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  • Writer's pictureDiogo Machado

What to visit in Bilbao?

Although Spain is one of the most visited countries in Europe, tourists do not pay equal attention to all parts of the country. The Basque Country is a typical example of an autonomous community that stretches to the north and borders France. The community of Euskadi, as the locals call it, contains a variety of natural wonders that will satisfy even the most discerning traveler. Rich history, unusual architecture, enticing wines, and, upon closer inspection, a cool sea breeze. Especially if you decide to begin your journey in vibrant Bilbao, the capital of the Vizcaya province, as a bonus, you can communicate in English everywhere, as well as in French in the Basque Country's northernmost regions.

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What not to miss?

Museo Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Museum, built about 20 years ago, is one of the most recognizable structures in the entire Baque Country. The structure itself is unique and should be seen for yourself. Inside, you'll find Europe's best collection of modern art. Remember the popular outdoor spot - Tulips by Jeff Koons and the giant puppy by this artist as soon as you walk into and around the museum. This adorable puppy greets you at the door.

Catedral de Santiago

The Cathedral of Santiago, located in Bilbao's Casco Viejo district, welcomes you with Basque Gothic architecture. The cathedral's interior is exquisitely decorated, and the cathedral itself dates from the 15th century. The facade and tower were restored to their original form in the nineteenth century. You can visit the cathedral every Friday and Saturday; mass is held every day at 7 p.m.; and on Sundays, there is an additional (bilingual) Mass at noon.

Azkuna Zentroa center

Alhóndiga, also known as Azkuna Zentroa, is a cultural and recreational center in the city's old wine exchange. Philippe Starck, a French designer, redesigned the entire building in a modern style, and it now has 43 magnificent pillars or columns, each one unique. You can go to one of the exhibitions here, and even if art isn't your thing, take a look around because it's worth seeing.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

The Museum of Fine Arts, or Bellas Artes, should be on your itinerary if you enjoy art. You'll be there for a while because over 10,000 pieces of art are on display. The collection includes works dating back to the 12th century, making it one of the most important collections in the Basque Country.

Casco Viejo

Another exciting location is Bilbao's old town or Casco Viejo. There are many wide streets, colorful and exciting architecture, unique shops, and unusual bars. This is also where you'll find the Cathedral de Santiago de Bilbao, the archaeological museum, other churches, and interesting monuments.

What else to visit?

Mercado de la Ribera

The famous La Ribera market is located right next to the river. On the outskirts of the previous section of Bilbao's old town. We will sample authentic Bilbao cuisine at the market. The market is housed in a 1929 historic building. There are restaurants, bars, and live music here, and if you want to soak up the authentic Spanish atmosphere, this is the place to be! It is one of Europe's largest indoor covered markets, so you must see it yourself.

Plaza Nueva

Heart or the center of Bilbao hides many cafes, bars, and restaurants. The perfect place to rest while exploring the city. Grab a coffee, lunch, or a drink to keep you going on your next adventure. This square was designed in the neoclassical style in the nineteenth century. On Sundays, you can buy and sell antiques and collectibles.

Basílica de la Virgen de Begoña

The basilica is stunning, and we highly recommend seeing it. The basilica was extremely difficult to build and took an incredible 100 years to complete. The basilica is named after the Virgin of Begona, and the city holds large celebrations to honor the Virgin of Begona. If it arrives in mid-August or mid-October, you will be a part of these beautiful celebrations.

How to travel there?

Traveling by plane is the most convenient option. Bilbao Airport is 12 kilometers from the city center and serves 18 destinations in Spain and over 20 destinations in the rest of Europe. The cheapest way to get from the airport is to take bus A3247, which costs 3€. If you prefer more comfort, you can take a taxi or a private transfer; the journey will take about 15 minutes and cost between 20 - 25 €. If you intend to travel further, renting a car is the most cost-effective option. The airport has no train or metro connection to the city center.

A car is another option for getting to Bilbao. Bilbao connects the east and south of Spain, and everything is well marked. From Madrid, it takes about 4 hours to get to Bilbao and about 6 hours to get to Barcelona. If you want to explore Bilbao, we do not recommend renting a car. However, suppose you want to explore the entire Basque Country. In that case, several affordable rental car options are available, and the roads are in excellent condition so that you will have a great time exploring.

The bus is our next mode of transportation recommendation. All long-distance buses depart from Termibus, also known as Estación de Bilbao Intermodal. Buses leave for Vitoria, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Biarritz, Madrid, and Barcelona, among other places. The cost is determined by the distance traveled.

The final option for getting to Bilbao is by train. The central train station is called Abando Indalecio Prieto, but most locals call it Estación del Norte, or North Station. Spain's national train service is known as RENFE, while France's is known as SNCF. You can travel daily to Madrid, Barcelona, or Paris from Bilbao. The destination determines the cost and whether you travel in first or second class. EuskoTren, the Basque train, is available for shorter distances. This particular train runs frequently and is reasonably priced. The location determines the exact cost.

When to travel there?

Unlike the rest of Spain, Bilbao has a distinct Oceanic climate. It means that even in the summer, it is more relaxed than the rest of the country. We recommend visiting Bilbao during the summer, especially from June to mid-September. Despite being the hottest season, temperatures are well-balanced and do not vary significantly. In the other months, you may encounter a proper winter or rain.

Average costs

Let's look at how much money you spent in Bilbao. Accommodation is one of the most important. If you only need to sleep occasionally and don't mind staying in a hostel, you can find them here for around 23 - 30€. If you want privacy and a traditional hotel room, a double room will cost you approximately 55-60€. A better hotel room for two people will cost between 110 - 115€, but prices can go even higher. Although public transportation is significantly less expensive than taxis, travelers in Bilbao spend an average of 21€ per person when using the local transportation.

We must consider the average food expenses to have enough energy for the entire day. A meal costs 37€ on average per person per day. A good, high-quality, delicious meal should cost about 15€ per person. Breakfast prices are slightly lower than the prices for lunch and dinner. We recommend trying street food because it will be less expensive than a traditional sit-down restaurant. We leave the selection of food and restaurant to you!

Where to eat?

Make one of the many Pintxo Bars your first stop. Not only do you get to sample traditional Basque cuisine, but you also get to sample their wine for a very reasonable price. The food is of high quality and plentiful. We suggest El Globo Bar or Café Iruña. We also recommend Calle Ledesma if you want to experiment with a more creative kitchen. This restaurant will provide you with a truly unforgettable gastronomic experience, allowing you to try combinations you never thought possible. For example, fried banana filled with blue cheese and ham is available. We believe it is well worth a shot!

And speaking of gastronomy, what would a trip to Bilbao be without a stop at one of the Michelin-starred restaurants? Visiting one of these restaurants is not cheap, but trust us when we say that the experience and delicious food are well worth it! Mina Restaurant and Atelier Etxanobe are two of Bilbao's best Michelin-starred restaurants.


Aste Nagusia (Bilbao's Big Week)

Big Week for Bilbao, or "Aste Naguisa" in Spanish, is one of the city's most significant celebrations. Every year in August, this 9-day event takes place. This week is dedicated to the Virgen de Begoña, as well as to Basque culture. There are concerts, performances, sports activities, fireworks, and other attractions on the streets. This is what you want to see, so mark August on your calendar and plan a trip to Bilbao.

Santo Tomas Market

The 21st of December is also an important date in Bilbao. Furthermore, Christmas has arrived, but in Bilbao, it also means big celebrations and represents rural Basque life. The traditional Basque dish "talo con chorizo" (spicy sausage in a corn tortilla) is served, along with "txakoli" (Basque white wine) or cider. There are many shops where you can buy local items and hear and see traditional Basque instruments. A lovely Christmas and education in Basque culture await you.

Basque Fest in Holy Week

Easter is celebrated all over the world, but in Spain, each city has its unique celebration. It's the same in Bilbao. You will hear and see Basque culture traditions here, and you can try various activities in sports, dancing, music, design, or art to get to know the Basque culture even better. That is why it is known as the Easter Basque Festival. This festival is held annually around the end of March and the beginning of April.

This is the end of our article on Bilbao, and we hope you will visit this lovely city soon! Meanwhile, take a look at our other articles on the different destinations of Spain like Barcelona. If you're interested in knowing about other European destinations like Split, Mykonos, and Cagliari. Do not forget to follow us @thewalkingparrot to be always updated on the new releases.

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