Where To Stay In Bilbao: The Ultimate Neighborhood Guide
It doesn't matter where you go in the world, if it's a port city you're going to then there are always going to be parts of that city you really don't want to see and are probably much better off avoiding. Bilbao is an industrial port city on the northern coast of Spain. It, like every other port city, has a couple of areas you really don't want to find yourself in so you're wise to check out where to stay in Bilbao before you go.
Bibao's urban spread covers over 18 square kilometers, and encapsulated within that area are some beautiful districts that are a sheer delight to stay in. Bilbao has a fascinating historic old town, a commercial district full of high rises, and even an artificial island similar, although not quite so luxurious, as the Dubai Marina. The accommodation choices here range from a luxury hotel to a budget hotel, but no matter what Bilbao hotel you choose, you probably won't be spending too much time in your room, anyway.
Wherever you finally decide to stay in Bilbao there's always going to be that awkward moment when you get stuck with your baggage. Whether you're waiting to check in at your chosen hotel or have checked out and have a while to wait for your flight, it's no fun being saddled with your bags. To save the day, drop your suitcases at a Bounce luggage storage facility in Bilbao. They'll be safely stored while you head off to have a first, or final look around the City Centre and the rest of this incredible city.
The Best Places To Stay In Bilbao
There's nothing remotely industrial about the neighborhood of Bilbao known as the Casco Viejo. When the Old Town, also known as Seven Streets, was first settled seven centuries ago, industry hadn't even been invented.
The Casco Viejo is located on the opposite side of Bilbao Estuary to the city center so it's around twenty minutes walking distance to Bilbao attractions like the world-famous Guggenheim Museum and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. If you're hoping to go further afield while in town, it won't be a problem as the Casco Viejo has good metro and bus connections, both of which are two of the best ways of getting around Bilbao.
You don't even need to go out of the Casco Viejo to find incredible architecture or things to see and do. The Santiago Cathedral, the Basilica de Begonia, the Mercado de la Ribera, and the Palacio Arana are just four of the landmark buildings in the district. There's no shortage of shops either and each of the seven streets is lined with boutiques and quality independent traders.
The Casco Viejo is the place to stay in Bilbao if you like to be in an area with historic character where you can walk out of your hotel and come across traditional cafes and restaurants frequented as much by locals as by visitors to the city.
The majority of the affordable accommodation available in the Casco Viejo is in one-star bed and breakfasts and hostels. There are a few two-star boutique hotels. Don't be put off by the low star ratings of the bed and breakfasts or hostels. You'll find they're all clean and pretty well presented, offer free wifi and some even provide a free breakfast. Stay in this central location and you'll be in a beautiful part of the city with everything you need to make your vacation perfect close by.
The Deusto neighborhood of Bilbao is one that's favored by younger visitors to the city. Deusto is where one of the city's universities, the University of Deusto, is located so there are always lots of student-age people on the streets and in the parks.
If you want lots of things to do at night in Bilbao, outdoor recreation opportunities not too far away, be within easy traveling distance of the city center, but not right in it, then Deusto is worth checking out. The district's student population means it has a lively nightlife scene and good public transport links.
There are some great hiking spots near Deusto such as the trails at the Elephant Cave in Barakaldo for example. There's also an incredible 65,000 square meter botanical garden, el Jardín Botánico Ramón Rubial de Barakaldo, with an enormous labyrinth to explore. Duesto is just a 15-minute drive from Las Arenas Beach in Getxo, so it's perfect if you don't want to spend all your time in Bilbao in an urban environment.
Accommodation in Deusto is usually in high demand, but search hard enough and you will come across reasonably priced hostels as well as a few pricier four-star hotels with all the amenities.
Bilbao La Vieja
Bilbao la Vieja is often mistaken for the Casco Viejo and while it may border it, Bilbao la Vieja it's just a short walk away on the opposite side of the estuary and a historic center in its own right.
Bilbao la Vieja is the city's Bohemian heart and where you'll encounter walls full of incredible graffiti, renovated warehouses that are now being used for retail space, art galleries, and eateries serving the best brunch in Bilbao.
Bilbao la Vieja is a relatively laid-back area of the city that's popular with local artists and musicians. One of the best features of Bilbao la Vieja is the Martzana Kaia, a riverside boulevard, which is ideal for tranquil walks, observing the beautiful waterfront architecture, and having a quiet drink on the terrace of a cafe.
One of the main hubs in Bilbao la Vieja is the Plaza Nueva. The Plaza Nueva, New Square, is an early 19th-century square completely surrounded by buildings of a Neo-Classical design. Under the arches of the buildings are cafeterias, tavernas serving traditional Basque country dishes, and small boutique-style gift shops.
Accommodation in Bilbao la Vieja varies between shared rooms in a hostel or two to four-star so there are plenty of choices no matter what your budget is.
The name of Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum often overshadows that of the neighborhood it's located in, which is Abandoibarra. Abandoibarra, in central Bilbao, may once have been one of the city's main industrial areas, but that's not something that's very apparent now.
Abandoibarra and the district of Abando that encompasses it are two of the most popular places to stay in Bilbao and not just because of the close proximity to the Guggenheim Museum. Deindustrialization has made Abandoibarra one of the most outstanding parts of the city.
Abandoibarra has a superb waterfront area with a state-of-the-art pedestrian bridge that has to be seen at night to be believed. The Abandoibarra Park is a contemporary public green space that faces onto the river, has a walk lined with sculptures, children's playgrounds, and of course, the Guggenheim Museum. Tourists can easily get to this Old Town neighborhood and all it offers via a short tram ride from the Bilbao Train Station.
There are all types of accommodation available in Abandoibarra and the choice isn't restricted to luxury hotels with a swimming pool and air conditioning. The wide range of hotels in Abandoibarra includes hostels, budget hotels, and guest houses too, so staying in this very central location doesn't mean you need to break the bank to be able to do it.
For a get away from it all location to stay in Bilbao, you should choose Mount Artxanda. It's the high point that overlooks the city and there are a couple of great rural hotels here.
While Mount Artxanda may be a rural spot away from the humdrum of Bilbao, it's accessible by both local bus services and the funicular railway.
You won't have a lot of company that's for sure, but you'll be staying where the scenery compensates for any lack of human interaction. You'll also have easy access to some of the best hiking routes in Bilbao, the Green Belt, which runs right around the city.
Hotel accommodation is limited to a choice of two hotels. They're not budget hotels but very reasonably priced. While they don't offer a great deal in the way of amenities, they do supply free wifi and both have terraces with impressive views of the Bilbao and the Basque countryside.
Santutxu is a residential neighborhood in central Bilbao that's close to the Bilbao Arena. There is only one large hotel of any note in this district and that is the Hotel Gran Bilbao. If you like to be somewhere where there are very few tourists and where the bars, restaurants, and cafes are mainly inhabited by locals, this could be the place to stay in Bilbao for you. If not, keep looking.
Indautxu is a neighborhood of central Bilbao that borders Abandoibarra, so stay here and you'll be close to the Guggenheim Museum without being right on top of it.
Indautxu is also home to several other museums and art galleries as well as lots of nice park areas. If these activities are a priority for you, this is a district you should check out. Indautxu is also renowned for its nightlife, so if you want undisturbed early nights, it might not be as perfect as it initially seems.
If you're a party animal as well as a sightseer, you'll enjoy the live music concerts held at the Euskalduna Palace. If you're not into pop or rock and are still considering this neighborhood, pack earplugs and you'll be guaranteed a better night’s sleep.
Because of its close proximity to the city center and all of Bilbao's modern attractions, it's ideally located for many visitors so you can expect to pay a little more for your bed for the night in the hotels in Indautxu. The hotels in Indautxu are stylish and classy. If you're seeking out four-star accommodation that provides the works, you've found the perfect location to stay in Bilbao.
Uribarri is a neighborhood on the northeast outskirts of Bilbao that is mainly residential. The one advantage of staying here would be to have easy access to green spaces like the Etxebarria park where there are multiple walking trails and the district's metro stations to travel into the city center.
One of the unique features of the Uribarri neighborhood is the Artxanda Funicular Railway. The lower station of the railway is on the corner of the Funicular Plaza, the Funnikularreko Plaza. The funicular climbs up to a spectacular viewpoint on Mount Artxanda that overlooks the city.
There are no hotels as such in the Uribarri neighborhood so any accommodation options here are limited to private rentals from websites like Airbnb.
San Francisco is a neighborhood of Bilbao that sits between the Casco Viejo and the districts of Bilbao la Vieja to the south and Zabala to the southwest.
San Francisco has a long reputation for its bawdy late-night clubs and bars which are gradually being replaced with ones of a more Bohemian nature as the LBGT community take it as their own.
With the Nervion River running through it and after the beautification treatments of the recent renovation projects undergone in the area, San Francisco is beginning to look, albeit superficially, like an up and coming area.
The impression is superficial though, so if you decide to stay in this area you should be aware that while it may seem like you're getting a great deal on budget accommodation you will need to be able to look out for yourself. San Francisco has a population that doesn't always behave as you'd expect citizens of a Basque country city to behave. For the next few years at least, it's probably better, on the whole, to avoid staying in this area of Bilbao.
There are some great neighborhoods in Bilbao, but some should definitely be avoided. Hopefully, by getting to know each one via this guide, you'll be able to choose the right one for you. Bilbao is a great Basque city to visit with incredible attractions, good nightlife, and even better food, so don't miss out by staying in the wrong place. If you can, learn a few words of Basque or something about the Basque culture before you go and you’ll be even more welcome.