3 Days in Bilbao: Everything You Should Know
The largest city in the Basque country of northern Spain, Bilbao has a culture that is uniquely its own. Home to institutions like the Guggenheim Museum, Santiago Cathedral, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Vizcaya Bridge, Bilbao is the perfect place to take a cultural trip.
However, a big part of the appeal of Bilbao comes from its proximity to nature and the mountains that surround the city. Explore the cliffs of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe just 40 minutes away from the city, and you'll see why Bilbao is such a haven for lovers of the outdoors. It's easy to explore the wild places of northern Spain from the heart of the city, and even travel one of the world's most famous hiking trails, the Camino de Santiago, right from Bilbao itself.
And that's to say nothing of the food. The flavors and culinary traditions of the Basque region merge with influences from Spain and around the world to create something truly unique.
Whether you're looking for historic attractions, mountain scenery, or incredible food, you'll find it in the capital of the Basque country. But if you only have 3 days in Bilbao, the hardest part will be fitting it all in. That's why we've put together this Bilbao itinerary that will help you see some of the highlights of the city in a short time. And if you drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Bilbao, you'll find it much easier to get to all of it.
Ultimately, Bilbao offers far too much to explore it all in a long weekend. Better to think of this 3 days in Bilbao itinerary as a jumping-off point for your own exploration. Once you've seen everything the city has to offer, chances are you'll be planning your next trip sooner rather than later.
Start your trip to Bilbao at one of the city's most beloved landmarks, the Guggenheim Museum. Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the museum is a sculpture in its own right. The titanium-clad building is meant to resemble a ship sailing into Bilbao's harbor, and it's one of the most Instagrammed spots in the city. Make sure to walk around the exterior of the museum before you go inside to see all the different angles.
The interior of the Guggenheim Museum is just as impressive as its world-famous exterior. This fine arts museum is devoted to modern and contemporary art, and the art galleries here will take you on a whirlwind tour of everything that is most exciting in the world of contemporary creativity. The Guggenheim Museum collects the works of Basque artists as well as artists around the world, and it is known for its installations and site-specific works that you won't be able to appreciate anywhere else. The Guggenheim Museum is undoubtedly one of the best museums in Bilbao, and the perfect place to kick off your Bilbao itinerary
Once you've had your fill of art, head over to Mercado de la Ribera for a bite to eat. This historic market is full of stalls selling fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and more. You can find just about anything you need for a picnic lunch at La Ribera market, or you can buy some snacks to keep you going as you explore Bilbao.
After lunch, make your way to the Casco Viejo, Bilbao's old town. This is the best place in the city to get a feel for the history and culture of this Basque city. The narrow streets and traditional architecture will transport you back in time, and there are plenty of photo ops around every corner.
The Casco Viejo is also home to many of Bilbao's most important historical sites. Start with a visit to Santiago Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral that has been standing on this site since the 14th century. Then, head to the Church of San Antón, a Baroque church that was built in the 17th century. If you're interested in learning more about Bilbao's history, you can also visit the Basque Museum, which is devoted to the culture and history of the Basque people.
After a busy day exploring Bilbao, it's time to relax and enjoy some of the city's best food. The Basque region is known for its pintxos, small bites that are served on skewers or slices of bread. You'll find pintxos bars all over Bilbao, but La Vina del Ensanche is one of the most popular spots in town. Order a few pintxos and a glass of wine or beer, and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Start your second day in Bilbao with a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. This museum is one of the oldest in Spain, and it boasts an impressive collection of works by Spanish painters like El Greco, Goya, and Velázquez. The Museum of Fine Arts is also home to a number of important works by European artists like Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso. That makes the fine arts museum the perfect counterpoint to the more modern focus of the Guggenheim Museum, and a place art lovers won't want to miss. Even if you're not the biggest fan of visual art, chances are good you'll find something to like here. Most Spanish cities have a museum worth exploring in the city centre, and Bilbao's old town is no different in that respect.
After you've had your fill of art, it's time to get some fresh air. Head to the Parque de Doña Casilda de Iturrizar for a relaxing walk or picnic lunch. This park is one of the best places to relax in Bilbao, and it's especially beautiful in the springtime when the flowers are in bloom.
In the afternoon, take a stroll along the River Nervión. This river runs through the city of Bilbao, and it's a great place to get some exercise and fresh air. You can walk or run along the river, or you can just enjoy the views. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even go for a swim in one of the pools that have been built into the river. Don't forget to get a photo of the iconic bright red La Salve bridge which leads to the Guggenheim; you can't really visit Bilbao without getting a classic photo here.
Bilbao is known for its nightlife, and there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. If you're looking for a relaxed atmosphere, head to Bar Gigante for a drink and some conversation. This bar is popular with locals and tourists alike, and it's a great place to meet new people. If you're looking for something a little more upbeat, check out Black Note Bilbao. This jazz club is one of the best in town, and it's the perfect place to enjoy some live music and dancing.
On your final day in Bilbao, head to Plaza Nueva. This is the city's main square, and it's a great place to people watch and soak up the atmosphere of Bilbao. Grab a coffee and a pastry at one of the cafes, and then wander around the square. You'll find plenty of things to see and do here, from shopping at the local stores to visiting the City Hall.
Since the square is so central, you'll have no problem getting to some of Bilbao's other top attractions. Consider taking a walking tour, either guided or self-guided, to see some of the most important sights in the city centre.
Not far from the square, you'll find Bilbao's Archaeological Museum, and if you're a fan of history, this is a great activity to add to your 3 days in Bilbao itinerary. The museum is small, but it's packed with interesting artifacts and exhibits that date back to the very earliest periods of human settlement in the Basque country.
After all that, you'll probably have worked up an appetite, so it's a good thing that restaurants are plentiful in the city centre. For a traditional Basque lunch, head to the Restaurant Zubieta. This restaurant is known for its delicious seafood dishes, and it's the perfect place to try some of Bilbao's famous pintxos.
In the afternoon, take a ride on the funicular railway up to Mount Artxanda. This is one of the best ways to get a birds-eye view of Bilbao, and it's also a great place for hiking and picnicking. If you're lucky, you might even spot some wildlife during your hike. If you're feeling energetic, you can climb the mountain rather than taking the train, but the presence of the funicular makes this an activity that anyone can enjoy and a great way to appreciate the scenery of the Basque country.
After that, you can enjoy some of the best shopping in Bilbao at Erribera Merkatua. This market is located in the old town, and it's the perfect place to pick up souvenirs or try some local produce. The biggest covered market in Europe, it offers an exceptional view of the river, and the building it's housed in is beautiful enough to justify a visit all by itself. But the food is the real star here, and you can try excellent pintxos and other local products at very reasonable prices. The market has its own food court where chefs create dishes from whatever looks good in the stalls that day, and you won't find fresher or more authentic food anywhere in Bilbao.
On the subject of good food, finish up your Bilbao itinerary with a visit to Michelin-starred restaurant Bistro Guggenheim. This restaurant offers an upscale take on traditional Basque cuisine, and it's the perfect place to treat yourself to a special meal. The restaurant is located inside the Guggenheim Museum, so you can also enjoy the museum's world-famous art collection before or after your meal. If you're looking for a truly memorable dining experience, Bistro Guggenheim is the perfect choice.
However, if your budget doesn't stretch to fine dining, you could always try one of Bilbao's many excellent cafés and bars. Café Iruña is a popular spot for people-watching, and it's the ideal place to enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine while you reflect on your time in this Basque gem.
Often known chiefly as an industrial town, Bilbao is easily one of the most underrated Spanish cities. But those who make the journey to the Basque country soon discover that Bilbao has activities and experiences to offer that you won't find anywhere else. From the moment you step out of the train station or Bilbao airport, you'll be immersed in the lively atmosphere of Bilbao's Old Town, and even if you spend a few days in Bilbao, you'll quickly see what makes the place so special.
From the incredible modern Art Museum of the Guggenheim Bilbao to the narrow streets of the Casco Viejo, Bilbao has something to offer just about everyone. On a short trip, you probably won't have time to explore outlying areas like the beautiful town of San Sebastian and the Basque coast, but there's more than enough in the city itself to keep you busy.
Bilbao, Spain has a lot to offer. And with only three days to explore it all, you'll need to travel light. So drop off your bags at a Bilbao luggage storage and get ready for a Basque adventure you won't forget anytime soon.