Bilbao in 1 Day: all you need to know

One day might not be enough time to discover all the interesting destinations that the city of Bilbao has to offer. Organize your itinerary with the must-see places and don't waste a minute.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 min read

Bilbao in 1 Day: all you need to know

Sunset in Bilbao | Aaron206

Bilbao is a city where you can discover different historical, cultural, natural and gastronomic destinations. However, if you do not have much time in this town, you might not know where to start to make the most of your visit.

In this sense, the ideal is to plan a route with the best things to do in Bilbao, which incorporates the essential places. For example, you can visit the Guggenheim Museum, the Artxanda viewpoint, the Riber Market, the Casco Viejo and its famous seven streets, among others. That is why in this opportunity I have organized for you a complete itinerary of a day in Bilbao, so you do not miss any of the best places in this destination.

1. Start the day with a visit to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum| ©Pablo A
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum| ©Pablo A

The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is the starting point of your itinerary. There, you will enjoy an impressive collection with more than seven thousand works of art (sculptures, paintings, applied works), dating from the 13th century to the present days.

During the approximately two-hour tour through the halls of the museum you will have the opportunity to observe great masterpieces. For example:

  • Majesty of Christ on the Cross: an image carved in polychrome wood, belonging to the first half of the 13th century (Anonymous Catalan).
  • The Annunciation: a small canvas fresco from the end of the 16th century, belonging to El Greco.
  • Portrait of Martín Zapater: a work on canvas from the end of the 18th century by Francisco de Goya.
  • Washerwomen in Arles: oil on canvas by Paul Gauguin during the last quarter of the 19th century.
  • Hierros de temblor II: a sculpture by Eduardo Chillida from the third quarter of the 20th century.

You will also enjoy a series of temporary exhibitions of ancient, modern and contemporary art in the different rooms of the museum and in the old building. You will only have to verify before your visit which are the current exhibitions available.

Information of interest

  • Price: from 9€ per person.
  • Hours: Wednesday to Monday (10:00 am to 8:00 pm)
  • Location: Museo Plaza, 2, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia.

2. Enjoy the contemporary art exhibitions that the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has for you

Guggenheim Museum| ©Pom'
Guggenheim Museum| ©Pom'

The next stop is just a seven-minute walk from the previous destination. It is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, considered a world reference in terms of contemporary art. This is due to the important collections exhibited in the halls and works arranged around the building.

A tour of the interior

When you enter the interior of the museum you will enjoy the work of world-renowned artists through a series of permanent and temporary exhibitions. Some of the artists and their works are:

  • Struggle of Images (1980) by German neo-Impressionist painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer.
  • Consejo al espacio V (1993) by the Spanish sculptor and engraver Eduardo Chillida.
  • The Matter of Time (1994-2005) by the American minimalist sculptor Richard Serra.

A tour of the exterior

Around the museum you will also find some must-see works, which is ideal if you are visiting Bilbao with children. For example:

  • Puppy: a floral sculpture created by sculptor Jeff Koons and considered the largest in the world.
  • Mom: the sculpture of a chandelier nine meters high, created by the artist Louise Bourgeois in bronze, steel and marble.

In addition, you can contemplate the architectural work of the canadience Frank Gehry, who combined titanium, limestone and glass to raise the building that houses the museum.

Information of interest

  • Price: from 15€ per person.
  • Hours: Tuesday to Friday (10:00 to 20:00 hours)
  • Location: Avenida Abandoibarra, 2 48009 Bilbao.

Book the 3-hour tour of the Guggenheim Museum

3. Take the funicular up the Artxanda mountain and enjoy a privileged view of the city

Artxanda Funicular| ©Iñaki Mariscal
Artxanda Funicular| ©Iñaki Mariscal

At the end of your visit to the Guggenheim Museum, you can head to the Artxanda Funicular. This way, you can go up to the Artxanda mountain viewpoint and, from there, enjoy a privileged view of the city. Ideal if you visit Bilbao in summer.

The funicular adventure lasts approximately three minutes from the station to the Artxanda viewpoint. There, you will have as much time as you want to explore the place, contemplate the mountainous environment, observe the estuary in the distance and enjoy a complete panoramic view of Bilbao.

In addition, you will find a couple of restaurants where you can eat, drink and rest a little before continuing with the tour of the day. You can also take with you the food of your choice and have a picnic in this green lung with more than 100 years old, as there are some areas available for this activity.

Information of interest

  • Price: from 4,30€ per person (round trip).
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday (7:15 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) and Sundays (8:15 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.).
  • Location: Funikularreko Plaza, 48007 Bilbao, Bizkaia.

4. Visit the Arriaga Antzokia Theater in Bilbao to discover its history and architectural beauty

Arriaga Antzokia Theater of Bilbao| ©Mikel M
Arriaga Antzokia Theater of Bilbao| ©Mikel M

The next stop is approximately 15 minutes walking distance from the previous destination. Just a few steps from the entrance to the Casco Viejo you will find the Arriaga Antzokia Theater. This is a late 19th century building, where you will discover a great neo-baroque architectural beauty and some historical facts.

During the visit of approximately 50 minutes, the guide in charge will tell you the history of this emblematic building dating from 1890. All this, while you walk through the interior of the building.

You will walk through the main hall where you will find a two-sided imperial staircase, dressed with a beautiful red carpet. You will also see a bust of the young Bilbao composer Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga.

In the lobby of the theater you will enjoy a small photographic exhibition with the chronology of the building. Next, you will go to the main hall to see the stalls, stop at the stage and a room that exhibits theater and opera costumes. Finally, you will enter the Orient Express room, used to receive high authorities.

Useful information

  • Price: from 5€ per person.
  • Hours: Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm (times vary according to the presentations scheduled in the theater).
  • Location: Arriaga Plaza, 1, 48005 Bilbo, Bizkaia.

5. Take a free tour of the Seven Streets of the Old Town of Bilbao

On Bilbao's Gran Via| ©Tenebris
On Bilbao's Gran Via| ©Tenebris

After finishing your visit to the Arriaga Antzokia Theater, you can join one of the best tours in Bilbao, to explore the famous Seven Streets of the Old Town. In this way, you can delve into the history of this riverside area, which was once an ancient medieval quarter.

During this free walking tour, a local guide will take you through the original core of the town, i.e. the Seven Streets of Bilbao. In the meantime, he will tell you the history of each street and some interesting anecdotes.

You will pass through the first three streets, which formed the town more than 700 years ago:

  • Somera: this is the street that starts the Casco Viejo of the city.
  • Artecalle: this street was characterized for being a commercial street.
  • Tendería: a street where the stores of local artisans were located.

You will then continue the tour to the four remaining streets, built in the mid-fifteenth century, thanks to an extension allowed by the regent monarch:

  • Belosticalle: a fluid fish trade existed in this street.
  • Carniceria Vieja (Old Butcher's Shop): this street was home to local butchers.
  • Barrencalle: known as the street that houses the oldest palace in the city (Arana Palace, 16th century).
  • Barrencalle Barrena: this is the last street, which is located near the estuary.

Information of interest

  • Price: from 10€ per person.
  • Duration: 2 hours (approx.)
  • Advantages: walking through these seven streets you will learn how the history of the town of Bilbao really began.

6. It is part of a gastronomic route through the bars and restaurants of the Plaza Nueva in Bilbao

New Square of Bilbao| ©Marta Mendez
New Square of Bilbao| ©Marta Mendez

You can take advantage of your passage by the Old Helmet of the city to carry out a gastronomical route. You only have to go to the Plaza Nueva and, there, you will find a great number of bars and restaurants, where you will be able to taste the famous pintxos and some traditional drinks of the city.

During the tour you will visit some bars and restaurants frequented daily by the locals. Such is the case of Charly, Taberna Plaza Nueva, Baste, Bar Motrikes, Victor Montes restaurant, among others.

Whichever route you take, you will try different versions of pintxos. For example, you will get cod sandwiches, with mushrooms or stuffed mussels. There are also the txaka or the classic pintxos of onion, tomato and cheese, among others. All of them accompanied by cider, white wine, red wine, craft beer, etc.

This type of tour can be done at your own pace and without any time limit. However, the best thing to do is to connect with one of the best gastronomic tours in Bilbao. This way, you will have a culinary expert by your side who will teach you about each tasting, how to order the pintxos and what to accompany them with.

Book a gastronomic tour of Bilbao

7. Visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Bilbao to discover its architectural and artistic legacy

Santiago Cathedral| ©Dan D
Santiago Cathedral| ©Dan D

The Cathedral of Santiago de Bilbao is another must-see destination, located just five minutes away from Plaza Nueva. You can visit this 14th century Catholic temple to admire its interior architecture and the art integrated in each of the rooms.

When you arrive at the Cathedral you will be amazed from the first moment with its neo-Gothic facade. Then, enter the building and start the tour, visiting the following:

  • The Baptismal Chapel.
  • The Chapel of the Virgin of Carmen.
  • The Chapel of Montserrat.
  • The Chapel of San Antón.
  • The Main Chapel.
  • The Chapel of the Virgin of Pilar.
  • The Sacristy.
  • The Girola.

As you walk through each of the aforementioned rooms, you will observe a series of stained glass windows with figurative details and decorations with geometric elements. Likewise, you will contemplate sculptural pieces such as La Piedad, San Diego Alcalá, La Virgen del Rosario, among others.

Likewise, this cultural visit to the Cathedral of Santiago de Bilbao will allow you to access the Cloister. In the latter, you can find some temporary exhibitions of sacred art and, if your visit coincides with the Christmas season, you will enjoy an amazing exhibition of handmade nativity scenes.

Information of interest

  • Price: from 6€ per person.
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday (10:00 to 18:00 hours).
  • Location: Plaza de Santiago, 1, 48005 Bilbao, Bizkaia.

8. Explore the interior of the San Antón Church of Bilbao

Inside the San Antón Church of Bilbao| ©Paul Soden
Inside the San Antón Church of Bilbao| ©Paul Soden

If you are an architecture and art enthusiast, then you must visit the San Antón Church, which is located just 300 meters away from the Santiago Cathedral of Bilbao. In this way, you can explore this Catholic temple characterized by its particular Gothic style of the late fifteenth century.

The tour inside the church will allow you to see a small gallery that is located around the perimeter of the central nave, which also stands out due to its height with respect to the two aisles. All of them with a predominant Gothic style.

Also, you will observe the Choir of the church, built during the last quarter of the 16th century and three works of the sculptor Esteban de Velasco:

  • Relief of The Last Supper.
  • Relief of the Washing of the Feet.
  • A carving of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul.

Afterwards, you will visit:

  • The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, with the image of the Immaculate Conception in an 18th century rococo altarpiece.
  • The Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy, with an altarpiece of the Virgin and a Renaissance grille from 1538.
  • The third Chapel, with the image of San Sebastián, Santa Lucía and San Roque.

Information of interest

  • Price: from 4€ per person.
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday (11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm).
  • Location: Erribera Kalea, Kalea: Erribera Kalea, 24, 48005 Bilbao, Bizkaia. Ribera Street.

9. Relax on a terrace of the Mercado de la Ribera and finish the tour of a day in Bilbao

Ribera Market| ©Juan A Lopez
Ribera Market| ©Juan A Lopez

The last destination of this day in Bilbao is the historic Mercado de la Ribera. There, you can visit some gastrobars with delicious Basque preparations, alcoholic beverages, a quiet atmosphere and a privileged view of the estuary.

Upon entering the market you will see a series of fishmongers, butchers, bakeries and greengrocers. You will also find stores specializing in cheese, pickles, mushrooms, frozen products, among others.

Meanwhile, on the second floor you will find some of the best places to eat pintxos in Bilbao, gastrobars with high level culinary proposals and a selection of exquisite drinks (wines, craft beer, cider, etc).

This is an ideal activity to do in Bilbao at night, before you return to the hotel or to connect with the transfer service to Bilbao Airport, according to your itinerary.

Tourist card to save money on the 1 day itinerary in Bilbao

Bilbao Bizkaia| ©viajapedia
Bilbao Bizkaia| ©viajapedia

With the Bilbao Bizkaia card you will get important discounts in the main tourist attractions of the city. In addition, you will save time, since when you present this card you will be able to go directly to the ticket office of the destination visited without queuing.

Whether you make a 1 or 3 day route in Bilbao, the use of the Bizkaia tourist card will be of great help. You will be able to travel for free on the city bus lines and, thus, tour the different destinations within the city or travel to some of the best towns in Bilbao to explore them.

Means of transport that can facilitate transfers in the 1 day itinerary in Bilbao

Entrance to the Bilbao metro| ©cesar gutierrez
Entrance to the Bilbao metro| ©cesar gutierrez

Public transportation in Bilbao offers tourists and locals an extensive service of buses, metro and streetcar, whose routes connect with the different tourist destinations in the city. In this way, you will be able to move around the city easily and without wasting time, in order to fulfill your day's itinerary.

With regard to buses, you will have approximately 43 lines and more than 500 stops distributed throughout the city. Meanwhile, the Bilbao subway has three lines with connections to the neighborhoods far from the center and nearby municipalities. For its part, the tramway offers 14 stops on a 6-kilometer line.

A day in Bilbao may not seem like much time to explore the city, but in reality it is not. All you have to do is organize an itinerary in advance with the essential places and start the tour early in the morning. This way, you will get to visit the main tourist destinations and have a satisfactory experience.