Located in the northern part of Spain is a UNESCO “City of Design” called Bilbao. As a part of the Basque Country, the town is filled with culture, amazing cuisine and beautiful Gothic architecture. The city’s interesting history is what made it today a mixture of old and new, working together in perfect harmony. The Old Town is created out of a grid of small streets decorated with colorful houses, while various parts in the city house modern art works of great artists.
Worried that one day in Bilbao isn’t enough? Worry no longer! Keep reading below and discover how to visit all the hot-spots of Bilbao in just 24 hours.
8AM: BREAKFAST IN BILBAO
There is no better way to start the day with a nutritious breakfast. Bilbao, the great culinary place that it is, offers a variety to choose from. The best way to explore the gastronomical tradition of this famed place is by starting from the basics at Mercado De La Ribera located on the banks of the Nervión River, on the borders of Casco Viejo. This market is one of the biggest covered markets in Europe operating an area of 10.000 square meters and providing daily fresh products to the locals and anyone who wants to feel like one. In 1990 La Ribera was recognized as the “Most Complete Municipal Supply Market” by the Guinness World Records organization.
If you prefer a more typical breakfast location, a five minute walk from La Ribera will bring you to Plaza Nueva where you can enjoy local Spanish specialties in one of the restaurants like Iturriza Taberna or Cafe bar Bilbao for a reasonable price. A bit further, right next to the cathedral, is Baster Bilbao. This small dinner offers a wide choice of local dishes and pintxos.
9AM – 11AM: A STROLL THROUGH THE OLD TOWN
After breakfast and maybe a cup of coffee, it is time to take a walk and explore the Old Town. Even though more or less everything in Bilbao is within walking distance, a good tip for you is to purchase a Bilbao Bizkaia Card. This card is a true lifesaver for every traveller visiting the city. It grants you access to most of the public transport systems, including the Euskotren and Artxanda funicular railway, as well as a Fastpass for museums. A 24-hour card will cost you somewhere around €10 and you can order it online in advance.
Bilbao was founded over 700 years ago and was divided in two parts: Bilbao la Vieja or the old mining area and Casco Viejo, better known as Old Quarter. These two parts were separated by the Nervión River and still are today. In 1979 this part of the town became a pedestrian area filled with shops, bars and restaurants. Besides that there is a lot to see from the original architecture of the town like the City Hall, built in the 19th century and the Baroque Yohn Palace, better known as the Bours or “La Bolsa”, which used to be a merchants’ exchange office.
Before you leave Casco Viejo, don’t forget to visit two of the oldest buildings in Bilbao. The first is Cathedral de Santiago which dates back to the 13th century and is dedicated to their patron saint – Saint James. The second one is Church of San Antón which was built in the 15th century and is today a wonderful mixture of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.
A fifteen minute walk from the Old Town brings us to the Artxanda funicular which can take you upon the Mount Artxanda in just three short minutes for the most breathtaking views of the town of Bilbao. Take your time to soak in the beautiful views and then you can take the funicular back to the town. If you don’t have a Bilbao Bizkaia Card, a return ticket will cost somewhere around € 3,60.
11:30AM – 2PM: GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM BILBAO
Our next stop is at one of the biggest attractions of Bilbao, the Guggenheim Museum. This spectacular building created within the mind of architect Frank Gehry is truly a one of a kind masterpiece just like all the art that is kept inside. Established in 1997, the museum birthed a new financial resource for the city with the cultural-touristic explosion it created.
Once inside the concept of time gets quickly lost when you emerge yourself into the art created by artists like Richard Serra, Mark Rothko, Jorge Oteiza, Anselm Kiefer and many more. Even the exterior is decorated with various sculptures and artworks like “Tulips” and “Puppy” by Jeff Koons, “Fire Fountain” by Yves Klein, and “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois.
Because the museum offers a lot to see with its essentials and various exhibitions it is good to plan ahead your trip there. Here are some practical pieces of information for your visit to Guggenheim:
- The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- The entry fee for the museum is approximately €15, senior citizens and students can get the tickets at a discounted price of €7,50 when you buy your tickets at the admission desk. If you plan ahead you can get your tickets online for a smaller price.
- The museum houses various activities like concerts and workshops, for more information about that you can always visit their website.
2PM – 3:30PM: LUNCH TIME IN BILBAO
All this modern art definitely gets the appetite going so now is the perfect time for a lunch break. By now it is probably impossible that the culinary scene has passed you by unnoticeably. If you prefer fine dining and short walks, the best options are the Nerua Guggenheim Bilbao restaurant and Bistró Guggenheim Bilbao, located within the borders of the museum itself. Both restaurants offer traditional Basque dishes with an interesting twist, all produced with local ingredients.
Not so far from the Guggenheim you can find the SUA SAN Restaurant which offers daily menus for around €14,50. If you go a bit further, along the Mazarredo Zumarkalea, you get to Euskadi Plaza. There you can find, amongst many other restaurants and bars, the MINIbar which is completely decorated with the influence of the MINI corporate image. They offer a daily menu for €14 which consists of three courses and changes every day.
If you want to go a bit further, on the other side of the river bank, you will find a true local food experience. Bikandi Etxea is a small, family owned restaurant which offers great food for a very reasonable price. Everything is freshly prepared and the dishes change according to season.
4PM – 7PM: FINE ARTS MUSEUM AND BILBAO STADIUM
All the art lovers are in luck today because Bilbao has one more museum that you definitely have to visit. Next to the Euskadi Plaza you will find The Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao. The collection located inside the museum includes artwork from artists like El Greco, José de Ribera, Martin de Vos, Francis Bacon and many others. The slogan which they used to celebrate the first centennial of existence in 2008 really says it all: “100 Years of History, 10 Centuries of Art“. The general admission fee is around €10, but anyone younger than 25 gets in for free. It is open from Wednesday to Monday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If you prefer sports over art, you can pay a visit to San Mamés Stadium, house of the local team Athletic Club. The real football lovers can visit the AC Museum and learn everything about the history and uniqueness of the club. The entry fee for the museum is around €10.
Our next stop is Plaza Moyua, a beautiful elliptical square decorated with flower beds and in the heart of it all the iconic fountain. From this square a spider web of streets spreads further through the town filled with shops, bars and restaurants. It is possible to find something for everyone’s taste and pocket.
7PM: DINNER IN BILBAO
After a quick shopping spree the best thing to do is get a drink or two before dinner. The districts Indautxu and Abando are famous for their many bars, taverns and clubs. So, take a seat at POZA 46, Bar Txistu or Pitxintxu and enjoy some drinks and pintxos. Pintxos are a traditional dish in Bilbao and many locals consider that pintxos are perfectly accompanied by a glass of wine. These bite-size snacks are made of a piece of bread, topped with various delicacies and have a “pincho” or “spike” stuck through it to keep everything together. You can find them at almost every bar in Bilbao.
For the ones that prefer a nicely cooked meal in the evening, here are a couple of recommendations:
- Odoloste is located not too far from the Guggenheim museum and offers one of the best dining experiences in Bilbao. Their colourful menu is created with spanish and mediterranian cuisine in mind.
- La Gavilla is a cozy local restaurant located close next to the Plaza Moyua. We recommend that you try the pork dishes which are rumoured to be the best.
- Casa Leotta is an italian restaurant in the Abandoibarra area. It offers the best pizzas in Bilbao and none of them are boring.
Even though the city is filled with restaurants, there is one place that deserves a special recommendation. Located along the banks of the Nervion River, with a beautiful view of the Mercado De La Ribera and The San Anton bridge, is the Michelin star rated Mina Restaurante. The restaurant offers various tasting menus ranging in the number of courses and prices. Everything is made from fresh products and if you catch a place at the oak counter you have a direct view of the open kitchen. Keep in mind that this restaurant is on the more expensive side, but every foodie will agree that it is worth every penny.