Bilbao in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Viewpoints, soccer, exquisite gastronomy and above all an incredible cultural respect. Bilbao offers you unique places to see, know what you can't miss in 3 days.

Andressa García

Andressa García

15 min read

Bilbao in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Vizcaya Suspension Bridge | simmering_prop

I will tell you in the following lines, everything you need to know to make your three-day trip to this urban center of Vizcaya, more than incredible. Being such a cultural city, I recommend you to include in your itinerary, the different monuments that are erected throughout the city.

The Ribera market, San Mames and the estuary of Bilbao are some of the places that you are obliged to visit in this city. But not only in the central area there are beautiful things to see. The outskirts of the city also have their charm, and three days is more than enough to discover some of the best things to see and do in Bilbao and its surroundings.

Day 1: Casco Viejo, museums, San Mamés and the Alhóndiga

Guggenheim Museum| ©stanjourdan
Guggenheim Museum| ©stanjourdan

Let's assume that on the first day you are already in Bilbao, either because you arrive very early in the morning or because you have already been staying the night before. Your day will begin with a tour of the old town of Bilbao, making a good breakfast and preparing energy to walk around some of the most iconic points of the city.

Among the other places you will visit during this first day, besides the Casco Viejo, are San Mames, the Alhondiga, Gran Via and a couple of iconic museums within the historic center of the city. Finally, I recommend you finish with dinner, and if you want, you can stay and party in the Casco Viejo.

Breakfast in the Casco Viejo of Bilbao

After the transfer from the Bilbao Airport to your accommodation in the city, it is time to leave your bags at the hotel and go for a walk, to get to know the city and above all to taste some of its exquisite gastronomy.

It is in the Casco Viejo of Bilbao where you will look for a place to eat. In its surroundings there are many dining options, excellent to include among the best gastronomic tours of Bilbao, so you will have plenty of places to find a good breakfast, one of them can be Café Lago Bilbao, a common place among the locals to have breakfast.

Before leaving the Casco Viejo, I recommend you to visit for a few minutes the Basilica of the Virgin of Begoña, one of the most important liturgical monuments of the city. It should not take more than a couple of hours to finish this tour, so this will be between 8:00 and 10:00.

Take a historical tour of Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum Tour

After breakfast and the sacred visit to the temple of the Virgin of Begoña, you will continue north to meet the next point of the itinerary, which is none other than the Guggenheim Museum, one of the most iconic and representative places to see in Bilbao.

The art on display at the museum is by Spanish and foreign artists. The most important works and the ones you can't help but take some pictures with are: Mama and Puppy, which are located on the outside.

Tickets to the Guggenheim Museum are priced between 6.50 and 13 euros per person, except for children and teenagers up to 17 years old who enter for free. Hours are from 10:00 to 19:00, so you will be just in time for the first group entry, and I recommend spending no less than 3 hours to tour the entire museum.

Walk through the Guggenheim Museum for three hours

Lunch in the best Bilbao style

The walk through the Guggenheim Museum surely left you with low energy and wanting to eat something, so before continuing to the next destination, it is important to taste a good traditional Bilbao dish, such as cod in pil-pil sauce or hake cocochas in green sauce.

Among the restaurants I recommend to try authentic Mediterranean food near the Fine Arts Museum, which will be your next stop, are: Berri Iparraguirre, Bil Ko and Gure Kabi, all with a price range between 15 and 50 euros per plate.

Visit to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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

After having lunch and resting for a while, surely your watch should already read 15:00 hours approximately, a perfect time to enter the Museum of Fine Arts, which closes at 20:00. To visit this museum you will need a little less than two hours.

Currently the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is one of the main museums of its kind in Spain. Inside it houses approximately ten thousand pieces on display, so you have a lot to see. This large number of pieces are grouped into five sections: Ancient Art, Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Basque Art; and Works on Paper and Applied Arts.

Sometimes the entrance to this museum is free. But in other occasions, it can have a price that oscillates between 3.50 and 7 euros, depending on the characteristics of each visitor.

San Mames

Almost among the last groups to visit the San Mamés stadium, you will start with this activity around 17:00. Depending on the season, either winter or summer, the stadium is open to the public until 19:00 or 20:00, respectively.

The tour with a tour guide lasts from 45 minutes to an hour, so this is a great way to do a tour without leaving anything out. You can pay for each ticket between 8 and 20 euros, depending on the type of ticket, either for adults or for children from 6 years old. Children up to 5 years old get in for free.

By the way, at the end of the tour it should be about 18:00, so if you feel like a coffee or a snack, you can enjoy the facilities of bars, restaurants and cafes that are located in the complex. If you want to have a snack, this is the time to do it, because there is still a day left to walk around.

Gran Vía de Don Diego López

Leaving San Mamés at about 18:00, I invite you to walk along the Gran Vía, that great road artery that crosses Bilbao and that in its surroundings you can see some of the most iconic buildings of the city, bank headquarters and one of the most important points of Biscayan urbanity.

In addition you will be able to appreciate different gardens that bloom at both ends of the street. All this while the sun goes down and the night arrives. The Gran Vía is a place to enjoy the city atmosphere that Bilbao offers and it is also a perfect excuse to get to the next point of the tour, the Azkuna Zentroa Alhóndiga.

Azkuna Zentroa Alhóndiga

With the time very tight you can get to the last tour of the exhibition hall of the place, taking into account that this begins at 19:00. Visits are 45 minutes, so you will be out by 20:00 at the latest.

La Alhóndiga used to function as a wine cellar, but has now been remodeled into an entertainment and leisure center. The guided tour can be done in Basque or Spanish and the visits are almost personalized because the capacity is usually about 20 people.

Dinner and drinks in the Old Quarter of Bilbao

When you leave the Alhóndiga, at approximately 20:00, it is time to go for pintxos and stay for a drink or two. Going out for pintxos is one of the most popular activities among the locals, and it is nothing more than going from one bar to another to taste tapas and drinks of different flavors.

Casco Viejo is the perfect place for this, so you will come back to this place at night to eat and to enjoy one of the best things to do in Bilbao at night. Several food places and restaurants are located here, so there is plenty to do to enjoy the night that is just beginning.

Day 2: Market, Churches, Theater, Irala, Zubizuri Bridge, Artxanda Funicular

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

For this second day of sightseeing in Bilbao, I recommend you to take a leisurely tour, considering that the previous day you had an exhausting experience visiting much of the city. The plan for this day is to continue getting to know part of the Casco Viejo and other nearby places. I recommend you to have lunch in the restaurants in this area.

The day's tour will start around 9:00 or 10:00, after having had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel where you are staying. So the tour of the market and the old town will start at 10:00.

La Ribera Market

This is one of those places with centuries of history and that you will love to see and know inside thanks to the freshness offered in their products. In addition, this market with centuries of history has everything you would need to cook a good Mediterranean dish at home or at your place of accommodation.

One of the best things about visiting the Ribera market is that everything is decorated in a rural atmosphere. Besides being able to taste delicacies of Mediterranean food, you will be able to buy different things typical of this place.

Arriaga Antzokia Theater

Very close to the Ribera Market is located this theater inaugurated in 1890, this theater is a true jewel of neo-baroque architecture. It is a theater dedicated to opera and is one of the most emblematic places of the city, so you can not miss it when you pass through the historic center of Bilbao.

It is part of one of the first constructions of the city of Bilbao, which is why it has so much architectural importance. If you go on a weekday, you can pass just outside the Arriaga Theater and take pictures. If you go on the weekend and the visits are enabled, you can go inside in no more than 50 minutes.

Church of San Nicolas

Right in front of the Arriaga Theater stands this other ecclesiastical monument of great importance to the town, and it is one of those places that remind us of Bilbao's past that can still be perceived in every street and on every corner.

Again, as part of a tour of the old town of Bilbao you can see the exterior of the church of San Nicolas, and this is just what I propose, so that you do not use so much time in the morning and you can see other things. But in case you want to visit the inside, the visit can be extended up to half an hour.

Cathedral of Santiago de Bilbao

Also within the old town you will find this cathedral, which is one of the most important ecclesiastical temples of the city, because inside it houses the diocese of the city. It is a monument of obligatory visit if you go to Bilbao thanks to its cultural and historical contribution.

On a tour or one of the best tours of Bilbao, which will take you through the Casco Viejo, you could just pass by the outskirts of the Cathedral and look at it from afar. But if you want to visit the inside, you can also do it, although first I recommend you to check their official website to know what is the schedule they handle for visits.

Tour through the streets of Iralabarri

Streets of Iralabarri| ©Jordi Martínez
Streets of Iralabarri| ©Jordi Martínez

Leaving the old town of Bilbao, you will continue your tour through some of the most popular streets and sectors of the city; this time passing through Iralabarri, a very picturesque working class neighborhood of the city, which in fact is known as the Notting Hill of Bilbao.

What will most attract your attention in Iralabarri is the colorful houses, and the amount of scenery that gives you to take more than one photo. Although it is a somewhat unknown place for tourists, it is a good plan to take some pictures and marvel at the colorful streets.

But besides that, surely by this time you will want to have lunch. The tour around the old town, the Cathedral and then walking through Irala should have taken you about three hours by now. Taking this time into account, you should want to eat lunch by this time, knowing that it must be around 13:00.

Well, Irala and its surroundings offer some nice restaurants where you can have some lunch. Some of the most recommended places to enjoy lunch are: Grafit Rock Cafe, Batzoki Rekalde, Hitzak and Jantoki Berri, all dedicated to Spanish food.

Crossing the Zubizuri Bridge

Straight from Irala, you will continue your way to meet one of the most controversial architectural works of recent times in Bilbao: the Zubizuri Bridge. This work of the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava is one of the must-see in Bilbao, thanks to the beauty of his work but also to the debates that revolve around it.

It is a pedestrian bridge that originally had a glass pavement only, which gave it an unparalleled appeal. But over time, passersby realized that the glass was very slippery, so the City Council decided to place a non-slip carpet.

From there the controversies only grew. But despite the few changes that have been made to the work, it is still a beautiful place that I recommend you to visit and take a picture or two before leaving Bilbao.

Discover every place in Bilbao like a local

Going up to Artxanda mountain on the funicular

You won't last long visiting on the bridge, so your next stop is Archanda. By this time it should be around 14:00 or 15:00. Opened in the first half of the 20th century the Archanda funicular is one of the most used means of transportation and it is also a great tourist spot to visit Bilbao and especially the Archanda mountain.

Of course, to go up to this place you can also do it walking or by bike tour. But in this case, we will have the opportunity to climb the funicular, from where we will see beautiful panoramic views.

The ride to the top of the mountain is only about three minutes. The views that you will appreciate during the climb and especially once you get to the top, is another level, and is surely one of the best views of Bilbao. This means of transport works until approximately 8:00 p.m., so you can also choose this option on the way back.

At the top you can even take a walk around the viewpoint, to see much more than the great view of Bilbao, and above all enjoy the exquisite local cuisine.

Take the Archanda funicular and tour the old town

Relaxing afternoon in the Doña Casilda de Iturrizar park.

After a day touring much of the city, it's time to rest a bit, so I recommend you to go on your way back to your accommodation, but not before staying a while to rest in the park Doña Casilda de Iturrizar.

This park is one of the most important lungs of the city, where locals and visitors gather to rest, play sports outdoors or even to enjoy the scenery that mixes the variety of nature with the architectural beauty that divides the Ensanche with Abandoibarra.

By the time you arrive at the park it will be approximately 16:00 or 17:00. I recommend not less than one or two hours to walk around the park before going back to your hotel or lodging. As an alternative plan you can have dinner and go for drinks back to the old town. Although I recommend you to sleep early to go out in the morning to the outskirts of the city.

Day 3: Towns outside of Bilbao

Touring San Juan de Gaztelugatxe| ©Mario A. P.
Touring San Juan de Gaztelugatxe| ©Mario A. P.

For day three of this itinerary, I recommend that you travel by rental car, because you will be touring some of the best villages in Bilbao. After two full days dedicated to enjoying all the attractions that the city has to show you, it is time to get to know other places further away.


To start the day, you will wake up very early to begin your trip to Lekeitio, a town to the northwest of Bilbao. It will take you about an hour by car to get from Bilbao to this town, so if you leave early from your place of accommodation, you could start around 9:00 with this tour which is one of the best excursions from Bilbao.

I recommend you to arrive looking for a parking place before starting your tour. In summer it is usually harder to find a spot, but if you arrive early, you won't have any problems. After you have left your car parked, it is time to get a good place to have breakfast and start the tour.

You are going to start with the old part of town and the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady, and right after that you will go to the port, two of the most emblematic places of the place, which in general is very "instagrammable". You can walk around the rest of the town a bit more, but I estimate that about three hours would be fine for lunch and getting to know the town. You would leave at 12 o'clock from this place.


Elantxobe is about 25 minutes drive from Lekeitio, so you won't have to drive long to get to this other place. If there is one thing that is striking about this place is definitely the vertical architecture of the constructions of houses and buildings.

But this town is much more than just vertical houses, from almost anywhere in this town you will be able to have incredible views of the sea. By the time you get to this place, it should be approximately 12:30 or 13:00.

I recommend you to have a good walk through the streets of Elantxobe, take a picture or two and then look for a place to have lunch in this town, so you can continue your route on the third day with something in your stomach.


Getting to know Gernika| ©Andrea Arbol
Getting to know Gernika| ©Andrea Arbol

You will arrive to Gernika on the way, because it is a must visit place on the way to the next destination of the itinerary of the third day, in fact this is a perfect place to learn a little more about the contemporary history of Spain, because you can see the air raid shelters that were built in the first half of the twentieth century in the midst of the Spanish civil war.

To know these air raid shelters you can choose some tours that are available in the village, which not only show you their location, but also includes a demonstration type simulation of what would be a bombing. An epic experience.

Beyond that, you can visit the center of Gernika, a good place to take a picture or two. It could easily take you about two hours to walk around this town. You would leave this place at approximately 15:30 or 16:00.


After Gernika, you will continue on to the town of Bermeo. The trip takes about 25 minutes by car. The best thing about this touristic place is that it is a fishing village that has a lot of landscapes to see.

One of the things you can't miss in Bermeo are the best pintxos in Bilbao, one of the most traditional foods in all of Bilbao. So this can be a good plan to have dinner just before you continue your way back to the city of Bilbao.

To visit the town of Bermeo, you will need about 2 hours, so you will leave back at about 18:30 approximately. You should arrive at your accommodation between 19:00 and 19:30, just in time to rest and board your flight back the next day.

Visit Bermeo, Gernika and other towns outside Bilbao

Tips for a three-day itinerary in Bilbao

Excursion around Bilbao| ©Bigeddie100
Excursion around Bilbao| ©Bigeddie100
  • Remember to visit the websites of each of the places you intend to visit to find out if it is necessary and how to book tickets.
  • Take into account the schedule of each of the tourist attractions before making any changes to your itinerary.
  • This is an itinerary made assuming that the opening hours of all the places to visit coincide with the days you have planned your trip. Keep in mind that some places stop working one day a week, so it is always necessary to check that the day of your visit coordinates with a working day for museums and other tourist sites.
  • According to the season of the year, summer or winter, each of the places close later or earlier.
  • Bring a variety of clothing because the weather in Bilbao can change quickly, so it is best to bring clothing for all weathers.

Itinerary summary

  • Day 1
  • Bilbao Old Town
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Fine Arts Museum
  • San Mamés Stadium
  • Gran Vía de Don Diego López
  • Azkuna Zentroa Alhóndiga
  • Day 2
  • Mercado de la Ribera
  • Arriaga Theater of Antzokia
  • St. Nicholas Church
  • Santiago de Bilbao Cathedral
  • Iralabarri
  • Zubizuri Bridge
  • Artxanda Funicular
  • Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park
  • Day 3
  • Lekeitio
  • Elantxobe
  • Gernika
  • Bermeo