Mount Artxanda: discover the hill with the best panoramic views of Bilbao
Going up Mount Artxanda is a great way to see Bilbao from a different perspective and, often, observing places from the highest point helps us to take it all in that little bit better. This is no different in the case of the Basque city, in which this vantage point allows us to contemplate its evolution and the way it successfully blends the past and the present, tradition and modernity. If we add in the hill’s lovely natural setting—it is considered to be the city’s main lung—the interesting food options on offer and the appeal of travelling by funicular, it’s easy to conclude that a visit to Mount Artxanda is perfect for travellers of all ages.
The lookout point of Mount Artxanda, where you’ll fall in love with Bilbao
Situated some 300 metres above sea level, the lookout point of Mount Artxanda is one of the favourite spots of locals for showing off their city. Completely surrounded by hills and mountains, Bilbao’s topography means that competition as to which is the best view of the city is rife. However, Mount Artxanda combines panoramic views with a wide range of options for leisure and disconnection.
It also gives you the chance of seeing the old town from another perspective, with its churches and traditional buildings, as well as seeing how the Estuary of Bilbao snakes along dividing the city in two. Likewise, some of the icons of Bilbao’s urban landscape can also be seen from the lookout point; among those that stand out are the undulating titanium surface of the Guggenheim Museum, with which the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry put the city in the spotlight for the world to see. The harmonious red arches of the La Salve bridge, designed by Daniel Buren, and the spectacular façade of the new San Mamés stadium, whose design was judged in the World Architecture Festival 2015 for the best sports building in the world. From the lookout point of Mount Artxanda you can also make out the Txorierri valley, the airport and even the sea, weather permitting.
What’s more, it is also the perfect place for family outings, enjoying a picnic on the grass, riding bicycles or skating. Equally, art lovers can’t miss the sculpture known as The Digital Footprint by Juan José Novella to honour the bombardment that effected the area during the Civil War in 1936.
One of the Mount’s most beautiful images is the one repeated every 24 June, coinciding with San Juanada, the night of San Juan when public bonfires are lit. Those travelling to Bilbao during the winter, if lucky, may be able to see it covered in snow, something that never fails to give any urban or natural landscape an extra dose of beauty.
Restaurants on Mount Artxanda for sampling Basque cuisine
The best way to enjoy a day on Mount Artxanda is by walking up and sampling some of the specialities of Basque cuisine, which is renowned the world over. In fact, several of the most popular restaurants for traditional food are found on Mount Artxanda:
- Txakolí. Notable for its proximity to the lookout point of Mount Artxanda—it is just five minutes away by foot—and for its traditional local dishes, such as bacalao al pil pil (cod cooked in garlic and chilli), sirloin steaks stuffed with foie gras in a Port sauce or hake throat in a salsa verde.
- Restaurante La Escuela. Less than five minutes away by car is the restaurant of the Advanced Catering College of Bilbao. Here the best of the Basque Country’s gastronomic traditions are combined with touches of innovation, with great attention paid to presentation and the seasonality of produce. It also offers group menus and takeaway food.
- Txakoli Simón. For those who want to eat well and, at the same time, be in touch with nature, this restaurant offers the option of having lunch on one of its wooden tables under the trees. However, if the weather has other ideas, there are interior rooms where you can try bacalao a la vizcaína (Biscay-style cod) or some of its chargrilled meat.
The Mount Artxanda funicular, the most charming way to get to the top
There are numerous ways of ascending Mount Artxanda. It will take just over an hour if you decide to go by foot, and 10 minutes if going by car from the city centre. You can also get to the lookout point by bicycle in approximately a quarter of an hour. However, the most highly recommended option, due to its speed and charm, is the historical funicular.
Inaugurated on 7 October 1915, it consists of a cog railway train that connects the centre of Bilbao with the top of Mount Artxanda in just three minutes, taking in a distance of 770.34 metres. Its tracks were affected by bombing during the Civil War, but it began to function again in late 1938. It underwent another interruption to its service in 1976, following an accident that maintained it inoperative for eight years until 1983. To prevent new incidents, it currently carries out a test journey every morning without passengers. One of the most unusual moments of the journey is when the train going up meets the train going down, the moment at which both trains exchange tracks.
As you can see, Mount Artxanda is one of the city’s most special places, where you can eat well, do any type of sport and relax in touch with nature. Don’t miss the best views of Bilbao!
Information of interest
Funicular prices and timetable
- Timetable: The funicular runs every 15 minutes on weekdays from 7:15 AM to 10:00 PM. From 2 June to 30 September it operates according to the same schedule but runs until 11:00 PM on Fridays, Saturdays and the days before public holidays.
- Prices: You can buy a single ticket for 1.75 euros and a return ticket for 3.25 euros. You can also ascend by using the Barik card of the Transport Consortium of Biscay.