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Bilbao, much more than the Guggenheim

by Josè Martino from Portugal


I made this trip in 2014, but when I was invited to share a trip it was the first one that jumped into my memory, not because it was the best trip I ever did, but because I loved Bilbao and the surrounding area and I think it’s still a little unknown.

The “Iron City” is the capital of the ‘país Basco’ in the north of Spain. Although its icon is the Guggenheim Museum – another famous work of the architect Frank Gehry – Bilbao (and its surroundings) have much more to offer us than it seems.

The city has some curious aspects and deserves a visit, 2 days is enough to see some of its interesting treasures. If you visit the surroundings, you’ll need at least another 2 days.

You must visit its ex-libris, as well as the area near the river, even on winter the view is very beautiful and pleasant. The surrounding area of ​​the museum is interesting and has several green spaces and places to take a break.


A few blocks away we have another interesting engineering icon: The Zubizuri bridge. The bridge had (and has) the whole floor in glass, but given the falls and some phobias, it was coated with a giant rug, but it is still an eccentric connection between the shores.


On the opposite side of the river, we can find the funicular of Artxanda, which you should use to reach the top of the hill with the same name and have a breathtaking view over the city. I am suspicious because I always like to climb to higher points and see the cities from above and I think this ticket is well worth.


Not only of architecture and beautiful landscapes live the city, for lovers of museums and history, besides the best known, we have the ‘Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao’, ‘Museo Maritimo Ria de Bilbao’ or the ‘Arkeologi Museoa’. For football fans, like the ‘Bascos’, we have the vibrant San Mamés.

The ‘Casco Viejo’ is the name given to the historic center. As well as good places to eat (which is not difficult in Bilbao), shows us the imposing ‘Plaza Nueva’, the ‘Arriaga Antzokia Theater’, the renovated ‘La Ribera Market’ next to ‘Iglesia de San Antón’ and the interesting architecture of the ‘Santander Station’.


A little further from the shores of the river we have the ‘Basilica of Begoña’. We ended up going on foot because on every trip we try to walk the most to ‘live’ the city, but the trip was not worth it. Take any transport to get to the Basilica more quickly and pay a visit inside.

In Bilbao the food does not go far to typical Spanish: tapas and pintxos. We can go through several taverns and eat a ‘tapa’ in each one and follow to the next one through the streets of Casco Viejo or the area of ​​Indautxu. The ‘Bascos’ love to eat standing and switching between taverns.

I advise you to taste the typical ‘calimocho’ and to know the history (or legend) of the drink.

I can not give tips or comments on accommodation since I stayed in the best of all: friends house!

The surroundings:

If you can rent a car to explore the outskirts of Bilbao, go to Getxo. In addition to the typical restaurants of good food and to be the gateway to the Bay of Biscay, we have an unusual bridge worthy a visit to: Puente Colgante. The bridge connects Getxo to Portugalete, a picturesque village where you can take a nice walk.


We can buy a ticket to walk over (for the fearless) and then return by the platform that moves from side to side.

For lovers of good wine, about 100 km from Bilbao you can visit the beautiful building also of Frank Gehry (the similarities are obvious) that serves as hotel of Bodegas Marqués de Riscal. The visit is interesting and entitles you to wine tasting at the end.


If nature and walks are more your taste, on the way to San Sebastian, and about 40 km from Bilbao, you can visit the Bosque Pintado de Oma. Besides being a forest, it is also an open-air artistic work created by the painter and sculptor Agustín Ibarrola. Get ready to walk!


More or less, this was my trip to Bilbao, it came as an excuse and it turned out to be a big surprise to realize that as I started: Bilbao is much more than the Guggenheim.

Travel, a lot.

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