14 Best Places to Visit in Bilbao

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Best Places to Visit in Bilbao
Photo: Pixabay/ELG21

Explore the dynamic city of Bilbao, a vibrant cultural hub in Spain’s Basque Country. Known for its modern architecture and rich maritime history, Bilbao seamlessly blends tradition with innovation.

Visit the iconic Guggenheim Museum, an architectural masterpiece housing contemporary art collections, and stroll along the scenic Nervión River.

Discover the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town) with its charming streets, local markets, and exquisite Basque cuisine.

Here are some of the best places to visit in this dynamic city.

1. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is one of the most iconic modern art museums in the world. Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, the museum’s titanium-clad, ship-like structure is a masterpiece in itself.

The Guggenheim houses an impressive collection of contemporary art, featuring works by artists such as Jeff Koons, Mark Rothko, and Anselm Kiefer.

The museum’s outdoor area, with its large-scale sculptures like Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” and Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman,” adds to the artistic experience.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a must-visit for art lovers and architecture enthusiasts alike.

Location: Abandoibarra Etorb., 2, Abando, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spanyol

2. Plaza Nueva

Plaza Nueva
Photo: Facebook/Asociación de Comerciantes del Casco Viejo de Bilbao

Plaza Nueva, located in the heart of Bilbao’s Old Town, is a historic square known for its elegant neoclassical architecture and vibrant atmosphere.

Built in the 19th century, the square is surrounded by arcaded buildings housing cafes, bars, and shops.

Plaza Nueva is a popular spot for locals and tourists to enjoy pintxos (Basque tapas) and drinks.

The square also hosts various events and markets, including a lively Sunday flea market where you can find antiques, books, and local crafts.

Plaza Nueva’s charming ambiance and bustling activity make it a perfect place to soak up the local culture.

Location: C. Fuente Canónigos, 1, 3 GROUND, 31500 Tudela, Navarra, Spain

3. Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao

The Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao, located in the city’s Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, is one of Spain’s most prestigious art museums.

The museum’s extensive collection spans from the 12th century to the present, featuring works by masters such as El Greco, Goya, and Picasso, as well as contemporary artists.

The museum’s diverse exhibits include European paintings, Basque art, and decorative arts.

With its impressive collection and serene setting, the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao offers a rich cultural experience for art enthusiasts.

Location: Museo Plaza, 2, Abando, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

4. Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park

Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park
Photo: Facebook/Jose Carlos Olmo Merino

Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, often referred to as “El Parque de los Patos” (The Park of the Ducks), is a lush, green oasis in the center of Bilbao.

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This English-style park, established in the early 20th century, features beautiful gardens, a large pond with ducks and swans, fountains, and sculptures.

The park is a perfect place for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or simply relaxing amidst nature.

It also hosts various cultural events and activities throughout the year, making it a popular spot for both locals and visitors.

Location: Abando, 48009 Bilbao, Biscay, Spain

5. Erriberako Merkatua

Erriberako Merkatua, also known as La Ribera Market, is Europe’s largest covered market and a culinary hotspot in Bilbao.

Located along the Nervión River, this historic market dates back to the 14th century and was renovated in the 20th century.

The market offers a wide array of fresh produce, seafood, meats, cheeses, and local specialties.

Visitors can sample traditional Basque dishes, shop for gourmet products, and enjoy the lively atmosphere.

With its impressive architecture and gastronomic delights, Erriberako Merkatua is a must-visit for food lovers.

Location: Ribera Street, s/n, Ibaiondo, 48005 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

6. Azkuna Zentroa

Azkuna Zentroa
Photo: Facebook/Carlos Gervás Saavedra

Azkuna Zentroa, formerly known as Alhóndiga Bilbao, is a cultural and leisure center housed in a beautifully restored wine warehouse.

Designed by architect Philippe Starck, the building combines historical elements with modern design.

Azkuna Zentroa features a wide range of facilities, including exhibition spaces, a cinema, a library, a gym, and a rooftop swimming pool with a glass floor.

The center hosts various cultural events, from art exhibitions and film screenings to concerts and workshops.

Azkuna Zentroa’s innovative design and diverse offerings make it a vibrant hub of creativity and entertainment.

Location: Arriquíbar Plaza, 4, Abando, 48010 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

7. Zubizuri

The Zubizuri, or “White Bridge,” is a striking pedestrian bridge designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava.

Spanning the Nervión River, this futuristic structure features a curved walkway and a distinctive white arch that gives it its name.

The bridge’s glass floor panels and sleek design make it a popular spot for photography and a symbol of Bilbao’s modern transformation.

Connecting the Campo Volantín area with Uribitarte, the Zubizuri offers scenic views of the river and the cityscape, making it a pleasant route for a leisurely stroll.

Location: Zubizuri, Abando, 48001 Bilbao, Biscay, Spain

8. Teatro Arriaga

Teatro Arriaga
Photo: Pixabay/ADMC

The Teatro Arriaga is one of Bilbao’s most prestigious cultural venues, named after the famous composer Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga.

This stunning neo-Baroque theater, built in 1890, is inspired by the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris.

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The Teatro Arriaga hosts a wide range of performances, including opera, ballet, theater, and concerts.

Its opulent interior, with ornate decorations and plush seating, enhances the experience of attending a show.

The theater’s central location and historic charm make it a cultural cornerstone of Bilbao.

Location: Arriaga Plaza, 1, Ibaiondo, 48005 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

9. Estadio de San Mamés

Estadio de San Mamés, affectionately known as “La Catedral,” is the home stadium of Athletic Club Bilbao, one of Spain’s most storied football clubs.

The modern stadium, inaugurated in 2013, replaces the original San Mamés, which stood on the same site for 100 years.

With a seating capacity of over 53,000, the stadium is renowned for its electric atmosphere during matches.

Visitors can take guided tours of the stadium, including the locker rooms, VIP areas, and the club’s museum, which showcases Athletic Club’s rich history and achievements.

A visit to San Mamés is a must for football fans and those interested in Basque sporting culture.

Location: P.º Rafael Moreno “Pitxitxi”, s/n, Basurto-Zorroza, 48013 Bilbao, Biscay, Spain

10. Artxanda Viewpoint

Artxanda Viewpoint
Photo: Unsplash/Vera Wijermars | Feathering

The Artxanda Viewpoint offers one of the best panoramic views of Bilbao and its surrounding areas.

Located on Mount Artxanda, the viewpoint is easily accessible by a funicular railway that departs from the city center.

At the top, visitors are greeted with breathtaking vistas of the cityscape, the Nervión River, and the distant mountains.

The viewpoint also features a park with walking paths, picnic areas, and a sculpture commemorating the victims of the Spanish Civil War.

Artxanda Viewpoint is an ideal spot to enjoy the natural beauty of Bilbao and capture stunning photographs.

Location: Enekuri Artxanda Road, 70, 48015 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

11. Vizcaya Bridge

The Vizcaya Bridge, also known as the Puente Colgante, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a marvel of industrial engineering.

Located in the town of Getxo, near Bilbao, this transporter bridge was designed by Alberto Palacio and opened in 1893.

It is the world’s oldest transporter bridge and still operates today, carrying passengers and vehicles across the Nervión River in a suspended gondola.

Visitors can take a ride on the gondola or walk across the high-level footbridge for spectacular views of the river and the surrounding area.

The Vizcaya Bridge is a testament to the region’s engineering prowess and historical significance.

Location: Puente de Vizcaya Bridge, 48930 Getxo, Bizkaia, Spain

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12. Salt Valley of Añana

Salt Valley of Añana
Photo: Facebook/Visit Basque Country

The Salt Valley of Añana, located about an hour from Bilbao, is a unique and historic salt production site that dates back over 6,000 years.

This open-air museum showcases the traditional methods of salt extraction using terraced evaporation ponds fed by natural brine springs.

Visitors can take guided tours to learn about the history and techniques of salt production, participate in salt harvesting activities, and taste the high-quality salt produced here.

The Salt Valley of Añana offers a fascinating glimpse into an ancient industry and its ongoing cultural importance.

Location: Real Calle, 32, 01426 Gesaltza Añana, Álava, Spain

13. Castle of Frias

The Castle of Frias is a medieval fortress perched atop a rocky hill in the town of Frias, approximately two hours from Bilbao.

This well-preserved castle, dating back to the 9th century, offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the Ebro River.

Visitors can explore the castle’s towers, ramparts, and dungeons, and learn about its history through informative displays.

The town of Frias itself is a charming destination, with narrow streets, historic buildings, and a picturesque bridge.

The Castle of Frias provides a fascinating journey into the region’s medieval past.

Location: Calle Alfonso VIII, s/n, 09211 Frías, Burgos, Spain

14. Bilboko Donejakue Katedrala

Bilboko Donejakue Katedrala, also known as the Cathedral of Santiago, is a Gothic-style cathedral located in the heart of Bilbao’s Old Town.

Dedicated to Saint James, the cathedral dates back to the 14th century and is a significant stop on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.

The cathedral features a striking façade, beautiful stained glass windows, and a serene cloister. Its interior includes impressive altarpieces, chapels, and a crypt.

The Bilboko Donejakue Katedrala is a place of worship and historical importance, offering a peaceful retreat in the bustling city.

Location: Done Jakue Plazatxoa, 1, Ibaiondo, 48005 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

Conclusion

Bilbao is a city that captivates with its unique blend of tradition and modernity, offering a rich tapestry of cultural experiences.

From the architectural marvel of the Guggenheim Museum and the historic charm of Plaza Nueva to the artistic treasures of the Museum of Fine Arts and the culinary delights of Erriberako Merkatua, there is something for everyone.

Whether you’re exploring lush parks, enjoying local cuisine, or immersing yourself in the vibrant cultural scene, Bilbao promises an unforgettable journey.

Its dynamic spirit, stunning architecture, and warm hospitality make it a must-visit destination in Spain’s Basque Country.

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