Sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and vibrant, Bilbao is the modern face of the Basques. Surrounded by the green hills of northern Spain and lead to the nearby sea by the river Nervion, the region’s largest city emerged from a heavily industrialised past transformed into a major European art centre.
Bilbao is a city where traditional culture and innovation blend seamlessly, a charming trait that can easily be seen in the sheer variety of its architectural styles.
Founded in the early 14th century, the Casco Viejo or old town is where to start your exploration. At the heart of the Casco you’ll find Bilbao’s original seven streets. These will lead you to the Gothic Catedral de Santiago; St. James’ Cathedral and the Church of San Anton which feature in the borough’s coat of arms; the religiously important Basilica of Begona; and the 19th-century arcaded Plaza Nueva. These charming streets are now filled with boisterous bars and unique boutiques. The shimmering shape of the Guggenheim Museum is the most iconic symbol of the city’s modernity and newfound significance. Also notable is the beautiful Metro system designed by Sir Norman Foster, an airport from the influential Santiago Calatrava, and a community centre, the Alhondiga, designed by Philippe Starck.
Discover the origins of the Basque people at the Euskal Museoa before a tour of the Fine Arts Museum, considered alongside the Guggenheim to be one of best art galleries in Spain. Gastronomy and Bilbao are an inseparable pair and the city is synonymous with fine dining, both traditional and cutting-edge, as well as casual pintxos tapas served at old-style taverns.
When to go
June, July and August are the driest months - of these July and August are the warmest and sunniest, Winters are mild here. June and September are nice times to visit as they are warm and dry but don't have the mid-summer heat or crowds.
What to do
- Tour the Guggenheim Museum
- Stroll through the Casco Viejo, Bilbao's ancient and charming old town
- Visit the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts
- Learn about the fascinating Basque culture and history at the Euskal Museoa
- Sample the produce at the art deco La Ribera Market
- See the 14th-century Gothic Catedral de Santiago
- Take the funicular to the Artxanda lookout for the best view over the city