Bilbao has been always associated with an nickname of the industrial port city. It definitely makes it sound much less appealing as a family destination. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were completely wowed by this city. Stunning Guggenheim museum, beautiful old Basque buildings in Casco Viejo and amazing views from the Artxanda are only few things that we will always remember about this city. Basque region is well known for its lush green scenery and delicious gourmet. Bilbao is only 2h flight from London which makes it easily family accessible getaway location for the weekend. Moreover it is full of playgrounds and family friendly locals. Believe me you won’t regret it.
Explore Guggenheim Museum
You can’t miss this huge and incredible building. It is a piece of art inside and outside. Taking kids to the museum can be challenging itself. However this incredible open space offers plenty of area for kids to run around. Our kids (and Ollie) loved set of eight sculptures made of weathered steel, called “The Matter of Time”.
Once you are here, you can’t miss the Tulips as well and the huge Puppy by Jeff Koons. Lily is not a big fan of spiders and wasn’t keen to meet almost 9 meters tall Maman spider. It was lovely to watch how she was building her confidence around this outside sculpture.
There is a lovely café, playgrounds just outside and the walk next to the river is a must to do too.
Found out more about museum here.
Visit Casco Viejo
The Casco Viejo (Old Town) is definitely a must if you wanna see a little slice of old and historic Bilbao. Wander around the cobbled 7 streets which show you a real Basque region. It was definitely one of our favourite parts of the city (particularly as in every corner we would find a little playground for my kids). Whenever you get hungry, it is a mandatory to stop for a drink and few pintxos (little tapas but more bready).
Try Pintxos at La Ribera Market
A visit to the La Ribera market covers all you will want to found out about gastronomical side of the Basque Country. You can buy there fresh food, or even have a drink and a pintxos. Mercado de la Ribera is a proper example of amazing gourmet market. It has massive area full of little bars with different types of delicacies. The gorgeous art deco windows with the floral design make this market an attractive place to visit. Make sure to check the opening timings as it closes midday. More info here.
Run Around Azkuna Zentroa
Azkuna Zentroa is modern contemporary art and leisure centre which has become a cultural cornerstone of Bilbao since it was redesigned by Philippe Starck. Previously it was used as a wine warehouse. The building is an iconic new cultural space that rests on 43 pillars. We loved the diversity of the styles that the columns represent like different cultures, religions, history and architecture.
Catch a Funicular Artxanda
If you wish to see the best place for views across Bilbao, definitely make sure to catch Artxanda Funicular. It is perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon from the busy life of city or bring a picnic with you. Make sure to hit this spot around sunset or during golden hour. Our kids thoroughly enjoyed running around and looking at the views.
See Vizcaya Bridge
People in the area commonly call it the Puente Colgante (literally “hanging bridge”). It is the world’s oldest transporter bridge. Vizcaya Bridge was the solution to the problem of connecting the towns of Portugalete and Getxo without disrupting the maritime traffic of the Port of Bilbao. It is easily accessible by train or metro. You should see this bridge and the area if you stay longer than 2 days.
Wet Your Feet at Bilbao Beach
Playa de Ereaga is one long sandy beach that runs between the Galerías de Punta Begoña and Puerto Viejo. It was a perfect spot for a sunny run on the beach and enjoy the great weather. As we walked from Vizcaya Bridge, I would highly recommend to actually cycle or take a metro rather walk all the way. It is very long walk around the promenade, so by the time we got there, we didn’t have enough time to explore old fisherman town Algorta.
Where To Stay?
We loved our stay at Cosmov Bilbao Hotel. It is located in great spot, just few minutes from Guggenheim. It is a small hotel which puts lots of attention into the details. As we were travelling with two toddlers, we got additional single bed in our room. We often had our little monkeys coming to our bed during a night. Therefore the bed was king size and we all slept really comfortable. There is a lounge area as well with plenty of teas, coffee, biscuits and still water. Couldn’t recommend this hotel enough. Cosmov Hotel Bilbao
Where to Eat?
Hola cafe Arriquíbar Plaza, 4, 48010 Bilbo
La Ribera Market Erribera Kalea, s/n, 48005 Bilbo
Amorino Ice-cream Iparraguirre Kalea, 1, 48009 Bilbo
As Santander is only 1.5 hour away from Bilbao, it is a great place for a day trip. Check our post here.
If you are looking for more inspirations around Spain, check our posts about Seville, Cordoba, Ronda, Nerja or Valencia.
The city, with a population of about 350,000, is an urban success story, still being written, with improved transportation, green spaces, plans to renew forgotten neighborhoods, and sleek towers shooting up beside grand old icons, themselves glowing from recent spit and polish. Bilbao has become a design town marked by its Fosteritos, the metro stops designed by the English architect Norman Foster that look like giant shrimp. It’s also a serious food town with Michelin stars and Thermomix billboards to prove it.
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