Bilbao is a beautiful port city and the capital of Vizcaya province. It’s the largest city and the beating heart of the Basque Country in northern Spain. It’s a wonderful place to check out, especially if you love architecture, design, and art. But besides its cultural sights, food, and other wealth of treasures, Bilbao makes an excellent base for exploring the Basque region and getting to know more about its culture.
Within an hour from Bilbao by car are beautiful coastal villages, historical towns, enchanting forests, medieval sites, and other unique places known for their natural wonder. It doesn’t matter if you prefer a guided walking tour, a Basque coast tour, or a self-guided exploration. No matter your fancy, day trips from Bilbao will always be full of excitement, fun, and discovery.
However, staying within the city limits doesn’t mean a boring holiday. If your plan for a day trip falls through, take this opportunity to explore the old town and some of the best museums in Bilbao, including the iconic Guggenheim Museum. It is one of the city’s most notable buildings, nestled on the banks of the Nervión River.
Whether you wish to limit your travel in the historic city center or plan to venture out a little further, make the most of our Bounce luggage service in Bilbao. It provides the most convenient and safest way to store your bags, allowing you to travel light and without burden.
How to get out of Bilbao
Bilbao’s train network is efficient and straightforward. It’s well connected to other Spanish cities by an extensive, reliable, and modern railway network. It has three stations, the Abando, Atxuri, and La Concordia stations, that will take you to areas in the city and beyond.
Several operators offer services from these stations to various destinations, such as Madrid, Zaragoza, Barcelona, and Valladolid. You can also catch a train from Atxuri station that will transport you to San Sebastian, the coast of Vizcaya vie Bermeo and Gernika, and Durango.
Alternatively, you can take the bus at the bus terminal Termibus, the city’s central bus station. It connects with the tramway, the San Mames metro station, and the Renfe short-distance train lines.
Besides the modern public transport network, Bilbao has private systems that offer unique and sustainable tours. If you need more information on navigating this gorgeous city, read our guide on how to get around Bilbao.
From Bilbao to San Sebastian
One of the best day trips from Bilbao for food lovers is San Sebastian. It’s famous for its Basque cuisine and is home to nineteen Michelin star restaurants within just a ten-minute drive. And of Spain’s eleven three-Michelin-starred restaurants, three a located in San Sebastian and its surrounding area. So don’t come to this northern Spanish city without an appetite or a full stomach!
After your food trip, explore the historic Old Town, which is the most visited destination in San Sebastian. It’s the city’s second oldest neighborhood after Antiguo and its real social center. When the sun sets, its streets chock full of bars become busy with locals and tourists who want to taste the best traditional pintxos. It also features the St Vincent’s Church and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Chorus, two attractive emblematic buildings with interesting histories. There's also the San Sebastian Cathedral, a majestic and beautiful gothic structure that's worth a look from the outside.
Don’t miss a chance to walk along the picturesque San Sebastian coast. The city lies on the glittering Basque coastline, so you’re sure to find dazzling photo opportunities while taking a quiet walk on the beach. If you still have time and want an outdoor adventure, hike Mount Urgull and observe the beaches and the remains of the city wall that bear the military past of San Sebastian.
How to get to San Sebastian
You have several options to travel from Bilbao to San Sebastian. The cheapest is to take the bus, though driving by car is the fastest and, of course, the best travel option, as it gives you ultimate freedom and flexibility. A bus ride can take a little over an hour, and tickets can be purchased in advance or at the bus station. If you fancy a train ride, it can take up to four hours from Bilbao-Abando station to Donostia station in San Sebastian.
From Bilbao to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is an obligatory stop in the Basque Country if you’re organizing extraordinary day trips from Bilbao. Just twenty-two miles east of the city, this magical islet is one of the Basque coast’s emblematic natural jewels, with impressive cliff views, surrounded by wild beaches.
Visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is like walking into a movie set. That’s why it’s not surprising that it’s one of the primary filming locations of the popular series Games of Thrones. If you’re familiar with the show, you might recognize it as the Dragonstone, the otherworldly island that houses Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestral home.
Connecting the rocky island to the mainland is a man-made stone bridge with 241 steps. It zigzags its way to the top and is dubbed one of the grandest staircases in the world. When you reach the top, you’ll find a church featuring a bell along the front of its façade. Unfortunately, the church isn’t the original one, as it has had to be rebuilt on many occasions over the centuries.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes on your day trip to the village. You should also secure a free access ticket to visit.
How to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Go to Termibus station in Bilbao and buy a ticket to the island. Bus lines A3527 Bilbao-Mungia-Bermeo and A3518 Bilbao-Mungia-Bakio can take you to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
From Bilbao to Vizcaya Bridge
Puente de Vizcaya is a quick and easy day trip from Bilbao suitable for those who limited time to explore the Basque Country. Completed in 1893 and designed by architect Alberto de Palacio, the Vizcaya Bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage site, receiving about six million traffic each year.
The bridge is 160 meters long and 45 meters high, connecting the towns of Getxo and Portugalete. It was the first transporter bridge in the world, combining 19th-century ironwork with the modern lightweight twisted steep ropes technology. UNESCO described it as a perfect combination of aesthetic beauty and functionality that influenced the development of transporter bridges worldwide.
Adventurous visitors can take the elevators to the towers of the transporter bridge. You can walk across the top and have a closer look at the cities below and the bridge’s mechanics.
How to get to Vizcaya Bridge
You can drive or catch a taxi to Vizcaya Bridge from Bilbao, which takes about twenty minutes. Alternatively, you can catch a train at the Abando train station with stops near the area where the bridge is located.
From Bilbao to Getaria
Within an hour's drive from Bilbao is a charming fishing village called Getaria. It’s a seafood lover’s paradise in the Basque Country, where you can find outstanding seafood restaurants or enjoy fresh-caught fish at the port paired with the local white wine txakoli. If you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, check out Kaia-Kaipe or Elkano, a Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant with reasonably-priced dishes.
Start your tour at the street of Nagusia Kalea to stop for a nice pintxo or buy local products. As you further down this main street, you’ll find the Church of San Salvador. It’s a gothic church in the old town, which was declared a National Monument in 1895. It’s also a short drive from San Sebastian, making it a wonderful stop during one of your day trips from Bilbao.
A ten-minute walk from the historic center is a farm unlike any other in Spain. Aroa farm produces some of the finest and most delicious products in Basque Country, including sweet strawberries and guisantes de lágrima.
For fashion lovers, head to the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa. Opened on June 7, 2011, it became the world’s first museum dedicated exclusively to a couturier. It houses one of the most important collections of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s creations and offers regular exhibitions.
How to get to Getaria
The easiest and fastest way to get from Bilbao to Getaria is by car or bus. Some visitors include it during their day trip to San Sebastian. They catch a bus to San Sebastian-Donostia from Bilbao and then get to Getaria by taking the EuskoTren bus.
From Bilbao to Vitoria-Gasteiz
Vitoria-Gasteiz is the official capital of the Basque Country, offering plenty of attractions, ancient buildings, and traditional flavors. It’s only an hour from Bilbao by car, making it an easy day trip from the city. It’s also rich in natural attractions and a short distance from Rioja Alavesa, a wine tourism area offering wine tasting and tours to visitors.
There are so many things to love about Vitoria-Gasteiz, and one of them is the Cathedral of Santa Maria. It’s a gothic cathedral, built around the 13th century, attracting many visitors who love exploring its walls, atrium, and naves. In medieval times, a fabric market was once housed in Plaza de la Burulleria, and numerous buildings from that era remain. It includes the Portalón and the Torre de Los Anda.
It is laid-back and friendly, with everything so close to each other, including the Green Ring. It’s a perimeter surrounding the city formed by six extensive parks that can be explored by bike or on foot.
How to get to Vitoria-Gasteiz
The fastest way to get to Vitoria-Gasteiz from Bilbao is to hire a taxi, which takes about 47 minutes. But there’s also a direct bus between the two cities from Termibus station to Vitoria-Gasteiz Estacion railway station that departs every half an hour and operates daily. Travel time takes about fifty-five minutes.
From Bilbao to Mundaka
Mundaka is a quaint village on the Basque coast, home to one of the world’s longest left-hand waves, making it a famous surf destination. In fact, it hosts some of the top international surf competitions in the world. This enchanting town may be small, but it has a lot to offer its visitors.
This port village is located within the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, approximately twenty-five miles northeast of Bilbao. Due to its location, it provides numerous adventures for hikers and nature lovers. You can explore the scenery or stroll across the spectacular clifftops.
Besides surfing and hiking, exploring the old port area is one of the fun things to do during your day trip to Mundaka. The colorful Basque houses will sure to catch your attention, as well as the lovely sandy beach and the fishing boats. It’s a great spot to stroll or watch the boats as the day passes.
Mundaka may not have many major attractions and sites, but it’s proud of its Santa Catalina Hermitage. It is perched on an outcrop on the edge of the little town. It was established in 1879, although the area has always been a spot for a hermitage since the medieval period.
How to get to Mundaka
Catch the train at the Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo railway station in Bilbao and get off at the Mundaka train station. The train journey would take about an hour and sixteen minutes to tackle the 45-kilometer distance. You can also take a bus at the Abando bus station to the Raimundo Abaroa Kalea in Mundaka for approximately one hour and thirty-four minutes. If you don’t want to take public transportation, driving to the town from Bilbao would only take 40 minutes to an hour.
See the Beautiful Basque Countryside
Perhaps, you love seeing historic buildings established during the Medieval era, walking along picturesque beaches, or discovering villages and forest areas. There’s always something for everyone within an hour or two-hour reach from Bilbao, which is why it’s the perfect base for day trips and discovering more of the historic region of northern Spain.
And thanks to the city’s accessible location and efficient public transport, you can travel to its neighboring towns and cities easily without hurting your bank account.