Bilbao, located in the Basque Country of Spain, is a city that effortlessly combines its rich history and tradition with cutting-edge modernity. With its stunning architecture, vibrant culture, and world-class dining scene, Bilbao is a must-visit destination for travellers seeking to experience the best of Spain. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about visiting Bilbao, from how to get there from the UK to the best hotels and restaurants and what not to miss during your stay.
What Not to Miss in Bilbao
Bilbao is home to some of the most impressive architectural landmarks in Spain. The city’s most famous building, the Guggenheim Museum, was designed by Frank Gehry and is a masterpiece of modern architecture. The museum’s shimmering titanium exterior and innovative design have transformed Bilbao into an international symbol of creativity and progress.
Other noteworthy architectural gems in the city include Santiago Calatrava’s Zubizuri Bridge, Philippe Starck’s Azkuna Zentroa cultural centre, the neo-baroque Arriaga Theatre, and the art nouveau Bilbao-Abando train station. The city’s historic old town, with its narrow streets and beautiful cathedrals, also offers a glimpse into Bilbao’s past.
Bilbao’s stunning natural surroundings are not to be missed during your visit. The city is nestled among lush green hills and boasts numerous parks and plazas, such as the Parque de Doña Casilda de Iturrizar. The Artxanda Funicular provides a scenic journey to the city’s highest point, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Bilbao and its surroundings.
Just a short distance from the city centre, you’ll find the breathtaking coastline of Getxo, with its sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs providing a stunning backdrop for a day trip.
Bilbao’s rich cultural scene offers something for everyone. The city is home to several fascinating museums, including the Euskal Museoa and the Arkeologi Museo, which showcase the history and heritage of the Basque people. For a taste of contemporary Basque culture, the Euskalduna Palace hosts a variety of performing arts events, while clubs like Kafe Antzokia showcase the city’s thriving music scene. And for sports fans, don’t miss the chance to catch a match at Estadio San Mames, home to the 100% Basque Athletic Bilbao football team.
Best Hotels in Bilbao
Bilbao offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. Here are three of the best hotels in the city:
- Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao: This luxury five-star hotel is located opposite the iconic Guggenheim Museum and offers spectacular views of the building from its rooftop terrace. The hotel features a sleek, contemporary design, comfortable rooms, and exceptional service.
- Hotel Miro: A stylish boutique hotel situated between the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Hotel Miro is perfect for art lovers. The hotel offers elegant rooms, a cosy lounge area, and a small wellness centre with a gym and spa.
- Casual Bilbao Gurea: For budget-conscious travellers, the Casual Bilbao Gurea is an excellent choice. Located in the heart of Bilbao’s Old Town, this affordable hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms with friendly staff and a convenient location.
Best Restaurants in Bilbao
Bilbao is renowned for its gastronomy, with a diverse dining scene that includes Michelin-starred establishments, traditional pintxo bars, and family-run restaurants. Here are some of the best restaurants in the city:
- Azurmendi: This three-Michelin-starred restaurant, helmed by Chef Eneko Atxa, is located just outside Bilbao and offers an unforgettable dining experience. The restaurant serves innovative Basque cuisine with a focus on sustainability and local ingredients.
- Mina: Located along the Nervión River, Mina is a contemporary restaurant offering a seasonal tasting menu that showcases the best of Basque cuisine. With its open kitchen and intimate atmosphere, Mina is an excellent choice for a special occasion.
- La Viña del Ensanche: Established in 1927, La Viña del Ensanche is a classic Bilbao institution, serving traditional pintxos alongside a superb selection of wines. With its warm and welcoming atmosphere, this is the perfect place to sample the local cuisine and immerse yourself in Basque culture.
With its awe-inspiring architecture, gastronomic delights, and vibrant cultural scene, Bilbao is a destination that should be on every traveller’s bucket list. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Spain enthusiast, this guide will help you make the most of your trip to this incredible city.