Why Travel to Bilbao?
Bilbao, the capital of Biscay, is a popular Spanish city that traces its origins back to 1300 when it was founded by D. Diego López de Haro, the Lord of Biscay. Initially situated along the banks of the river Nervion, which now is the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter), Bilbao is world-famous thanks to the Guggenheim Museum. This iconic art gallery has put the city of Bilbao on the map forever! The stunning architectural marvel, designed by Frank O. Gehry, is recognized for its immense beauty. While the museum houses exhibitions by some of the world´s greatest modern artists, it´s the magnetism of the building itself that continues to captivate and draw countless visitors to the city.
Bilbao Beyond the Guggenheim - Top Things to See
Bilbao's Old Town (Casco Viejo), with its iconic Siete Calles (The Seven Streets), displays an authentic Basque charm and is one of Europe's largest historical shopping districts. It's a place where you can immerse yourself in the Basque way of life, whether it's sipping a txikito (a small glass of red wine) or eating a banderilla (also known as pintxo). Apart from the well known Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao offers to its visitors a wide range of cultural gems, including the Archaeological, Ethnographical, and Historical Museum, considered Spain´s second in importance, The Diocesan Museum, The Plaza Nueva, Miguel Unamuno Square, The Arriaga Theatre, inspired in the Paris Opera and on the opposite side of the river to it, The Campos Eliseos Theatre or the Library at Bidebarrieta, among other highlights of old Bilbao.
The Gothic Cathedral Church of our Lord Santiago (St. James) is a must-visit, given Bilbao´s importance along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, including the UNESCO-recognized Northern Way, commencing in Irun. Bilbao´s modernity harmonizes with its heritage, evident in landmarks such as the Guggenheim Museum, Santiago Calatravas striking Zubizuri Bridge, the Euskalduna Bridge, Norman Foster's underground marvel with its distinctive "fosteritos," the Euskalduna Palace of Congresses and Music, and Calatrava´s admiring "The Dove" new airport terminal. Bilbao has evolved into a cosmopolitan city open to the world that at the same time stays deeply rooted in its own culture.
For panoramic views of the city, Old Town, and the surrounding mountains, take a ride on the Funicular to the Artxanda viewpoint, 250 meters above the city. Athletic Bilbao, the city´s La Liga football team, upholds a unique tradition of employing only Basque players, reflecting the region´s strong sense of Basque Nationalism.
The Maritime Museum, housed in the former Euskalduna shipyard, exhibits the shipbuilding and the city´s revitalization of its port. Just a short distance from Bilbao you can find the Vizcaya Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world's oldest transporter bridge across the River Nervion. This remarkable structure is a great example of 19th-century industrial ingenuity that continues to operate and is a symbol of Bilbao´s history and innovation.
Typical Dishes and Bilbao´s Pintxos Scene
Bilbao's culinary scene is a testament to the rich gastronomic heritage of the Basque Country, and at its heart lies the world of pintxos. These bite-sized culinary masterpieces are a feast for both the eyes and the palate, with endless varieties to taste. Typical dishes in Bilbao´s pintxos scene include succulent grilled seafood, such as prawns and squid. Pintxos bars line the streets of Bilbao, each offering their unique creations. From the classic Gilda (a skewer of olives, anchovies, and peppers) to the innovative pintxos that fuse traditional ingredients with modern flair, Bilbao´s pintxos scene is a culinary journey that should not be missed by any foodie visiting this city. Other must try traditional dishes are the Marmitako (Basque Tuna Stew), Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Basque-Style Codfish Stew), Piperrada (Basque Pepper Sauce) and local products of the Basque Country like the Idiazabal Cheese that pairs perfectly with the famous Txakoli wine of the region.
Our food experts have chosen the best tour operators offering tours with food, wine, and walking holidays in Bilbao. You can check our full list of things to do in Bilbao: top food tours to Bilbao and top boutique hotels in the sections of the travel to Bilbao destination guide.
Population: 347,776 (2023) inhabitants