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Local time Bilbao

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Getting around Bilbao

Public transport

Part of the charm of Bilbao is that it's easy to get around the centre of the city on foot. It also has an excellent public transport system with a good bus network in addition to the metro and tram. Bilbobús (+34 94 479 0981; www.bilbao.net/bilbobus) routes cover all the districts in Bilbao with more than 30 lines. There are also night buses.

Metro Bilbao (www.metrobilbao.net), with its stylish fosterito stations designed by Sir Norman Foster, has two lines. Line 1 (Etxebarri-Plentzia) links Bilbao stations to the right-bank districts, while Line 2 (Basauri-Kabiezes) connects Bilbao stations to the left-bank districts.

Tram lines, run by Euskotren (tel: +34 902 543 210; www.euskotren.eus), have been gradually extended to cover an area linking Atxuri to Basurto. There is a central stretch across the district of Abandoibarra, with stops by some of Bilbao's architectural landmarks, such as the Arriaga Theatre, the Guggenheim Museum and the Euskalduna Palace.

Day passes are available for the tram and metro. You can also buy a reusable Barik smartcards. 

Taxis

Taxi drivers in Bilbao, as in the rest of the peninsula, don't expect a tip but they will certainly appreciate one. Reliable companies include TeleTaxi Bilbao (tel: +34 94 410 2121), Radio Taxi Bilbao (tel: +34 94 444 8888) and Radio Taxi Nervion (tel: +34 94 426 9026).

Driving

Driving around Bilbao is as easy as any city in Spain. Expect pushy driving, but decent roads. The layout of the city is quite complicated but well signposted, and the Old Town is a pedestrian zone. There are underground car parks throughout the city, and pay-and-display street parking, but watch out for residents-only zones.

Car hire

The minimum age to hire a car in Spain is 18. Drivers should always carry their licence and, if applicable, their rental documents. Car hire in Bilbao is available from Avis (tel: +34 902 101 780; www.avis.com), Europcar (tel: +34 902 105 055 (airport); www.europcar.com) and Hertz (tel: +34 94 415 3677; www.hertz.com).

Bicycle hire

You can hire bicycles and scooters from Alquimoto, Calle Jon Arróspide 14 (tel: +34 94 401 2563; www.alquimoto.com). Tourne (tel: +34 944 249 405; http://tournebilbao.com) also hire bicycles and offer tours.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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Featured Hotels

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Iturrienea Ostatua

Iturrienea Ostatua is a pension in Bilbao's Old Town that's chock-a-block with colour and character. It has restored antique furniture throughout and great attention to detail has been paid to the decoration of the 21 bedrooms. The lovely exposed stone walls and oak beams give this place its charm and all in all, it represents very good value. In decent weather, breakfast can be served in the garden.

Miró Hotel Bilbao

Devised by famous fashion couturier, Antonio Miró, this modern boutique hotel combines functional design and personalised service to great effect. It's a tasteful establishment with great views of Bilbao, and it offers guests access to its spas and gym on a complimentary basis. There are 50 minimalistic rooms to pick from and many come with views of the Guggenheim. All, though, have large TVs, colossal beds and chic marble bathrooms.

Zabalburu

This budget offering is clean and comfortable and offers a good buffet breakfast. Situated in a fairly central location, in downtown Bilbao, there are a slew of funky rooms to choose from, all of which have been decorated to represent a different building in the city. Most points of interest are within walking distance and the hotel itself runs a photography tour of Bilbao. Other extras include bicycle rental, ironing and laundry services, TVs in rooms, free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour bar. It also has a secure garage for those travelling with vehicles.

Hotel Carlton

A favourite of Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner and many a bullfighter, Hotel Carlton is a Bilbao institution. It is set in a grand neoclassical building with a restaurant and a 1930s-style bar. Drenched in history (it was the Euskadi government's headquarters during the Civil War), it's a splendid and very elegant hotel. Discount prices are available online if you book well in advance.

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao

This Bilbao hotel is stylish and modern, with a great location opposite the Guggenheim Museum. It boasts 5-star luxury and is famed for its superb interior design, which is wouldn't look out of place in the gallery across the way. Its clean and comfy rooms have been designed by Javier Mariscal and come with Egyptian cotton bed linen, designer armchairs, free Wi-Fi, large LCD TVs and bathtubs you could lose a weekend in.

Hotel Ilunion Bilbao

One of Bilbao's 3-star hotels located in the shopping and business district, the Hotel Ilunion provides comfortable, well-equipped rooms and an outstanding buffet breakfast with everything you could possibly want. There's also a cafe and a restaurant serving local cuisine, and it's in a good location for the new town and within walking distance of the old town.