Top 10 Things To Do In Bilbao, Spain: A City Of Fine Art And Elegance

things to do in bilbao spain
| 5 min read

Bilbao is a city with a flair for the arts. Located in Basque Country, Bilbao is the largest city in the province of Biscay, with around 350,000 residents. Also known as Botxo (Hole) to its residents, the city has an oceanic climate, with abundant precipitation, some snow, and a fair amount of sunshine. Walking through the cobblestone streets, one can see its colonial aesthetics beautifully coexist with the architectural prowess of modern wonders, like the Guggenheim Museum.

But Bilbao wasn’t always the beacon of elegance that it is today. For years, the city was crippled by an industrial crisis and surrounded by wasteland. Since the 1990’s, Bilbao has struggled towards de-industrialization. Today, the city is considered a triumph of urban development, with its rise to its status as a major cultural destination.

1. Marvel at the Guggenheim Museum

Txakur bat dago gure plazan eserita 1997tik, munduko Puppyrik zintzoena da, ez duzu uste? #storiesMW #MGBxx

Posted by Museo Guggenheim Bilbao on Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Did you know that the very first visitor to the Museum was a teacher of music called Antonio? #musicMW #MGBxx #MusicDay2017

Posted by Museo Guggenheim Bilbao on Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Arguably Bilbao’s main attraction, the Googen, (as the residents call it), was built by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. Aside from its unique shape, the museum is known for its titanium panels, which were designed to capture light. Viewing the building with the city lights bouncing off the surface is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

At the front of the museum stands a large sculpture of a dog, made entirely out of flowers. “Puppy”, as the locals call it, was made by artist Jeff Koons and was originally brought in for the inauguration as a temporary exhibit. Bilbao residents liked Puppy so much that they decided to adopt the floral canine.

Inside, visitors can marvel at works of modern art that are just as stunning as the building itself. There are also restaurants in the vicinity.

Guggenheim Museum

Address: Avenida Abandoibarra, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 10 AM to 8 PM, Tuesday to Sunday

Entrance fee: Standard - 18.28 USD (16 EUR). Children and museum members - free. Discounts are available.

Contact: +34 944-35-90-80 (information), +34 94-435-90-23 (group visits), [email protected]

Website: Guggenheim Bilbao

2. Wander around Las Siete Calles

Casco Viejo Bilbao

Posted by El exótico mundo de Querald on Sunday, 28 May 2017

Algunos la consideran como la principal entrada al Casco Viejo, pero lo cierto es que Bidebarrieta ('Caminos nuevos')...

Posted by Asociación de Comerciantes del Casco Viejo de Bilbao on Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Últimos clientes........ Foto: kevin smith #gabon

Posted by La Queseria on Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Filled with architecture dating back to medieval times, this neighborhood is the place to be if you want to get to the pulse of Bilbao’s cultural heritage. Also known as Las Siete Calles (The Seven Streets) and Zazpi Kaleak, in Basque, this area is perfect for a leisurely stroll, with its mostly pedestrian-only streets.

There are cafes along the Gothic Santiago Cathedral, which is the oldest building in the city, when you want to watch the world go by. There is also La Queseria, a charming Parisian-style cheese shop, at the Calle Jardines. Other sights include St. James Cathedral, Plaza Nueva, the Basque Museum, and Bidebarrieta Municipal Library.

While you’re here, try your hand at Juego de la Rana - a Basque game that involves throwing tokens at a ceramic frog’s mouth.

Casco Viejo District

Address: Casco Viejo, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: All day

Entrance fee: None

La Queseria

Address: C. Jardines 10, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 10:30 am to 2 pm, 5 pm to 8:30 pm (Monday to Friday), 11 am to 2:30 pm, 5 pm to 8:30 pm (Saturday), 11 am to 3 pm (Sunday)

Contact: +34 946-055-569, [email protected]

Website: La Queseria (in Spanish)

3. Check out events at the Azkuna Zentroa

Bilbao - Azkuna Zentroa
Source: Photo by Flickr user Fred Romero used under CC BY 2.0

One of Bilbao’s most iconic buildings, the Azkuna Zentroa (formerly known as Alhóndiga Bilbao) is a 43,000 square meter cultural center converted from an old wine warehouse. While its facade retains the original 20th century style, its interiors have a modern art vibe, especially with its 43 uniquely designed columns.

The building serves as a venue for activities such as exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and children’s workshops. There is also a cinema, gym, library, some cafes and more. One of its most striking features is its swimming pool with a transparent floor. The building also has a sun terrace which becomes a solarium in the summer.

Azkuna Zentroa

Address: Plaza Arriquíbar, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday - 7 AM to 11 PM, Friday - 7 AM to 12 AM, Saturday - 8:30 AM to 12 AM, Sundays and public holidays - 8:30 AM to 11 PM

Entrance fee: None, but charges apply to sports facilities and possibly other events.

Contact: 944-014-014

Website: Azkuna Zentroa

4. Savor the view from Mount Artxanda

BILBO BIZKAIA EUSKAL HERRIA / Bilbao Funicular de Artxanda Basque Country.

Posted by "Elantxobe Urdaibai" on Thursday, 4 June 2015

At the top of Mount Artxanda, there is a nice little area that offers fantastic views of Bilbao and the majestic Basque mountains that lay beyond. There is also a hotel, restaurant, sports complex, and small park in the vicinity.

Visitors can access the viewpoint by boarding the Bilbao Funicular, the main connection between the city center and Mount Artxanda. Passing through the quaint houses and fairytale landscapes, the ride is quite an experience in itself. The cable cars can take 70 people up Mount Artxanda in just about 3 minutes. Visitors can reach the funicular by walking a few steps from the Guggenheim Museum.

While at the top, check out Txakoli Simon and try their grilled meat. Also, check out the two sculptures - one containing the gear from the original funicular and the other in the shape of a massive fingerprint, commemorating the victims of the Spanish Civil War.

Mount Artxanda via Bilbao Funicular

Address: Funikularreko Plaza, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 7:15 am to 10 pm (Monday to Saturday), 8:15 am to 10 pm (Sundays and bank holidays). Services finish at 11 pm, from June to September.

Price: Standard return ticket - 1.09 USD (0.95 EUR). Holders of the Bilbao Bizkaia card - free


Txakoli Simon

Address: San Roque Bidea, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 12:30 pm to 12:30 am (Wednesday to Sunday), 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm (Monday to Tuesday)

Contact: +34 944-45-74-99, [email protected]

Website: Txakoli Simon (in Spanish)

5. Visit Bilbao's magnificent theaters

Amigos restabiliteros ¡Felices fiestas y próspero año nuevo 2017! Fotografía del Teatro de los Campos Elíseos de...

Posted by Restabilitación= restauración + rehabilitación on Saturday, 31 December 2016

Teatro Campos Elíseos de Bilbao, España

Posted by Entre café y café. te cuento on Monday, 27 February 2017

Direction le Théâtre Arriaga de Bilbao (Espagne) demain ! 󾌵󾕓󾕓󾕓

Posted by Christine Hassid Project on Monday, 5 October 2015

Built in the early 1900’s, the Campos Eliseos is a hybrid of Middle Eastern and European aesthetics. This quirky theater also earned its moniker “The Chocolate Box”, from its stunning art nouveau facade. Rehabilitation of the theater began in 1991, and today it is known as one of the most technologically advanced theaters in Spain. Guided tours for visitors are offered for free but must be booked a few days in advance.

Another interesting theater is the Arriaga, named after the “Spanish Mozart”, Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga. Known as Bilbao’s oldest theater, this neo-baroque gem was built in the late 1800’s and was heavily damaged by a fire, in 1914. Arriaga is a first-class theater and a well-preserved piece of history, with some of its original carpets and furniture still standing, today.

Campos Eliseos Theater

Address: C. Bertendona 3-bis, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: Guided tours - 8 am to 2 pm, Monday to Friday

Entrance fee: None

Contact: +34 94 443-86-10, +34 94-443-86-41, [email protected]

Website: Teatro Campos Eliseos (in Spanish)

Arriaga Theater

Address: Arriaga Plaza, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 11 am to 1 pm (Weekend guided tours)

Entrance fee: Standard - 5.71 USD (5 EUR), Visitors w/ reduced mobility - 3.43 USD (3 EUR). Accompanied minors under 18 and students under 25 - free

Contact: +34 944 79-20-36

Website: Teatro Arriaga Antzoika

6. View art from eras past

MBBAABilbao Fachada Antiguo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user MuseoBBAABilbao used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum), smaller and more modest-looking than the Guggenheim, is located in a corner of Doña Casilda Park. Its collection contains more than 10,000 pieces of art, some of which date as far back as the 13th century. In 1945, the original fine arts museum was merged with the modern art museum. With this interesting contrast, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum became a treasure, not just for Spain but for Europe and the rest of the world.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

Address: Museo Plaza 2, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 10 am to 8 pm (Wednesday to Monday)

Entrance fee: Standard - 10.28 USD (9 EUR). Discounts are available. Some visitors are free of charge. Some days also provide free entry.

Contact: +34 944-396-060, +34 944-396-145 (fax)

Website: Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

7. Shop for food at the Mercado de la Ribera

This food market, built in 1929, is an art deco wonder in itself. Natural light passes through its stained glass windows, making shopping for food and fresh produce quite an interesting experience. While here, check out their tapas and the local delicacy “pintxos”. The Nervión River, San Antón Church, and the bridge are nearby if you want to go sightseeing, after shopping.

Mercado de la Ribera

Address: Erribera Kalea, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 8 am to 2 pm, 4:30 pm to 7 pm (Monday to Friday). 11:30 am to 2:30 pm (Saturday)

Entrance fee: None

Contact: +34 944-790-695, +34 944-790-695 (fax), [email protected]

Website: Mercado de la Ribera

8. Check out a hidden restaurant near the market

#LiveBilbao 1: Right up against the river and surrounded by galleries and boutiques, sink your teeth into some of Bilbao...

Posted by Lufthansa on Saturday, 7 March 2015

La molleja de ternera con chimichurri y crema de berros @mina_restaurant * #bilbao

Posted by Cocinando con Manu CatMan on Saturday, 9 August 2014

Mina Restaurant, located above a former mine, opposite the Ribera Market, has one Michelin star and can be accessed through a flight of stairs and a hidden door. Its exquisite and unique menu is paired with a nice ambiance, providing an interesting dining experience. While there, check out their wine pairings.

Restaurante Mina

Address: Muelle Marzana, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 2 to 3:30 pm, 9 to 10:30 pm (Wednesday to Saturday), 2 to 3:30 pm (Sunday)

Contact: +34 944-79-59-38

Website: Restaurante Mina

9. Dine in and around Gran Via

No podía faltar Bar El Globo Bilbao en la sección de pintxos de la guía Very Bilbao! Los pintxos del Globo han sido...

Posted by Very Bilbao on Monday, 25 February 2013

El Silken Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao, reabre Doma |

Posted by on Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Gran Via Boulevard is also a foodie destination, with everything from fine dining to small resto-bars. The Bar El Globo is a lively place to be after a day of sightseeing and shopping. Take your pick among its wide variety of pintxos and check out their great coffee.

If you want a nice romantic dinner with a view, try the Silken Gran Hotel Domine. Around three minutes from Gran Via, the restaurant is located in a quirky-looking hotel, opposite the Guggenheim. There is also a terrace overlooking the city, perfect for watching the world from above.

Bar El Globo

Address: C/ Diputación, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: 8 am to 11 pm (Monday to Friday), 11 am to 12 am (Saturday)

Contact: +34 944-15-42-21, [email protected]

Website: Bar El Globo

Silken Gran Hotel Domine Restaurant and Bar

Address: Alameda de Mazarredo 61, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

Contact: +34 944-25-33-00

Website: Gran Hotel Domine

10. Stroll and shop at Gran Via

Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Aro- Bilbao- Vizcaya- País Vasco- España #granvia #granviabilbao #dondiegolopezdearo...

Posted by AmongBows on Saturday, 19 November 2016

Located near the Casco Viejo, Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro (or simply Gran Via) is a wide boulevard in the Ensanche neighborhood, lined with designer boutiques and small shops. It has a certain New York City vibe, which adds to the sophistication it evokes. It is also the main commercial district of Bilbao, so be prepared to splurge while you’re there.

Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro

Address: Ensanche de Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain

Opening hours: All day

Entrance fee: None

Experience art on every corner

Cityscape - Bilbao, Spain - panoramio (1)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tommie Hansen used under CC BY 3.0

It doesn’t take long to get charmed by Bilbao. Just hop on the tram, walk the alleys, or chat with the locals. Bilbao may sometimes be overshadowed by more popular destinations in Spain, but it is a city that is truly stunning, in its own right.

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