The city of Bilbao is the capital and largest city in Basque Country. As the most multicultural city in the region, it is continually changing. Bilbao is cosmopolitan and buzzing with activity as well as being rather easy on the nerves, though. If you're looking for a nice city to visit, this is it! Anything from delectable Basque food to authentic Basque culture, to shopping and a lively nightlife scene, can be found in this city.
Riverside view with Guggenheim | Click by diego zingano from Flickr
BEST TIME TO VISIT BILBAO
Bilbao is a great destination for a romantic getaway, but it is also a great city to visit with friends, thanks to its many pubs and bustling nightlife, or as a family, thanks to its many kid-friendly activities. You can go to the beach and the mountains in less than 30 minutes by train. The optimum time to visit the city is between June and mid-September. At this time of year, the weather is the most pleasant and consistent. At this time of year, fogs are more likely to develop due to a change in weather.
Bilbao bars often have a long counter piled high with plates of different Pintxos, or Tapas, to eat. In addition to the classic pintxos of potato and onion omelets, you'll find more modern fare like grilled foie gras with white beans and fruity sauce on pintxos (small plates). It is common for pintxos to be served "cold," although they can also be warmed up if desired. They also provide "warm pintxos," which are prepared right there and then. These tend to be pricier, but they are also better! Most people in this region enjoy their pintxos while sipping txakoli, red wine, or zurito (small beer).
Click by Andrew Nash from Flickr
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
American architect Frank Gehry is responsible for this architectural masterpiece: this fantastic chrome and metal creation houses a large collection of modern and contemporary art, a continuation of the Guggenheim legacy. Most tourists who visit Bilbao make a beeline to the Guggenheim Museum, the city's must-see sight. The building itself is a spectacular work of art. Constructed between 1993 and 1997, the sleek, swirling, sculpture-like structure sets the stage for a memorable experience of art appreciation. Highlights of the exhibitions include an abstract work by Mark Rothko; the colorful Villa Borghese painting by Willem de Kooning; Only with Wind, Time, and Sound and Sunflowers by Anselm Kiefer; the Humans photography assortment by Christian Boltanski; the group of 17 paintings in the Mother's Room by Francesco Clemente; Three Red Spanish Venuses sculptures by Jim Dine; and The Raft of the Medusa painting by José Manuel Ballester. The most noteworthy of the museum's sculpture installations are the nine-meter-tall spider sculpture called Maman by Louise Bourgeois and the gigantic topiary dog full of flower blossoms called Puppy, the work of Jeff Koons.
Click by David Baron from Flickr
An old, pleasant neighborhood best known for its open-air food markets, where shoppers can buy some of the freshest and best-tasting fruit and vegetables in Europe. Full of old-world charm, the Casco Viejo is on the right bank of the river extending between the San Antón Bridge and the Church of San Nicolás. The Old Town is linked by five bridges with the New Town (Ensanche). The core of the Casco Viejo lies around the Siete Calles (Seven Streets): Somera, Artecalle, Tendería, Belosticalle, Carnicería Vieja, Barrencalle, and Barrencalle Barena. It's a delightful experience to explore these quaint historic streets that are lined with small boutiques and cafés.
Click by Andrew Nash from Flickr
La Ribera Market
The title says it all, this is a great place to have lunch with a great variety of Tapas and Pintxos and all at a reasonable price.
Click by Dan from Flickr
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bilbao offers an outstanding collection housed in two separate buildings. The historic building displays works by the European masters of the 14th to 17th centuries. Dutch and Flemish paintings of the 15th to 17th centuries are well represented, with masterpieces such as Money Changers by Quentin Matsys and Virgin and Child by Dirk Bouts, as well as works by Anthony van Dyck and Vos of the 17th-century Flemish school. An entire floor is devoted to works by Basque artists, including 22 pictures by the landscape painter Darió de Regoyos (the largest collection of his works in any museum). The modern building of the museum mainly displays works by contemporary Spanish artists.
Click by Chris from Flickr
The distinctive La Salve Bridge offers some of the most breathtaking vistas of Bilbao. Crossing the estuary next to the Guggenheim Museum, this architectural masterpiece features "Arcos Rojos" ("Red Arches") designed by French artist Daniel Buren in honor of the Guggenheim's 10th anniversary. The bridge's viewing platforms overlook the Guggenheim Museum. Just a few blocks down, tourists will find the Zubizuri Bridge, which provides pedestrian access to the Calle Campo de Volantín, an area where locals like to stroll. This sleek ultra-modern monument is also sometimes called the Calatrava Bridge, named for its designer Santiago Calatrava. The bridge has become an icon of the city, stretching across the estuary in an arched, sweeping motion, and features a glass deck. North of the city at the entrance to the estuary, Vizcaya Bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in 1893 during the industrial revolution, designed by Alberto Palacio. It is famous for its engineering and historical architecture, being the first bridge to use a combination of steel cables and iron.
Click by Catedrales e Iglesias/Cathe from Flickr
Cathedral de Santiago
In the center of the Casco Viejo, the Cathedral of Santiago exemplifies Basque Gothic architecture in a perfect form. The cathedral dates to the 15th century; however, the facade and tower were rebuilt in the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style.
Click by Misko from Flickr
Doña Casilda Park
Filled with leafy palm trees and a splendid variety of trees and colorful flowers, the Doña Casilda Park offers a welcome respite from the city's urban bustle. This expansive green space is beautifully landscaped in the Romantic style and adorned with Neoclassical statues and fountains. Winding pathways encourage leisurely walks, and park benches are well placed in shady spots to take in the scenery. The park's large lake is home to many little ducks and provides a charming spot for rowing boats. Other special features of the park are the old-fashioned merry-go-round, the outdoor theater, and a botanical garden.
Click by Mari (Maria Giovanna Colli) from Flickr
Opened in 1915, this cableway, affectionately known as the "Funi," offers a wonderful way to take in the scenery of Bilbao. The Artxanda Funicular takes only three minutes to travel through the hillside of the Arangoiti neighborhood to the top of Mount Artxanda, a truly rewarding destination. From the summit, tourists are awed by the sensational panoramas of Bilbao's urban landscape. Around the Mount Artxanda summit are lovely areas for taking a walk and admiring the views.
Click by Juanedc.com from Flickr
Vitoria-Gasteiz, located in the province of Alava, is about an hour's drive from the center of Bilbao. It is a little city yet really beautiful. Once here, make sure to check out the Artium Museum, which is a must-see and a terrific indoor option if the weather turns foul. Don't forget to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria and the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. The ancient square is surrounded by a plethora of small businesses and eateries, making it ideal for a late afternoon or early evening visit. Finally, don't forget to have a look at the city's medieval walls.
Click by Guillén Pérez from Flickr
Painted Forest of Oma
The Painted Forest of Oma is located 45 minutes east of Bilbao, near the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. The woodland is like an open-air art gallery, with works of art painted on the trees by the artist Agustin Ibarrola. The trees are decorated with a variety of colorful motifs such as eyes, human figures, animals, and abstract patterns.
Click by Andy Roberts from Flickr
The lovely beach village of Lekeitio is about an hour's drive north-east of Bilbao. Originally a fishing village, it became a popular tourist resort in the nineteenth century, and even Queen Elizabeth II spent a vacation here. It's certainly worth exploring with its colorful harbor, broad sandy beaches, and spectacular Gothic cathedral. The Island of St. Nicholas is located in the center of the bay, where the river joins the sea and is accessible by foot at low tide.
Click by Roberto García Ruiz from Flickr
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, whose name translates to "Granite Castle," is a small island 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) northeast of Bilbao that is connected to the mainland by a bridge constructed of rock and stone. The 9th-century hermitage dedicated to St. John the Baptist may be found at the summit of the island, along with breathtaking views of the surrounding coastline.
Click by .hj barraza from Flickr
Mundaka, a small village nestled in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, is about 40 kilometers (16 miles) northeast of Bilbao. Although Mundaka is a town that is small and has a pretty little fishing port harbor, most tourists flock to the area for the world-class surfing that can be found there. People from all over the globe come to ride one of the world's longest waves. You may arrange a session at one of the town's surf schools if you'd like to give it a go.
Click by Fernando Vázquez from Flickr
Around an hour’s drive just south of Bilbao resides one of the Basque Country’s greatest, and its biggest, Natural Parks — Gorbeia. An excellent site for strolling, climbing and even mountaineering, the park is quite hilly and reaches up to 1,482 meters (4,862 ft) at its highest point. In addition to outdoor activities, guests may explore the nearby mountains' lush woods, which include the Mairuelegorreta Caves and the Goiuri Waterfall.