8 reasons why you should put Bilbao on your Bucket List

City Breaks | | 6 minutes
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

Bilbao is the capital of the Basque country in northern Spain. While many know this beautiful city because of the Guggenheim Museum, we want to show you that the city has a lot more to offer than you might think.

Museums in Bilbao

Guggeheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

Guggenheim Museum

If you think of museums in Bilbao the first one to come into your mind might be the aforementioned Guggenheim Museum, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. It’s located alongside the River Nervión and holds a collection of modern and contemporary art by the famous Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. It’s definitely a must see! It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am8pm.

Museum of Artistic Reproductions

Besides the famous Guggenheim museum, you will find many other ones that are worth a visit, like the Museum of Artistic Reproductions, where you can peruse significant pieces of artwork from all over the world. The museum gives you the opportunity to see everything in one place, without travelling from one side of the planet to another. Part of the reproductions are the Elgin Marbles, the Slaves and the Moses of Michelangelo, the Venus of Milo, the Apoxyomenos and many more.

Fine Arts Museum

Another great museum in Bilbao is the Fine Arts Museum. Being renovated in 2001, the museum now has a huge exhibition space full of over 7,000 exhibition pieces, not limited to but including paintings, sculptures and works on paper. The museum displays art from the 12th century to the present.

Euskal Museoa

The Euskal Museoa – or Museo Vasco de Bilbao, is where the main archaeological, ethnographic and historical collections of Northern Spain can be found. In this museum, you’ll discover the unique culture and history of the Basque region. It’s also located in the Casco Viejo, right beside the Iglesia de los Santos Juanes and was also recently renovated. 

Learn how to make pintxos

Rather than just tasting the local cuisine by eating a huge amount of pintxos (that’s what tapas are called in the Basque Country), why not learn how to make these delicious bites by one of the leading chefs in Bilbao?

It’s a 5-hour cooking class where you first stroll over the well-known Mercado de la Ribera to get all the fresh and local produce that you need to then head into the kitchen of Paul Ibarra to create deliciousness. It comes along with tasty wine and a lot of inspiration to take home to your kitchen. There is a morning and an evening tour available and so you can prepare and enjoy either lunch or dinner.

Stroll through the Siete Calles & Plaza Nueva

The old town city centre of Bilbao is made up of seven streets – therefore they are called the Siete Calles. It’s the perfect place to get lost strolling around and popping into little shops and cafes. In the heart of the old town is the Plaza Nueva where you can soak in the atmosphere, enjoy a pintxo or two or stop for a coffee. Also, it is apparently the best place to enjoy the Spanish delicacies. On Sunday mornings there is also a collector’s market at the plaza.

Mercado de la Ribera

By Galder Segurola [CC BY-SA 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
By Galder Segurola, from Wikimedia Commons

Wander through the huge Mercado de la Ribera, which is the biggest covered market in Europe. There you will find more than 60 local merchants selling traditional foods, ranging from fruit, fresh fish, cheese to ham. To get a great experience, go either early in the morning, where its most lively, or late and stopping at La Ribera bar for some live music. They also have a “you buy it we cook it” policy, transforming your goodies bought at the market into a delicious meal.

Churches of Bilbao

By Barbara Hdz, from Wikimedia Commons

Churches are always a great place to dive into the culture of a country. Wandering around the centre of Bilbao, you will find many of them, as most Basques are Catholic. Here are a couple of ones that you shouldn’t miss:

Santiago Cathedral

This cathedral has a beauty that speaks for itself. The church itself was built and completed between the 14th and 15th century, and with different architectural styles influencing it, it combines gothic revival and the 15th century characteristics. It was only declared a Cathedral in 1950 when the city Roman Catholic Diocese of Bilbao was officially formed. UNESCO declared it as World Natural Heritage Site as it is also part of the Camino de Santiago. The cathedral is located in the heart of the old town, making it impossible to miss.

Iglesia de los Santos Juanes

The church was built in the 17th century with classic baroque and Renaissance elements. The altar is dedicated to the Sacred Heart and is unique in the world. The name of the church comes from two evangelists, San Juan Batista and San Juan Evangelista. It’s located between called Ronda and calle la Cruz in the old town of the city. With the floods in 1983, the church has been completely renovated back then.

Basilica of Begoña

The Basilica of Begoña is an important pilgrimage church. The district Begoña that gives it name to the church is situated on a hill. To get there you can either take the lift from behind of Church of San Nicolas or you can do a 20-minute walk up the hill. The location also comes with a stunning view of the city. The Basilica was built in the 16th Century and mainly features a gothic style with some other influences. Many inhabitants of Bilbao come to the church every day to pay tribute to the Virgin of Begoña.

Funicular Artxanda and Mount Artxanda

With Bilbao located in-between mountains, it goes without saying that up top you get an amazing view of the city and surrounding scenery. Rather than hiking up, the cableway that opened in 1915 brings you to the top within 3 minutes to appreciate the view and see the River Nervión searching its way through the city.

The cableway is open Monday to Sunday and with a cost of just under €1 it makes a perfect getaway from the busy city enter. Its starting point is located just a 10 minutes’ walk from the Guggenheim Museum.

Azkuna Zentroa

Azkuna Zentroa in Bilbao, Spain

To describe Azkuna Zentroa is pretty hard. It’s a modern culture and leisure centre that opened in 2010. The building itself used to be an old wine warehouse and is one of the most iconic buildings in the city.

In it, you can find exhibitions, concerts, conferences, children’s workshops, a reading area, restaurants, shops and even cinemas. There are sports facilities of all kinds in this complex such as its huge swimming pool with a transparent floor, a gym and a 2000m2 sun terrace. It’s definitely worth seeing what’s on here during your visit!

Parque Doña Casilda de Iturrizar

By Zarateman, from Wikimedia Commons

Designed in the romantic style, this park has a variety of trees and flowers to see with plenty of benches in the shade, winding pathways through the greens, lovely fountains and Neoclassical statues. It is home to many ducks, which is why its nickname is Parque de an Patos (Duck’s park). At the corner of the park you will find Bilbao’s Fine Arts Museum. It’s the perfect place to bring some goodies for the Mercado de la Ribera and have a picnic!

Tempted to visit Bilbao now? We have brilliant package city breaks to Bilbao that include flights and central accommodation. 

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