The best things to do in Bilbao showcase a stylish vintage district, an industrial heritage, and stunning modern architecture in one of the largest cities in northern Spain. Part of the Basque region, the city sits on the banks of the Nervión River that flows into the Bay of Biscay, and it offers a warm holiday destination that blends a Spanish way of life with a strong regional twist.
Stroll through Casco Viejo, the Old Town of Bilbao, to take in the history of the city; be impressed by the futuristic architecture of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; snack on pintxos (pronounced pinchos) the Basque version of Spanish tapas; take a river cruise to make a journey through the history of the city; Bilbao is full of surprises and it hosts plenty of cool things to see and do. Discover them below.
What to do in Bilbao:
Casco Viejo, settled on the north bank of the Nervión River, right in the centre of the city, Casco Viejo is the historical district of Bilbao. Built around Las Siete Calles, Bilbao’s original 7 streets dating back to the 15th century, it’s one of the liveliest districts of the city, especially after 5pm. From the Bilbao Cathedral to the Bilboko Euskal Museoa (Basque history museum), Casco Viejo is filled with splendid historical and religious edifices. Bilbao Old Town also teems with quaint pintxo bars (Basque tapas bars), restaurants and boutiques.
Museo Guggenheim, guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a true architectural masterpiece in itself. Designed by Frank Gehry, the acclaimed Canadian-American architect, Guggenheim is a museum of modern and contemporary art. It’s located alongside the Nervión River in the north of Bilbao. Here, you can see permanent and temporary exhibitions of artists such as Richard Serra, Anselm Kiefer and Jeff Koons, to name just a few. Audioguides in English are available at the ticket counter and 2 sophisticated restaurants, Nerua and Bistró Guggenheim Bilbao, are available in the museum.
Artxanda Funicolar, go to Plaza Funikularreko (Funicular Square) just north of the Old Town to get on board the funicular that will transport you to the top of Mount Artxanda in 3 minutes. Opened since 1915, the Artxanda Funicular departs every 15 minutes. The summit of Mount Artxanda offers panoramic views of Bilbao and of the city airport. Here, you’ll also find a kids’ playground, a few restaurants, and a park. It’s a great place to enjoy a breath of fresh air.
Doña Casilda Park, for a long time considered the lungs of Bilbao, Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park sits to the north of El Ensanche, nearby the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Named after the lady who donated the plot of land for the park to be built, it’s a popular place to take a break from the city. Featuring a duck pond, a cybernetic fountain and a pergola, the park features centenary trees dotted in a pretty, English-style garden. Concerts and outdoor events are regularly held in Doña Casilda Park throughout the summer.
Nervión River, take a boat ride on the Nervión River to discover Bilbao’s landmarks from a different angle. The 2 most popular boat tours are run by Billboats and RiverCheer which offer 1 and 2 hour cruises from the City Hall to Deusto canal entrance, and further down to the sea. Multilingual audioguides are at hand to describe the sights you’re cruising along, including Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, San Mamés Stadium, Vizcaya Bridge and vintage industrial sites. The boats are comfortable and feature an open-air deck and a bar.
La Ribera Market, mercado de la Ribera (the River Market) is one of the largest covered markets in Europe. Besides the fresh products and farmers’ stalls, La Ribera Market houses about a dozen stalls at which you can discover and sample pintxos, the Basque version of Spanish tapas. Grab a plate of pintxos, a glass of red Tempranillo or white Txakoli, and head to the nearby bank of the Nervión River to sample these delicious specialities.(Credits-Hotels.com)