Bilbao is the capital of Vizcaya in Basque Country in Spain. The city is situated on banks of the Nervión, a tidal river. The climate in Bilbao is milder here than in most other parts of the penninsula, rarely going below freezing in winter, or above 35ºC in summer. There is also more rain here, which is a mixed blessing. The green hills of Bilbao are a welcome relief after an extended stay in the dry plains in the south, but planning a day at the beach is less certain. The population of Bilbao proper is just over 372,000, but within the metropolitan area there are over 1,000,000 inhabitants.
All Buses to other provinces leave from the TermiBus Bus Terminal. There are regular connections to Santander (90 minutes) San Sebastian (60 minutes) and Madrid (arriving at Avenida de Las Americas bus station, 4-5 hours) among others.
The bus companies connect Bilbao with many cities in Spain more cheaply and frequently than the rail companies.
Bilbao Airport is also served by British Airways, Luftansa, Spanair, Alitalia, Air France, Air Berlin, TuiFly, AerLingus, Iberia, Air Europa, ClickAir, Vueling and several other airlines.
To get to downtown from the airport, take Bizkaibus from the arrivals sidewalk. The bus leaves every half hour :15, :45 from the airport to Bilbao bus terminal; :25, :55 from the bus terminal to the airport, stopping at Plaza Moyua on the way. The ticket costs less than €2
RENFE-- runs intercity trains to Madrid, Barcelona, Vigo (Galicia). All Renfe trains leave from Abando Station.
FEVE -- has Regional trains to Santander (3 daily), and Leon (1 Daily). They are very slow. From Santander you can continue on to Oviedo (Asturias), and La Coruña (Galicia). Although this journey is three legs, and it is only possible to do 2 legs in any one day. FEVE trains leave from Santander Station (next to Abando Station)
EuskoTren -- has local service to San Sebastian, with connection there for Irun (on the Spanish French border). It takes two hours to reach San Sebastian. Trains Leave from Atxuri Station
A direct car ferry is available between Bilbao and Portsmouth (UK). It is best to book early, since the ferry is often booked out in summer.
Bilbao is difficult to drive in. Hilly one way streets, and frequent construction projects make it a nightmare for drivers.
If you are going to take more than one or two journeys on public transit, a CreditTrans card will be a good investment. It can save you up to 50% over buying one ride at a time. It is valid on all the municiple transit systems in Bilbao, and most (soon to be all) of the provincial transit systems in Vizcaya. It is a pay per ride card available at all Metro and Tram stations in denominations of 5€, 10€, and 15€. It is also available at many newspaper stands.
MetroBilbao Convenient, Norman Foster designed Metro. Single line within Bilbao, splitting into two lines after San Inazio station.
Frank Gehry's spectacular twisting titanium clad modern art museum is perhaps the most celebrated building of the 1990s. The graceful, sensuous curves, evocative of the ships that used to be ubiquitous along the docks of Bilbao, are covered in titanium squares, which which resemble the scales of a fish and shimmer in the sunlight. In keeping with the maritime theme, appropriate for the setting, the skylights of the largest gallery (formerly known as the Fish gallery) are designed to look like the fins of fish. The permanent collection is not particularly impressive. Fortunately the museum is always hosting at least one interesting temporary exhibit, frequently comprised of masterpieces from the other Guggenheim collections.
Students (under 26), 6 €
Groups (over 20 people), 9 €
Children (under 12), free of charge
prices subject to change.
Tu-Su, 10:00 to 20:00
July and August: Mon-Sun, 10:00 to 20:00
1 January and 25 December: closed
Tickets can be bought At BBK's Teleka and La Caixa's Servicaixa, to be exchanged at the Amigos del Museo ticket box.
Reservations for groups of more than 20 people for a specific day can also be made through the Museum's Web page (www.guggenheim-bilbao.es)
Museo de Bellas Artes- Museum of Fine Art, Plaza del Museo, 2.
The Museum of Fine Art's remarkable collection currently boasts more than six thousand works dating from the 12 th century to the present day, and includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and decorative objects.
General, 4.5 €
Discount (groups, students, senior citizens and unemployed people), 3€
Free of charge on Wednesdays, and for children under 12.
Artean Package, 11 € (tickets for both the Guggenheim Museum and the Fine Arts Museum)
Fares might change for special exhibitions.
Tue-Sat, 10:00 to 20:00
Sundays and public holidays 10:00 to 14:00
1 January and 25 December: closed
Basque Museum - Euskal Museoa, Plaza Unamuno, 4.
established in 1921 to focus on the prehistory, archaeology, ethnography and history of Euskadi (Basque homeland).
Not a particulary well laid out museum. It will be of passing interest to people who study Basque culture.
Tue-Sat, 11:00 to 17:00
Sun, 11:00 to 14:00
Mondays and public holidays: closed
Individual ticket, 3 €
Students and groups, 1.5 €
Children under 10 and senior citizens, free of charge
Thursdays, free of charge
La Ría Maritime Museum, Muelle Ramón de la Sota, 1. Located in what used to be the Euskalduna shipyard, next to the current Euskalduna Performing Arts Center. The Museum covers an area of 27,000 square metres, 7,000 for indoor exhibitions and 20,000 for outdoor exhibitions, the three docks, the walkway surrounding them and the estuary.
Adults, 4 €
Students under 26, 2,5 €
Senior citizens, pensioners, and people over 65, 2,5 €
Disabled and unemployed people: 2,5 €
Children under 6, free of charge
Tue-Fri, 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 18:00
Sat-Sun, 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 20:00
Summer: call to check.
Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum), Martín Agüero, 1, Plaza de Toros de Vista Alegre, (Near Plaza Zabalburu), tel. 94-444-8698. Adjacent to a bullring, Museo Taurino highlights role bullfighting has played in Euskadi.
Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro (Museum of Sacred Art), Plaza de la Encarnación, 9-B, Atxuri, tel. 94-432-0125. A former convent founded in 1515 by Dominican nuns.
Museo de Reproducciones Artísticas (Museum of Artistic Reproductions), Conde Mirasol (no number), tel. 94-415-7673. Full-scale reproductions of the world's most famous works of art. Call ahead for a guided visit.
Cathedral of St. James (Santiago) Gothic Style 14th century Cathedral, named after Bilbao's official patron saint. Three naves and small Gothic cloisters. The building was designated a cathedral in 1949. Its Neogothic tower and main façade were designed by Severino de Achúcarro in the 1800s. The adjoining square (Plaza de Santiago) bosts a fountain designed by Luis Paret during the reign of Carlos III with the inscription Por el bien público (For the good of the people).
Iglesia de San Antón Gothic style church from the first half of the 15th century (1422). Dedicated to San Anton in the 16th century, the building is a mixture of styles including a renaissance portico and baroque tower which was built in 1777. The church was constructed on the ruins of a former alcazar, and is shown on Bilbao's shield.
Basílica de Begoña, . Overlooking Bilbao, this is perhaps the most symbolic religious building in the city. Built in the 16th Century by Sancho Martinez de Arego, who was also responsible for the Iglesia San Anton. It is a basilica of three naves. During the first Carlista War, in 1835, the façade and the tower were destroyed. The present ones were designed Jose Maria Basterra and constructed between 1902 and 1907.
Iglesia de San Nicolás, Esperanza, 1 (Arenal, Casco Viejo), 94 416 1424. The Iglesia de San Nicolás, finished in the 19th century,is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors. One of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Vizcaya.
Iglesia de San Vicente Martir, Plaza de San Vicente, (Near: Abando), 94-423-1296. Gothic church built in the 16th century.
Other Places of Interest
Birthplace of Miguel Unamuno, c\La Ronda 16, next to Plaza Unamuno (Metro station: Casco Viejo). Spanish author born on the 29th of September 1864. His works include the novels Niebla and San Manuel Bueno, Martir, which are both read in AP Spanish Literature classes in the United States. Unamuno died on the 31st of December 1936 in Salamanca.
Teatro Arriaga, tel. 94-435-5100, . Orignially inaugurated on the 31th of May 1890, on the site of several former theaters, the first Teatro Arriaga burnt down on the 22th of December 1914. The second Teatro Arriaga was inaugurated on the 5th of June 1919. Evocative of the Opera House in Paris, the theater has an ornate façade and beautiful interior. The theater, as well as the square in front of it, was named after Juan Crosótomo de Arriaga, a composer from Bilbao. There is a tourist information office in the theater building, enter this office from Plaza Arriaga.
Estación de Santander (Santander Station, FEVE Station) also know as La Concordia was built between 1898-1902 on the banks of the Nervion. Designed by the engineer Valentín Gorbeña, with the art nouveau main façade added later with a design by the architect Severino Achúcarro.
Puente de San Antón Next to the Iglesia de San Anton sits Bilbao's most emblematic bridge.
Mercado de la Ribera
Mercado de la Rivera Another emblem next to the Iglesia de San Anton is the Mercado de la Rivera. One of the biggest covered markets in Europe. It was built in 1929 on the site of the original Rivera Street market. Produce fish and meet are sold in the market every morning, except Sundays.
Plaza Nueva Bilbao's Plaza Nueva was originally named Plaza de Fernando VII. Construction began on the plaza on December 31, 1829 and finished exactly 20 years later on December 31, 1849. This plaza was the seat of the Diputación de Vizcaya until July 1900 when the Diputacion moved to its new home on the Gran Via. The Academy of the Basque Language (Euskaltzaindia)currently occupies the old Diputation building in the Plaza Nueva. There is a market of used books, stamps, coins, and other small items in the plaza every Sunday morning.
Palacio de la Diputacion Ornately decorated palace situated on the Grand Vía. Baroque-style monument designed by Luis Aladrén in 1897 to serve as the seat of the Diputacion Foral de Bizkaia(Vizcaya) and inaugurated on July 31, 1900. The interior is just as lavish as the exterior, with beautiful stained glass windows.
Plaza Moyua and Grand Vía
Parque Etxebarria The site of a former steel factory, this park was created in the 1980s as the first step of reorienting Bilbao from the industrial sector to the service sector. Wonderful views of the Casco Viejo and the Teatro Arriaga. There is a promenient chimney in the park, leftover from the site's time as a factory.
Ayuntamiento (City Hall) (also known as la Casa Consistorial or Udaletxea) Plaza Ernesto Erkoreka, 94-420-4200. The city hall opened in 1892. Designed by architect Jaquin Rucoba in neo-baroque style. Don't miss the main reception area, called Arab Salon.
The new Calatrava bridge, Zubizuri
Zubizuri The graceful white pedestrian bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava. It spans the ría Nervion connecting the riverwalks Campo Volatin and Mazarredo. Be careful, the bridge is slippery when wet!
La Leona Lion statue on top of a building in Deusto. Seen from Euskalduna Performance Center.
Bilbao Airport Curvaceous white 'bird-like' building by Santiago Calatrava. Strangely missing an arrival hall.
Biblioteca Municipal de Bidebarrieta, Bidebarrieta, 4, (Casco Viejo, near Teatro Arriaga), tel. 94-415-6930. Commissioned by El Sitio society at the end of the 19th century, this building was built by architect Severino de Achucarro as a social hall. Now home to the city's historical archives and library.
Palacio de Ibaigane, Alameda Mazarredo, 23, tel. 94-424-0877. Home to the Athletic Club de Bilbao, Bilbao's football team. Built in the early 20th century. note the arched entranceway.
Palacio de Olábarri, Campo Volantín, 37, Palacete del Puerto Autónomo de Bilbao, tel. 94-487-1200. An interesting mix of several architectural styles. In the late 19th century it was the residence of Bilbaino entrepreneur José María de Olábarri. Now the seat of Bilbao's port authority.
Santa y Real Casa de la Misericordia, Sabino Arana, 2, tel. 94-441-1900. Next to Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. Constructed in the mid-19th century as a chairitable house for the poor.
In the summer see an open air concert at the Kiosko del ArenalEl Arenal Parque (across from Plaza Arriaga). The Stage was built in 1923, and rennovated in 1985.
Beginning the first saturday after August 15th and lasting for 9 days is Aste Nagusia / Semana Grande, the city's fiesta (holiday). An interesting time to come!
Walk through the seven streets of the Casco Viejo.
Climb the stairs from Plaza Unamuno to Parque Etxebarri for the great views.
Walk along the river.
Walk through Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, admiring the ponds and gardens, next to the Fine Arts Museum.
Take the Artxanda Funicular, again for the views.
The local custom is to call what are known in Spanish as tapas by the Basque name, Pintxos.
The bars and cafes in Plaza Nueva serve excellent pintxos especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
Bar Charley. Plaza Nueva, 8 tel. 94 415 01 27
Fernando. Plaza Nueva, 12 tel. 94 415 05 64
Cafe bar Bilbao. Plaza Nueva, 6 tel. 94 415 16 71
Víctor. Plaza Nueva, 2 tel. 94 415 1678
near the Diptacion there are also:
El Globo c/Diputacion, 8 tel. 94 415 42 21
La Viña del Ensanche. c/Diputacion, 10 tel. 94 416 53 58
One of the best Pintxos bars in Bilbao is Aritz and it is quite out of the way (almost hidden really in a very small, one way street away from the main thoroughfares). Ask for it and you will be given directions. It is worth the walk since they have won the local Pintxo contests for ages. For those who are not familiar, pintxos/tapas are little finger food that are eaten with drinks.
Casa Vasca, traditional Basque cuisine. c/ Kehendakari Aguirre, 13/15 (Deusto) tel. 94 448 39 80
Guggenheim Museum has a fine restaurant with a decent value set lunch menu. Make sure to book in advance.
Zortziko. c/Alameda de Mazarredo 17. tel. 944 23 97 43; 944 23 63 96 open Tue - Sat 9am -11:30pm. traditional Basque dishes such as pigeon breast or marinated sea bass. Formal environment with late Victorian style furnishing, frequently booked days in advance. Ask about reservations to dine in the wine cellar.
Matxinbenta. c/Ladesma 26 tel. 94 424 8495 Basque food, specialities include fresh tuna in piquant tomato sauce and piperada. Open Mon - Sat 8:00am -11:30pm. reservations required.
Cafe Nervion wonderful views of the river c/La Naja 7.
Lamiak, comfortable coffee house, with chocolate cake to die for. c/De la Pelota (Casco Viejo)
Three spectacularly decorated bars (which are owned by the same people) are:
Cafe Iruña. With its Arabesque motifs and antique mouldings it is a sight to behold. If you go at night, you can also get some nice shikabobs - some of the only ones you'll find in Bilbao.
Cafe La Granja in Plaza Circular, across from the BBVA tower.
Cafe Boulevard on the Arrenal, across from Teatro Arriaga.
Barceló Nervión. Campo Volantin, 11 tel. 94 445 4700
Conde Duque. Campo Volatin, 22 three stars tel. 94 445 6000
In Bilbao you can have a pleasant stay at the Abba Hoteles, that here are particularly cheap compared the offered service. Indeed this is a chain of 4* hotels, and here you can find a quite rare 3* abba hotel. It's quite near the Bus Terminal, very near to the metro and quite near to the Guggheneim musem.
It' in C/ Rodriguez Arias, 66 - 48013 Bilbao (Tlf. +34 944 41 31 00 - Fax. +34 944 42 21 97), notice the breakfast price, it's not so cheap.