Like an unexpected gift
4 min read

Why should I go to Bilbao?

Bilbao is like an unexpected gift, especially if you are an art and culture lover. The Guggenheim Museum designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry brought international fame to this city and it is an absolute must-see for both art and architecture enthusiasts. However, there is so much more to do in Bilbao besides the Guggenheim: This 500-year-old city has a vibrant old center filled with delicious tapas bars. It is in close proximity to a stunning coastline that is just becoming famous thanks to the last season of Game of Thrones. It offers an innovative gastronomic scene with numerous Michelin star restaurants spotted around the city center and the surrounding countryside.   

Bilbao riverside by Alberto Loyo

What to see & do in Bilbao?

1- Visit the Guggenheim Museum: This important modern and contemporary art museum is housed within an impressive golden/silver structure designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. The building, situated just by the Nervión river, features an impressive permanent collection of Spanish and international artists as well as temporary exhibitions focusing on specific themes.  

2- Discover the charms of Bilbao’s medieval enclave, the Old Quarter, also known as Casco Viaje: This picturesque part of the city dates back to the 6th century and it is full of cozy restaurants, bars and shops. While there, you should also visit the Cathedral of Santiago and stroll around the small streets around Plaza Nueva.   

3- Stop by city’s main market, Mercado de la Ribera, for a visual feast. If you cannot help but buy some groceries, you can enjoy an ad hoc picnic by the River Nervión.

4- If you are interested in contemporary architecture, some buildings you should not miss include Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao’s main cultural center; Alhondiga, a community center designed by Philippe Starck and the bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava.

5- Enjoy an opera or a dance performance at the historic Teatro Arriaga.

6- Stroll around the main shopping street of Don Diego Lopez Haroko.

7- Eat a long lunch at one of city’s numerous Michelin Star restaurants (see top picks for our favorites).

8- Get ready for a real local Basque pinchos adventure hopping around the bars at Calle Merced, Calle Andra Maria and Calle Somera.

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

When to go to Bilbao?

Bilbao can be visited all year round as the city does not get too cold in winter nor too hot in summer. However, rain should be considered a norm for all seasons. At the end of August, Bilbao celebrates its main festival, the Aste Nagusia in Basque and Semana Grande in Spanish. This 9-day event starts off at the plaza in front of the historic Arriaga Theater and continues as a massive party with lots of traditional Basque music, dancing and drinking. There are daily parades for kids and some sports events such as stone carrying and wood chopping. It is a lot of fun to experience this week in Bilbao.

Bilbao traditional houses by John Chica

How to get to Bilbao?

– Bilbao has a small but a very tidy and efficient international airport. Bilbao airport is only 15 minutes away from the city center. Here are some example flight durations from main metropolitan areas:

– London – Bilbao: 1 hr. 55 min / Paris – Bilbao: 1 hr. 30 min /New York – Bilbao: 9 hr. 45 min

– Madrid – Bilbao:  1 hr. by plane; 5 to 6 hrs. by train

– Barcelona – Bilbao: 1 hr. 15 min by plane; 6 hrs. 30 min by train

Related posts