Introducing the city

£1.00 | 1.14 €

GBP | EUR

Gasoline £1.09 | 1.24 €

One-way ticket £1.25 | 1.43 €

Beer £2.20 | 2.50 €

Main Course £10.55 | 12.00 €

About Bilbao

Bilbao is the de facto Basque capital that's transformed itself from a hard-working industrial city into a high-brow art metropolis.

One word that is often used to describe Bilbao is ‘gritty’. This is due to the city’s industrial past, when it was a centre for the iron and steel industries. This reputation has meant that, historically, Bilbao has often been overlooked by the tourist industry in favour of 'softer' Spanish cities, such as Barcelona and Madrid.

But the city has reinvented itself, and to great effect. It is now a major European destination for art and culture, boasting one of the most impressive buildings on the continent, the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

Architecture, good food, art, shopping and a great night life. Bilbao has everything you need for the perfect weekend getaway.

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Weather

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When should you visit?

Weather-wise, the best time to visit Bilbao is between April and October, when the weather is temperate, and the water often still warm enough for swimming.

It’s best to avoid August if possible, however, as this is when the city can be a tad over-crowded with tourists.

Bilbao has a temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters. August is the hottest month in Bilbao with an average temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, whilst January is the coldest month at 10 degrees Celsius. The best month to swim in the sea is in August when the average sea temperature is 21 degrees Celsius.

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Travioor top tips

Museums
Ribera Market
Cave

Insider Info

  • The Guggenheim may have put Bilbao on the map, but there’s a plethora of other exciting museums that deserve your attention. The Bilbao Maritime Museum, the Euskal Museo Bilbao, the Sala Rekalde Contemporary Art Gallery; these are just a sample of great places to make time for.

  • Experience a traditional part of Spanish life and wander through the Ribera Market, an indoor marketplace with smells and sights to excite and entice all tastes.

  • Arrange a visit to the Cueva de Santimamiñe (The Santimamiñe cave), which contains cave paintings from 13’000 BC. It’s located 40 kilometres outside of the city, but it’s well worth the trip to see something so rare.

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Food and drink

Main Course £10.55 | 12.00 €

3-Course Meal £43.95 | 50.00 €

Cappuccino £1.32 | 1.50 €

Beer £2.20 | 2.50 €

The Scene

Whatever your taste, style or budget, there is truly something for everyone to enjoy in Bilbao. From sampling pintxos (local tapas) in rustic wooden taverns to splashing out in Michelin starred restaurants – there’s a broad range for one and all.

If you’re not sure where to start, we can recommend Casa Rufo, which offers visitors the delightful experience of dining in a delicatessen-inspired labyrinth; you’ve got to try the steak here. Irrintzi is another favourite of ours, a self-described ‘pintxo tavern’ with a great, lively atmosphere. At the higher end of the gastronomic scene, you could also check out Nerua, one of the city’s finest haute cuisine restaurants, situated in the heart of the Guggenheim and adorned with a well-deserved Michelin star.

If in doubt, though, just enjoy navigating your way through Bilbao’s ancient, narrow streets and follow your nose or the crowd to a suitable spot. You could even ask for a Calimocho, which is red wine mixed with Coca-Cola. It sounds terrible but it’s a local favourite and more tasty than you’d expect.

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History

Bilbao’s Story

Bilbao became a chartered town in 1300, after which it grew extremely rapidly. It soon developed into the main port of the Kingdom of Castile and the economic centre of the Biscay region. By the 16th century, Bilbao wasn’t just the economic centre of the Biscay region, but its capital city too.

The city came under attack during the Carlist Wars of the 1800s, but it lived to tell the tale and went on to become the seat of the Basque autonomous government in the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

It was then unfortunately besieged by the Nationalist army, who destroyed all of the city’s bridges in 1937. Fortunately reconstruction began in the 1940s and the iron industry soon picked back up.

The industrial era of the 19th and 20th certainly brought Bilbao wealth, but arguably at the price of the city’s aesthetic beauty. Towards the end of the 20th century, industrial decline began to set in, but through the city’s heavy investment in tourism, regeneration and culture, it completely reinvented itself.

Language

Hola | Hello
Gracias | Thank you

Spanish

Although it's a large, multicultural city, Bilbao is mainly a Spanish-speaking area. That being said, many also speak Basque, with varying degrees of fluency. All signs are bilingual in the Basque Country though, so there is no need to panic about potential cross-over confusion. Tourism is such a huge part of the region, that locals are used to an array of languages and accents, so wherever you’re from, you’ll fit in in Bilbao. The following Spanish phrases may be useful:

  • Please: Por favor
  • Excuse me: Disculpe
  • Do you speak English?: Habla usted Inglés?

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Need to know

+34 Dialling Code
112 Emergency Services

Get The Low-Down

  • Bilbao has its own regional airport and offers domestic flights. If you are travelling from overseas, it’s best to fly into Madrid and take a train or a connecting flight to Bilbao or San Sebastian.
  • The city is easy to explore on foot as the main tourist areas are fairly close together. However, the city also has a full range of public transport services (city buses, trams, taxis and metro) linking all the different areas and allowing you to get around quickly and conveniently, if walking isn’t your thing.
  • It is advisable not to wear any Spanish symbols such as Spanish national football tops or flags, as Basque locals are fiercely proud of their culture, and tensions have historically been high at times between the two communities. Whilst you are very unlikely to encounter any problems related to this historical divide, it is wise to be sensitive towards the issue.

 

VISA INFORMATION

Find out about the visa requirements for Spain here.

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Travioor Recommends

1. The Guggenheim

You just can’t go to Bilbao without visiting The Guggenheim. The contemporary art museum is a marvel of modern, innovative architecture and features an extensive collection.

2. Casco Viejo

Enjoy the old world charm of the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter), with its quaint historic streets and enticing shops and cafés.

3. Explore The Park

Take a stroll through the Parque Doña Casilda de Iturrizar (The Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park). Filled with leafy palm trees, it’s a delightful spot for a lazy afternoon.

4. Basilica De Begoña

Get an exceptional view of the city from the 16th century Basilica de Begoña, one of the most important pilgrimage churches in Bilbao.

5. The Plaza Nueva

Enjoy the vibe at the Plaza Nueva, the monumental square of Neoclassical style built in 1821, that acts as the social centre of the city.


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