The city of Bilbao is a unique place because of its culture, its customs, its incredible urban transformation and its perfect balance between history and modernity.
This is demonstrated by the large number of awards received since 2010, such as the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize that same year, considered the Nobel Prize for urban architecture, the election as Best European City 2018 or the Mayor of the World Award corresponding to the 2012 edition.
All this only helps to prove you right. You are making the right trip to a place that will surprise you. We'll make sure you get the most out of your three-day stay. Get ready to see countless monuments, learn about history and eat lots of good food.
72 hours in Bilbao
Day 1 in Bilbao
So that you can see that we are not bluffing, here is the route we are going to follow on our first day of three 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
The first thing to do is to be aware of where you are and what you are about to start exploring. To do this, we are going to accompany you to the place with the best views in all of Bilbao; Artxanda viewpoint.
First we set off from the Plaza del Funicular to take the Artxanda funicular, in operation since 1915, and enjoy an unrivalled view of Bilbao from the Artxanda viewpoint. From this balcony overlooking the city you can see how the new and the traditional merge, history coming to life.
We return to our initial starting point, but this time we are going to head for one of the great emblems of Bilbao's great urban transformation in its progressive deindustrialisation: The Guggenheim Museum.
To get there, we will have our first close contact with the estuary, la Ría, the symbol of the city. We cross the estuary over the Zubizuri Bridge, where we are greeted by the Isozaki Towers.
On our way to the Guggenheim you will also find more classical architecture such as the Ibaigane Palace. And a little further on you'll see the 13-metre tall West Highland Terrier covered in flowers, called Puppy, and you won't be able to leave without taking a souvenir photo of him.
Three monuments converge on the Paseo de Abandoibarra; you are next to the Puppy, the Guggenheim Museum and the La Salve or Salbeko zubia bridge. The museum is a must-see both inside and out, and don't forget to check their website for opening times and special discounts! It is the best museum in the city, but not the only one. Here we tell you about the best museums and galleries in Bilbao.
Have you had your fill of art? There are some excellent places to grab a bite to eat in the area if your stomach is already rumbling. As soon as you've regained your energy, we'll cross la Ría again, but this time over the last bridge built to date; the Pedro Arrupe Footbridge.
The imposing building that greets you on the other side is none other than the University of Deusto. The whole area is beautiful and the Botica Vieja leads us to another of the most famous bridges; Deusto Bridge, named after both the University and the neighbourhood.
Continuing along the path marked out by the Botica Vieja, but without letting go of the estuary, we reach another well-known bridge; the Euskalduna Bridge, with its recognisable 60-metre red "Carola" crane, named after a woman from Deusto who used to cross the estuary every day to go to work.
This whole area is impressive, the imposing Euskalduna Bridge leading us to the Maritime Museum and the Euskalduna Palace. We leave the Ría behind us, which gradually recedes but never disappears.
Misericordia Park, also known as Errukiaren parkea, is a lovely place to stop before surprising football fans as we head to San Mamés, Athletic Club Bilbao's home stadium. This Athletic Club de Bilbao stadium is not only an impressive sporting venue, but also a reflection of the essence of Bilbao, a contemporary construction that draws on its traditional roots. Get ready for a unique experience at this iconic venue!
Now leave the stadium behind you and look for the Alameda Urquijo, which will give us a great atmosphere and a mad desire to enter every bar. Don't hesitate to visit some of them with our list of the best Pintxos bars in Bilbao.
Continue along Alameda Urquijo to our last stop of the day: Azkuna Zentroa. Formerly known as Alhóndiga Bilbao, this place is a former wine warehouse that has been transformed into a vibrant cultural and entertainment centre. A visit is a must; let yourself be carried away by its light and majestic columns. It's an experience you won't want to miss.
Day 2 in Bilbao
Our second day will be focused on the evolution of the city, starting from the most classical to the great modern growth of Bilbao. Here are our stops today:
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
We'll start our second day exploring from the home of the patron saint of Biscay, the Basilica of the Virgin of Begoña, a 17th century Gothic temple that has undergone several renovations and now looks spectacular. This 17th century gothic temple has undergone several renovations and now looks spectacular, like a magical portal that will lead us to Casco Viejo, the Old Town, and the Ensanche, where we will end our day in the same way as yesterday!
We walk through the streets and take a detour to Etxebarria Park, the largest park in Bilbao. It has a unique chimney that reminds us of the past of the foundry that used to be here. It's a reminder that we shouldn't forget our roots as we look to the future, and that's something you'll see all over the city. We leave the park straight to the impressive Bilbao City Hall, the nerve centre of the city of Bilbao. Once again, an invisible force pushes us towards the Ría, where Bilbao's life goes on. Without losing sight of the estuary, we walk against its waters towards the Arenal Park and its bridge.
The Church of San Nicolás de Bari appears in our path as we make our way along Calle Arenal towards our next stop, Plaza Nueva. It's an impressive place surrounded by arches, and you'll find a great variety of pintxos - don't miss the opportunity, but beware of getting too full because the best is yet to come!
Now we approach the heart of Bilbao, the Casco Viejo, the "Seven Streets". Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the people, explore its streets and visit important places such as the Cathedral of Santiago, the Church of Santos Juanes and the Church of San Antón.
By the way, next to the latter you'll find the Mercado de la Ribera, to make your senses fly and test your stomach; more pintxos in sight! It is also the perfect place to try some of the local products. Here you have a guide with all the typical products of Bilbao that you must try before your getaway comes to an end.
If you've already soaked up the spirit of the Old Town, if you've found your favourite spot in one of its narrow streets, it's time to discover one of the city's other great monuments, the Arriaga Theatre, just a short distance from the fantastic and already-visited Plaza Nueva.
We then head for the Ensanche. This area of the city is known for being a real commercial hotbed with a wide range of cultural offerings and a great atmosphere. Before taking the Arenal Bridge, we stop at the Plaza del Arriaga to enjoy, both inside and out, the Arriaga Theatre.
Crossing to the other side of the estuary, we are greeted by Santander Station, "La Concordia", with its mixture of colours that is even more magical when it rains and the wet ground reflects all its postcard-perfect splendour.
Just around the corner, the monumental building of the Sociedad Bilbaína gives us a foretaste of what awaits us in this part of the city: beauty and majesty.
From the Plaza Circular, we start to walk along the Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro. Although this invites us to stroll, we resist the temptation (for now) to continue enjoying the centre of Bilbao.
Before wandering around the streets of central Bilbao, take a moment to enjoy the Plaza Circular, formerly Plaza de España and Plaza de la Estación. Watch the bustle of the city, the buildings and the "fosteritos", the Norman Foster-designed entrances to the metro.
We go in search of the Church of San Vicente Mártir de Abando, on the right-hand side of the Gran Vía, to retrace our steps and go to the other side of the Gran Vía to find the Church of the Sacred Heart. Two buildings of worship, the first being older, dating back to the 15th century, and the second more architecturally spectacular.
We recommend going a little further away from the Gran Vía to escape to the Campos Elíseos Antzokia Theatre, known by the locals as El Campos and the Bombonera de Bertendona. In our zigzag around the Gran Vía this stop seems to be a little more against the grain, but it's well worth the few extra minutes you'll need to get to its unmistakable facade. Check out their programme for a great afternoon or evening inside.
If you have correctly decided to visit the Teatro Campos Elíseos Antzokia, on your way back to Gran Vía, you should pass by the buildings of the Biblioteca Foral and the Palacio de la Diputación Foral de Bizkaia, another example of Bilbao's evolution, from the majestic to the minimalist, from stone to glass, coexisting just a few metres away.
And now we return to Gran Vía to step onto the Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa, named after the mayor of the city at the beginning of the 20th century. The square has become a meeting point for locals and tourists alike. In the heart of Bilbao, surrounded by emblematic buildings, such as the Chávarri Palace or the Carlton Hotel, and a busy life.
We now take a detour to places that are already familiar to us, but not yet fully known. We leave Gran Vía behind to take another important artery of Bilbao, Calle de Elcano, which leads us to yet another reinvention, another place with a history of its own; Plaza Euskadi.
The Plaza Euskadi, at the foot of the Iberdrola Tower, covers six thousand square metres and is surrounded by such well-known buildings as the tower itself, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Ferrater dwellings and the Artklass Building, among others. After having enjoyed the Guggenheim Museum, you know what they're like around here, so who could say no to the Fine Arts Museum?
You can put an end to your day in this square by looking for a good place to have dinner, which in the area can be any bar or restaurant. Here you have a guide with some of Bilbao's most traditional dishes. However, if there is still some day left and you still have some energy left, we recommend you walk to Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, which is just behind the Museum of Fine Arts.
There you can relax, enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and an incredible fountain, and that's the end of your second day in Bilbao! Recharge your batteries because tomorrow there are more places to discover.
Day 3 in Bilbao
On our last day in Bilbao, let's explore beyond the city! Get ready for a day of adventures and escapades!
In just 25 minutes, you will reach Portugalete, a place full of history and cool monuments such as the Plaza del Solar, the Salazar Tower, the Basilica of Santa Maria, the vibrant Old Railway Station, the Town Hall and the famous Bizkaia Bridge, which connects us to our next destination: Getxo.
Getxo's coastline is as attractive as its interior. Don't miss the Hanging Bridge, Ereaga Beach, the Churruca Wharf with its monument to Evaristo de Churruca, the Old Port of Algorta and the impressive Paseo de La Galea. In the neighbourhood of Algorta and the Plaza de San Nicolás, with its Church of San Nicolás, unique experiences await you. Let yourself be carried away and explore its streets!
Castillo de Butrón
We take transport again to reach a unique and magical place. Halfway between Bilbao and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, we arrive in Gatika to visit the Butron Castle. More than a castle, it is a gothic fortress of some 2,400 square metres, a must for history lovers!
Before or after visiting Butron Castle, take a stroll along at least one of the stunning beaches north of Getxo. If you're a surfer, a visit to Azkorri, Sopelana or La Salvaje beaches is a must!
We continue along the coast and move north to reach Górliz, and its impressive beaches of Plentzia and Górliz.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
We keep going until we reach San Juan de Gaztelugatxe! A visit to its islet is a must, especially for Game of Thrones fans. If you're not a fan, don't worry, the best views of the coast await you after climbing its more than 200 steps.
And that concludes our three-day visit to the incredible city of Bilbao!