One day in Bilbao itinerary + 18 ultimate tips!

Bilbao is a great city to visit. This industrial city has undergone a total metamorphosis in recent years and is, therefore, one of the nicest cities in Spain to visit. In Bilbao, you can visit the world-famous Guggenheim Museum, discover an authentic historic center, enjoy pintxos, and much more!

In this article, you can read the best tips to have a great time in Bilbao. Bilbao has a lot to offer culturally, you will be surprised how much you can see during one day in Bilbao. Find out in this article: what to do one day in Bilbao itinerary.

Bilbao Guggenheim Museum
Gran Via Bilbao

What to do in one day in Bilbao?

Bilbao is a big city because of the surrounding industry, there are a couple of things you want to do when you are in Bilbao. Read below our Bilbao itinerary if you just have one day.

Tip: use the below map to see where all the best things in Bilbao are located. Click on the right top corner to view the map bigger.

#1 Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum is without a doubt Bilbao’s main attraction. Bilbao used to be an industrial city that had fallen into disrepair, due to the construction of the Guggenheim museum in 1997, the entire city has been transformed into a hip city.

The Guggenheim Museum was designed by Frank Gehry and looks beautiful from the outside. On the outside, next to the building itself, you can see a 12-meter high dog made of flowers, a spider, and crystal balls. Walk around the building to see everything well. Don’t forget to walk up the stairs at the river, from the bridge you have a spectacular view over the museum.

Inside the museum, you will find nineteen galleries that consist of a mix of local artists to international art. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Tickets are €10 per person when you buy them via the official website of the Guggenheim Museum.

Guggenheim Museum

#2 Historic Center

Walking around the historic center, also called Casco Viejo, is a great activity because this is a medieval neighborhood where you can discover a lot of history. Casco Viejo is located on the banks of the Nervión River which was used for trade at the time. In the past, the historic center was defended by city walls, therefore, the historic center is still in its original state. The center consists of seven main streets, each of which used to house a specific craft.

The big advantage of the historic center of Bilbao is that compared to many other cities it does not mainly consist of typical tourist shops. You can still wander around and visit various local boutiques, bars, and restaurants. It is recommended to visit the historic center during the day and evening. During the day you can be a tourist and in the evening you are like a local and can enjoy the food with a great atmosphere.

Plaza Nueva Bilbao
Buildings Bilboa

#3 Pintxos

Pintxos is a typical food from the north of Spain. Pintxos are similar to tapas, the difference is that tapas are small versions of a main course and pintxos are small dishes, often with a skewer on a bun. Pintxos are mainly eaten on social occasions. Pintxos are delicious because, like tapas, they are very diverse. It is great when you enjoyed a menu of the day (menu del dia) in the afternoon that you don’t have to eat a lot in the evening. You can eat a few pintxos and that is enough.

The best thing is to walk into a bar and order a drink with pintxos. Our favorite place in Bilbao to eat pintxos is cafe Iruna. Café Iruna has a great atmosphere because it is built in an Andalic style, therefore, you have the feeling that you are suddenly in the south of Spain. It is a traditional Basque cafe where it is very cozy. The food is delicious, for €2 per pintxos you don’t have to spend much money to eat. At the bar you can see and order the pintxos. The pintxos you see in the photo below are highly recommended, very tasty!

In the ‘where to eat well in San Sebastian’ section, read some of our favorite places to eat in San Sebastian.

cafe Iruna

#4 Catedral de Santiago

In the historic center is the Cathedral of Bilbao located which is built in the 14th century, the cathedral is an important place for pilgrims who are walking the northern route of Camino de Santiago. The cathedral is the oldest building in Bilbao and the most important Gothic building in the province of the Basque Country. The square with the old well in front of the cathedral is very romantic and atmospheric. The most beautiful thing about the cathedral are the statues at the entrance. You can visit the cathedral daily from 10 am to 2 pm and from 3 pm to 6:30 pm. Entrance costs are €6 per person. It is worth visiting the cathedral because inside you will be impressed by the large columns and beautiful courtyard.

Catedral de Santiago

#5 San Mamés

Whether or not you are a football fan, a visit to the football stadium of the Athletic Club is a fun activity. Among football enthusiasts, the San Mamés stadium is also called the cathedral of football. This is because San Mamés is one of the oldest stadiums in Spain and everyone at the stadium is greeted with laughter and applause regardless of whether you are a friend or an ‘enemy’.

The best thing is to follow an audio guide and learn everything about this beautiful stadium. You can buy tickets here. The entrance for the tour starts between entrances 19 and 20.

San Mamés

#6 Cross the Zubizuri bridge

If you walk along the Nervión river you will come across the Zubizuri bridge, which is about 7 minutes walk from the Guggenheim museum. The Zubizuri bridge is one of the most special bridges you will ever see because of its unique shape. Nice to cross the bridge and to enjoy the view you have from the bridge on the river.

Zubizuri bridge

#7 Teatro Arriaga

If you like theaters or if you just like to see a historical building, then a visit to Teatro Arriaga is recommended. The Theater is located on Puente del Arenal and overlooks the Nervión River. When you enter the historic center, this is the large building on your right.

The Arriaga theater is built in the 19th century in neo-baroque style. You can only visit the theater through a guided tour or by going to a performance.

A tour can only be followed on the weekends. For current timeslots check the official website here. Tickets are €5 per person.

#8 Viewpoint Artxanda

At the top of mountain Atxanda, you have a beautiful view of the entire city. To get to the top you need to take the funicular (cable car). Cross the bridge Zubizuri and walk to Plaza del Funicular. To make use of the cable car you need a Bilbao Bizkaia Card, which you can purchase at the Bilbao Tourist Office. The Bilbao Bizkaia Card costs €10, with this card you can use public transport in the city for 24 hours unlimited and visit some cultural buildings for free. The address of the tourist office is Plaza Circular number 1.

The cable car is open daily from 7:15 am to 10 pm and the tourist office daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Bilbao viewpoint

#9 Plaza Nueva

If you are looking for a typical Spanish square to enjoy having a bite to eat or drink, Plaza Nueva is recommended. The monumental square was built in 1851 and is located in the historic center. The square is impressive, atmospheric, and lively due to the many terraces and bars.

Tip: every Sunday morning you will find a flea market in Plaza Nueva where local people sell things. Nice to visit if you are a lover of antiques.

Plaza Nueva

#10 Bicycle tour

If you’re short on time and you want to see as much as possible, a bike tour is recommended. During the 3-hour bike tour, you will visit most of the activities from this list with a local. Tickets can be bought here, it costs 32 per person.

Historic center

#11 Shopping on Gran Vía

You can see that Bilbao has developed in recent years when you walk along the Gran Vía. In this large shopping street, you can see all brands from all over the world. Nice to walk through the beautiful shopping street and enjoy all the large buildings. If you like to go shopping you will enjoy this area a lot because there is a lot to see. The most beautiful part is Plaza Mayor. It is surrounded by old buildings and in the center, you see a fountain that is illuminated in the evening.

Bilbao Gran Vía

#12 Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park

If you want to relax in the city for a while, visiting Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park is a must. This park is Bilbao’s largest park and is very popular among the locals. This is because the park is built in an English style, making everything very playful. You can see various fountains, ponds, trees, flowers, and animal species.

For travelers with children, this park is recommended because of the animal meadow and play equipment. The park is located near the Guggenheim, about a five-minute walk away. In the summer evenings, it is also nice to walk through this park because everything is nicely lit.

#13 Other activities

There are plenty of things to do in Bilbao if you have one day in Bilbao you can’t see everything. There may be activities in the list above that you might want to swap with one of the activities below. It is also possible to add one of the activities to your schedule, but be careful not to add too many things.

#13.1 Puente de Vizcaya

Puente de Vizcaya is a bridge that is a World Heritage Site. The transport bridge was built in 1983 and carries vehicles and pedestrians from one side to the other. You can enter the gondola for €0.45 per person. Another option is to walk on top of the bridge and cross the river. From the bridge, you have a great view of the industry of Bilbao. Tickets are €9 per person.

Puente de Vizcaya is located in Getxo. The best way to arrive at the bridge is to take the metro to Areeta station. Travel time is +/- 20 minutes from the center. You can visit the bridge daily.

#13.2 Walk along the Nervión River

One of the best things to do in Bilbao is to walk along the Nervión river. It is recommended to start at the San Mamés stadium and to walk till Puente del Arenal, this is the bridge you cross to visit the historic center. During this walk, you will come across many sights that are on this list, such as the Guggenheim Museum and Zubizuri.

If you walk along the river, visit the historic center, and visit the new part at Gran Via you see the best parts of Bilbao. The walk from San Mamés to Puente del Arenal takes +/- 40 minutes. This is just the walk itself, if you take the time to discover the sights you encounter during your walk you need all morning. Take into account +/- 4 hours.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

#13.3 Boat tour

If you want to discover the Nervión River uniquely, a boat tour is something for you. During the 2.5-hour boat tour, you will cruise the river and see all the important buildings of Bilbao. The nice thing about the boat tour is that you learn about the history of Bilbao through the guide who is present. Read more information here.

If you have access to a car, visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (Bermeo), Zumaia & Ermita de San Telmo, and San Sebastian is highly recommended. It is also possible to do this with a tour.

#13.4 Zumaia & Ermita de San Telmo

Zumaia & Located between Bilbao and San Sebastian, Ermita de San Telmo is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Basque Country. Zumaia is known for its special rock formations which are very impressive to see. On top of this rock is located Ermita de San Telmo a chapel from which you have a magnificent view over the beach. Park your car at the village of Zumaia and walk to Ermita de San Telmo, then go to the beach for a good view of the rocky coast of Zumaia.

If you do not have access to a car, you can book this tour to visit Zumaia & Ermita de San Telmo.

Ermita de San Telmo

#13.5 San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Bermeo is a must to visit. Here you can visit a church built on a peninsula. The hike, environment, and nature are impressive, for nature lovers this is one of the best things to do in Spain. The reason it has become so popular in recent years is that it was a filming location on Game of Thrones. It is important that reserve your ticket upfront, it is not possible to do this at the entrance. Be on time with your booking because tickets run out quickly!

If you don’t have a car and you want to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe you can book this tour!

#13.6 San Sebastian

The other major city in the Basque Country is San Sebastian, a beautiful coastal city that amazes many travelers for its beauty. We have visited San Sebastian and captured all our tips in this San Sebastian itinerary.

It is recommended to travel independently to San Sebastian and stay here for 1 or 2 nights. Use the article above to learn all about San Sebastian. However, if you want to visit San Sebastian as a day trip from Bilbao due to time constraints, the two tours below are excellent alternatives:

City hall San Sebastian

How many days do you need for Bilbao?

Bilbao is a big city, in 1 day / 2 nights you have enough time to do most of the activities from this list. If you have the opportunity it is strongly recommended to stay 2 days / 3 nights in Bilbao. This allows you to take all the time you need to discover the Guggenheim Museum, visit the historic center during the day and evening, walk along the Nervión River, and more from this list! We were 1.5 days in Bilbao and found this perfect to discover Bilbao.

If you are planning to do day trips that are mentioned in this list, we recommend that you extend your stay in Bilbao by the number of day trips you will do.

Where to stay in Bilbao?

There are many accommodations to choose from. It’s hard to find one with good value for money. In addition, your options are often limited because many accommodations are fully booked quickly. This is because Bilbao is very popular because of the Guggenheim museum. If you know when you will be staying in Bilbao, it is strongly recommended to book the accommodation directly. When you use the links below you can change your reservation 24 hours in advance, so you retain your flexibility.

If you travel by car and you are looking for a good base, Bilbao Hostel (€18 dorm) is highly recommended. We stayed here and loved it because you have access to a free parking lot, rooms are neat and breakfast is included. The hostel is located just outside the center, by bus you are in the center in 15 minutes. The big advantage is the price of this hostel if you consider that if you want to stay in the center you quickly pay €25 per day to only park the car.

Close to the Guggenheim Museum is Hesperia Bilbao (€72 double room). This modern hotel has beautiful rooms, a very good breakfast, and a roof terrace with a beautiful view of the Guggenheim museum and the river Nervión.

If Hesperia Bilbao is fully booked you can stay at Hotel Ilunion Bilbao (€68 double room), this is a modern hotel right in the center.

Where to eat in Bilbao?

At #3 we mentioned that eating at Cafe Iruna is the best place to try pintxos. Café Iruna has a great atmosphere because it is built in an Andalic style, therefore, you have the feeling that you are suddenly in the south of Spain. It is a traditional Basque cafe where it is very cozy. The food is delicious, for €2 per pintxos you don’t have to spend much money to eat. At the bar, you can see and order the pintxos.

At Markina restaurante you can enjoy a menu del dia in the afternoon. We have eaten a lot of Menú del día during our trip through Spain, but we can tell you that the quality here is great. As a starter, we recommend the gazpacho soup or Fabada. The fish is recommended as the main course because it is nice and crispy due to the preparation of the grill. You also get dessert and a drink for a price of €15.65 per person, which is really cheap when you consider what you get.

If you want to eat a sandwich in the morning or afternoon, Panadería Bertiz is recommended. Here you can get a whole baguette for €5 with toppings of your choice. The cappuccino and milkshakes are also very good here.

If you want to have a drink on a terrace, Sorginzulo at Plaza Neuvo is a must. A nice place to enjoy the imposing buildings and the cozy atmosphere of the old square. One of the nicest places to have a drink.

Markina restaurante

How to get to Bilbao?

The best way to reach Bilbao is by plane, car, or train. Bilbao has an international airport so you can easily fly directly to this city. Bilbao is close to the French border, making it an acceptable distance by car from different places in Europe. If you are in a city in Spain you can easily travel by train to Bilbao, train tickets can be bought here. It isn’t recommended to travel by train from cities outside Spain to Bilbao due to the long travel time.

What is the best period to visit Bilbao?

The best period to visit Bilbao is during the spring and summer period from April to September. Although this is the high season, these months are recommended because of the pleasant temperatures. Due to the maritime climate, it can be very cold in autumn and winter, which isn’t very nice. An advantage of the cold period is that it is a lot quieter and prices are therefore lower.

Want to see more of Spain?

Following our itinerary through Northern Spain? If you follow our itinerary, Picos de Europa is your next destination. Read all about the best hikes in Picos de Europa here.

If you don’t follow our Northern Spain itinerary, you can travel from Bilbao to Santander, San Sebastian, or the wine region of La Rioja. Read our articles about the destination in question by clicking on the link!

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