Travel Guide Europe Spain Basque Country Biscay Bilbao



Bilbao city reflection

Bilbao city reflection

© foltz.45

Bilbao is the capital of Biscay province and the largest city in the Basque Country of Spain. This port city boasts a population of around 350,000 people within its borders and almost a million in the greater area.



Brief History

Bilbao was first founded in 1300 by Don Diego and grew slowly over the next couple of centuries, as it slowly swallowed surrounding villages.

In 1511, the Consulate of Bilbao was granted to the town by the royal government. This made Bilbao a major export centre for wool and iron works, such as famous swords, to the rest of Europe. The decline of the Spanish Empire at the end of the 17th century, threw the city into a decline. Bilbao sprung back again in the 19th century during the industrial revolution because of its mines, steel and shipbuilding abilities. By the beginning of the 20th century Bilbao was the wealthiest city in Spain with an economy focused around heavy industry.

During the civil war Bilbao sided with the Republican Government and the city fell to Franco on June 19th, 1937. During the Franco era, Bilbao expanded greatly. This growth was fueled by heavy industry and thousands of immigrants from different areas of Spain. In 1983 the city was besieged by heavy floods that killed several people and did lots of damage to the older parts of the city.

In the last few years the city has undergone a major urban renewal to remove the cities dependence on heavy industry. This includes moving the port away from the city centre and opening up several new areas for tourism. The city has also started a massive planting project to make the city look more green.




The city is divided up into 8 districts and then into several sub neighbourhoods.



Sights and Activities

Guggenheim at Bilbao, Spain

Guggenheim at Bilbao, Spain

© mfikse


  • Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a wonderful museum located along the river. The museum was designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry and is considered one of the most spectacular Deconstructivism building in the world. Most of the collection is on constant rotation while there is a small permanent collection, which is pretty good. The Guggenheim tramway stop is about 100 metres away from the museum.
  • Bilbao Fine Arts Museum (Museo de Bellas Artes) houses a wide collection of art dating from the 12th century to the present. With over six thousands pieces to explore there is plenty to see here. The museum is located in the Doña Casilda Iturrizar park.
  • Basque Museum is a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Basque people.
  • Maritime Museum is located on the docks and dedicated to the history of boat building in Bilbao.


  • Santiago Cathedral is an interesting cathedral with a foundation dating back to 1300. The church is a mixture of 15th century Gothic and later Gothic Revival. An interesting feature on the church is the custom of local merchants stone carvings along the buttresses of the main vault.
  • Saint Anton Church
  • Basilica of Begona was originally constructed in the 16th century and is a mixture of Gothic and Baroque styles. In 1942 a bomb was set off at the entrance of the basilica targeting carlists and the damage was not repaired until 1993.
  • Saint Nicholas of Bari Church.
  • Santos Juanes Church.
  • Saint Vincent Church.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Arriaga Theatre (Teatro Arriaga) is a wonderful neoclassical opera house located in the heart of the city. The theatre was restored in 1985 after the August 1983 floods.
  • Artxanda Funicular is a funicular railway that connects the city centre to a wonderful green space on the nearby Artxanda Mountain. This is a great place to relax and there are several restaurants, hotels to visit and the view is amazing.
  • Bizkaia Delegation Palace is a large mansion that is home to the executive branch of the government of Biscay province.
  • City Hall is built in a Baroque style and is home to the amazing Arab Hall that is decorated in a Neo-Mudejar style.
  • Chavarri Palace is a Flemish style building located on Moyua Square. An interesting feature is that none of the sets of windows are equal to each other. Currently the palace hosts the representation of the Government of Spain in the province.
  • Plaza Nueva is a large neoclassical square that was built in 1821. The main building on the square is the Basque Language Academy.
  • Ribera Market.
  • San Mamés Stadium is a wonderful place to watch a football game.
  • Zubizuri is an amazing foot bridge that many say symbolizes modern Bilbao.



Events and Festivals

  • Semanan Grande is Bilbao's primary annual festival beginning the Saturday of the 3rd week of August. The main features of the festival are strongman games, live music, street entertainers, bullfighting and nightly fireworks. Every year the festival is different so it is best to pick up a program once you arrive.
  • Bilbao Live Festival is a large annual music festival, which features Rock and Pop music. The festival is held every year in late June or early July.




Bilbao has a mild oceanic climate. The average temperatures in January are around 9 °C and in July the average is around 21 °C. Occasionally there can be some extremely hot days in the summer because of strong winds from the south. Temperatures can rise up to 40 °C but usually these days are not common and don't last too long either. Winters can see some frost and the occasional snowflake, but usually it's also above zero during the night. There is roughly 1,200 mm of precipitation per year with most of it coming in the form of rain.

Avg Max13.2 °C14.5 °C15.9 °C16.8 °C20.1 °C22.6 °C25.2 °C25.5 °C24.4 °C20.8 °C16.4 °C14 °C
Avg Min4.7 °C5.1 °C5.7 °C7.1 °C10.1 °C12.6 °C14.8 °C15.2 °C13.2 °C10.8 °C7.6 °C6 °C
Rainfall126 mm97 mm94 mm124 mm90 mm64 mm62 mm82 mm74 mm121 mm141 mm116 mm
Rain Days161515171612111212141516



Getting There

By Plane

Bilbao Airport (IATA:BIO, ICAO:LEBB) is the most important airport in Basque Country and northern Spain. The airport is located 5 kilometres north of Bilbao in the municipality of Loiu. The new terminal, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was opened in 2000 and handles over four million passengers a year. The airport has regular connections to almost every city in Spain, most major cities in Europe and limited service to northern Africa.

To/from the airport:
It is possible to take BizKai public bus 3247 every 30 minutes from Moyua square to the airport and the trips takes 15 to 20 minutes. Currently there is a plan to extend the train to the airport. The bus travels from 5:25am to 21:55pm from Bilbao to the airport, and from 6:15am to midnight from the airport to Bilbao. From March 16 to October 31 the frequency is every 20 minutes.
A bus operated by PESA to Donostia-San Sebastián departs hourly at between 07:45am and 11:45pm. The trip takes approximately 75 minutes.

By Train

Bilbao-Abando Railway Station (Estación del Norte) is the main train station in town. It has regional commuter trains, domestic trains and international trains. Check the Spanish Railway website for more information about schedules and prices.

By Bus

Eurolines links Bilbao with other Spanish cities and other European countries.

By Boat

P&O Ferries link Santurtzi, near to Bilbao, to Portsmouth UK.



Getting Around

By Public Transport

  • Metro Bilbao was opened in 1995 and currently has 2 lines. This systems is used by more then 85 million passengers per year.
  • Bus service in the city is very good and there are over 43 different lines. This bus system won a prize a few years ago for efficiency and quality of service.





You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




  • University of Deusto is one of the most distinguished academic institutions in Spain. With one of its two campuses located in Bilbao this a great place to study.
  • Basque Language Academy (Euskaltzaindia) is an institution dedicated to the preservation and research on Basque language and culture.



Keep Connected


Internet is widely available within Spain. Most airports have wifi-zones and in most towns there are internet cafés or shops where you can use internet for a fixed price. Wi-Fi points in bars and cafeterias are available after ordering, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi connection in common areas for their guests.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The international access code for Spain is +34. The emergency number for police, ambulance and the fire brigade is 112.

In cities you can find plenty of public phones, and 'locutorios'. The latter are small shops where you can use the phone and use internet. Most of them also sell prepaid cards for mobile telephones. These shops are used a lot by foreigners to call to their mother country.

The main mobile network operators in Spain are Yoigo, Vodafone, Movistar and Orange, as in most of Europe voice and data coverage is generally good in urban areas however it can be patchy in rural locations. Cheap mobile phones (less than €50) with some pre-paid minutes are sold at FNAC or any phone operator's shop (Vodafone, Movistar, Orange). Topping-up is then done by buying scratch cards from the small stores, supermarkets, vending points (often found in tobacco shops) or kiosks.


If you want to post a card, you can head to the post office (Correos). The Spanish post is not yet as efficient as colleagues in other countries so receiving a card can take a bit longer than the number of days that it should take. On the website of Correos, you can find the locations of nearby post offices.
Post offices are generally open from 8:30am to 2:00pm, although times will vary according to the size of the city/town and the main post offices might be open until the early evening. Most will also open again on Saturday mornings, but in the smaller towns will close as early as 12 noon. When posting a letter, look for a yellow box and, if possible, post at the post office itself where there will also be divisions for local, national and international mail. Be prepared for long queues at the post office. This is why tobacco shops sell stamps and many will also have the facility to weigh packages. Standard letters/postcards of up to 20 grams sent within Spain are €0.34. However, non-standard letters/postcards of up to 20g are €0.39. Letters/postcards of 20 to 50 grams are €0.45. In the case of international shipping, the price is €0.64 to most countries within Europe for standard envelopes (letters/postcards) up to 20g, for a few European countries and outside Europe it is €0.78. If you want to send a package you are probably better off with a private courier company like TNT, DHL or UPS, as they offer quick and reliable services against competitive prices.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 43.256963
  • Longitude: -2.923441

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