Bilbao Spain! You surprised us! You are just not a Cruise or Ferry Port to only spend one day in prior to cruising.
Up until 1992, Bilbao was a polluted industrial city in decline and today it has been heralded as one of Europe’s best-known success stories – a vibrant colourful city that you want to spend time in discovering its charms.
(Editor Update May 2018)
Where is Bilbao
Bilbao is located in Northern Spain in the Basque Country.
Although we were there for 2 full days before embarking on a Repositioning Cruise to Panama we missed out on seeing a lot of Bilbao due to very wet weather. We had fallen in love with Spain and had fallen in love with many of the cities that we travelled to e.g. Valencia, Granada, Seville and Barcelona.
A Basque tradition that should not be missed. Pintxos is different to the tapas that you can enjoy throughout the rest of Spain. Pintxos are different layers of food held together with a toothpick which you are charged by the number of toothpicks left on your plate. Throughout Bilbao, there are many bars offering Pintxos as a little something to eat between glasses of wine or beer. You can even take a Basque Pintxos cooking class.
San Sebastian is also on our travel list for Pintxos, such a range of bars and establishments to enjoy this unique Spanish Basque tradition. A great reason to return to this region of Spain – it is such a foodies heaven!
Since 1300 Casco Viejo has been the commercial hub of the city. Nowadays there are over 400 shops, 200 hotels and the gastronomic La Ribera Municipal Market.
The Siete Calles (7 streets) which make up Casco Viejo; Somera, Artekale, Tenderia, Belostikale, Carniceria Vieja, Barrenkale and Barrenkale Barrena are a maze of squares and alleyways with 3 different styles of architecture – Baroque, Neoclassical and Art Nouveau which all make up the heart of the Old City.
We did not do enough Txikiteo (bar-hopping to taste all the wines on offer) – #1 reason why we will return.
The largest covered area of any market in Europe. Small bars mingled with fruit and vegetable, fish, meat and cheese stalls. Enjoy Pintxos with the locals at lunch time but get there early to get a seat. There are so many choices of Pintxox and wines, you may have to just visit more than once! #2 reason why we will return.
There is even a ‘foodies tour’ of La Ribera Market click here for more details.
This 15th-century Cathedral is on the Santiago Pilgrimage Northern Coastal Route and is dedicated to St James the Apostle the patron Saint of Bilbao. After a decade of extensive renovations, it was reopened in 2000.
Built in 1821 in Neoclassical style the Plaza is the meeting place of locals and travellers alike. You will be spoilt for choice for Pintxos Bars and Restaurants that line the Plaza. On Sundays, there is a flea market where you can wander around coin, stamps, books, birds and flower stalls. The city council has provided a free wifi zone for the Plaza.
#3 reason to return to Bilbao – so many restaurant choices.
Visit exhibitions of human occupation dating back more than 100,000 years ago. The Bilbao Museum opened in its current location in 2008 to connect Bilbao’s past with Bilbao’s society of today.
A Baroque Church located in Plaza de San Nicolas which was constructed in 1756. A church with a history and a few closures. The first closure was during the War of Independence, it was struck by lightning in 1816 and then was used as a Military Warehouse during the Carlist Wars.
Do It Yourself Walking Tour
Bilbao Turismo has 3 walking tours that you can do yourself:
- Old Quarter (Casco Viejo)
- The Ensanche of Bilbao – a route through the new districts of Bilbao
- Aband0 – across the River to the Left Bank
If you are interested in a tour that is organised around Bilbao click here for more information.
#4 reason to return we only completed half of the Old Quarter due to the weather
These are some of the reasons why we will return to Bilbao, there are many more places for us to explore and enjoy:
- Climbing the 311 steps to the Calzadas de Mallona from Plaza Unamuno
- The Artxanda Funicular Railway for panoramic views over the city
- The romantic and elegant gardens along the Paseo del Arenal
- Guggenheim Bilbao Museum
If you are visiting Bilbao to embark on a Cruise or to visit the stunning Basque Region the Hotel Gran Bilbao is a well located, 4-star hotel situated a ten-minute walk from Historico Centre. We enjoyed our 3-night stay in one of the largest hotel rooms in Bilbao and enjoyed a scrumptious buffet breakfast. The Hotel Gran Bilbao is located about a 10-minute walk from the centre of Bilbao.
Sercotel Hotel Gran Bilbao: Calle Indalecio Prieto 1, Bilbao
For more options of the best hotels in Bilbao Spain:
Hotel Miro: Alameda Mazarredo 77, Bilbao
Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao: Alameda de Mazarredo 61, Bilbao
Melia Bilbao: Lehendakari Leizaola 29, Bilbao
Hotel Bilbao Plaza: Paseo Campo Volantin 1 Bilbao
Airbnb Bilbao has a large range of accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes. If you have not booked an Airbnb property before we have a special $$$ discount voucher for you to use.
Best Restaurants in Bilbao
For the top 5 restaurants in Bilbao we checked with Tripadvisor Bilbao for the latest reviews:
Casa Leotta: Juan De Ajuriaguerra 14, Bilbao
Blueizar: Calle Colon de Larreategui 9, Bilbao
Nido Bilbao: Calle Barroeta Aldamar 3, Bilbao
ad hoc Cascanueces: Heros 21 Bajo, Bilbao
Arandia de Julen: Encarnacion 10, Bilbao
For more details on the best restaurants in Bilbao click our link below:
When is the best time to visit Bilbao? The hottest months are July, August and September which coincide with the busy tourist season. The months with the heaviest rainfall is in the Spring months of March and April. December and January are the coldest months.
You can pre-book a private transfer from the airport click here for more details.
If you are travelling from San Sebastian a private transfer is available click here for more details.
Flights are available to Bilbao from many European destinations. Skyscanner allows you to find the cheapest flights to Bilbao (from hundreds of airlines including Iberia, British Airways (BA), Lufthansa) without having to enter specific dates or even destinations, making it the best place to find cheap flights for your trip. Click here for details.
Train Travel: If you are planning to travel Spain and Europe by train you may want to consider purchasing a Eurail Pass click here for prices.
A journey from Barcelona to Bilbao takes about 9 hours and goes via Madrid whereas Madrid to Bilbao takes anywhere between 5 hours and 8 hours depending on the time of the day.
Car Rental: Rental cars are available from the airport and city centre click here for latest deals.
Bus Travel: We have travelled all over Spain by bus and can recommend it.
To Travel Too Tip
How do you keep on budget when you travel? Our top tip is an App that we use called Trailwallet which was developed by long-term nomadic travellers who know a thing or two about travelling on a budget. For more information click Trailwallet
The recommended time to take our travel insurance is when you pay for your flights, or pay a deposit on accommodation, cruises or tours. You are covered from that date if you need to cancel due to health reasons. Please read all policy guidelines carefully before committing to the policy and understand any pre-medical conditions that you may have and how it could affect claiming on your policy.
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Did you know that you can take our article with you while you are walking around Bilbao?
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