A Guide To Bilbao, A Gem Of Culture And Nature In The Basque Country

September 28, 2021

This artistic port city just climbed up to the list of top touristic places of Spain a few years ago and it’s definitely worth to spend a weekend in the Basque city.

It is less crowded than Barcelona or Madrid, but it has so much to offer if you’re thirsty for culture, diversity, and good food.

Did you know? Basque/Euskara is one of the oldest languages in Europe and it’s totally unrelated to any other languages on the continent.

Guggenheim Museum

The museum brought worldwide notice to the city with its extravagant architecture and you’ll see hundreds of people posing in front of the building for Insta-perfect pictures all day long. This alone makes it worth it to visit here but the city has so much to offer if you keep strolling along the river bank.

If you cross Puente de la Salve you’ll find plenty of impressive urban art on the streets of Bilbao.

BilboRock

Don’t confuse the building with a 17th-century church because the monumental building actually hides a multi-functional cultural center, along with a cinema, theatre, experimental installations and so much more!

Funicular de la Artxanda

The funicular will take you to the top of the city which is most spectacular in the mornings. If you’re lucky on Saturday morning, you’ll be able to catch a free guided tour which will take you behind the scenes of the funicular, to the mechanical rooms.

Puente de la Vizcaya

Also called “The hanging bridge,” Puente de la Vizcaya is a world heritage site since 2006. The hanging gondola is supported by 36 wheels and carries cars, bikes, motorcycles, and pedestrians. The upper platform sits 45 meters high and you can actually climb up here and cross the 160m long bridge on wooden walkway.

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo was my favorite part of the city. It’s the historical center or the mediaval old quarter which used to be surrounded by stone walls until the 1800s, now exposing the original seven streets, Zazpi kaleak.
This medieval grid, also called the 7 streets, is the heart of Bilbao. It was founded over 700 years ago. You’ll find ancient walls here and birthplaces of famous and historical figures, old churches and amazing pintxo bars.

Santiago cathedral

Located in Casco Viejo, the cathedral is a stop for all pilgrims walking the El camino as the temple was consecrated after the apostle Saint James. The cathedral has many names (Bilbao cathedral, St. James cathedral). It was built in Gothic style in the 14–15th century and it’s one of Bilbao’s oldest monuments.

La Ribera Market

The Guinness world record winner building was built in Art Deco style in 1929 and hides a 10,000 square meter food market. This market is not designed for tourists and you’ll see locals shopping for their food and chefs searching for the perfect ingredients.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

This beautiful place became a filming location of Game of Thrones. The island is 22km away from Bilbao. You can reach San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on a manmade stone bridge and then climb 241 steps to the top of the hill. They say if you climb to the top, you should ring the exposed bell of the church three times and make a wish.

Hora del Vermut

La hora del Vermut—aperitif time—is a ritual in Bilbao. You can find prepared Vermut almost anywhere but the most popular place of all times is the vintage Marzana 16.

Whale watching

This might not be the most budget-friendly experience but definitely the most memorable. The Bay of Biscay is so rich in marine life that it is a bucket list experience for many to get out on the water and see whales and dolphins on a whale-watching cruise.

Food

The Basque country has many culinary surprises. The food often resembles a blend of French and Spanish influence. To try the best pintxos (tapas in various forms) head to Plaza Nueva in Casco Viejo.
You’ll find the best vegan food in La Camelia bar and Bohemian Lane (vegan bakery with gluten-free options) and Blizu BI.

If you’re searching for a gluten-free restaurant, my favorite is Casa Leotta with the best ever gluten-free focaccia and pinsa (a hand-pressed pizza paired with an appetizer).

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Photo: Imola Toth

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