You don't know it yet. You may have read about it or been told about it, but you're about to find out for yourself; you're going to discover a lot, you're going to eat very well and you're going to want to come back. This is the summary, we can tell you in advance, that you are going to do once your stay in Bilbao is over.
The only drawback is the time. Two days to see Bilbao? We'll let you know right now that you're going to run a lot, but we're going to do our best to make the most of your time.
But maybe after reading this, you'll decide to extend your stay.
48 hours in Bilbao
Day 1 in Bilbao
These are the places we are going to visit on our first day in Bilbao:
1. Plaza del Funicular
2. Funicular de Artxanda
3. Mirador de Artxanda y Artxanda
4. Puente Zubizuri
5. Torres de Isozaki
6. Palacio de Ibaigane
7. Puppy y Museo Guggenheim
8. Puente de La Salve
9. Pasarela Pedro Arrupe
10. Universidad de Deusto
11. Ribera Botica Vieja
12. Puente Euskalduna
13. Museo Marítimo
14. Palacio Euskalduna
15. Estadio San Mamés
16. Azkuna Zentroa
Before we get down to work, you need to be aware of the wonder you are about to discover. The best thing to do is to see it from a bird's eye view, so everyone to the Plaza del Funicular.
As you can imagine, in this square you'll find, ready for the big surprise? That's right, the funicular. The Artxanda funicular will take us to the Artxanda viewpoint. There we can get our first glimpse of the beauty and great evolution of Bilbao.
From up here it's not all about views; enjoy the monuments, nature, the Txakolis and the Hermitage of San Roque. But don't get too distracted because the day has just begun and all that awaits you down there. Here we go Bilbao.
Let's start with the main course. When you think of Bilbao, the Guggenheim Museum inevitably springs to mind. So with our sights set on it, we cross one of the many bridges over the estuary; the Zubizuri Bridge.
This work, by the award-winning Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, leaves us next to the Isozaki Towers. You didn't think that our walk to the Guggenheim Museum was going to be something quiet and with nothing to see, did you? You are not yet aware of what Bilbao hides.
We move on and come across the Ibaigane Palace, an example of classical Basque architecture. What is not so much of classical Basque culture, although it will become, is the giant 13-metre dog that awaits you to welcome you to the museum.
The Paseo de Abandoibarra has brought us to the Puppy, the Guggenheim and, to one side, the La Salve or Salbeko zubia bridge.
A visit to the museum is a must, whether you are an art fan or not. Both its exterior and interior are worth your time and admiration.
After the visit, which depending on your taste in art will be more or less extensive, we set off. We recommend you have something to eat for dinner, but don't miss too much because our next destination is very close by: the Pedro Arrupe footbridge.
Crossing the footbridge you come across the fantastic building of the University of Deusto, located in the neighbourhood of the same name. Walk along the Botica Vieja, along the Ribera de la Ría, until you reach the Deusto Bridge.
Do not cross the estuary over the Deusto Bridge, because we will continue walking until we reach the impressive Euskalduna Bridge. This is our option for the return crossing.
The bridge will lead us to the Euskalduna Palace and the Maritime Museum, both important places to visit. After them, you deserve a rest in the Parque de la Misericordia or Errukiaren parkea.
Our next destination is a contemporary work of architecture; the San Mamés football stadium. Whether you're an Athletic Club de Bilbao fan, a football fan, or just a lover of architecture and monuments, this is a must-see.
It's up to you to take it further by attending an indoor tour or a match.
The Alameda Urquijo, an important artery of Bilbao full of bars and Pintxos, leaves us at the last stop of the day, Azkuna Zentroa. Alhíndiga Bilbao, as it was formerly known, is an old wine warehouse that today is home to the city's culture and leisure.
And now, the best part of the day: get lost. Let your instinct take over and look for the best place to dine and fall in love with Basque gastronomy.
Day 2 in Bilbao
The route of our second day is made for those who really want to make the most of the day, although you can always hurry up and stay 24 hours longer. Just a reminder:
1. Basílica de la Virgen de Begoña
2. Parque Etxebarria
3. Ayuntamiento de Bilbao
4. Parque del Arenal
5. Puente del Arenal
6. Iglesia de San Nicolás de Bari
7. Plaza Nueva
8. Casco Viejo
9. Catedral de Santiago
10. Iglesia de los Santos Juanes
11. Iglesia de San Antón
12. Mercado de la Ribera
13. Teatro Arriaga
15. Plaza del Arriaga
16. Estación de Santander
17. Edificio de la Sociedad Bilbaína
18. Plaza Circular
19. Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro
20. Iglesia de San Vicente Mártir de Abando
21. Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón
22. Teatro Campos Elíseos Antzokia
23. Biblioteca Foral
24. Palacio de la Diputación Foral de Bizkaia
25. Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa
26. Plaza Euskadi
27. Museo de Bellas Artes
28. Parque de Doña Casilda Iturrizar
As we did yesterday, we start with a main course; the Basilica of the Virgin of Begoña. A 17th century gothic style religious site. A pride for Bilbao.
If we are talking about magnificent places, passing through the largest park in Bilbao seems to be the next most logical stop; Etxebarria Park. It is presided over by an original chimney from the time when the foundries were the engine of the whole industrial area.
We head for the administrative heart of Bilbao, its city hall. We walk against the waters of the estuary, la Ría, towards the Arenal Park, an area of great importance.
We come across the Church of San Nicolás de Bari, which seems to give us the perfect indications to reach our next stop; the Plaza Nueva. It's inevitable that you'll nibble here, but do yourself a favour, and let it be just that, a nibble. We'll find out the reason later on.
We set off for the real heart and soul of Bilbao: the Old Town, Casco Viejo, the Siete Calles (Seven Streets). Discover unique corners, such as the churches of Santos Juanes and San Antón, as well as the Cathedral of Santiago, the Ribera Market, friendly people, history under every stone and lots of food of unbeatable quality.
We leave the Old Quarter crossing the Arenal Bridge, ready to enter the Ensanche area. Our objective is none other than one of the great emblems of the city; the Arriaga Theatre. Named after the Bilbao composer Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga.
Santander Station, "La Concordia", awaits us on the other side of the estuary, very close to another postcard-worthy place; the monumental building of the Sociedad Bilbaína.
A few metres away begins the Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro, named in honour of the founder of the Villa de Bilbao. We are in the centre of Bilbao. This avenue will take us to the Plaza Circular, the former Plaza de España and Plaza de la Estación.
On either side of the Gran Vía, there are places of great cultural and religious value such as the churches of San Vicente Mártir de Abando and Sagrado Corazón. Although it may seem a little far away, the Campos Elíseos Antzokia Theatre is just a few minutes away. We recommend a visit to its façade and, if the programme allows, a visit inside.
Back on the Gran Vía, don't forget to visit the Foral Library and the Palace of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, two examples of opposing architecture that coexist in harmony, a perfect metaphor for modern-day Bilbao.
The Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa welcomes us, full of life and representative buildings such as the Chávarri Palace and the Carlton Hotel. It is here that we say goodbye to the Gran Vía and head towards another important point in the city: Plaza Euskadi.
The Plaza Euskadi, at the foot of the Iberdrola Tower, has six thousand square metres as well as buildings around it that are well known to locals such as the tower itself, the Fine Arts Museum, the Ferrater dwellings or the Artklass Building, among others.
This is the end of your day. However, if there is still day left and you still have enough energy, we recommend a stroll through the Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, just behind the Museum of Fine Arts.
Day 3 in Bilbao
We know you have said so before, and you have insisted that you would only be in Bilbao for two days. But we can't help wanting to help you.
For this reason, we are going to tell you the name of the towns and places near Bilbao that you can't forget to visit. Make time wherever you can, but don't leave without seeing any of these stops:
In just 25 minutes you will reach a town full of history and monuments; the Plaza del Solar, the Salazar Tower, the Basilica of Santa María, the colourful Old Railway Station, the Town Hall and the Bizkaia Bridge. The latter is a great connection to another destination; Getxo.
Its coastline is as attractive as its interior; the Hanging Bridge, Ereaga Beach, the Churruca Quay with its monument to Evaristo de Churruca, the Old Port of Algorta and the impressive Paseo de La Galea are not to be missed on the coast.
The neighbourhood of Algorta, the Plaza de San Nicolás, with its Church of San Nicolás, among others await you inland. Let yourself be carried away and get lost in its streets.
Castillo de Butrón
We need to take transport again to reach a unique, magical enclave, halfway between Bilbao and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which we will talk about in a little while, we arrive at Gatika to visit the Castle of Butrón.
More than a castle, it is a fortress, in gothic style and about 2400 square metres. A stop not to be missed.
Before or after visiting Butron Castle you must visit at least one of the stunning beaches that await you north of Getxo. If you are a surfer, a visit becomes a must; Azkorri Beach, Sopelana Beach or La Salvaje Beach.
We continue along the coast and move north to reach Górliz, and its impressive beaches of Plentzia and Górliz.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
We continue on until we reach San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. A visit to its islet, which will be very familiar to fans of the Game of Thrones series, is a must. If this is not your case, you don't have to worry, because the best views of the coast await you behind its more than 200 steps.
This is the end of our three-day visit to the wonderful city of Bilbao. We hope you come back soon.