Bilbao with kids: an amazing family break
Bilbao is a city like few others in terms of what it has to offer for a short break with kids. Its size means you can move around with ease and it boasts numerous activities for the whole family.
The best way to explore it is by foot, but we’re well aware that travelling with kids means you’re after other more fun options, which are less tiring and have the novelty factor. The capital of Biscay makes this easy, as it has a wide range of transport options to keep the little ones entertained. Fancy getting to know Bilbao from some different perspectives? Let’s go.
From the top of Mount Artxanda
The best place to kick off a trip to Bilbao with kids is from the top of Mount Artxanda. Although you can walk up, it would be a shame to miss the opportunity of travelling on the historical funicular (known as the funi – which takes you to the very top every fifteen minutes. It is an exciting journey that, upon arriving, provides the very best views of Bilbao. Breathing in the fresh air while taking in the city and trying to respond to the questions of your little ones is a challenge. Asking them to identify the estuary, Torre Iberdrola, Doña Casilda Park, the San Mamés stadium and the Guggenheim Museum is a good way to keep them occupied. The rest of the time they can spend running along the park’s trails or its sports fields. Weather permitting it is also a perfect place to have a bite to eat while admiring the view.
Sailing along the Nervión river as a family
What child doesn’t like to sail and image being a pirate? The river boat tour is perfect for children and parents alike. For one or two hours the boat sails along on its voyage while the captain points out places of interest through a loudspeaker. Pay attention when you pass by the Guggenheim Museum, as the image from the water is even more impressive than from land.
Why not also show your kids the features of the bridges under which you pass, such as the Zubizuri, the Padre Arrupe walkway and the La Salve bridge. One that will surely grab their attention is the Bizkaia bridge, which was opened in 1893 and became the first transporter bridge in the world to be built with a metal structure. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006.
Watch as it transports vehicles and passengers using a type of gondola that is suspended from a trolley and travels along the rails of the horizontal crosspiece.
This small boat, which departs from a jetty in the historical centre (Plaza Pío Baroja), usually passes through industrial areas, which is a good opportunity to explain to them the importance of the river in the city’s economic development.
The Maritime Museum with kids
One of the things that kids enjoy doing the most in Bilbao, in spite of parents’ initial bewilderment, is visiting the Maritime Museum. Although the aim of this centre is to explain the estuary’s physical evolution and its port activity throughout history, it also provides a series of educational resources that families can take advantage of to complement a tour of the permanent collection. Exploring the rooms together in an interactive way is a fun experience that the little ones will never forget. It will surely be difficult to prise them away from the models created with Playmobil figures—used to explain historical events and, even, a pirate attack! Don’t leave without saying goodbye to the Carola Crane, which has been restored and remains outside making sure that everything is in order.
Sent from space, a visit to the Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum is a must-visit in Bilbao due to its incredible artistic and architectonic prowess. This ground-breaking work by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry tends to leave kids with their mouths wide open, often believing it is a space ship. In addition to allowing them to explore Maman, the giant spider by Louise Bourgeois, it is also worth learning about the numerous programmed activities for kids. Make the most of workshops for babies all the way through to teenagers. Those that focus on Puppy, the work by Jeff Koons, are based on recreating the sculpture using earth and plants. Be sure to visit The Matter of Time by Richard Serra, which consists of a giant labyrinth formed of tall steel sculptures—an experience not to be missed.
A guided bicycle tour
Exploring Bilbao by bicycle with kids is a must-do activity. The best way is to join a guided tour, where you will be provided with all the gear, including both bicycles and helmets. One benefit is that your tour guide will explain dozens of entertaining anecdotes so that no member of the family gets bored. An interesting option is the tour provided by Tourné who will help you to explore the city on two wheels.
If they’ve still got energy to burn after the tour, make the most of it by taking them to República de Abando Park or Doña Casilda Park, two green spaces that are full of fun for kids.
A trip to the Santimamiñe caves
Little over half an hour away from Bilbao are the Santimamiñe caves, one of the most important archaeological sites in the Basque Country, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008. Its importance lies in the remains of human settlements dating back more than 14,000 years and incredible cave paintings that depict bison, horses, bears and deer. We recommend taking a guided tour (book it in advance), as the tour guides have resources so that kids learn while having fun. Access to the chambers containing the cave paintings is restricted, but you can visit the first hall and then take a virtual 3D tour of the whole cave and the Palaeolithic sanctuary in the projection room.
After a few busy but fun days as a family in Bilbao, we’re sure that you’ll be dying to come back to visit all the places you missed and to enjoy the rest of its activities.