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Views of the city of Bilbao

Getting around Bilbao sustainably


Unusual tours by boat, funicular railway, tram, and much more

There are many ways to explore a city. This is one of the most authentic - using local transport. Bilbao has a modern public transport network and there are also private systems offering unusual, and above all, sustainable tours. See how to find different views of the 2018 European City of the Year, according to the international organisation The Academy of Urbanism, and the metropolitan area on both sides of the Nervión estuary.

Tram and funicular, on rails in the city and the hills

The Bilbao tram runs through the city from Atxuri Station to La Casilla park. A single line with fourteen stops, it takes less than half an hour from start to finish, but it gives visitors a pretty clear idea of the town and its layout. Comfort and the environment are both cared for in this sustainable transport option, which runs past the Siete Calles del Casco Viejo (the “seven streets” of the historic quarter) and stops at essential sights like the Arriaga theatre, Euskalduna Palace, the Guggenheim Museum, San Mamés Stadium, and the fifteen Art Nouveau buildings of Basurto hospital.Or instead of horizontal rails, you can travel on sloping ones on the funicular railway which goes up to the top of Mount Artxanda. The reward will be some of the most impressive views of Bilbao as you travel approximately 800 metres, from Paseo Campo de Volantín Station, where you get on, to the summit, 226 metres above sea level. We recommend popping into one of the places serving traditional Basque cuisine, much frequented by the locals at weekends, to make the trip even more enjoyable.

Bilbao tram

A boat trip on the Nervión estuary

The estuary has always shaped the character of Bilbao, which was once a centre of heavy industry, but in the 21st century it has become even more important. A practical and convenient way to see and understand it is on one of the cultural boat trips around the Nervión estuary, available any time of year. This gives you an overview of the new architecture and the landscapes on both sides of the river, which have revolutionised the city: Deusto bridge, the footbridges by Santiago Calatravaand Arata Isozaki, the towers of the Isozaki Atea complex, Euskalduna Palace, and the Maritime Museum. The boat rides start on the dock at Plaza Pío Baroja, opposite the Town Hall, and options usually include trips to Zorrozaure, or a two-hour ride to Portugalete.

Bilbao tourist boat

The Transporter Bridge at Portugalete

Not many cities can boast an iron transporter bridge, much less one still in use. Located between Portugalete and Getxo, in the Bilbao metropolitan area, it is the first of its kind in the world. Its historical value alone is enough to recommend a visit to this structure, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2006. As well as crossing the estuary in the gondola suspended from the structure, you can explore more of the Bizkaia Bridge or Transporter Bridge by taking the viewing lift to the walkway, 45 metres up. From there you can see the machinery in detail, and best of all, enjoy the view all the way to Abra Bay, where the river meets the sea.Another interesting thing to do in this area is to take a trip, by night or day, on the traditional Euskal Herria ferry and see other towns at the edge of the estuary, like Algorta and Santurtzi.

Transporter bridge at Portugalete, Bilbao

Gourmet boat trips with whales and dolphins

After seeing the essential elements that have transformed Bilbao into a cosmopolitan city, you might want more of these unusual experiences - so keep reading.  Whale and dolphin watching, on boats equipped with hydrophones so you can listen to the marine mammals, is an increasingly popular activity in Bizkaia province. These are educational trips along the Basque coast, designed to raise awareness of the importance of protecting dolphins, whales, sea birds, and other marine wildlife. Another option: sitting around a barbecue on a circular boat with room for nine people. Several companies offer sailboats and motorboats for hire on the Bilbao estuary. But there are more exclusive options on offer, such as a cooking demonstration by an on-board chef. In Bilbao, it's possible to have an intense culinary experience while you float by the Guggenheim!

Dolphin spotting
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