DISTANCE FROM CENTRE
While many people who think of Basque country will think of San Sebastian or Guernica, we are big fans of the very underrated Bilbao which is so untouched by tourism that even the Guggenheim Bilbao is rarely crowded in the middle of summer. Locals rarely speak English, and most don’t speak Spanish either. They speak Basque and are very proud of it. Find a town that is high on many summer bucket lists, and yet still manages to remain untouched.
Visitors to Bilbao will relish the relaxed lifestyle, beautiful architecture, and colorful culture. With some of the best food and a lively local nightlife, spend your days relaxing and your nights creating unforgettable memories in this lovely vacation escape.
If you’re looking for the heart of the city, this is it. Full of nightlife, amazing tapas, and lots of shopping, this neighborhood is typical of most city centers in Spain with its winding streets and old buildings squeezed against each other. Stay in a holiday rental or flat in this area to maximize your experience of the action and to stay in the middle of things. If rentals aren’t your thing though, there are one or two hotels in this area that are cozy and cute through and through.
The neighborhood that’s closest to the Guggenheim, this is the more upscale side of Bilbao with a luxurious river-walk that is absolutely gorgeous on a nice day. We recommend packing a light lunch to eat along the way if you can. A lot of artists and art galleries will display their works or paint the river walk itself, so that it almost feels like the Guggenheim has been extended into the river. If you are staying near here we highly recommend something along the water's edge in the form of a holiday rental or a small hotel.
This is one of the liveliest areas in Bilbao and has disco bars on almost every block, ensuring that those who stay in this area are never lacking for something fun to do, and the football stadium at the end of this neighborhood means that during the football season there is always a lot of positive energy in this area of town. Popular with youngsters, this is an area that's known for making easy and fast friends. Staying in any of the hotels or hostels in this area will guarantee that you won’t miss out on any of the fun.
Bilbao is a city that loves its art, and that’s apparent with its gigantic Guggenheim museum that was designed by the famous Frank Gehry. We loved going into this museum as there are a surprisingly large number of works that people unfamiliar with art would still easily recognize. Don’t stop your exploration at the Guggenheim though; the Bilbao fine arts museum is just as impressive, and if you’re looking to see many famous works at once, head over to the Reproductions Museum to see many reproductions of famous works of art, without the huge crowds.
If you want to explore more of the history of this unique place, we recommend checking out some of the beautiful Basque churches scattered around the town center. Point your feet in the direction of the Basilica of Begona, the Church of Saint Anthony the Great, or the Bilbao Cathedral.
Because it’s so untouched by tourism, we also just recommend walking around. It’s a very artistic and beautiful city, and around every corner can be a new piece of street art or an installation of some sorts, such as the fingerprint sculpture or La Salve. The great thing about being off the beaten path is that it’s up to you the visitor, to find your own adventure!
Bilbao is to the North and therefore a bit chillier than the more popular tourist destinations to the South of the city, but that also means that visitors arriving in the summer will find a pleasantly warm city that isn’t too hot or sweaty. While tourism to Bilbao still isn’t overwhelming, we recommend avoiding planning a trip during August, when it’s at its peak.
Because it is surrounded by mountains, the temperature can drop quite quickly at night so we recommend packing a jacket with you in the evenings. While the summer and fall are pretty dry, we highly recommending avoiding travel to the area during April, which is the worst month for rain.