Bilbao, nestled in the heart of Basque Country, is an absolute gem that you’ll surely fall in love with. This vibrant city, bursting with a unique culture, seamlessly melds old-world charm and futuristic innovation.
You’re about to embark on an unforgettable journey that traverses history, architecture, and a culinary landscape that would make even the most seasoned foodie swoon. Buckle up, because Bilbao is not just a city — it’s an experience.
How To Prepare for Your Visit to Bilbao
Before we dive into the adventure that is Bilbao, here are a few practical pointers. First, the best time to visit is late spring to early autumn, when the weather is just right for outdoor exploration.
As for what to pack … remember, less is more. Bilbao begs to be explored on foot. Nothing is worse than navigating its charming alleyways while lugging around heavy suitcases. Lucky for you, the options for luggage storage Bilbao offers allow you to take full advantage of your time without the extra weight.
1. Stunning Architecture That Blends the Old and New
As you explore the city, you’ll quickly notice Bilbao’s incredible architectural mix. In this city, traditional Basque houses coexist alongside avant-garde structures, creating a unique visual blend. The star of the show, without question, is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
This titanium-clad wonder, designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, is as much a spectacle for its design as for the modern and contemporary art it houses. Pro-tip: Don’t miss Jeff Koons’ giant floral Puppy guarding the entrance! It’s a favorite selfie spot, so get your cameras ready.
2. A Culinary Adventure Through Basque Cuisine
No trip to Bilbao would be complete without diving fork-first into the world of Basque cuisine. As you wander through the city streets, you’ll encounter everything from bustling markets to cozy taverns serving up pintxos — the Basque answer to tapas.
The gastronomic delights don’t stop there. Bilbao is also home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, where top chefs weave their magic to create unforgettable dining experiences. It’s a culinary adventure that might just redefine your palate.
3. A Walking Tour Around the Old Quarter
After indulging in gastronomical delights, you may need to stretch your legs. What better place than the charming Old Quarter or Casco Viejo? With its narrow, winding streets, old-world buildings, and lovely squares, it’s a wonderful place to lose yourself for a while.
Stroll leisurely, pop into an eclectic shop or two, and soak in the old-world charm. This medieval heart of the city is a reminder of Bilbao’s rich history, waiting for discovery by curious travelers like you.
4. The Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
When it comes to soaking up art and culture, the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao is the place to be. This treasure trove of fine arts hosts an impressive collection — from ancient to modern works, including masterpieces by El Greco, Goya, and Gauguin.
Let your inner art aficionado out to play and spend a few hours immersed in these beautiful creations. You’ll leave with a greater appreciation for the arts and perhaps a bit of inspiration, too.
5. Visit the Azkuna Zentroa
If you’re after something different, make your way to Azkuna Zentroa. This striking multi-purpose venue lives in a converted wine warehouse — the brainchild of famed designer Philippe Starck.
From art exhibitions to film screenings and fitness classes, Azkuna Zentroa offers a taste of modern Bilbao’s vibrant cultural scene. The building, with its 43 quirky pillars, each showcasing a different architectural style, is worth a visit in its own right. It perfectly demonstrates Bilbao’s dedication to innovative design and its commitment to public space.
6. Discovering the Mercado de la Ribera
Foodies, brace yourselves. The Mercado de la Ribera is a sensory overload and an absolute must-visit. As Europe’s largest covered market, it sprawls over 10,000 square meters and houses more than 60 different food stalls.
Fresh seafood, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and mouthwatering pintxos — it’s a celebration of Basque gastronomy. The market also hosts cooking classes and live music events. It’s a place where food, culture, and local life merge into one harmonious, buzzing hive of activity.
7. Ferry Across the Nervión River
Feeling adventurous? Take a ferry trip across the Nervión River. It’s a fantastic way to see Bilbao from a different perspective. Enjoy the cool breeze, the stunning views of the cityscape, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the UNESCO-listed Vizcaya Bridge — the world’s oldest transporter bridge.
Plus, there’s something inherently romantic about ferry rides … so if you’re traveling with a special someone, this is the perfect setting for a memorable moment.
8. Party the Basque Way
As the sun sets, Bilbao’s nightlife starts to pulsate. The city comes alive with the rhythm of music, laughter, and the clinking of glasses. Start the evening with a pintxo crawl through the old town, then head to a txoko, a traditional Basque club, to experience the local social scene.
For those searching for a more contemporary vibe, the districts of Pozas and Indautxu offer trendy bars and live music venues. Either way, you’re in for a night to remember.
Farewell to Bilbao
And so, our whirlwind tour of Bilbao comes to an end. From its awe-inspiring architecture and delectable cuisine to its rich history and vibrant nightlife, Bilbao is a city of many faces. But remember, this list is just a jumping-off point.
The real beauty of travel lies in those spontaneous moments of discovery. Take your time, open your heart, and let Bilbao reveal its magic. Farewell for now, Bilbao. Until we meet again!