Bilbao’s artful and edgy streets are picture perfect. Its sprawling riverside sidewalks and thoughtful city planning helps the city embrace its industrial past and continue pushing the envelope when it comes to modern design.

Highlights not to miss:
  • Jamon from the Mercado de la Ribera
  • Pinxtos crawl in the old town (Casco Viejo)
  • The world famous Guggenheim museum
  • A day trip to the beaches of Getxo
  • A visit to Dragonstone in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Must try items:
  • Carolina meringue cakes
  • Cañas rellenas (filled flaky pastries)
  • veal cheeks in Rioja wine
  • Bacalao al pil-pil
  • Kalimotxo (a mix of coke and red wine, trust me!)
Getting around

The transfer from the airport to the city center is simple- the A3247 bus runs 3 times every hour and takes you to Plaza Moyua, pretty much within walking distance of anywhere in Bilbao. However, make sure you bring the 3 euros you need for the bus ride with you- there is only one bus ticket machine that is often broken, and only one ATM in the whole airport!

Once in Bilbao, the easiest thing to do is to walk. The best route is to move from one end of the river starting from the area around the mercado all the way down to the other end demarcated by the Guggenheim. Create your own self-guided graffiti art tour using this guide, admire the Azkuna Zentroa cultural center and its 43 columns each with their own unique design and story, and cross and walk over each and every bridge you can find.

The Guggenheim “Goog”

The central Bilbao attraction- the Guggenheim is a true architectural gem and masterpiece. Make sure you take in the views from each and every angle, most importantly the views from high up the bridge. Don’t expect to be entirely blown away by the collection- but seeing the building inside and the Richard Serres time exhibit is cool enough to make the whole visit worthwhile.

Day trips from Bilbao

Bilbao is surrounded by amazing spots that are incredibly easy to get to by public transit.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Ever watched Game of Thrones? Remember Dragonstone from Season 7? Bus line A3518 Bilbao (from Plaza Moyúa just outside Dockers every hour)-Bakio takes you to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Bakio itself is a beachy village with not much going on when it isn’t summer. Take the bus all the way to the last stop and then be prepared to walk for approximately 40 minutes or shell out 10 euro for a taxi ride to the entrance. There are two routes you can take, the steeper but more direct route on the left flank, or the more circuitous, gradual right flank. Both offer stunning views, although my preference would be the shorter, more direct route. Make sure you ring the church bell 3 times for good fortune!

Getxo

White-washed houses overlooking the water, old Spanish villa-style colonial houses, colorful fishing boats and a unique bridge help make Getxo a must for exploring. An easily accessible train ride from Bilbao city center to the Algorta stop, make your way straight towards the water, and then one can walk all the way to the Vizcaya Bridge (1-2 hours).

Get greater views by walking on top of Vizcaya Bridge, and take the traditional transport method back. Once on the other side, glorious views of the Bridge can be found if you walk up to the Andra Maria basilika viewpoint, and then walk down via Santa Maria Kalea. At the plaza down by the river is a spot with four cafes to stop by for afternoon pinxtos.