A Visit To The Sagunto Castle Valen... x
A Visit To The Sagunto Castle Valencia: (Castillo de Sagunto)

Magnificent Best Gems Of Bilbao Spain

Jan 21, 2020

Bilbao nervion river two sides and zuliburi bridge background
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Bilbao is an absolutely charming city in the Basque country of Spain. Located a small distance from the bay of Biscay coast, its popularity has skyrocketed as a must visit destination in the country, thanks to the architectural wonder that is the Guggenheim. There are definitely other magnificent things to see and do in Bilbao though. Here is a guide to the best things to do in Bilbao.

affiliate
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

ayutamiento Bilbao. Magnificent best gems of Bilbao Spain
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
The gorgeous big building on the right is the Bilbao Ayutamiento (city hall). Our hotel is the small black building on the left of the image, so great find.  :-).

 

Magnificent Best Gems of Bilbao:

The city took me by surprise. I knew l would like it, but l ended up loving it. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Valencia. Pretty sure l would enjoy living in the city, with its gorgeous water views, wide, clean streets and wonderful cuisine. It will definitely make you want to visit Bilbao.

[the_ad id=”13767″]

Top things to do in Bilbao:

Guggenheim Museum:

Guggenheim museum Bilbao with metal spider in front
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
The very impressive and futuristic looking Guggenheim museum that put Bilbao on the map for tourists.
This stunning museum made from titanium was designed by architect Frank Gehry and it was opened in 1997. This is perhaps what singlehandedly brought the city of Bilbao on the tourism radar. Having seen it, I can definitely see the attraction.
This modern and contemporary art museum is a must visit in Bilbao. I advise buying your tickets online like we did so you can enter through the special line without waiting. Ticket price was €13 per adult and two euros more if you buy at the counter. You can select from available entry times.
I have to admit that neither one of us is a fan of art where one has to guess what you’re looking at. Once we cleared the ground floor though, I was thrilled with the other forms of art, especially their collection of  impressionist artists like Monet and van Gogh.
Don’t miss the humongous “dog” made entirely of live flowers that sits on the grounds and was designed by artist Jeffrey Koons.

Casco Viejo: Bilbao Old Town

Bilbao Old Town with statue and couple walking away
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Lovely area of the city to meander in.
This is the old town of Bilbao that is also called “7 Calles” by the locals, reason being that the area is made up of seven narrow little streets that are some of the oldest in Bilbao. It is believed to have been a resting place on the  Santiago de Compostela trail. Now it’s a vibrant little section of town filled with shops, restaurants and plenty of cafes.
Some of these stores sell “santiaguitos” which are marshmallow sweets blessed on the day of St Blas and are supposed to heal what ails you :-).

Plaza Nueva:

plaza nueva Bilbao showing two sides with arches
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Plaza Nueva is definitely on the magnificent best gems of Bilbao. It had just rained so no one was sitting outside on the terraces. Very crowded all the time though under the arches and inside the bars. Check out the Balboa tiles on the ground in the old city too. Unique and definitely reminds you of Porto.
Famous main square right in the heart of old town. This is one of the main places to come for pintxos. What are pintxos you ask?
A pintxo is a small snack that are found in bars in the north of Spain mostly. It’s basically a slice of hard bread that is topped with different things from salmon to eggs, potatoes. The limitation seems to be the imagination. The concoction is held together by a toothpick or similar. Pincho is a spike. My jaws ached after a while from all that hard bread because they are so tempting, so beware if you have dental or jaw problems like l do.
All four sides of this neoclassical architectural wonder that took 65 years to build and has been standing since 1851, are lined with an endless number of pintxo bars and cafes. It’s a fantastic place to people watch, especially when the weather is nice and the seats outside on the terraces are occupied.
On Sundays, the plaza is transformed into a flea market where you can shop for everything from clothes to vinyl records under the arch lined alcoves.

Arkeologi Museum:

Arkeologi museo Bilbao entrance
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
The museum entrance in the old town.
Also located in the Casco Viejo is this museum that houses fossils roughly 430,000 years! All traces of the past history of the Basque region are housed here. Statues, fortified villages models and Roman rule life are just some of the artifacts that can be found there.

La Ribera Market:

Mercado de Ribera sign in Bilbao
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Lots of bars and seats on the bottom floor. Make sure to check out the Art Deco windows.
A gorgeous building on the waterfront. The La Ribera market is the largest fresh food market in Europe and has a Guinness Book of World Records recognition in 1990 to prove it. I was a bit shocked as l somehow mistakenly thought the Central market in Valencia was the biggest one.
pintxos and sangria
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Pintxos and Sangria. So many choices and since it was within walking distance from the hotel, we went back at least twice to sample different pintxos.
Spread out on three floors and about 10,000 square meters, you can find fresh meat, cheese and other delicacies here. The bottom floor is completely dedicated to pintxos. Plenty of seating and cocktails while you eat and people watch. We also found the prices slightly cheaper here overall and the quality superb.

Gran Via:

The beginning of grand Via Bilbao with the sculpture of Gran Via Lopez
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
The beginning of the Grand Via with the statue of Diego, who was a nobleman and the Lord of Biscay. The other end circular square is insanely gorgeous. Trust me and walk the length.
The Grand Via de Don Diego Lopez de Haro IV (quite a mouthful isn’t it?) is the commercial and financial district of Bilbao, and is the main avenue of the city. In the El Ensanche district, it was annexed to Bilbao in 1870 There are plenty of high end shops alsong the immensely wide boulevard, as well as some of the most stupendous head offices of banks, such as BBVA. This Gran Via rivals any of the biggies in my opinion in its beauty. Going off the main streets, you can find plenty of places to eat. Amazing place to do your Bilbao shopping with the elite.

[the_ad id=”14099″]

 

Zubizuri Bridge:

black woman with Zurubiri bridge in background
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
The bridge looms in the background. Our hotel is just to my right.
This bridge looked familiar to me on sight and I indeed recognized on sight as a Santiago Calatrava designed bridge. Reason being that he also designed the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. Score one for me!
The Zubizuri bridge connects the left and right sides of the Nervión river. The bridge was opened in 1997 and we used it a lot during our stay as it was visible from our hotel room and made getting to Guggenheim for example a few minutes walk.
Zubizuri means “white bridge” in the Eusekera Basque language. Apparently, it was built with clear glass underfoot so people were able to see the river as they walked across. The city eventually put sturdy non slip carpet over the surface because too many people were slipping when it rained. Thank God as l don’t think l would have liked it all clear. I didn’t even move close to the very edge as it’s still see through.

Funicular de Artxanda:

funicular bilbao
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Funicular Bilbao. Image from Bilbao Tourism
A great way to get amazing views of the city. The funicular runs every 15 minutes from the plaza del funicular and climbs up to Mount Artxanda. It costs €3.50 for a round trip ticket. We did not go on it though.

Iglesia San Nicolas:

st nicolas church Bilbao in the background and park in front
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
I thought l had a closer up image of the church.
This Catholic church built in 1756 is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors and is located along the river and close to the old town. Baroque design, with two bell towers (an uncommon thing in Spain because a lot of them, like in Malaga, have just one. They all seem to run out of money before completion).

San Mames Stadium:

San Mames stadium Bilbao with jumbotron is one of the magnificent best gems of Bilbao
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
One of the quirky things to see in Balboa. Wish we had done the tour. Next time.

For any football (soccer) lover, seeing this stadium is a treat, and one that we were happy to see. We didn’t see the interior, but it is impressive in size from the outside for such a smaller city. A newer stadium replaced the old one in 2013 and has a capacity of about 53,000 people.

Hotels in Bilbao: Where to stay in Bilbao

our hotel room at the hotel Bilbao plaza - magnificent best gems of Bilbao guide
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Our room with a gorgeous view of the Nervion river.
We stayed at the boutique hotel Bilbao Plaza right along the river. It was central. We loved the big room and the great views. We can highly recommend it, especially for its central location. less than a mile from the Guggenheim, a few minutes walk to the old town and to Gran Via. Plenty of shops and cafes to eat at. A great find and the price (roughly $55/night converted) was great too.

Use this search box to look for your accommodation in Bilbao:

 



Booking.com

Eat and Drink in Bilbao:

pintxos plates
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Did l mention that we had a lot of pintxos?

 

pintxos plate - part of the magnificent best gems of Bilbao
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
And even more pintxos. After my teeth started aching from the hard bread, l just ate the top :-).
While the city of Bilbao is known for pintxos and more pintxos, there is plenty of other food to eat, including fresh seafood and good hearty food like tripe, bacalao and suckling pig, right along with the steak, and of course plenty of patatas.

Thoughts of Bilbao: Is Bilbao worth visiting?

park in our magnificent best gems of Bilbao
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
A lovely park right in the city. On weekends, it is a pretty busy flower market ( in the rear and to the left).
Bilbao is an absolutely amazing city, one that should be considered as part of any Spain itinerary. As said before, I could live here..but.. haha! there’s always a but isn’t there? For me, it would be the cold weather in the winter time.
The other thing that would stop me is the language problems. The street signs are all in Eusekera and Castilian. Truthfully, I can understand why a lot of the people don’t care to learn Spanish because it really is a whole other language. Reminds me very much of Maltese, so many x’s and q’s. They could have been speaking in Chinese for all l understood :-).
I would definitely like to go back for another visit. Even though it’s a small city, it doesn’t feel like it. There is plenty to do and see in Bilbao, so go visit.
Save it for later:
Magnificent Best of Bilbao #bilbao #visitbilbao #basquecountry #spaintravel #pintxos #guggenheimbilbao
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Have you been to Bilbao? If yes, did you enjoy your visit? Do you agree it’s a lovely place to visit? If not, would you care to visit?
[the_ad id=”13768″]

29 thoughts on “Magnificent Best Gems Of Bilbao Spain”

    • It is definitely worthy of a visit. It’s a truly amazing city and surprised me in so many ways.

      Reply
  1. I am curious about two things. Why you chose to visit northern Spain during the winter, especially since you do not care for cold temps.

    Also, how did you travel? Flights, train, bus, drive? We have looked at train connections and it does not seem too easy to do. Of course, your posts start to the west of Bilbao and work across before turning south. I am going to guess at least some bus.

    Reply
    • Haha! I grew up in Boston. i don’t mind the cold, but don’t live it enough to live in cold places anymore. Not bad for a visit though to change things up and off season travel is a favorite thing to do.

      We used, train, flight and bus..and yes..we got here with a bus. The bus system is Spain rocks and a lot of times they take the same amount of time, sometimes even shorter because the train stations can be out of the historic center whereas the bus can get there. The flight price was too good to not swing to the right then down.

      Reply
    • Oh how wonderful. I hope you have a great trip and l’m glad this can help :-).

      Reply
  2. Kemkem, You brought back many great memories of our visit there in the fall of 2018 and also showcased places we missed. Thanks for both! Always enjoy ‘seeing’ a city through someone else’s eyes!
    Annie

    Reply
    • I’m glad it brought back good memories for you. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t like it. We definitely plan on returning for another visit. Hope you guys are well :-).

      Reply
  3. Looks like such a great place to explore. I have been wanting to go to the Guggenheim museum since forever.

    Reply
    • Bilbao really is. I really enjoyed our visit to the Guggenheim museum (once we got past the abstract art section 🙂 ).

      Reply
  4. Great post and my travel juices are flowing. I love those little pixtos (sp?) with every form of topping imaginable!!

    Reply
    • Haha! Your travel juices are always flowing :-). Hope you’re eating lots of pineapples on the island of Hawaii. The pintxos really have every topping you can think of. It’s insane. Most places sell individually or like 6 for 12 euros with beer and then you pick which ones, which can take a long time :-).

      Reply
  5. This is a place we haven’t been to yet in Spain. Looks lovely, we’d have to try many, many pintxos.🤤

    Reply
    • We did try a lot of the pintxos. My husband practically ate that the whole time while l had to let my jaw recover. A very lovely place to visit. I hope you make it there soon.

      Reply
  6. Nice city indeed! Although I don’t think there’s any city in Spain that can beat Valencia in the parks category (although with the warm weather in the country, they definitely need them), Bilbao looks really good as well and if it managed to impress you, that says a lot. The museum does look spectacular, for sure and the food… it really made me hungry!

    What I can’t understand – in the second photo under your food category – why haven’t then used the bread the other way around? It’s not like there wasn’t a lot on top already: switching sides would’ve made more sense in my opinion. My OCD disagrees with them haha.

    Reply
    • It is very hard to beat Valencia for me as the most all around vibrant city, but Bilbao definitely comes close. One of the major differences is the fact that their river still stands between the city while in Valencia, the river became a riverbed. They do however have a huge park right in the center just before entering the old town, and all along the river, there are wide walkways. Very gorgeous.

      You mean put more bread on top of the toppings? or put the flip it and have the toppings on the bottom? The best way for me would be to offer the toppings as tapas and give you soft bread, like in the picture with the tripe (which would too messy as a pintxo). Some of them did have softer bread and l loved those, but most were very hard because the bread would have become too soggy. My teeth however rebelled after a while.

      Bilbao overall is an absolutely awesome city. It won’t be our last time for sure. We actually decided on skipping our night in Avila so we could add a day onto Bilbao.

      Reply
      • Indeed, it seems that it does have everything!

        Regarding the food, I meant that the bread itself should’ve been placed with the longer side up – in that photo it looked at first as if the long side was facing downward which seemed odd. As if the bread had the shape of a trapeze, and they placed the (already lots of) topping on the narrower side… (I realize that some things are more difficult to explain in your non-native language ahaha)

        Reply
        • Oh I see what you mean. I’m not sure l really noticed The toppings were generous for sure, but maybe they could have piled more on if the surface was larger..haha! I have to pay attention next time. Good catch on your part though :-).

          Reply
  7. Bilbao honestly isn’t somewhere I’d considered visiting, but I’d love to try those pintxos, they all look delicious! We are heading to Spain for a few months this summer, so your guide is perfectly timed, thank you!

    Reply
    • They are gggrrreeeeaaattt! as Tony the Tiger would say. The hard part is choosing as the variety is insane. I hope you get to visit Bilbao. I think the weather would be good in the summer too since it’s up north. I wish you a pleasant trip :-).

      Reply
  8. So far, I haven’t visited a city in Spain that I didn’t love. I haven’t been to Bilbao, but it looks charming. I saw that spider, Maman, in Ottawa years ago. I can only imagine the majesty of the Guggenheim. I really do need to go back to Spain. When I do, Bilbao will be on my itinerary for sure.

    Reply
    • I know right? It’s very hard to find a part of Spain that is unlikeable. There is too much variety. Sounds like Spain is calling you back. I hope you get to visit Bilbao. It really is very charming. I can’t believe it took us this long to visit it :-).

      Reply
  9. I have tucked this one away. Hopefully will get to Bilbao, Spain this summer and I love all the tips you’ve given. Also, your photos are beautiful. So crisp and clear. My mouth was watering for those tasty pintxos!

    Reply
    • Oh I definitely hope you make it to Bilbao. It surprised me quite a bit. The pintxos were definitely plentiful and delicious, and such variety :-). We will definitely go back. Thanks for the compliment. :-).

      Reply
  10. Very interesting. I never really thought about Bilbao aside from the Guggenheim, but I see there is so much more! It’s one of those places I’ve thought about going, but wasn’t really high on the list, but you make it look VERY worth visiting!

    Reply
    • I also never really thought of Bilbao as a place to actually visit. It was one of those.. “yeah, it would be nice to see” but boy am l glad we went. Federico is positive it is the most beautiful city so far for him in Spain, and we’ve been to a few by now. It is very worth it, and hope you find time to visit :-).

      Reply
  11. Hi Kemkem – thanks for this fun article. Like you, we remained pretty convinced that Valencia is hard to beat! But we definitely can’t wait to get up north and check out more of this amazing country. ¡Nos encanta España!

    Reply
    • Hello there! Glad you enjoyed it. It is definitely fun checking out the gems in Spain, and l was so pleasantly surprised by Bilbao. Like you, we can’t wait to find some more golden nuggets. Vámonos! 🙂

      Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

SubscribeTo The Blog And Never Miss A Thing!

Thanks for subscribing.

SubscribeTo The Blog And Never Miss A Thing!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This