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Things to do in Bilbao

Check out Bilbao’s street sculptures

You don't have to dish out your dosh at the Guggenheim Museum to get a fill of art in Bilbao, because the streets are awash with around 150 sculptures, statues and installations. Among the best are Puppy by Jeff Koons, a 12m (40ft) West Highland terrier made of flowers near the Guggenheim, and the spindly Maman spider by Louise Bourgeois in bronze, marble and stainless steel.

Go underground in one of Bilbao caves

Forget Surrealism: the stalactites, stalagmites, shawls, draperies and rimstones of Pozalagua Caves (tel: +34 649 811 673) are worthy of any art gallery in the world. Located within the Armañon Natural Park (around 60km (37 miles) from Bilbao), guides take visitors down into the depths of the caves. Tours take around an hour, but pack warm clothes as things can get cold underground.

Surf Mundaka’s infamous Left Wave

For serious surfers, Bilbao is something of a mecca. The infamous Left Wave at Mundaka froths up to 4m (13ft) in height and 400m (1312ft) in length, challenging even the gnarliest boarder. Mundaka Surf Shop (tel: +34 94 617 7229; can sort out equipment and lessons.

Top up your tan on a Bay of Biscay beach

The Bay of Biscay beaches are stunning, and sun-worshippers will relish the sandy coastal strips near Bilbao. With lovely cliffs and golden sands, Palay de Bakio is the most impressive, though Playa de la Arena Muskiz offers a vast expanse of sand with a children's play area.

Wander Bilbao’s Grand Route

Passing through the forest parks of Artxanda, Monte Avril, Arnotegi, Pagasarri and Arraiz, Bilbao's Grand Route is a 99km (61.5 miles) loop of footpaths and streets that takes in some of the city's best natural scenery. Bilbao Council ( has 11 mapped routes of varying difficulty to download (in Spanish only).

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Featured Hotels


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.


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.