Situated on the Rio Nervion, Bilbao is a major port and is actually the largest city in the Basque region with a population of over 340,000. Due to its prominence within the Basque region, and its importance as a major port, Bilbao is a superb tourist destination and has so much to offer in terms of sites and attractions. If you are visiting Spain, a trip to this northern gem is worthwhile, but how can you fit in all of the main sites?
To help plan your Bilbao adventure, we have provided a comprehensive list of 6 fundamental attractions you simply have to visit. These sites represent the best the city has to offer in terms of history, culture, and leisure:
1. Museo Maritimo Ria de Bilbao
As we mentioned, Bilbao is a major port – what better way to learn about this port than by visiting the Maritime Museum? Located next to the Euskalduna Bridge, the Maritime Museum features a dry dock packed full of historic ships – you can see fishing trawlers and even military vessels too. Aside from the dock, the building itself features some wonderful exhibits and presents a fantastic opportunity to learn about the maritime history of the city.
2. Bilbao Old Town – Casco Viejo
Once you have learned about the maritime history of Bilbao, you must take a trip to the historic old town. The Casco Viejo is renowned throughout Spain and is well-known for its beautiful architecture and charming streets. Cross over the bridge at the Arriaga Plaza and walk through the winding streets – the fantastic cathedral is in the center and the surrounding streets are full of shops, cafes, and bars. Lose yourself in the charm and history of this enchanting part of Bilbao.
3. Guggenheim Museum
Any trip to Bilbao would be incomplete without visiting the magnificent Guggenheim Museum – year after year this marvelous attraction is Bilbao's top rated site. Before you enter the museum and admire the collections you must take time to wonder at the stunning modernist architecture that has been made to resemble a ship. The metal panels are reflective and the strange curves and lines are truly breath-taking. Once inside you can view famous artworks from the likes of Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, and Richard Serra.
4. La Ribera Market
To see how the local's trade and shop, you must take a trip to the magnificent Ribera Market. Located on the River Nervio, next to the Church of San Anton, the market hall is a fantastic building in its own right with its glass roof and ornate towers. Once inside you can drool over hundreds of stalls selling fresh fruit, veg, and meat, together with other traditional produce. As the largest market in Europe, you can easily spend hours walking in-between the colorful stalls!
5. Boat tour of Rio Nervion
The Nervion River is the lifeblood that flows through the center of Bilbao – it is the main river and provides a gateway to the city. There is no better way to see some of Bilbao's most famous sites than taking a leisurely cruise on the Rio Nervion. There are a number of cruise companies that offer short tours along this beautiful stretch of water. You will sail past the amazing Guggenheim Museum, past the luscious expanse of the Parque Republica de Abando, and past the docks of the historical Maritime Museum. Most tours are accompanied with an audio guide that explains the various features of the river and its history.
6. Bilbao Cathedral
You have visited museums, sailed on the river, walked through the old town and experienced a bustling market – why not complete your Bilbao adventure with a visit to the historic Santiago Cathedral. This epic structure was constructed in the 12th century and features a mixture of Gothic and Gothic Revival architecture. The front façade features an ornately carved door and is decorated with various sculptures and religious reliefs. Inside the cathedral, there is a series of gorgeous stained glass windows and the main altar is truly spectacular.
There are many other sites within the magnificent city of Bilbao such as the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the La Vieja district but the above list is simply unavoidable. We believe that the 6 attractions listed will provide you with a fantastic overview of the city and a superb mix of sites to keep you entertained and enthralled.
If you are planning an adventure to Bilbao, don't forget to look at booking a car-hire service with Drivalia - using one of our vehicles will allow you to travel within the city with ease, and also explore the wider area!