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Things to see in Bilbao

Attractions

Guggenheim Museum

Bilbao's greatest tourist attraction is without doubt the Guggenheim Museum. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, it is a vast titanium-clad structure in the centre of Bilbao and has 11,000 sq m (118,403 sq ft) of exhibition space distributed amongst 19 galleries. It features the works of some of the most influential artists of the later half of the 20th century including Picasso, Motherwell, Rauschenberg, Still, Tàpies, Warhol, Klein and de Koonig.

Address: , 2 Avenida Abandoibarra, Bilbao, 48009
Telephone: +34 94 435 9080.
Opening times:

Tues-Sun 1000-2000.

Website: http://www.guggenheim-bilbao.es
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Old Town (Casco Viejo)

Bilbao's Old Town is known as Las Siete Calles (the Seven Streets) because that's how many cobbled walkways it was originally centred on within the ancient city walls. Since the 19th Century, though, it's expanded northwards towards Plaza Nueva. This is the part of town where visitors usually spend most of their time, either checking out the historic churches, the cathedral and the atmospheric little squares, or joining the tavern-crawling choral societies indulging in Bilbao's great passions: eating pintxos (tapas on sticks) drinking wine and singing.

Address: Old Town, , Bilbao, 48005
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Fine Arts Museum Bilbao

Founded in 1908, the Fine Arts Museum Bilbao features an extraordinary variety of artworks from the 12th century to the present. The collection includes more than 6,000 works of art, from paintings, sculptures and drawings to engravings and decorative objects. It is divided into three parts: one for classic European art, with works by artists like El Greco, Murillo, Goya and van Dyck; the second for contemporary art, including works by Gauguin, Bacon, Chillida and Barceló; and the third for Basque art, showing works by Regoyos, Zuloaga, Echevarría, Iturrino and Arteta among others.

Address: , 2 Museo Plaza, Bilbao, 48009
Telephone: +34 944 396 060.
Opening times:

Wed-Mon 1000-2000.

Website: http://www.museobilbao.com
Admission Fees:

Yes (free from 1000-1500 Wed, 1500-2000 Sun).

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Catedral de Bilbao (St James Cathedral)

Bilbao's oldest church was originally just a stop on the pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela in the west. It was started in 1379 and finally finished in an impressively ornate, Gothic style in 1643. As well as the eponymous St James (or Santiago in Spanish) the church also honours the local devotion to commerce, with the effigies of respected merchants carved into the main vault. It became a cathedral in 1950.

Address: Old Town, 1 Plaza de Santiago, Bilbao, 48005
Telephone: +34 94 415 3627.
Opening times:

Mon-Sat 1000-1300 and 1700-1830, Sun 1100-1200.

Website: http://www.catedraldebilbao.blogspot.com
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Funicular de Artxanda

Bilbao sits at the bottom of a valley, which is good news if you want to get some exercise walking up the steep hills in every direction. However, for anybody less keen on stretching their legs, this light railway provides a charming way to climb the steep slope to the top of Mount Arxanda. Built in 1915 by a Swiss company it travels at a rumbling 5 metres per second and carries 70 passengers at a time.

Address: , Plaza Funicular, Bilbao, 48007
Telephone: +34 94 445 4966.
Opening times:

Mon-Sat 0715-2200, Sun 0815-2200 (to 2300 from Jun-Sep).

Website: http://www.bilbao.net/cs/Satellite/funicularArtxanda/Home/en/100010291/Home
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Alhóndiga

Until 2010, the Alhóndiga was an elegant but crumbling, 19th century wine warehouse. This was before it was handed over to French designer Phillipe Starck who did a magnificent job in turning it into the spectacular arts centre it is today. There are curvaceous, extravagantly decorated pillars, illuminated benches and, most impressively, a glass-bottomed swimming pool three storeys above the vast lobby.

Address: , 4 Plaza Arriquibar, Bilbao, 48008
Telephone: +34 944 014 014.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0800-2200, Sat-Sun 0900-2200.

Website: http://www.alhondigabilbao.com
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Bilbao Museum of Basque Archaeology, Ethnography and History

This Bilbao museum is well worth a visit. It features exhibits from the Basque region's prehistory, archaeology, ethnography and history. The permanent collection allows visitors to explore topics such as the prehistoric Biscay area and the maritime world in the region as well as fishing and trade, pastoral life, handicraft textiles, pottery, weapons and furniture.

Address: , 4 Plaza Miguel de Unamuno, Bilbao, 48006
Telephone: +34 944 155 423.
Opening times:

Tues-Sat 1100-1700; Sun 1100-1400.

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Euskalduna Palace

Considered to be among the most significant contemporary architectural works made by Spanish architects, Euskalduna Palace was designed by Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios and represents the last ship built in the old Euskalduna shipyard. A symbolic representation of Bilbao's industrial heritage, this huge multifunctional complex, built in 1999 and located in the city centre, holds a renowned conference centre and a magnificent auditorium. There are guided tours every Saturday at noon.

Address: , 4 Avenida Abandoibarra, Bilbao, 48011
Telephone: +34 944 035 000.
Opening times:

Daily 1000-2000.

Website: http://www.euskalduna.net
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Ría de Bilbao Maritime Museum

Situated in the docks of the old Euskalduna shipyard in Abandoibarra, Bilbao Maritime Museum is dedicated to all things relating to the sea and navigation. The indoor section includes exhibitions, a media archive, an auditorium, a shop and a café. Outside, guests can visit the Euskalduna Shipyards, where they’ll find the pump house once used to drain the docks and the bright red, 60m (197ft) high Carola crane, which has become a symbol of the reconstruction of the city.

Address: , 1 Muelle Ramón de la Sota, Bilbao, 48013
Telephone: +34 94 608 5500.
Opening times:

Tues-Sun 1000-2000 (summer); Tues-Fri 1000-1800, Sat-Sun 1000-2000 (winter).

Website: http://www.museomaritimobilbao.org
Admission Fees:

Yes, except for Tuesdays during the school year.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Parque Etxebarria

Few things symbolise modern Bilbao better than the Parque Etxebarria. Once the site of a steel mill, its redevelopment in mid-1980s proved a peek of what was to come for the port when it was turned into the city's most popular green space. Its views look out over the Old Town, while the original tall chimney stack has been left as a monument and a reminder of how Bilbao used to be.

Address: Begoña, Parque Etxebarria, Bilbao,
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Tourist Offices

Bilbao Turismo

Address: , 1 Plaza Circular, Bilbao, 48009
Telephone: +34 94 479 5760.
Opening times:

Daily 0900–2100.

Website: http://www.bilbao.net/bilbaoturismo

Bilbao Turismo also has an office at the Guggenheim Museum.

Tourist passes

The Bilbao Bizkaiacard (available from tourist offices) offers unlimited travel on public transport as well as free entry to over 25 attractions.

Book Accommodation

Featured Hotels

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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.

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.

Hotel Bilbao Jardines

This pleasant, comfortable and reasonably priced 2-star hotel is located in the heart of the historical centre of Bilbao, next to the cathedral and the Arriaga Theatre. It offers good service, spectacularly clean rooms and a very relaxed ambience, so the dated quilts and covers can be easily overlooked. What's more, most rooms come with a bath and shower and have decent sized TVs. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout.

Hotel Lopez de Haro

A favourite with celebrities, up to and including the Dalai Lama, this is one of the best top-class hotels in Bilbao. You’ll find free Wi-Fi, a complimentary gym-spa, a champagne bar and an opulent selection of rooms and suites. The location, too, is handy for the city centre and the Guggenheim Museum. The staff are incredibly helpful, the breakfast is excellent and the soft drinks and chocolates in the mini-bar are included in the price.

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.