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Bucket list destination:

Last updated: 19 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

The capital of the foodie, beachy Basque Country made global headlines in 1997 with the opening of Frank Gehry’s breathtaking, titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum – boosted by the arty crowd that followed, it has since joined the ranks of Spain’s top city breaks.

The ‘Guggenheim effect’ has spawned a lively contemporary art scene, as well as structures by other edgy architects; these creations sharpen up Bilbao’s spectacular natural riverside setting, tucked under steep green hills. Couples or families with older children will enjoy its casual, urban vibe and uncrowded sights, as well as a taste of the Basque region’s fiercely unique food and culture.

Whether soaking up the atmosphere in lively pintxo bars (enjoying the local style of tapas) or heading to nearby Atlantic beaches for a swim or a surf, this is an invigorating, cultured and modern Spanish break.

Travel advice

When to go

May, June and September are good months to visit, when the weather is generally fine and hotel prices dip outside of peak season; it’s also just about warm enough to hit the beach.

In August, it can be hard to find a room – especially after the 15th, when the city holds its biggest festival, the nine-day Aste Nagusia.

Bilbao, like the rest of the Basque Country, gets plenty of rain, especially in the autumn and winter. But because the main attractions are indoors, it won’t dampen your fun – just bring an umbrella.

Getting there and away

Bilbao’s airport, with its terminal designed by Santiago Calatrava, is linked by bus A3247 to the Bilbao Intermodal metro station every half hour. Taxis are a swift and affordable option, too – it’s a 15-minute drive to the centre.

Getting around

Although Bilbao has excellent bus and metro systems and taxis in the busiest spots, you’ll probably have little reason to need them, as the Guggenheim and other museums are all within walking distance of the Casco Viejo (Old Town) – the metro is, however, very handy for the beaches.

Because of its complex topography and signage (sometimes only in the Basque language) driving can be a bit of an adventure here: a sat-nav will help you out.

Destination guides

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Other guides relevant to this destination

Basque Country

Basque Country, Spain

External view looking to the entrance. The curvy building has mountains behind

Fascinating ancient traditions, world-famous gourmet treats, Spain’s finest wine region and a gorgeous golden coastline.