31 BEST Things to do in Bilbao [2020!]

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Sitting pretty on the Bay of Biscay, Bilbao is one of the top destinations in Northern Spain. Discover fascinating Basque culture, delicious food, and art and culture in droves. it has so much to offer, whatever you want from a city break.

Wander through the narrow cobbled streets in the Old Town, stopping for coffees in wide open and sun-drenched squares. Swap historic Bilbao for the ultramodern architecture of the port – where you’ll find the iconic Guggenheim Museum!

As the largest city in the Basque country, it can be tricky to decide what to do in Bilbao. Let us take you through some of the best things to do in town so that planning your holiday to Bilbao is as stress-free as possible!

Our favourite places to stay in Bilbao!

Choosing somewhere to stay in Bilbao will make your trip much easier. Having everything booked in advance will mean you’ve got more time to explore this wonderful city! There are several neighbourhoods which offer different flavours of the city, each waiting to be discovered!

Ganbara Hostel

The Best Hostel in Bilbao

Ganbara Hostel
Ganbara Hostel is our pick for the best hostel in Bilbao
  • Great location
  • Fun and vibrant atmosphere

Ganbara Hostel is right in the centre of Bilbao’s Old Town. It’s close to the bars, restaurants and nightlife, and the ideal place to explore from!

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Hotel Bilbao Jardines

The Best Budget Hotel in Bilbao

Hotel Bilbao Jardines
Hotel Bilbao Jardines is our pick for the best budget hotel in Bilbao
  • Innovative and chic design
  • Great location

Close to the centre of the Old Town and only 5 minutes away from the train station, this budget hotel is a great place to explore Bilbao from. It’s on a quiet residential street!

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Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao

The Best Luxury Hotel in Bilbao

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao
Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao is our pick for the best luxury hotel in Bilbao
  • Stunning rooftop terrace
  • Opposite the Guggenheim Museum

This luxury hotel is opposite the top attraction in Bilbao and was designed by Javier Mariscal. There are a number of different dining and drinking options in the five star hotel!

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The Best Travel Backpack EVER MADE!?!

We are obsessed with backpacks – we’ve tried them all! And our favourite carry on backpack in the WORLD is the Nomatic Travel Backpack. This backpack has revolutionized the backpack industry and will change the way you travel forever :) Check it out here!

• The 31 Best Things to Do in Bilbao •

#1 – Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum
A very cool thing to do in Bilbao
  • One of the most iconic buildings in Spain
  • Showcases contemporary Basque and international art
  • Take a private guided tour

The first place on most Bilbao itineraries is the Guggenheim Museum. Completed in 1997 with the intention of regenerating the city, it’s certainly done so. The Guggenheim put Bilbao on the world map – it’s one of the best art galleries in Spain!

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Have some time? Get out of the city with these epic day trips from Bilbao!

#2 – Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo
One of the best free things to do in Bilbao
  • A lovely place for a leisurely stroll
  • Pop into a bar for a pintxo
  • Check out the cathedral and churches

Casco Viejo means Old Town, and this is the part of Bilbao that used to be enclosed in city walls. They were torn down in the 1800s, but you can still see the stunning cathedral and churches here.

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Still haven’t booked for Bilbao? Find out where to stay in Bilbao for any type of trip!

#3 – Getxo and the Bizcaya Bridge

Getxo and the Bizcaya Bridge
Architecture fan? You’ll love this
  • Tick a UNESCO World Heritage site off the bucket list
  • Discover Bilbao by bike
  • Visit a charming Basque coastal town

Just 20km from Bilbao, Getxo is easily accessible by bike. The biggest attraction is the UNESCO World Heritage listed transporter bridge which links the town with Portugalete. The Old Port is a lovely place to take a leisurely stroll!

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Will you be in Alicante a while? Here’s your guide to the top day trips from Alicante for exploring the area!

#4 – Plaza Nueva

Plaza Nueva
One of the most important sites in Bilbao
  • The centre of Bilbao
  • A great place to relax with friends
  • Antique market on a Sunday morning

The centre of Bilbao’s Old Quarter is Plaza Nueva. Come here in the evenings to people watch groups of friends and have a couple of cañas or glasses of wine. Make sure you try a couple of tasty pintxos too!

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Editor’s Recommendation! These are the staff pick for the top hostels in Barcelona (for all budgets!)

#5 – Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts

Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts

  • A more traditional gallery than the Guggenheim
  • Enjoy a private guided tour
  • Work dating back to the 12th century

The Guggenheim may be the most famous art gallery in Bilbao, but art lovers should check out the Museum of Fine Arts too. It’s considered to be one of the best art galleries in Spain, but for different reasons. The masterpieces here span from the 1100s to the present day!

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Spain is amazing! And the best hostels in Madrid will blow you away!

#6 – La Ribera Market

La Ribera Market
A great experience for food lovers!
  • Most famous market in Bilbao
  • On the edge of the Casco Viejo
  • Pick up some local products for back home

Although this market was built in 1929, a market has stood on this site since the 14th century. It’s a great place to visit any time of day. Pick up fresh produce in the morning, or head to a bar or restaurant for lunch. It’s even a great night out!

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#7 – San Mamés Stadium and Museum

San Mamés Stadium and Museum
One of the best things to do in downtown Bilbao
  • See the home of Athletic Bilbao
  • A football club that only fields Basque players
  • Feel like a pro in the club changing room

One of the proudest and most historical clubs in Spain, football fanatics will love a trip to San Mamés. Athletic Bilbao is a unique football club, and a guided tour will teach you about their history!

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Looking for the Party? We’ve got you covered with our guide to the best party hostels in Barcelona!

#8 – Forestal Park Bilbao

Forestal Park Bilbao
Fun for the whole family!
  • Spend time up in the treetops
  • Feel like you’re flying on a zipline
  • Don’t worry about safety – you’ve got a harness!

Explore the fun and thrills of a treetop adventure. Take on rope bridges and ziplines and enjoy the panoramic views from the treetops on this aerial assault course. There are two options which fit different ages and skill levels!

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#9 – Arriaga Theatre

Arriaga Theatre
Great fun for culture vultures!
  • Neo-Baroque 19th century palace
  • One of the best cultural spots in Bilbao
  • Right on the edge of the Old Town

Right on the river, you’ll find the Arriaga Theatre. It’s named after an important Basque composer who sadly died from tuberculosis at the age of 20. Head here to take in opera, ballet, or a concert while you’re in town!

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Looking to make friends in Madrid? One of these cool party hostels might be for you!

#10 – Basque Cooking Class

Basque Cooking Class
A must do for foodies
  • Learn how to make Basque pintxos
  • A class with one of the best chefs in Bilbao
  • Discover another side of Basque culture

In this class, you’ll be learning to make 4 different pintxos and a dessert. Pintxos are one of the cornerstones of Basque culinary culture, and you’ll want to impress your friends by making them when you get back home. This class will help you do just that!

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#11 – Bilbao Cathedral

Bilbao Cathedral

  • The oldest monument in Bilbao
  • Dates back to the 14th and 15th century
  • The most important religious building in Bilbao

Don’t be confused by what seems like a swastika above the main doorway. It’s actually a lauburu, a traditional Basque symbol. Not only is this an important religious site, but you can see the graves of important 16th century noblemen in the cloisters.

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MUST READ! You’ve got to visit these places in Spain when you’re there!

#12 – Artxanda Lookout

  • Take the funicular up to the lookout
  • A picturesque viewpoint above the city
  • Have lunch at one of the restaurants up here

If you’re really in love with Bilbao’s architecture, consider seeing it from above. The Artxanda Lookout is atop a 224-metre hill and you can reach it on a 100-year-old funicular. Views of the Guggenheim are second to none!

 

#13 – Askuna Zentroa

  • Visit the city’s former wine exchange
  • Modernist building on 43 unique pillars
  • Take a guided tour

An incredible arts and culture venue, you shouldn’t miss seeing a show at Askuna Zentroa if you have the chance. However, it can be just as much fun to explore the building. Each of the 43 pillars that hold it up is an individual work of art!

 

#14 – Discover the sites from Game of Thrones

Discover the sites from Game of Thrones
A great experience for GOT lovers!
  • Visit Dragonstones Fortress
  • Walk along King’s Landing Beach
  • Get to know the stunning coastline

The otherworldly Basque coastline is truly stunning, and the Game of Thrones directors noticed that! There are a number of locations in Northern Spain used in the TV show. The most impressive is Dragonstones Fortress – aka San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

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Editor’s Note: If you’ll be in Barcelona, check out the top things to do in Barcelona during your visit!

#15 – Take a boat tour on the Nervión River

Take a boat tour on the Nervión River

  • Get a new perspective on the city’s key attractions
  • A relaxing day on the water
  • Head out to Bahía del Abra

The Ria de Bilbao or Nervión River is a picturesque way to see the city. Several of the city’s key locations are set on its main banks, all the way up to Bahía del Abra and the towns of Portugalete and Getxo!

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#16 – The Sanctuary of Arantzazu and Oñati

The Sanctuary of Arantzazu and Oñati

  • Discover the stunning landscapes of the Basque Country
  • Visit an iconic religious building
  • Be seduced by rural Basque villages

The Sanctuary of Arantzazu is one of the most avant-garde religious buildings in the world. It’s so close and makes a great day trip from Bilbao. Nearby, there’s also the oldest university in the Basque Country: Sancti Spiritu!

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#17 – Playa de Azkorri

Very Romantic for Couples

  • Take a stroll on the beach
  • Just 25 minutes from the city centre
  • Stunning sandy blue flag bay

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Playa de Azkorri is a great bet. This beach was designed for long, romantic strolls, so it’s a must if you’re travelling with your other half!

 

#18 – Basque Museum

  • More than 20,000 artefacts
  • Learn about the history of the Basque region
  • Displays dating back to the Iron age

If you want to learn about this mysterious Spanish region, there’s nowhere better than the Basque Museum. Interactive exhibits in a 17th century building document the region from the beginning of time until now!

 

#19 – Dona Casilda Park

  • One of the city’s most charming green spaces
  • Have a lazy day
  • Take a picnic and enjoy it in the sun

As the city’s largest green space, there’s nowhere better to escape the noise without leaving Bilbao. It’s a favourite spot for tourists and locals alike, and you can enjoy walks, sports, and picnics here!

 

#20 – Day Trip to Vitoria

Day Trip to Vitoria
A great experience for wine buffs
  • Visit the capital of the Basque region
  • Sample rioja wines
  • Take a guided tour

If there’s one trip you don’t want to do in a rental car, it’s this. You’ll miss out on so much fine wine! Vitoria is the capital of the Basque Region and has one of the best quality of life ratings in all Spain!

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Will you also visit Alicante? Check out where we like to stay in Alicante!

#21 – Jeff Koon’s Puppy

  • A huge topiary dog
  • Located outside the Guggenheim Museum
  • Once part of a terrorist plot!

This topiary structure of a West Highland terrier is one of the symbols of Bilbao. The cartoon-like structure is a representation of something from an 18th century pleasure garden with a modern twist.

 

#22 – Torre Iberdrola

Things to do in Bilbao this weekend

  • The tallest building in the Basque country
  • Open on weekends
  • Excellent views of the city

The tallest building in the Basque country and highest office building in Spain is located in Bilbao. Ascend to the observation deck for incredible views. The best time to visit is either early in the morning (no crowds) or at sunset (great views)!

 

#23 – Iglesia de San Nicolas

  • Church with a beautiful baroque façade
  • In the Casco Viejo
  • Dedicated to the patron saint of sailors

In a town with such a rich maritime history, it’s no surprise that there’s a church dedicated to the patron saint of sailors. St Nicholas’ Church is one of the prettiest in the Casco Viejo, thanks to its gorgeous baroque façade!

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#24 – Campos Eliseos Theatre

One of the best free things to do in Bilbao

  • A blend of architectural styles
  • Take a free guided tour
  • Admire the gold leaf in the main hall

Just over the river from the Arriaga Theatre that we mentioned earlier, Campos Eliseos is another cool place to put on your Bilbao itinerary. It looks like one of the stunning Moorish Andalusian palaces and you can tour it for free!

 

#25 – Playa de Plentzia

One of the best cheap things to do in Bilbao

  • Try your hand at water sports
  • Enjoy swimming in the cool waters
  • One of the most popular beaches in Bilbao

The north of Spain may not be as well known for its beach as the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any great beaches in the north. Playa de Plentzia is one of the most popular in the Basque country and a great place for a day trip!

 

#26 – Basilica of Begoña

Architecture fan? You’ll love this

  • Gothic church towering over the Casco Viejo
  • Beautiful gold altarpiece
  • Dedicated to the Patron Saint of the Bay of Biscay

Amatxu is known as ‘Mother’ to those around the Bay of Biscay. And that’s exactly who this church is dedicated to! It took a century to build, and you’ll definitely want to explore it if you love architecture. It combines Gothic and Renaissance!

 

#27 – Salinas de Añana

Salinas de Añana
One of the more unique things to do in Bilbao
  • One of the world’s oldest salt factories
  • 6,500 years of history
  • An hour south of Bilbao

If you want a change of scenery, consider heading out to the Salinas de Añana. These salt flats are an incredible cultural and natural site, with plenty of animals and plants calling them home!

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#28 – Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum

  • Located in the Eukalduna Shipyards
  • Learn about the men and women who made the town what it is now
  • Scale models of boats built in Bilbao

You can’t visit Bilbao without a nod to its maritime past. It’s the backbone of the city, even today! The Maritime Museum takes an in-depth look at the city’s history and the people behind it.

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#29 – Zubizuri (The White Bridge)

  • Arched footbridge over the Nervión River
  • Designed by esteemed architect Santiago Calatrava
  • Connects Campo Volantín and Uribitarte

There are several architectural wonders in Bilbao, and we couldn’t miss out Zubizuri, aka the Calatrava Bridge or the White Bridge. It was controversial back in 1997 when it was constructed, but nowadays it’s one of the symbols of the city.

 

#30 – Explore San Sebastian

Explore San Sebastian

  • Enjoy a walking tour of another Basque city
  • One of the best foodie cities in Europe
  • Home to one of the 12 treasures of Spain

If you can spare a whole day away from Bilbao, head to San Sebastian. Sample pintxos and tapas before spending time on La Concha Urban Beach. It’s the only beach listed in the 12 treasures of Spain!

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#31 – Fountain of Dogs

All ages will love this site!

  • Not dogs, but Egyptian style lions!
  • Legend says it was used to wash animals
  • Fill your water bottle here!

An unusual little attraction in the Casco Viejo is the Egyptian inspired architecture of the fountain of dogs. Legend has it that it was used to wash animals to be sold in the local market. Now, it’s a good place to fill up your water bottle!

Final Thoughts

So, that concludes our list of the best things to do in Bilbao. And it’s a city that really does have it all. Whatever your travel style is – be it foodie, culture vulture, or history buff, you’ll find loads of cool activities in Bilbao.

Discover the biggest barque city for yourself. Wander through the streets to hidden tapas restaurants, check out the art in one of the world’s most impressive galleries, and learn about the city’s maritime history.

Whether you’re travelling solo, with your other half, or as a family, you’re sure to make plenty of happy memories when you travel to Bilbao!

***Disclaimer*** Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, One Weird Globe will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going :)

Clair Ricketts

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