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22 Best things to see & do in Basque Country

  • Basque Country, Spain

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros
  • La Rioja, Spain

view of a neatly planted vineyard with lines of vines. a small town is behind

Bucket List Experience

Rioja Wine Region

Rioja’s people have been making wine for over 2,000 years, and in recent decades it has become one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world. Rolling hills and lovely landscapes make an ideal setting for winery-hopping, and estates welcome visitors for tours and tastings.

Recently, estate owners have started to commission some of the world’s greatest architects to build new bodegas (wineries), and the region has become renowned for its striking avant-garde architecture. Look out for the spectacular Bodegas Ysios in Laguardia by Santiago Calatrava, Tondonia in Haro, with a pavilion by Zaha Hadid, and Frank Gehry’s undulating Hotel Marques de Riscal in Elciego.

Stop by the Vivanco family’s wine museum for an insight into the history of winemaking in the region.

Good for age: 18+

  • Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Bucket List Experience

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

This is the building that transformed a city and started an architectural revolution. Ever since Frank Gehry’s swirling, titanium-clad Guggenheim opened in 1997, it has been acclaimed as the greatest building of our time, and its construction supplied the spark for the remarkable rebirth of old industrial Bilbao.

The museum is home to part of the enormous Guggenheim collection of contemporary art, and every year its blockbuster special exhibitions draw art lovers from around the world. It may also be the only museum anywhere with a Michelin-starred restaurant, Nerua, serving haute cuisine. There is also a less formal bistro with prix fixe menus and an outdoor terrace.

Adult price: £22

Good for age: 18+

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Seafood in all its forms is the star in San Sebastian, where chefs rival one another in inventiveness. Truffles and wild mushrooms, Iberian pork, succulent beef and exquisite seasonal vegetables; some Michelin-starred places have even started offering vegetarian menus.

Many chefs take pride in sourcing all their ingredients locally – many of which are beautifully displayed the city’s indoor market, the Mercado San Martin.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: Any

  • Getaria, Basque Country, Spain

view of vineyards smothering hills with blue sea behind

Bucket List Experience

Getaria Wine Region

If San Sebastian gets too intense, escape to this lovely village, just 18km west along the coast. Getaria is a real fishing port with a proud heritage. As well as an attractive medieval town centre, it has charming seafood restaurants and broad, clean beaches – and it’s still largely undiscovered by foreigners.

Getaria also has a burgeoning wine scene, as the light, sparkling txakoli wine is produced around here. Txakoli, a very dry, slightly sparkling white that goes perfectly with pintxos, is one of the new stars of Spain’s wine scene. Once just a drink that farmers made for themselves, it’s now ubiquitous in Basque bars and restaurants.

The original txakoli comes from the delightful hill country outside the picturesque village of Getaria, and it’s a great excuse to lose yourself in the area’s countryside and sample a glass or two.

  • Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

external facade of the market

Experience

Ribera Market

Foodies will love this hangout in Bilbao’s old town: one of the biggest covered markets in the world, it’s a lush, colourful extravaganza of wonderfully fresh produce.

Enormous, hanging hams, gawping fish slung on crushed ice, pungent shellfish, piles of glossy fruit – and even some sit-in wine bars, where you can order a glass and a plate of pintxos (Basque-style tapas).

Built in 1929, the design still has lots of gorgeous Art Deco touches, modernised by escalators, hip tiling and communal wooden benches to eat at.

Even if you haven’t got a kitchen, come down to get an education in Basque cuisine – or assemble some tasty local treats for a picnic in the sun.

Good for age: 18+

  • Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

The Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao is a prestigious institution showcasing a remarkable collection of artworks spanning various periods and styles. Located in a beautiful neoclassical building, the museum houses an extensive array of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; the collection includes works by renowned artists such as El Greco, Zurburan, Goya, Francis Bacon, Van Dyck, and Gauguin.

The museum also features contemporary art exhibitions, contributing to the vibrant cultural scene of Bilbao. With its exceptional collection and stunning architecture, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and cultural aficionados.

Good for age: 18+

Basque Museum of Bilbao

  • Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

Basque Museum of Bilbao

Experience

The Euskal Museoa is a Basque ethnographic museum celebrating the culture and history of one of Europe’s oldest peoples.  It offers a comprehensive journey through Basque history, culture, and traditions, through archaeological artefacts, traditional costumes, Basque language and literature displays, and interactive installations. Closed on Tuesdays.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Begun in 1953, the San Sebastian International Film Festival is a sophisticated, established highlight of the global film calendar.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the town’s La Concha beach, SSIFF is a truly international affair, showcasing new movies from around the world.

It’s also one of the most accessible festivals around, with scores of tickets for new and classic film screenings available at reasonable prices.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

Duration: One week

When: 3rd week September

Freq: annually

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

If you want to understand the unique and proud Basque culture (believed to be the oldest civilisation, with the oldest language, in Europe), this San Sebastian museum of history and fine arts is the place to go. It recently had a complete makeover – now the beautifully displayed collection covers everything from model ships and prehistoric carvings to regional armour, traditional costume and games, as well as exceptional special exhibitions, often on photography.

The museum also encompasses the must-see former church of San Telmo, decorated with 11 enormous, golden-hued canvases depicting key moments in Basque history – painted in 1932 by Jose Maria Sert.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

San Martin Market

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Spanish ham hanging on a stall in the Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Experience

San Sebastian’s central market, just in from La Concha bay, opened its doors in 1884, and underwent a complete transformation in 2006; along with traditional food stalls, San Martin now hosts concerts and cultural events.

Good for age: 18+