If you have two days to spend exploring one of the most avant-garde cities in Europe, a trip to Bilbao, in northern Spain, is the perfect plan. There you will find amazing buildings created by leading architects from around the world, like the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. And if you need more convincing: You will also find one of Spain’s most delicious culinary traditions.

Day 1: Bilbao, a cutting-edge city

To see the most modern side of Bilbao, you can explore the Abando district and cross the estuary to some important sites. The Tourist Office on Plaza Circular is a good starting point. From there, go along Calle Buenos Aires and cross the estuary to the elegant City Hall. This is your first photo opportunity, as this building, the sculpture in front of it, and the estuary create stunning perspectives.Views from aboveContinue along the Paseo Campo Volantín for a pleasant walk alongside the estuary. When you come to Zubizuri Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava, you’ll notice its sail-like shape and glass floor. Before crossing it to the other bank, take a moment to ride the Funicular at Artxanda. Turn right onto Calle de Múgica y Butrón to reach the funicular. This unusual mode of transport is a lot of fun, and in just a few minutes will bring you to a viewing point 800 metres above sea level. From there, you’ll have a great view of the city and where the estuary meets the sea.Innovative architectureAfter soaking in the view of Bilbao, take the funicular back down and cross Calatrava’s bridge. Go along Paseo Uribitarte to see the jewel in the city’s crown: the dazzling Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, like a futuristic ship moored on the estuary, designed by the prestigious architect Frank Gehry and now the symbol of the city. The sculpture of a giant spider in front of the museum and the colours reflected in the building’s titanium cladding create the sensation of a magical world. The spectacle continues in the collections and exhibitions inside the museum.When you leave the building, walk around it to see another iconic creation: 'Puppy', a dog 12 metres high, made of flowers, and further proof of Bilbao’s avant-garde aesthetic.You could spend the afternoon visiting the city’s other important art gallery, the Fine Arts Museum. It is just five minutes from the Guggenheim Museum, and behind it is one of the city's green spaces, Doña Casilda Park. The Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall, with a shape inspired by a ship, stands on the other side of the park.Things to remember The Euskalduna Conference Centre is only open to the public on Saturdays at 12:00. For active types, there are bike lanes on both banks of the river.A sightseeing bus leaves from the Guggenheim Museum and makes 15 stops. Ticket holders can get on and off the bus as often as they like. You can buy a 'BilbaoCard' online or at Tourist Offices, giving you unlimited use of public transport, and discounts in shops, restaurants, shows and leisure facilities. You can book guided tours of the city at the Tourist Office next to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Through the shopping districtOne of the easiest ways to get back to the City Hall is by tram. However, if you take the opportunity to walk into Bilbao’s central Ensanche district and the city’s main shopping streets, you can find some unique purchases. Make for the wide and majestic boulevard Gran Vía Don Diego López de Haro. This is a prime window-shopping area, with famous international designer boutiques. It might be time to treat yourself. As you stroll along this avenue you will find other iconic buildings, such as the Chavarri Palace, the Bizkaia Foral Council, and the striking entrances to the Metro, called 'fosteritos' after their designer, Norman Foster. From Plaza Moyua, we recommend going along the boulevard Alameda Recalde to the modern Azkuna Zentroa. This is a former wine warehouse, and is now becoming the epicentre of the city’s leisure activities. Its atrium of cultures is impressive, with a swimming pool on part of its roof.A historic café… and an exceptional dinnerIf you like, go on to the place where today’s tour began, on Plaza Circular. It is dominated by a statue of Diego López de Haro, founder of the city of Bilbao. The relaxing Albia gardens nearby are the ideal place to take a break. Why? Because the beautiful and historic Café Iruña is there, once the centre of political and literary life in Bilbao, with its beautiful original décor.For dinner, remember that this city if full of world-renowned restaurants. The Bilbao tourist website has a complete guide to them.

Day 2: The flavour of the historic quarter

The second day of your trip is the perfect time to visit the most traditional area: the historic quarter. The route begins on Paseo del Arenal. If you go there on a Sunday, you’ll find a delightful surprise on the riverside: a lively outdoor flower market, where you can have a bouquet made up to order. From there, take Calle Fueros to Plaza de Unamuno, which is always lively and the ideal spot for a coffee. If you look behind you, you'll see the 213 steps of the Calzadas de Mallona. Go part of the way up to get an interesting photo. If you carry on to the top, you’ll be on the way to the Basilica of Begoña. However, that means a half-hour walk away from the historic quarter, so if you want to see the Basilica it might be better to go after lunch.Instead, we suggest staying in the old city centre. Just wandering at random in these cobbled streets reveals the most traditional side of Bilbao as you discover beautiful buildings, little squares, artisan workshops and all sorts of shops. However, the area known as “Las 7 calles” (seven parallel streets, beginning on Calle Somera) is one of the most popular. Around there you can visit the Ribera market (the largest covered food market in Europe, with its colourful stained glass windows, where you can have lunch in the restaurant and even buy the ingredients yourself, if you want), the church of San Antón, the cathedral of Santiago (the oldest church in Bilbao), and the Stock Exchange building. Just here there is a curious sign on the ground showing you where to stand to see the Basilica of Begoña - this is the only spot in the historic quarter where it is visible.Our route ends on Calle Bidebarrieta, leading you back to the lovely Plaza del Arenal where you can admire the elegant Arriaga Theatre, the city’s most famous theatre.Let’s go out for tapasIt’s time for lunch, and you may be tempted by all the bars and restaurants around you, but there is a special place you haven’t seen yet: Plaza Nueva. On Sundays, you can enjoy the market stalls under the 64 arches of its porticoes: crowds of people buying and selling old books, coins, stamps, comics… Why not pick up a souvenir?To eat, you’ll see that this square is full of bars and taverns where you can enjoy traditional pintxos (“pinchoes”, the local version of tapas) accompanied by the Basque Country’s wine, Txacolí. Best of all? Going from bar to bar to try them all, and ending the afternoon with a coffee in one of the charming pavement cafés in the square, or at a nearby cake shop.Things to remember The Ribera market is closed on Sundays.

Have you found this information useful?


See more related experiences

See more experiences in the destination

X Switch to mobile version

Spain BarcelonaSevilleMadridMalagaGranadaCordobaA CoruñaCadizHuescaMurciaLugoAsturiasLleidaValenciaCastellón - CastellóCantabriaAlicante - AlacantLa RiojaPontevedraCáceresLeónAlmeríaToledoBurgosVizcaya - BizkaiaJaénGuipúzcoa - GipuzkoaCiudad RealSegoviaHuelvaGironaValladolidTarragonaÁlava - ArabaZaragozaSalamancaNavarreTeruelCuencaZamoraÁvilaBadajozOurenseAlbacetePalenciaGuadalajaraSoriaCanary IslandsBalearic Islands
Baleares MajorcaIbizaMinorcaFormentera
Canarias LanzaroteLa PalmaTenerifeGran CanariaFuerteventuraLa Gomera