant Semana festival (Semana Grande de Bilbao), a major annual bullfighting event in Bilbao each August takes place, with many unique and appealing activities attracts a large number of visitors across Europe.
Spring (March-May) is quite humid but cool and pleasant, with an average temperature of about 25 degrees Celsius. This is the city’s second peak tourist season of the year, however if you plan to If you plan to travel to Bilbao in the spring, remember to bring a raincoat and umbrella!
Autumn (September-November) and winter (December-February) are not convenient for traveling to Bilbao because the weather is not favorable. However, at these two times, tourists will gradually decrease and services prices will decrease quite a bit.
Bilbao guide: How to get to Bilbao?
Currently, there are no direct flights to Bilbao from Vietnam. Therefore, you must first fly to Madrid or Barcelona, then choose to take a train or domestic flights to get to Bilbao. Some airlines operate this route such as: Vietnam Airlines, Qatar Airways, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, etc. Train fares from Madrid or Barcelona to Bilbao are quite cheap, only from €15.90 from Madrid and from €35.88 if you departing from Barcelona.
Bilbao International Airport (BIO) is located about 12 km from the city center, you can take a taxi and bus to getting to the center.
Bilbao travel blog: How to get around in the city of Bilbao
Bilbao is a city with a fairly modern and convenient public transport system. There are two metro lines in Bilbao and will take you to all the famous tourist attractions of the city. The single ticket price is only about €1.6/trip. In addition, if moving within the city in short distances, you can also go by bus Bilbobus for only about €1.3/trip.
Bilbao is not too large, so you can explore the city on foot, its tourist attractions are not far away each other.
Bilbao blog: Where to go, what to do in bilbao and top things to do in Bilbao
Address: Abandoibarra Etorb., 2, 48009 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain
The Guggenheim Museum (referred to as Gugg for short) is world famous for its past and modern interweaving harmoniously, this is the main attraction in Bilbao city, not only a mecca of world contemporary art, Gugg is also a Unique pioneering architecture and is the symbol of Bilbao, welcoming 1 million visitors each year.
A place that any visitor to Bilbao cannot ignore is the Guggenheim museum. This is a very popular museum and is considered one of the greatest architectural works of the 20th century. Art works on outdoor display in this area such as the giant Puppy made by flowers with 12m high, impressive big spider, La Salve red arc bridge… never without visitors. When night falls, Gugg’s giant steel petals create an extremely splendid sight…
The 50-meter-tall building, built between 1993 and 1997, is located on the banks of the tranquil Nervion River. The Guggenheim Museum impresses visitors with its unique spiral-shaped architecture in the styles of Deconstructivism, Contemporary architecture, Expressionist architecture, creating a visual impression that makes viewers have different feelings. Anyone who visits this museum must be in awe of its magnificence.
The outside work is covered with titanium, if you observe carefully, you will see the reflection of sunlight from different angles creating non-stop movements, extremely beautiful.
Casco Viejo Old Town
The next destination that you should not miss when coming to Bilbao is the old town of Casco Viejo. It is still considered one of the most charming old quarters in the world. It stretching from the San Anton bridge to the San Nicolas church. Casco Viejo Old Town consists of 7 interwoven streets. There are many cafes, restaurants, bars, churches here. Strolling around the old town and choose a restaurant, sip a cup of coffee and watch the peaceful scenery in the old town of Casco Viejo. You will feel like time is slowing down.
The must-visit places in this old town include the Paseo del Arenal arterial street, the Arriaga theater, the Santiago church and the new Plaza Nueva.
This is home to buildings, houses dating from 1849 – 1900 such as Arriaga theater, Florale palace, town hall, ancient churches on winding roads, in which Santiago Cathedral was built in the 14th century.
You can stroll along the narrow cobblestone lanes of Seven Streets on the banks of the Nervion River, one of the most famous neighborhoods of the old town, where many ancient architectures and craft workshops are concentrated.
At least 400 shops here will make you dizzy and will be a place for you to test your bargain ability! Near Seven Streets is the Ribera which is considered the largest covered market in Europe with colorful glass windows which also brings a lot of fun.
Especially you can walk on the narrow cobblestone alleys in Seven Streets area which is one of the most famous quarters of the old town where you can stroll on the narrow cobblestone lanes, visit many quaint architectures with craft workshops.
Basilica of Begoña
Address: Begoñako Andra Maria Kalea, 38, 48006 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain
Hours: 8:30AM–1:30PM, 5–8PM
For an ancient city like Bilbao, it is certainly indispensable for churches. One of the most beautiful and famous churches in Bilbao is the Begona Church. This church was built on a hill and is considered the most important religious building of the city. From the Begona church, visitors will have the opportunity to see the beautiful city of Bilbao from above.
The church is located on the highest hill in the Begoña district and was built in the 16th century in Gothic style. Inside the church is kept a painting of Saint Begoña – the patroness of the city. The Basilica is the site of Bilbao’s once-yearly celebration dedicated to the Holy Virgin.
Address: Done Jakue Plazatxoa, 1, 48005 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain
The church is located in the heart of the Old Town, it is the oldest structure in Bilbao built in the 14th century and was renovated in the 19th century. The church has a massive bell tower structure, pyramidal, interior. The interior is magnificent, large with three naves, vaulted ceilings and many chapels.
Address: Puente de Vizcaya Zubia, Getxo, Bizkaia, Spain
Also on the Nervion River, a strange image took place before our eyes: A”mobile” suspension bridge gliding across the water, carrying passengers and vehicles across the river in 1 minute 30 seconds. It is the Vizcaya bridge – a transshipment bridge that residents in the region often call a suspension bridge, although its structure is completely different from the suspension bridge.
Vizcaya Bridge is 164 meters long, 43 meters high, with a boat hanging below to carry goods and passengers. Vizcaya is the oldest conveyance bridge in the world. The people of Bilbao are still very proud of their unique form of transportation, which is a combination of an iron bridge and a hanging boat.
Ribera Market, built in 1929, is Bilbao’s famous local market. Ribera Market is located in the heart of the Old Town, with a space of 10,000 square meters. The market has a bright and bustling space, colorful glass windows and an impressive transparent floor. This is a place that attracts a lot of tourists looking to buy high-quality Basque products and cuisine, from fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood and delicious, typical foods of the region.
Ribera Market is nearly 100 years old and is considered one of Bilbao’s oldest markets. Coming to Ribera market, you can not only visit and shop but also enjoy the attractive dishes of Bilbao in particular and of Spain in general.
The market is housed in a historic building, designed by Pedro Ispizua and built in 1929, on the site of an old market that dates back to the 14th century. You will not only find stalls here, but also shops, bars, restaurants and live music performances, making it a great place for a lively night out. Covering over 10,000 square meters, it is the largest indoor market in Europe.
If you want a short break from city life, head to the beautiful coastline around San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. About 50 minutes from downtown Bilbao Spain but well worth the trip if you want to see the beautiful Bay of Biscay.
On the small island (connected by a bridge to the mainland) there was a small house that acted as a shelter in the 9th or 10th Century. Now to get here you will need to climb a few hundred steps, but It’s well worth the experience. And Gaztelugatxe was the place to shoot Dragonstone in Game of Thrones with a very impressive setting.
Address: Arriaga Plaza, 1, 48005 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain
The Arriaga Theater is the oldest theater in Bilbao, located next to a bridge connecting to Casco Viejo. The theater is named after the young local composer Juan Crisostomo Arriaga who died at the age of 19 and has been referred to as the ‘Spanish Mozart’. The interior of the theater still retains 19th-century furniture, making you feel felt like stepping back into the past.
Climb to the top of Mount Artxanda for amazing city views
If you’re a fan of breathtaking city views, take a ride to the top of Mount Artxanda on the old cable car railway, dating back to 1915. At the top, you’ll find more than just the stunning mountain views but also beautiful walkways and some great restaurants.
Bilbao blog: What to eat?
- Pintxos (pinchos): The Basque Country is of course famous for its pintxos – small pieces of bread, topped with all sorts of local ingredients, from meat and seafood to vegetables and cheese. Bilbao, along with San Sebastián and Vitoria-Gasteiz is home to some of the best pintxos bars in the country, so let take advantage of your visiting to enjoy them right here, which is sure to leave you with an interesting look at Spanish cuisine.
- As a port city, the cuisine in Bilbao is made from the most familiar ingredients such as bush meat and seafood. The must-try dishes to try in the city are:
- Kokotas uses cod or hake fish and is served with garlic sauce, olive oil and white wine. This is a signature Basque dish.
- Seafood stews such as merluza en salsa verde (seafood with green sauce); marmitako (stewed tuna with potatoes, red peppers) or Txipirones (squid).
- Alubias de Tolosa is a stew dish made from Tolosa’s black beans cooked with morcilla (blood sausage), pork, onion, olive oil and salt to create a very attractive taste.
- Basque Cake (Pastel Vasco) is the most popular dessert for locals and tourists alike in Bilbao. The cake is like almond cake with creamy milk, eggs, and rich vanilla inside.
- Cod specialties that you should try are bacalao pil-pil and bacalao a la Vizcaína.
- Txangurro spider crab stuffed with grilled meat is also a popular seafood dish in this city.
Bilbao blog: Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Blue Bilbao (Agoda, Booking): The hostel is located in Bilbao’s old town, just a 2-minute walk from Santiago Cathedral. The owner of the guesthouse is very friendly, providing a lot of convenient services. Room price fluctuates only 60 USD/day.
- Hotel Gran Bilbao (Agoda, Booking): The hotel is close to the center and the tram station. The hotel rooms are elegantly designed, fully equipped, with city views. Price ranges from 80 – 120 USD/double room
- Hotel Lidar (Agoda, Booking): The hotel is 6km from Bilbao Airport and just a few minutes’ walk from attractions. The hotel is highly rated and recommended by tourists for its service and location. Room rates fluctuate around 105 USD/day.
- Hotel Sercotel Ayala (Agoda, Booking): The hotel is located right in the city center and shopping places. The room is designed in a modern and luxurious way. It also serves a lot of delicious, traditional local dishes. Room rates range from 110 USD/day.
- Hotel Carlton (Agoda, Booking): Centrally located in the Plaza de Federico Moyúa and next to the Gran Vía shopping street, this luxury hotel offers spacious rooms with classic or modern design and en suite bathrooms. The hotel restaurant serves Basque specialties and classic dishes. Room rates range from 110 to 180 USD/day depending on the room category.
- Hotel Tayko Bilbao (Agoda, Booking)
- Occidental Bilbao (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Miro (Agoda, Booking)
- Barcelo Bilbao Nervion (Agoda, Booking)
Bilbao travel guide: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Bilbao you can refer to
- Basque Coast Tour from Bilbao
- San Sebastian and Biarritz Day Tour from Bilbao
- Vitoria and La Rioja Day Tour from Bilbao
- Elorrio, Oñati and Arantzazu Half Day Tour from Bilbao
- Bilbao, Guggenheim, and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe Tour from San Sebastian (Small Group)
- Guggenheim Museum Private Guided Tour in Bilbao
- Santoña and Santander Half Day Tour from Bilbao
- San Sebastian Day Tour from Bilbao
- The Secrets Day Tour In the Basque Country
- Gaztelugatxe Half Day Tour from Bilbao
- Bilbao Half Day Tour from San Sebastian with Guggenheim Museum Admission
- Bilbao: 1- or 2-Hour Sightseeing Boat Tour
- Bilbao: Guggenheim Museum Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
- Bilbao: San Mamés Museum and Stadium Tour
- Bilbao: S. Juan de Gaztelugatxe Getaria & San Sebastián Tour
- Bilbao: Guggenheim Museum Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
- Bilbao: Guggenheim Museum Private Guided Visit
- Bilbao: Guggenheim Guided Tour with Skip-the-Line
- Bilbao Like a Local: Customized Guided Tour
- Bilbao: Portugalete, Getxo, & Santurtzi Panoramic Boat Tour
- Bilbao: 3-Hour Guided Highlights Small Group Bike Tour
- From Bilbao: Vitoria and Rioja Day Tour
Read more Spain guide here.