What to Visit in Bilbao?
What to see in Bilbao and near in 1-2 days or more? Main attractions: description and location. What to visit near Bilbao, when is the best time to go, how to get there?
Bilbao is the largest and most populous city in the Basque Country, one of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain. Along the way, it is the capital of the province of Biscay. And, curiously, it is considered one of the best places to live in the kingdom.
Bilbao is located in northern Spain, on the banks of the Nervion River, not far from the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Distance to Madrid – 400 km, to Barcelona – more than 600 km.
It is striking that the Basque city is not loved by tourist guides. Those who stubbornly believe that there is only one attraction in Bilbao – the Guggenheim Museum.
Of course, the local museum of modern art catches the eye with its appearance alone – you don’t have to look at the collections. But on the other hand, it is hardly worth judging Bilbao only by this masterpiece. Because there are other remarkable places. And you should definitely taste the dishes of the national cuisine of Spain (seafood especially!) here.
Top Attractions in Bilbao
The old town, or Casco Viejo, is located on the right bank of the Nervión River. Approximately 10 minutes walk from the city’s main train station.
The railway station, by the way, is quite a noticeable landmark of the city – a huge stained-glass window that welcomes travelers impresses literally everyone! It also has a shopping center and a metro station.
In the Old Town, we recommend visiting the Basque Museum in Piazza Unamuno, dedicated to the history and traditions of one of the most distinctive European nations. The visit costs quite inexpensively 3 €, children under 12 years old are free of charge.
But, as tourists thoroughly advise in the reviews, this should be done if you have the strength and time left. And the first thing to see in Bilbao is the Cathedral of St. James, dating from the 15th-16th centuries.
We also recommend taking a look at the Gothic basilica of Begogna, which rises on the highest local hill. Climbing uphill is hard. But on the other hand, you will fully enjoy the view of the roofs and walls of houses, many of which are hundreds of years old.
Be sure to visit the huge Mercado de La Ribera market in Bilbao – 200 meters from the cathedral to it. In full accordance with the name, the Mercado is located right on the river bank and has a memorable appearance.
It is believed that this is the largest covered market in Europe!
The more modern part of Bilbao is on the left bank of the river. The futuristic complex of the Guggenheim Museum, built in 1997 near the Salve Bridge, is especially memorable.
Even if you are biased towards modern art, you will have to admit that the building looks very unusual. And already, the spider, settled on the shore, makes you think at all whether the aliens have landed. This masterpiece of modern sculpture was created by French-born American sculptor Louise Bourgeois.
Ticket prices and opening hours of the Guggenham Museum Bilbao can be found here: guggenheim-bilbao.eus/horarios-y-tarifas.
Let’s not forget about the flower “Puppy” by the most expensive sculptor of our time, Jeff Koons. Taking a picture at the foot of the monument, you will get a really bright shot.
On the left bank, but a little further downstream, there is another cultural institution: the Museum of Fine Arts in the Doña Castile Park. The collection has a very good selection of traditional paintings – there are Velazquez, Goya, Zurbaran and Gauguin. The museum also exhibits the works of the famous Spanish avant-garde sculpture Eduardo Chillida.
The author of such a famous creation as the “Praise to the Horizon” stele, located on the seashore near the city of Gijón. Or “Berlin”, a structure of intricately curved rusty iron beams of huge section, standing right in front of the residence of the German chancellor.
If you cross over to the other side from the left bank and go almost exactly north, you can get to the funicular. Raising everyone to the Artxanda hill. The view of the city from the top is amazing!
What to See Nearby
A curious attraction in the vicinity of Bilbao is a unique, although not the most functional structure at the mouth of the river. It is known as the Biscay Bridge, Puente de Vizcaya.
It represents 2 openwork metal towers standing on opposite banks: one in the town of Getcho, and the other in Portugalete. Between them is stretched – an openwork beam, on which a suspended gondola is fixed.
She carries people and cars – only 6 at a time. The crossing in its own way impresses with its monstrous impracticality.
Once in Bilbao, you should definitely visit the city of Guernica, 20 kilometers to the east. On April 26, 1937, this settlement was destroyed almost completely during a senseless barbaric bombardment by the German Air Force. Moreover, 1,657 inhabitants died.
This event will forever remain in the memory of the townspeople. And Pablo Picasso immortalized horror in his famous “Guernica” – the canvas is kept in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
Bilbao is not located near the sea and this circumstance should be taken into account when visiting. But we still recommend that you get to Santander or San Sebastian. Very popular among the Spaniards themselves are seaside resorts on the Bay of Biscay.
Compared to other cities in Spain – most of them – Bilbao is relatively young. It was founded in the XIV century (1300) with a very practical goal – to get a port on the coast of the Bay of Biscay.
From here, iron ore and merino wool from Castile were exported abroad. And in the 17th century, local merchants made good money on trade with America.
Until the end of the 19th century, Bilbao had a purely regional significance. Everything changed at the end of the century of industrial revolutions.
The rapid development of shipbuilding and the steel industry in Europe turned it into one of the richest cities in Spain. And the population for some 20 years has increased from 11 to 80 thousand people. Today’s Bilbao retains the title of a major industrial center.
But it is also a very clean, well-groomed and beautiful city.
When to Go
Thanks to the mild climate in the capital of Biscay, it rarely gets really cold. Yes, and the summer here is not too hot – the locals have no idea about the suffocating heat that torments the inhabitants of other cities in Spain in the summer months.
If the weather in Madrid from June to September is hard to bear not only by tourists, but also by the citizens themselves, then in Bilbao the thermometer rarely looks beyond the +30-degree mark. The average summer air temperature here is about +25 °C.
Rains happen much more often than in the center of the Iberian Peninsula or on the famous resort coasts. But this is unlikely to seriously disrupt the plans of tourists.
Since Bilbao is visited mainly by those who crave not quite ordinary experiences. And a little tired of the traditional attractions of Barcelona and Madrid.
How to Get There
Getting to the capital of the Basque Country by rail from the main Spanish cities is not too easy. But it is necessary. Especially after you visit Madrid and see Barcelona.
For example, there is a direct connection to Madrid, but trains run twice a day. The train is on the road a little less than 5 hours, it is better to buy tickets in advance.
Well, the fastest way is by plane. The local airport is located in Luhua, 8 kilometers north of the city.