10 Things to Do in Bilbao in Summer

The capital of Vizcaya is a place that has resurfaced in recent years to become a city that radiates culture, sophistication and atmosphere. It is also the perfect place if you want to escape the high summer temperatures for a few days.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

12 min read

10 Things to Do in Bilbao in Summer

Summer in Bilbao | nell haynes

If you are one of those who prefer to escape during the summer in search of cooler places, this will be your ideal getaway. The pleasant temperatures that Bilbao enjoys during these months make it a perfect destination for those who want to immerse themselves in its wide cultural offer without spending too much heat.

Bilbao is a perfect combination of modernity and traditional Basque culture. In addition, it is a city with a lot of life and an exquisite gastronomy in which you will not lack plans to do. So, if you are thinking of visiting this lively capital, read on and I will tell you the best things to see and do in Bilbao so you can make the most of your trip.

1. Attend Bilbao BBK Live, one of the most important festivals in Spain.

Bilbao BBK Live| ©Tom Hagen
Bilbao BBK Live| ©Tom Hagen

Every year during the month of July takes place in Bilbao one of the most important festivals in the country, the Bilbao BBK Live.

This rock and pop music festival is one of the best known and most popular in Spain. Inside the enclosure there are up to 12 stages where every summer the most influential artists of both national and international origin of the current scene attend.

Green Day, Coldplay, The Killers, Radiohead ... are just some of the big names who have performed on its stages attracting more than 100,000 people.

At night, you can sleep in the rest area, which is divided into two parts. In the first, camping, you can pitch your own tent in a green area where you will have access to some facilities such as a supermarket, toilets or bar. The second option, glamping, is perfect if you do not want to give up the fun of camping or the comforts of a hotel. However, the price of your entrance fee will increase considerably.

Practical information

  • Where it is held: in the capital city of Bilbao. The concerts take place in the area of the Kobetamendi enclosure, on Mount Cobetas.
  • When: during the month of July.
  • Price: the starting price for the 3-day ticket with camping is usually around 180€. The price for a single day would be from 65€.

2. Explore the Basque coast

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe| ©jordi Doria Vidal
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe| ©jordi Doria Vidal

An ideal plan to take advantage of the good weather of the summer months is to make an excursion to some of the places of interest along the coast of the Basque Country.

One of the main tourist attractions of this area is the islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, and it is not difficult to guess why. The island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is located off the coast of Bizkaia and is an imposing rock formation that rises out of the sea and is connected to the mainland only by a narrow path that crosses the waters to reach it.

It is also considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, and in fact has been used as a set for filming Game of Thrones, one of the most successful series of the last decade.

Although, as you leave Bilbao to know its surroundings, I encourage you to take the opportunity to take a tour that includes other nearby attractions such as the Suspension Bridge of Biscay, Bermeo or Guernica. To reach these places, you have the possibility of renting a car in Bilbao, although the most comfortable and advisable option is to book a guided tour along the coast.

Book a tour along the Basque coast

3. Celebrate the Aste Nagusia, Bilbao's most important festival

Big Week in Bilbao| ©Jazu Garro Medino
Big Week in Bilbao| ©Jazu Garro Medino

Every August in Bilbao, takes place one of the most important celebrations of Euskadi, La Semana Grande, a nine-day festival that begins with the mythical chupinazo and reading of the proclamation.

After finishing both rituals, the mascot of the festivities Marijaia appears on the balcony of the Arriaga Theater and the week of festivities begins. During this celebration, the streets are filled with thousands of people, music is everywhere, stores remain open and a series of shows such as parades, fireworks competitions and performances of comparsas take place.

In addition, stages are also set up in the streets where different well-known artists sing, Basque music concerts are given, and competitions and exhibitions of rural sports are held. On the last day, the mascot Marijaia is burned as a symbol of the end of the festivities.

Practical information

  • Where: in the streets and squares of the center of Bilbao.
  • When: the dates change every year, but the first day is usually around the middle of August.
  • Price: only what you spend on food and drink.

4. Have fun with the attractions of the Barracas de Etxebarria.

Etxebarria Park| ©eitb.eus
Etxebarria Park| ©eitb.eus

During the month of August in the Etxebarria Park the barracas are set up every year, a fairground that is filled with attractions and other facilities for the enjoyment of the attendees.

The Etxebarria Park is located next to the historic center of the city and is the largest park in Bilbao. As it is located on the side of a hill, from there you will have extraordinary views of the city, and more specifically, of the Arriaga Theater.

In addition to the attractions, you will also find bars with terraces, churro bars, booths with games of skill, ice cream parlors and of course, places for the shows that take place there. All these activities are accompanied by the star of the barracas: the circus, which you can attend to see their magical shows.

5. Take a boat tour of Bilbao

Boat ride| ©Miguel Angel
Boat ride| ©Miguel Angel

A perfect summer plan to relax while contemplating the city would be to book a boat tour of the Bilbao estuary. It is becoming more and more common for boats from different companies to take boat tours so that tourists can see Bilbao while taking a pleasant stroll. In this way, you can explore the architecture of the city while you cruise the calm waters that cross Bilbao.

Generally, the tour starts at the pier in the Plaza Pío Baroja and from there you will begin an excursion in which you will see both the buildings and the different bridges that cross the river connecting the two parts of the city.

One of the most popular local companies to book your boat trip is Bilboats, where for an affordable price you can buy a ticket for a ride, rent a private boat for groups and even attend a party on board.

6. Take a trip to a nearby beach

Barinatxe Beach| ©Mackedwars
Barinatxe Beach| ©Mackedwars

One option if you miss a good swim at the beach, is to take a day trip to the beaches of La Salvaje or Plentzia, which are located less than 30 kilometers from Bilbao and offer beautiful scenery and a fantastic place to relax in the sun or dare to surf a little.

Barinatxe Beach - La Salvaje is located just 20 minutes drive from Bilbao and has an extension of up to 750 meters of fine golden sand. One of the peculiarities that make this beach so beautiful is that it is surrounded by high cliffs with vegetation. It also has a nudist area and its waves make it one of the best places for surfing in the area.

From Bilbao, there is a subway line that leaves you just over 15 minutes walk from the beach of Barinatxe, so it is possible to reach it in case you do not have your own vehicle.

An alternative to the latter is the Plentzia Beach. To get there by public transport from Bilbao, the easiest way is to take the metro directly to Plentzia and from there there there is a bus that leaves you at the beach itself. With golden sand, calm waters and surrounded by a pleasant promenade, this beach located in a bay is ideal for relaxing and also gives us a fantastic plan to do in Bilbao with children.

7. Dare with a bit of adventure sport

Jet skiing in Bilbao| ©Howard P. Kepa
Jet skiing in Bilbao| ©Howard P. Kepa

When summer arrives, the rise in temperature invites us to do refreshing activities, either in the pool, a river or the sea. In this case, I am going to propose a very original plan for the estuary of Bilbao and that is to rent a jet ski.

We already know that the most typical place to ride this type of motorcycles are the beaches, but surely you had not imagined that you could see the iconic Guggenheim Museum from the water while you live an exciting adventure.

The rental of the bike always includes safety equipment with life jackets and you can ride it up to a maximum of two people. The most common routes to travel while doing this sport are two: the first, crosses the estuary of Bilbao letting you admire the capital from its waters and the second, would be an excursion between the towns of Getxo and Plentzia.

The average price per hour to rent a jet ski is 120 € per vehicle, that is, 60 € per person if you are two people who are going to ride. In addition, most companies offer guided tours with a monitor, so you will not have to worry about not following the route correctly, since you will do it with the help of an expert.

8. See Bilbao from the heights

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

Taking advantage of the good weather in the capital of the Basque Country at this time of the year, it would be a good idea to climb to one of its many viewpoints. In addition, the clear skies of this time of the year will let you admire the city from the heights with total clarity.

One of the best known viewpoints is the Artxanda, which is located on a hill next to the city. This is also a double viewpoint, since if we look in one direction we can see Bilbao, while from the other side of the mountain we can contemplate the Txorierri Valley.

To go up to the top, the most comfortable and fun way to do it would be to take the Artxanda funicular, which will take you up without any effort while enjoying the wonderful views.

Artxanda has become one of the most lively entertainment areas of the city and also, there are some of the most prestigious restaurants in Bilbao. Although if you are a true lover of good gastronomy, I advise you to book a high level gastronomic tour of Bilbao, where you will have the opportunity to taste the Basque cuisine in an exquisite way.

Other viewpoints that you can also climb are the Mirador del Monte Cobetas, the Mirador Parque Etxebarria or the Stairs of Solokoetxe, from where you would have fantastic views of the historic center of the city.

Book a gastronomic tour of Bilbao

9. Take refuge from the heat at the emblematic Guggenheim Museum

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

It is known that in the north of the country temperatures are lower than in other areas of Spain, but summer is summer and for the hottest days a visit to the museum can be the perfect plan to spend a few hours of the coolest.

Besides, you won't want to leave Bilbao without a visit to the well-known Guggenheim Museum, which has become the symbol of the city. After buying tickets to the museum, you can enjoy the works of the most prestigious artists of the last decades, in addition to the impressive architecture of the building by Frank Gehry.

The Guggenheim Museum also has its own collection that complements the rest of the collections of Guggenheim institutions and in which some of the most important works of contemporary Basque art are represented.

A highly recommended option is to book a guided tour of the museum, as you will have the opportunity to visit all its rooms with an expert who will help you understand the meaning of the most important works of this magnificent artistic and cultural universe.

Book a guided tour of the Guggenheim Museum

10. Visit the Flower Market and taste the local gastronomy

Flower Market| ©Joyce Fernandez
Flower Market| ©Joyce Fernandez

What better plan for a sunny summer morning than a stroll surrounded by beautiful roses, orchids and carnations? If you are lucky enough that your trip coincides on a Sunday, a stroll through the Flower Market is a fantastic plan to enjoy the good weather and the smell of the colorful vegetation.

This market is set up every Sunday morning in the Arenal Park and there you can buy flowers and plants freshly picked by local producers at very good prices. Or simply take a pleasant stroll in a wonderful and lively atmosphere.

After the walk, I encourage you to continue your tour of the center while doing a pintxo tour of Bilbao. Pintxos are the most typical appetizers of the Basque Country and consist of small tapas usually served on a piece of bread and come in the size of a bite.

The custom in Bilbao is to make a tour of different bars where you go drinking**"txikitos**" of wine accompanied by a pintxo. Some of the best pintxo bars in Bilbao are Gure Toki, El Globo or Sorginzulo. Although if you want to taste the gastronomy of Bilbao without missing anything, the best thing to do is to book a pintxo tour in which you will be guided through the best places and you will be told the history of the city.

Book a pintxo tour in Bilbao

The weather in Bilbao in summer

Summer night in Bilbao| ©Fernando Villaverde Gaviña
Summer night in Bilbao| ©Fernando Villaverde Gaviña

Bilbao has a temperature similar to the rest of northern Spain, with a fairly humid climate and rainfall during almost all times of the year. In addition, the sky is usually cloudy most of the time.

However, temperatures in summer rise slightly reaching a pleasant average of 24ºC maximum and about 18ºC minimum, which makes these months the perfect season to visit Bilbao without being too cold.

Another characteristic of Bilbao's climate in summer is that it is in its driest stage, which begins approximately in mid-May and ends in late September. However, it wouldn't hurt to be cautious and pack an umbrella in your suitcase if you are planning a trip to this city of gray skies.

Bilbao's summer tourist flow and prices

Bilbao sightseeing| ©Bigeddie100
Bilbao sightseeing| ©Bigeddie100

Despite being just a few kilometers from the coast, Bilbao is not known for being a popular destination for those in search of a beach vacation. However, this time of the year is considered the peak season for tourism in the capital of Biscay. Every summer, a wave of tourists travel to Bilbao in search of its many fiestas and festivals, or else to escape the high temperatures in other parts of the country.

This city is particularly lively during these months, so it is not surprising that they are also the busiest for tourism. Inevitably, this causes prices to rise. Therefore, if you decide to visit Bilbao during the summer months, I strongly recommend that you book your trip in advance, to avoid running out of options and also get a cheaper price.

What to bring in your suitcase to visit Bilbao in summer

Preparing your suitcase| ©Craig Adderley
Preparing your suitcase| ©Craig Adderley

The most important thing to know what to pack in the suitcase before a trip is to take into account both the weather and the kind of plans we plan to make. To help you in this task, here is a list of the essentials for this trip:

  • Comfortable shoes: the best way to know a city well is to walk around it and for that it is essential to wear comfortable shoes that can easily withstand a whole day of long walks.
  • Light clothing: to visit Bilbao in summer, you should wear light clothing such as short-sleeved shirts. However, you should not forget that in this part of the country temperatures do not rise excessively during these months, so it is not a bad idea to bring some pants and long-sleeved shirts, although not too thick.
  • Warm clothes: nights in Bilbao are usually cool, even in summer. Therefore, you should bring some warm clothes to keep you warm.
  • Sunscreen: although the sun remains hidden most of the time, a cloudy sky does not guarantee the safety of our skin, especially if we plan to spend the whole day outdoors. For this reason, I recommend that you always take sunscreen on your trips, regardless of the weather forecast.