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Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (the Basque Country)


One of Spain’s most avant-garde cities


“The city of the Guggenheim” is an alternative name for this Basque Country destination as, since this original museum was built in 1997, Bilbao has been transformed forever. In fact, now it stands out for its ground-breaking structures created by prestigious architects, and which make it an international reference for modern design.

Although, curiously, its unique character comes from combining avant-garde with the traditional feel of its old town, full of charming streets and bars offering pintxos, proof that they are passionate about gastronomy around here. All this has earned Bilbao a place of honour on the lists of Spain’s most interesting cities.

A walk full of contrasts

A visit to this city in the north of Spain could start with the Guggenheim Museum. It is one of the most surprising examples of 20th century architecture as Frank Gehry used 33,000 ultra-thin titanium plates to create its curious curves. Inside, it shares the world’s most important private collection of modern and contemporary art with New York and Venice. Bilbao is home to another of Spain’s most important art museums: the Museum of Fine Arts.The city’s commitment to creating a ground-breaking, imaginative image also includes the Euskalduna Conference Centre, Norman Foster’s metro stations, the Isozaki and Pelli towers, the Zubizuri bridge designed by Calatrava or new cultural centres such as La Alhóndiga by Philippe Starck, built over an old wine cellar.On the other hand, it’s impossible to imagine Bilbao without its characteristic old town, with over 700 years of history. It’s a pleasure to stroll around the famous “Seven Streets” and discover iconic buildings such as the Cathedral or the elegant theatre inspired by the Paris Opera House, the Arriaga, and a mix of shops and cafes, from traditional to cool.

Two strengths: Basque cuisine and a green city

The city of Bilbao is proof that gastronomy is an art in the Basque Country – one of the areas with the most Michelin Stars per person in the world. Plaza Nueva and its surrounding streets are full of busy bars serving their famous pintxos: small, delicious bites of food. Here, foodies can find their place among the buzzing bars, family-run restaurants and prestigious chefs. And they will also have the chance to visit the La Ribera Market, a beautiful building where you can have the produce that you purchase cooked for you, or where you can sample as selection of pintxos and Txakoli wine to the beat of live music.Cultural and culinary Bilbao is also a green city, with parks such as Doña Casilda de Iturrizar, surrounded by hills (dare to ride the Artxanda cable car, a classic option to get a bird’s eye view of Bilbao). The estuary is another symbol of the regeneration of Bilbao. You can spot people paddle surfing on the water, or take a boat to the famous Hanging Bridge of Portugalete, declared a World Heritage Site.And if that’s not enough, the beaches and stunning cliffs of Getxo are just over 30 minutes away on the metro.

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What to visit

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What to do

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Practical information

How to get there - transport information

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How to get to aeroplane

  • Bilbao Airport is about 12 kilometres from the city centre.

  • Bus route A3247 goes to Bilbao Intermodal coach and bus terminal, with several stops in the city centre. It runs from 06:00 to 23:00 from the airport and from 05:15 to 21:45 from Bilbao. The journey takes 15 - 20 minutes.

  • To get from the airport to the centre by car take the N-637. It’s a 15-minute drive.

  • Taking a taxi costs 24-29 euros takes around 15 minutes.

  • More information

How to get to bus

  • Bilbao Intermodal bus and coach station, with routes to the rest of Spain and other countries, is in the city centre.

  • There are several public transport options from here: Metro (San Mamés station), Tram (Zunzunegi stop), local trains (San Mamés station) and 25 bus routes.

  • More information

How to get to train

  • The city’s main railway station is Bilbao-Abando.

  • Renfe trains run to cities including Madrid, Barcelona, Logroño, Zaragoza, Valladolid, Salamanca, Málaga, A Coruña, Vigo, Burgos, León and Segovia. (Book tickets)

  • The Cercanías and Euskotren local trains connect Bilbao to its metropolitan area, other parts of Bizkaia and nearby cities in the rest of the Basque Country.

  • Bilbao is also on the routes of tourist trains like the FEVE and the Transcantábrico.

How to get to boat

  • Ferry:

  • There is a regular ferry three times a week from Portsmouth (UK) to Bilbao, run by Brittany Ferries.

  • The Port of Bilbao passenger terminal is in Santurzi, a 15 minute drive from central Bilbao.

  • By public transport, you can take the A3321 bus by the port and then change to local train line C-1 at the Cercanías stop at Peñota, Metro Bilbao line 2 (Santurzi or Peñota stations) or the A3115 bus (stop at Abaro 11, in Portugalete). In all cases the journey takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

  • Cruise lines:

  • The cruise terminal in the Port of Bilbao is in Getxo, 10 kilometres from the city centre, a 15-minute journey by car or taxi.

  • The best public transport options are the metro (Neguri station, line 1) and the 3411 and 3414 bus routes. All these journeys take about an hour.

How to get there by road

  • The AP-8 motorway runs to Donostia-San Sebastián, from where you can travel to France.

  • The AP-68 motorway runs to Barcelona via Burgos, where there are motorways to Madrid or Portugal.

  • Check where you can park if you are driving to Bilbao.

Practical information

  • Bilbao is a very walkable city, although it has plenty of public transport options.

  • There are two public transport cards:

    The Barik card is a money card that offers discounts on public transport. You can use it for Metro Bilbao, Bilbobus, Tranvía trams, Euskotren local trains, the Bizkaia Transporter Bridge, the Artxanda and Larreineta funicular railways, and more.

    The Bilbao Bizkaia Card allows unlimited use of almost all public transport, and also includes guided tours and discounts on cultural and leisure activities. It is available for 24, 48, and 72 hours.

How to get around in metro/tram

  • Bilbao Metro:

  • The metro has 3 lines that run from 6 am to 11 pm, until 2 am on Friday and the day before public holidays, and all night long on Saturday.

  • You can buy single tickets or the Barik public transport card, which can be loaded in different modes and offers cheaper travel.

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  • Tranvía Bilbao trams:

  • Trams run approximately from 6 am to 12 am, connecting Atxuri Station with La Casilla. 

  • You can see single ticket prices here. You can also use the Barik card.

  • More information

How to get around in bus

  • Bilbobus, the city’s bus network, runs from 6/7 am to 10/11 pm.

  • You can buy a single ticket or use the Barik transport card.

  • There are also eight night buses, or Gautxori, running from 11 pm to 2.30 am on Friday, and all night on Saturday.

  • There are also coach stops in the city, with routes between Bilbao and nearby towns.

How to get around in other means of transport