Bilbao in 2 days
From the medieval alleyways of the Casco Viejo to the magnificent nineteenth-century Ensanche area. From the industrial past of Bilbao La Vieja to the youth of the student area of Deusto. From the Basilica of Begoña up on the hill to the cutting-edge Guggenheim next to the river. Bilbao has many faces: the old and the new, the upper part and the lower part, the list goes on.
On this route, just two days are enough to discover the soul of a city that has not ceased to reinvent itself ever since it was founded in 1300.
Itinerary day 1
10:00 AM-12:00 PM
Bilbao’s former industrial neighbourhood known for its cheery spirit is today a bohemian and multicultural area where gentrification has arrived hand in hand with cultural projects such as BilboArte and BilboRock, a concert hall located in the church of the Convent of La Merced.
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
By crossing the estuary we travel into the heart of Bilbao. A stroll through the Siete Calles—the city’s founding streets built in 1300—some good pintxos and a stop off at some emblematic places such as Santiago Cathedral or the La Ribera market are a must.
2:30 PM-3:30 PM
The expression ‘Keep calm and eat well’ (the Spanish version of the British wartime saying ‘Keep calm and carry on’) is tailor made for this restaurant owned by Prudencio García (better known as Pentxo) and family. Its daytime set menu, with a choice of 8 starters, 8 main courses and 8 desserts, never fails to satisfy.
4:00 PM-5:00 PM
There’s nothing better than digesting post-lunch in a café on this square, the city’s social and commercial centre for centuries and witness to the traditional Regocijos Bilbaínos town festivities.
The steps of the Calzadas de Mallona take us to this sixteenth-century temple dedicated to the patron saint of Biscay, or amatxu (meaning mother in Basque) to the people of Bilbao. We highly recommended learning about its eventful history.
8:00 PM-9:30 PM
From Etxebarría Park, with its brick chimney in memory of the foundry that used to stand here, we descend towards the nineteenth-century Bilbao City Hall building and Arenal Gardens next to the river.
For a riverside dining experience right in the city centre, head to the elegantly-designed contemporary Ibaizabal Restaurant located on the ground floor of Hotel Barceló Bilbao Nervión. Expect exquisitely prepared local cuisine, made with top-calibre ingredients, and best enjoyed with some wine from the sizeable and formidably-crafted wine list.
Itinerary day 2
09:30 AM-12:00 PM
This centre of contemporary art opened in 1997—the perfect synthesis of Bilbao’s industrial past and its current cosmopolitanism—has become the city’s universal icon thanks to Frank Gehry.
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
The charming red funicular opened in 1915 takes us up above the city to the top of Mount Artxanda, a traditional place of leisure for the people of Bilbao since the nineteenth century. The views over Bilbao are priceless.
2:30 PM-4:00 PM
You can’t leave Bilbao without sampling a glass of txakoli wine and grilled lamb chops, the signature dish of this restaurant—a traditional open-air eatery, of which Mount Artxanda is known for, where this classic wine was once made.
4:30 PM-6:30 PM
A meal is best finished off with a long stroll along the river before crossing the Euskalduna Bridge into the student area of Deusto, presided over by its famous university.
7:00 PM-9:00 PM
We recommended heading to Plaza Moyúa and Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro to discover the Provincial Council Hall, the so-called Fosteritos (the curved glass entrances of the Metro affectionately named after the architect who designed them, Norman Foster) and the spectacular architecture of the Ensanche area built in the nineteenth century.
21:00 PM-22:30 PM
One of the best restaurants in the city with affordable prices. The specialities of this tapas and pintxos restaurant, founded in 1927, include the Iberian ham, the griddled codfish and the croquettes.