14 Things to do in Bilbao

Bilbao at Twilight in the Basque Country Spain

Bilbao is a city with much to offer its visitors. Nestled in the Basque Country of Spain, Bilbao is a charming city that is famous for its cultural heritage, delectable cuisine, and breathtaking architecture.

From the iconic Guggenheim Museum to the picturesque old town, Bilbao offers visitors a unique blend of modernity and tradition. The city has a rich history that dates back to the Middle Ages yet still has modern elements.

There are plenty of things to do in Bilbao that will keep you busy for days. The city offers visitors a number of museums, art galleries, theatres, and other cultural attractions. You can also spend some time at the beaches nearby.

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The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is one of the must-see Bilbao attractions. Designed by the architect Frank Gehry, the museum is a stunning work of modern architecture that has become an icon of the city.

The museum was opened in October 1997 and has since become one of the most famous museums in the world, attracting millions of visitors every year.

The museum’s exterior is made up of glass, titanium and limestone that reflect the light in a unique way. The building’s shape and materials are meant to mimic the nearby river, giving the museum a sense of harmony with its surroundings.

The museum is also surrounded by a large plaza and a sculpture garden, making it a popular destination for both art enthusiasts and architecture buffs.

Inside, the museum you will find an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. The permanent collection includes works by artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, and Mark Rothko.

The museum also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing the work of both established and emerging artists from around the world.

The Guggenheim Museum is open every day except Mondays and there is an entrance fee of 15 euros per person. All entry tickets include an audio guide within the price. There are also many other Guggenheim Museum guided tour opportunities available.

BILBAO, BASQUE COUNTRY, SPAIN -  The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a museum of modern and contemporary art, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. The museum is clad in glass, titanium, and limestone.

Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park

One of the great things to do in Bilbao Spain is visit the Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park. This is a charming public park located in the heart of Bilbao, in the neighbourhood of Indautxu.

Named after the famous Bilbao philanthropist, Casilda Iturrizar, the park is a peaceful oasis in the bustling city centre.

The park was opened back in 1920, making it one of the oldest parks in the city. At the time of its opening, it was the only green space within the city, providing the residents there a break from the bustling and noisy city.

Doña Casilda Park is still known for its lush greenery, beautiful flowers, and tranquil ponds. It is a popular spot for locals to take a relaxing stroll, have a picnic, or simply enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

The park also features several fountains, bridges, and sculptures, adding to its charm and character. Some of the highlights of the park include the impressive pergola structure and the beautiful lake.

Casilda Iturrizar Park is a lovely and peaceful retreat in the heart of Bilbao. Whether you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, take a leisurely walk, or simply enjoy some time in nature, this park is a must-visit destination.

Fountain in the Dona Casilda park, Bilbao

The Fine Arts Museum

The Fine Arts Museum Bilbao is a world-renowned museum located in the heart of Bilbao in Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park.

The museum is home to an extensive collection of art from the Basque Country and beyond, showcasing works from the 16th century to the present day.

The museum’s permanent collection includes over 10,000 works of art, ranging from paintings and sculptures to photography and video art. The collection includes works by famous artists such as El Greco and Van Dyck, as well as works by international artists such as Francis Bacon and Peter Blake.

In addition to its permanent collection, the Fine Arts Museum Bilbao also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

These exhibitions feature the work of both established and emerging artists from around the world, making the museum a dynamic and ever-changing destination for art enthusiasts. The Fine Arts Museum is open every day except on Tuesdays and there is no entrance fee.

Bilbao, Spain - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. The building of the museum is located entirely inside the city's Doña Casilda Iturrizar park.

Plaza Nueva

If you are looking for the best things to do in Bilbao, then head over to the main square of the city, Plaza Nueva.

Plaza Nueva is a picturesque and historic square located in the heart of Bilbao’s Old Town also known as Casco Viejo. The square was built back in the 19th century and is a popular plaza and gathering place in the city.

The square is surrounded by elegant arcades, giving it a distinctive and charming character. The arcades are home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes, making it a great destination for shopping and dining.

The square is also home to the city’s oldest market, the Ribera Market, which sells a wide variety of fresh produce, meats, and seafood. Whether you are looking to shop, dine, or simply soak up the city’s vibrant atmosphere, this historic square is sure to impress.

Bilbao, Spain - View of Plaza Nueva in Bilbao, Spain.

Teatro Arriaga

Teatro Arriaga is a historic theatre located in the heart of the city. The theatre was built in the late 19th century and has been a cultural hub for the city ever since.

The theatre is named after Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga, a famous Basque composer who has been compared to Mozart! It is a stunning example of neo-baroque architecture, featuring intricate carvings, ornate mouldings, and a grand staircase that leads up to the main auditorium.

The auditorium itself is a masterpiece of design, featuring plush red velvet seats, a beautifully painted ceiling, and stunning crystal chandeliers.

The theatre has hosted a wide variety of performances over the years, including opera, ballet and concerts by both local and international artists. Teatro Arriaga is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the arts and culture of Bilbao.

Whether you are looking to catch a world-class performance or simply admire the stunning architecture of this historic theatre, Teatro Arriaga is sure to leave a lasting impression.

BILBAO, BASQUE COUNTRY SPAIN The Arriaga Theater by night.

Cathedral of Santiago de Bilbao

Bilbao Cathedral is a Gothic-style cathedral located in the city centre of Bilbao. The construction of the cathedral began in the 14th century, but it was not completed until much later. It was finally declared a cathedral in 1950.

The structure features a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, with a large central nave, ornate chapels, and intricate stained-glass windows.

One of the most notable features of the Bilbao Cathedral is its main facade, which is adorned with numerous sculptures and carvings. The cathedral also houses a number of important religious artefacts, including a reliquary containing the remains of Saint James the Apostle.

Today, the Bilbao Cathedral is an important religious and cultural landmark in the city of Bilbao, and it is open to visitors who wish to explore its rich history and architecture.

Bilbao old town with cathedral and traditional colorful buildings. Spain

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum of Bilbao is housed in the former Euskalduna shipyard, which was once one of the largest shipyards in Europe.

The museum aims to preserve and promote the maritime heritage of the Basque Country, as well as its importance in the region’s history and culture.

Inside the museum, visitors can explore a range of exhibits and displays that showcase the history of seafaring in the region, from the early days of fishing and whaling to the industrial era of shipbuilding and shipping.

Entry to the Maritime Museum costs 6 euros per person and it is open every day except Mondays.

Red crane in the centre of Bilbao city, Basque Country in northern Spain

Mount Artxanda

Mount Artxanda is a mountain range that rises about 251 meters above sea level and offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside. There are several ways to reach the summit of Mount Artxanda, including by car, funicular, or hiking trail.

The funicular, which operates from the city centre, is a popular option for visitors as it provides a scenic and convenient way to reach the top. The funicular runs every day, costs 2.50 euros per person for a one way trip and only takes 3 minutes to get to the top.

At the summit of Mount Artxanda, visitors can enjoy a range of activities and attractions. There are several restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating areas that offer stunning views of the city, as well as a park with walking trails and picnic areas.

Panorama on the center of Bilbao Basque country Spain.

The Vizcaya Bridge

The Vizcaya Bridge was built in the late 19th century and completed in 1893. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised for its unique design and historic significance.

It was designed by the architect Alberto Palacio. The Vizcaya Bridge is considered a masterpiece of industrial engineering and a symbol of the industrial heritage of the Basque Country.

The bridge is 154 metres long and is a transporter bridge, which means that it carries passengers and vehicles across the river using a gondola suspended from a high tower.

The gondola is large enough to accommodate six cars and several pedestrians, and it crosses the river in just a few minutes. Take some time out of your day to hop on the bridge and enjoy the fun and unique ride across.

Getxo, Bilbao, Spain: Historic suspension bridge in the city of Getxo crossing the river for the transport of vehicles and people from one side of the city to the other

Rioja Wine Tour

Experience the beauty and taste of Spain’s Rioja region with an exclusive Rioja Wine Tour of two of its most stunning wineries: Marques de Riscal and Ysios. These places produce some of the finest Rioja wines that are sure to tantalise your taste buds.

This semi-private tour takes you on an immersive journey, where you can explore the vineyards, marvel at the stunning architecture designed by Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava, and indulge in delicious wine tastings.

During the tour, you will have the opportunity to sample at least six different wines, each with their unique flavours and aromas. After visiting the wineries, the tour stops at the charming medieval village of Laguardia, where you can enjoy a relaxing lunch.

Keeping for years of old bottles of red rioja wine in cellars, wine making in La Rioja region, Spain

Food Tour Of Bilbao

Join us on a Guided Food Tour of Bilbao, specifically designed for foodies who want to explore the local delicacies of Northern Spain. Indulge in the flavours of pintxos and Basque tapas, while enjoying beverages such as Basque craft beers and the perfect wine pairings.

During this immersive experience, you will discover the roots of each dish and drink, including their ingredients and how to recreate them at home. This tour is perfect for those who want to learn more about the cuisine and explore the city’s hidden culinary gems.

Typical snack of Basque Country, pinchos or pinxtos, small piece of bread with different fish and sea food  toppings, served in bar in San-Sebastian or Bilbao, Spain

Historical Tour

Embark on a guided walking tour and discover the rich history and culture of Bilbao. This immersive experience will take you through the city’s streets, where you will learn about its gastronomy, architecture, and traditions, all while feeling like a local.

Tour highlights include the Bidebarrieta, Plaza Nueva in Casco Viejo, Catedral de Santiago and the La Ribera market. This tour is ideal for first-time visitors who want a quick overview of the city and its attractions.

BILBAO, SPAIN- people in the square and bars on the unamuno square, bilbao, spain.

Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo and Gernika Guided Tour

Experience the thrill of visiting the iconic San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, also known as the castle rock. You will get to climb the narrow, winding steps connecting the castle built high on a rocky island to the mainland and enjoy the breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding landscape.

You will even have the opportunity to see the filming location of “Dragonstone” from the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones.

The day tour includes round-trip transportation from your hotel to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, so you can sit back and relax as you take in the stunning scenery.

You will have two hours to explore the island and visit the hermitage. In addition to the castle rock, this tour includes guided tours of Bermeo and Gernika, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of the Basque Country.

Walking on stone footpath to famous landmark and film location in North of Spain, ocean islet with chapel San juan de Gaztelugatxe, Basque Country, Spain

San Sebastian and Cheese Farm Tour

On this San Sebastian and Cheese Farm Tour, you will get to explore what San Sebastian has to offer, as well as La Concha Beach, and the iconic sculpture, The Comb of the Wind.

At the cheese factory, savour the taste of Idiazabal cheese made from Oveja Latxa sheep, similar to Spanish parmesan! The fun and unique tour includes a delicious tasting of local cheese and the cider to match.

Panoramic aerial view of San Sebastian (Donostia) in a beautiful summer day, Spain

Conclusion

Bilbao is a vibrant city with a rich history and culture, and there are plenty of things to see and do for visitors of all interests.

Whether you are interested in art and architecture, history and heritage, or nature and outdoor activities, Bilbao has something to offer.

Some of the top things to do in Bilbao include visiting the Guggenheim Museum, exploring the old town, sampling the local cuisine, and taking a trip to Mount Artxanda for panoramic views of the city.

Other must-visit attractions include the Bilbao Cathedral, the Bilbao Maritime Museum, and the Vizcaya Bridge.

Overall, Bilbao is a city that is full of surprises and offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity. Whether you are visiting for a weekend or a longer stay, you are sure to find plenty of things to see in Bilbao that will make your trip memorable.

Recommended tours in Bilbao

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  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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