Spanish Basque Country: Bilbao and surroundings

cabane de percheur à getxo

To end my holidays in Spain, after Seville , Cordoba and Granada , I went to the Spanish Basque Country. We were staying in Bilbao and we were able to shine around the city and discover the surroundings. I take you to have me in this little Basque getaway where I tell you what to do in Bilbao and its surroundings.

What to do in Bilbao?

Bilbao is a nice discovery! It is a city where the architecture is surprising, perfectly combining the old and the modern, with many avant-garde buildings signed by the greatest international architects. Bilbao is also a city where the atmosphere is very sweet. At the end of the day, the streets are buzzing with life. Locals of all ages gather in bars to have a drink at the bar and taste the famous pintxos, portions of tapas on bread. Spending a day or two in Bilbao is therefore an excellent weekend getaway. In Bilbao, the metro and tram allow you to get around. However, the city is not very big, you can easily get around on foot, which is what we have done.

Good plan alert! There are completely free modern city tours! If you want to take advantage of a guided tour so as not to miss any of the must-sees in Bilbao, I advise you to register here using the form.  You just have to choose the desired date and you can always cancel if the unexpected arises. Please note that the visit is in English. 

The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum is a must in Bilbao, this spectacular building designed by Frank Gehry is the most emblematic of the city. For the little anecdote, he says that he would have drawn it without ever lifting his pencil from the sheet, which gives it this appearance of singular shapes. Inside, you can discover contemporary art collections just as surprising as this building.

Guggenheim Museum , Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., € 16

Zubizuri Bridge

Very close to the Guggenheim museum is the Zubizuri bridge (white bridge in Basque), it is one of the prettiest bridges in the city designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava.

Abando station

Be sure to admire the pretty facade of the Abando station, which is also one of the most beautiful buildings in Bilbao.

The Arriaga theater

This magnificent building was inspired by the Paris Opera.

Azkuna Zentroa

This cultural center with cafes, a media library, a gym and a solarium is another architectural gem in the city. This former wine warehouse was transformed by the famous Philippe Stark into an innovative building. On the ground floor, you can admire the original pillars that adorn the hall. You can also go up to the terrace to have a drink in the sun and enjoy the view over Bilbao.

Parque Doña Casilda

The Parque Dona Casilda is a green space in the city to walk around and very pleasant. There you will find large arches decorated with azulejos as well as a very beautiful fountain.

The Casco Viejo

The Casco Viejo is the old town of Bilbao, once surrounded by walls, then devastated by the 1983 floods and rebuilt. It is in this district of the city that you will find the most typical Basque architectural aspects.

Las siete calles

Take the time to stroll through las Siete Calles (Barrenkale Barrena, Barrenkale, Carnicería Vieja, Belostikale, Tendería, Artekale & Somera) 7 perfectly parallel pedestrian streets which are the oldest in the city where you can admire the facades of typical buildings.

Plaza Nueva

Pass by Plaza Nueva / Plaza Berra in Basque, a pretty square surrounded by arches under which you will find many typical pintxo bars, including Café Bilbao, an authentic bar with a white and blue facade.

Mercado de la Ribera

On the banks of the Nervion is the Mercado de la Ribera, a large covered market on two floors. On the ground floor, you can taste very good pintxos for around € 2 per pintxos, accompanied by a sangria. All this installed on the outdoor terrace, an excellent break in your stroll!

What to do around Bilbao?


Bakio is a small seaside resort, also known for its white wine which enjoys a very beautiful environment. There you will find large and beautiful beaches lined with cliffs adopted by surfers.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a magnificent island in the Bay of Biscay, which was used in particular as the setting for the filming of Game of Thrones. To get there, you have to start from the top of Gastelugatxe hill. Two paths are possible to reach the bottom of the stairs, the most used takes 20 minutes, while with the second, quieter, it will take 40 minutes to get to the bottom of the 241 steps to climb to the hermitage. At the top of the stairs you will find a footprint that would have been left by Saint-Jean-Baptiste (it is said that he would have reached the hermitage in three steps … In your case, put on good shoes, you will have to do slightly more!) Once at the top, you will discover the chapel decorated with model ships. Tradition has it that you have to ring the bell three times and make a wish! Of the,

If you do not have a vehicle to get to the sublime hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, know that there are excursions leaving from Bilbao by bus, which will allow you not to miss this visit as well as that of Bermeo, of which I speaks to you a little lower. Those are two really cool steps. Here is the link for the excursion that I recommend.


Bermeo is a mountainside town known for its important fishing port. Historically, it was the capital of Biscay before Bilbao developed. You will find pretty facades typical of the Basque country, colorful and framed in wood. If you have visited San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, this is also an opportunity to put your foot in the second imprint of Saint John the Baptist, located under the San Juan gate, the only remaining gate from the time when the city was fortified.


Getxo is a town that particularly appealed to me with its very lively appearance. It is divided into several districts that we have not all visited. We went to Algorta and the atmosphere was great. As in Bilbao, at the end of the day, the district was very lively and the bars were swarming with people. In addition, we visited Puerto Viejo, a very pretty fishing port, where the typical houses are all decorated with flowers. While driving, we were also able to see another aspect of the city the Grand Villas of Getxo, particularly impressive by their architecture.

You will also be able to see the Bizkaia Bridge, a suspension bridge that connects Getxo to Portugalete

Gorrondatxe Beach (Getxo)

Finally, if during your stay you want to enjoy a day at the beach, I recommend Gorrondatxe Beach, a large dark sand beach, surrounded by cliffs and greenery. In short, a magnificent natural environment! To get there, you can leave your car in the parking lot near the Punta Galea lighthouse. You will then follow a superb path laid out all along the cliffs for about 45 minutes before arriving on this superb beach! There are also a few parking spaces and a tavern above the beach, but the walk is definitely worth it 🙂

Good addresses in and around Bilbao

To eat pintxos:

Many will recommend Cafe Bilbao, it is not our favorite. In addition, the pintxos were more expensive there than elsewhere. However, we really liked the Gatz , located at 10 Santa Maria in the Casco Viejo. Special mention for the jàmon croquettes prepared to order which were so tender and dripping with queso!

You will also find delicious pintxos at the Mercado de la Ribera (Erribera Kalea) for € 1.80 to € 2. The hardest part will be finding a place to sit in rush hour!

Pastry shop :

I bought myself some cookies in the famous Arrese pastry shop . Well, I did not expect such a price, but on the other hand they were very good!

And there you have it, that’s it for this pretty Basque getaway! I hope this article has made you want – if not yet – to discover Bilbao and its surroundings !

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