All the information you need to plan what to see in Bilbao and its surroundings: The places to visit, its gastronomy and history, the museums, guided tours, accommodation offers, activities and recommendations. You can plan what to see in Bilbao in one day, in two … and if you stay longer, much better. Enjoy Bilbao …
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The information we offer about tourism in Bilbao is so extensive that we have organized it in sections to facilitate navigation on any device before, during and after your visit to Bilbao.
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- Before your visit to Bilbao, you can plan the places to see in Bilbao, the beaches to visit, catch up on its history and cuisine, choose all types of accommodation at the best price guaranteed. Also in this guide you will find comparators for flights and rental cars.
- During your visit you can consult the map with all the locations, as well as expand information on each place you visit. You also have links to pharmacies on call, health centers, public transport, etc.
- After your visit, share this tourist guide of Bilbao if it has been useful. 😉 Enjoy Bilbao!
Bilbao has become a reference for cultural tourism in Europe. Unlike the once-industrial city, Bilbao is today a role model in urban planning, culture, quality tourism and sustainability.
For this reason, when we ask ourselves: What to see in Bilbao ?, the answer is simple: present, future and an intense cultural activity.
While visiting other Spanish cities is a trip to the past, visiting Bilbao is a trip to the future, to the future of cities designed for the enjoyment of its citizens and visitors. This is due to the profound transformation that Bilbao has experienced in the last 25 years and that has made Bilbao a benchmark for sustainability, cultural activity, mobility and quality tourism. All this complemented with exquisite cuisine and hospitality that has always characterized Bilbao.
Bilbao, the city of the future
For several decades we have been told that Tokyo is the city of the future, a vertical architecture with capsule hotels where people are little more than sardines in a can of steel and concrete.
But another future is possible, is the difference between utopia or dystopia, between getting carried away by the present or taking the reins of our future. Bilbao took the reins of its future in the mid-1980s, when the victim of a brutal industrial crisis and tragic floods saw the opportunities in adversity.
Bilbao understood that he had to change, and it did.
Bilbao, mejor ciudad europea 2018
Por todas estas razones Bilbao fue elegida la Mejor Ciudad Europea 2018 tras imponerse a Ljubljana (Eslovenia) y Viena (Austria) en los premios The Urbanism Awards 2018, que otorga la organización internacional The Academy of Urbanism.
Also, when you visit Bilbao you can as well consult our cultural tourism guides by Donostia and Vitoria-Gasteiz.
If there are two characteristics that define Bilbao, these would be “culture” and “quality of life”. These two characteristics can be seen in all the places that we propose you to see in Bilbao, but also taking a simple walk through the Seven Streets, the Arenal or the Doña Casilda Park.
Places to see in Bilbao
Among the things to see in Bilbao stands out the great quality of its exhibition offer, with wonderful museums that go far beyond the Guggenheim. For example, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, one of the main classical art galleries in Spain.
12 recommended sites to see in Bilbao
- Guggenheim museum. It has become the main icon of the city and one of the main tourist attractions of the city. Its construction marked a before and after for Bilbao, is the turning point between an industrial city and the city of services that is nowadays Bilbao. The Guggenheim is a must see and if you have time and you like contemporary art I recommend this guided tour of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, rated 9.9 out of 10 by Civitatis users.
- Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. A beautiful neoclassical building that contains one of the most important art galleries in Spain. A must see for those of us who like plastic arts.
- Mount Artxanda. Spectacular views of all the great Bilbao.
- Arriaga Theater. All the elegance of the “neo-baroque” a unique style in the center of Bilbao.
- Alhondiga of Bilbao. An old wine store of modernist style, Take it now! But the most striking aspect of this emblematic building is its reform and conversion into a formidable cultural center, avant-garde architecture at the service of the citizen.
- Ribera Market. A pioneer of the gastronomic markets in Spain, 10,000 square meters at the service of Basque cuisine, a marvel.
- Doña Casilda Park. The green lung of Bilbao that connects such important places as the Guggenheim, the Museum of Fine Arts, San Mamés, the Deusto bridge …
- The Seven Streets. It is the most traditional area of Bilbao, a must to take the pulse of the traditions of the city.
- Museum of the Reproductions. A fascinating museum that serves as a complement to students of Fine Arts.
- Basque Museum An interesting place to understand the ethnography and history of Basque society.
- Bilbao Maritime Museum. Nestled in the place where the shipyards were, the visit shows us the importance that the naval industry had in its day for Bilbao.
- Basilica of Begoña. Despite being the second temple of Bilbao in the ecclesiastical hierarchy after the Cathedral of Santiago, it is undoubtedly the most beloved by Bilbao. This is due to two reasons; the devotion to the Virgin of Begoña and also because it is a temple built by the people.
Visiting Bilbao and its surroundings is well worth a visit of several days, but even if there is only one day it is also worth the visit to Bilbao.
In this way, if you only have one day to visit Bilbao, I recommend this guided tour of Bilbao with views from Mount Artxanda.
From its top you can enjoy excellent panoramic views of Bilbao, overlooking the estuary, the Guggenheim Museum, the New San Mamés Stadium, the Iberdrola Tower and other iconic places in the city. The tour is completed with a walk through the old town and the fascinating Mercado de la Ribera.
Another alternative to see Bilbao in one day is taking the tourist bus around Bilbao, with numerous stops including the Guggenheim Museum, the San Mamés stadium, the City Hall and the Artxanda funicular.
The province of Bizkaia has beautiful corners like the Urdaibai Natural Park, but it has especially a splendid industrial past. It is therefore why there are numerous museums and interpretation centers around Bilbao that make Bizkaia a benchmark in industrial tourism. A very interesting practice that is increasingly popular, especially if you are looking for things to see in Bilbao with children.
Other essential places to visit in Bizkaia
(Click on the image for more information)
Among the things to do around Bilbao, this are the recommend activities:
Excursion to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. A fantastic route with incredible landscapes that evoke scenes from Game of Thrones (and Eight Basque Surnames). The excursion also includes a visit to two historic towns of Bizkaia, Bermeo and Gernika.
- Urdaibai Natural Park. A wonder of nature declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1984. A perfect communion between sea, mountains and beautiful fishing villages such as Bermeo or Mundaka.
- San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. In the limits of the Urdaibai Natural Park, it is listed as a protected biotope.
- Hermitage of Santa Catalina. Also framed in the foothills of Urdaibai, it is a modest hermitage in a beautiful setting on the Basque coast.
- Bizkaia Bridge. The Suspension Bridge is the only industrial monument declared a World Heritage Site in Spain, a symbol of industrial Bilbao.
- Gorbea natural park. A classic of Basque hiking, with beautiful landscapes and picturesque villages.
- Getxo aquarium. Considered one of the best in Spain, it is located in a beautiful area of Getxo.
- Torre Loizaga Museum. An old 12th century defensive tower renovated and converted into a car show. A very interesting place where you can enjoy one of the most important Rolls Royces collections in the world.
- Karpin Abentura. This is NOT A ZOO, it is a reception center for animals from seizures for illegal traffic, closure of farms, abandoned pets, illegal hunting and native fauna from recovery centers. As fascinating as commendable is your work, a must see if you go with children.
- Santimamiñe cave. The Santimamiñe Cave is the most important archaeological site in Bizkaia and has been declared a World Heritage Site in 2008. In it we find remains and cave paintings dated to the Upper Paleolithic.
- La Encartada Museum Factory. An old beret factory in the historic region of Las Encartaciones. The visit allows us to see how a factory worked at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Mining Museum of the Basque Country. Another interesting place to know the mining past of the Basque Country. The museum is also located in the town of Ziérbana, another place worth knowing.
- Ferrería El Pobal. Following the route of industrial tourism, this is another place where you can discover how metal worked in the past.
- Butrón Castle. A castle of little historical value but with a style reminiscent of Disneyland, it is still an interesting visit.
- Zugastieta Park. In the recreational area of Zugastieta you can do various outdoor activities such as hiking, walks, horse riding and mountain biking among other activities.
- Rialia Industry Museum. Another of the museums that pay homage to the industrial past of the left bank of the estuary of Bilbao. Rialia is located in Portugalete, a few meters from the Suspension Bridge, so the visit is almost obligatory.
- Peace Museum in Gernika. If there is an ideal place to house a peace museum that is undoubtedly Gernika. The museum itself is no big deal, but it is loaded with great symbolic value, located in the Plaza de los Fueros in front of the Town Hall.
The beaches of Bizkaia are not only for summer, since many of them are truly beautiful to be visited also in winter.
Here you have a list of beaches to visit in your getaway, (click on the image for more information).
We have selected the activities of Civitatis for Bizkaia for its value for money and high user satisfaction.
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Some notes on the history of Bilbao
|6.000 a.C.||First settlements on Mount Artxanda|
|1.300 d.C.||Foundation of the city of Bilbao by Diego López de Haro|
|1483||Queen Isabel of Castile moves to Bilbao to swear in person her privileges and the King Ferdinand of Aragon had sworn them in Gernika in 1476.|
|1602||The city of Bilbao is named capital of Vizcaya, taking over from the previous capital, Bermeo.|
|1808||The French army took the city under General Merlin. The fight was fierce, causing large numbers of victims and significant material damage.|
|1835||First Carlist War, General Zumalacárregui tries to take Bilbao, but does not succeed, being injured in Begoña and dying days later in Cegama (Gipuzkoa) his hometown.|
|1836||Second siege in which Baldomero Espartero defeats the Carlist army in the battle of Lutxana. In honor of this deed he is awarded the title of Count of Luchana.|
Third Carlist War, Bilbao is besieged until May 2, when it is released by General Concha.
|1890||Inauguration of the Arriaga Theater after 4 years of work. This impressive neo-baroque building takes its name from Bilbao composer Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga.|
|1908||Inauguration of the Basurto Hospital and designed by the municipal architect, Enrique Epalza. It opened on November 13 of the same year.|
|1936||On August 31, Franco planes make the first incursion into the capital|
|1937||On June 19, Bilbao falls to Franco’s troops after a long and hard siege.|
|1948||The first commercial flight took off from Sondika airport|
|1983||On August 26, in the middle of the Big Week celebration (Aste Nagusia), the estuary overflows up to five meters due to the incessant rains|
|1997||Inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum. Opened on October 18 by King Juan Carlos I. This milestone is a before and after for Bilbao, turning an industrial city into a city of services and cultural tourism|
There are many things to see in Bilbao, but the most essential is to try its cuisine, recognized worldwide.
Among all the jewels of Bilbao gastronomy, without a doubt the most popular is the “pintxo”, not only for its gastronomic qualities, but also as a socializing element. To discover the pleasure of a “poteo” in Bilbao, I recommend this pintxos route through the old town of Bilbao. On this route you can not only savor the creations of different emblematic bars, but you will also learn about the history of Bilbao while enjoying the good atmosphere of the Seven Streets.
|Starters||A skewer (pintxo in Basque) is traditionally a small slice of bread on which a small portion of food is placed. The skewer is a typical dish of Basque cuisine that is usually taken as an appetizeromar como aperitivo.|
|Meats||The meat dishes are very varied, highlighting those based on beef. Sausage preparations such as sausages from Viana and tripotx (blood sausages of lamb Biriatu) are also well known.|
|Fish||Known dishes are cod pil pil, Biscaine cod, hake in green sauce, squid — squid — in its ink|
|The canutillos of Bilbao. With puff pastry, some open ribs are made on both sides, filled with custard and sprinkled with glass sugar. Goxua is also typical|
|Wines and drinks||As for drinks, txacolí stands out, white wine with Designation of Origin Bizkaiako Txakolina.|
Our suggestions in Bilbao
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Map of places to visit in Bilbao
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