Home to a thousand characters and colours, Bilbao is a haven for art-lovers and a mecca for travellers looking to experience the best of the Basque Country. With world-leading museums and galleries, beautiful parks and tantalising restaurants, city breaks to Bilbao offer something for everyone.
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The most iconic building in Bilbao is the Museo Guggenheim, a flowing silver cacophony of a building, designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry. Just looking at the breathtaking exterior of the Museo Guggenheim justifies travelling to Bilbao, let alone the vast interior exhibition spaces that hold some of the greatest artworks from the 20th century to the present day. You could very easily spend a whole day exploring this building. Another must-see museum in the city is the Museo de Bellas Artes, which features an enormous collection of work encompassing both classical and modern art. Want to see work by Goya? Check. Want to see work by Bacon? Check. El Greco? Check. Gauguin? Check.
Away from the galleries, Bilbao is a bustling city with countless smells and tastes to experience. The most charming part of the city is Casco Viejo, the Old Quarter, where you’ll find an atmospheric network of compact streets and alleys. There are a number of interesting historical buildings here, including the 14th-century Catedral de Santiago with its Gothic architecture and Renaissance portico, and the 19th-century Plaza Nueva. Each weekend there’s a busy flea market in the plaza, with stalls selling everything from second hand books to birds in cages. Nearby, in Plaza del Arenal, you’ll find a bustling flower market.
Escape the crowds for a few hours and relax in one of Bilbao’s many green open spaces. Close to the Museo de Bellas Artes is the Parque de Doña Casilda de Iturrizar, an ideal place for afternoon picnics and romantic ambles close to the river. There are public artworks here as well as a large pond where you can feed the ducks. A little further afield is the Bilbao Green Belt, which has an extensive range of walking routes to enjoy.
The Basque version of Tapas, Pintxos is something you have to try while you’re staying in Bilbao. There are Pintxos bars dotted throughout the centre of the city. Two of the most famous bars are Aritz, tucked away on a sidestreet in Calle Zugastinobia, and La Viña del Ensanche, also celebrated for its wine menu. If you’d rather sample seafood, Mina Restaurante offers delicious dishes on the riverside.