Spain Guide


Bilbao Tourist Attractions Things to Do

You'll no doubt be making a bee line for the Guggenheim Museum when you arrive in Bilbao and certainly it's a visit not to be missed. But hopefully you'll be spending long enough in the city to enjoy its many other attractions not least of which are its wealth of tapas bars and excellent Basque restaurants. Bilbao is also a good starting point for exploring others areas of Spain.

A Day Trip to The Guggenheim

Let's start with the Guggenheim as this is the sole reason for many people's visit to Bilbao. You can love it or hate it, but you certainly can't be indifferent to it. This spectacular swirling mass of titanium, glass and limestone is widely regarded as one of the most impressive architectural wonders of our time.

As part of an ambitious plan to regenerate Bilbao after the depression of the 1980s, the city fathers approached the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1991 with a view to building a new museum of modern art. The Basque administration would finance and own it whilst the foundation would run it and supply works from its great collections in New York, Venice and Berlin.

$100 million was poured into the project and famous Californian architect Franck Gehry was hired to produce a symbol of the "new Bilbao" the like of which the world had never seen before.

The breathtaking polished swirls of the futuristic museum rise magnificently above the banks of the Nervion River. Its walls drip with masterpieces from the greatest ever giants of the art world Picasso, Dali, Miro, Monet, Matisse, Warhol to name but a few. Yet some say the building itself is the greatest work of all.

At the front entrance there's the giant "Puppy" sculpture, made out of pansies which are planted in the huge steel structure every Spring.

Be prepared for long queues to enter the museum which is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm, and every day in August from 9am to 9pm.

More Museums and Day Trip Attractions

Once you've "done" the Guggenheim, try to fit in a visit to the Fine Arts Museum (Museo de Bellas Artes), the Basque Museum and the medieval heart of the city, the 14th century Casco Viejo with its cobbled lanes teeming with tapas bars and cafes.

Take in a concert at the elaborate Kiosko del Arenal bandstand, originally built in 1923 in a riverside park near the Baroque style town hall.

The elaborate indoor market, El Mercado de la Riviera, is one of the biggest covered markets in Europe and is well worth a visit (especially if you're shopping for fresh fruit and veg).

Interesting day trips include the lovely town of Guernica, to the north east of the city. The town was tragically immortalised in Picasso's painting of the same name after it was the first victim of saturation bombing in the Spanish Civil War.

San Sebastian, 100 kilometres east along the coast, is a classy Spanish resort with fine beaches and some superb fish restaurants. Drive a little further along the coast and you'll be on French soil in the world famous resort of Biarritz.

And if you fancy heading off to explore other areas of Spain, Bilbao has regular train services to Madrid, Barcelona, Galicia, Valencia, Alicante and Málaga.