angle-left Sailing in Bilbao

You cannot understand the history of Bilbao without bringing the Ría into the equation. It has been the backbone of the city since it was founded more than 700 years ago. Closely linked to Bizkaia’s industrial development, it has taken on new roles with time to become a major source of entertainment in the city. Water sports and boat rides are among the choices it offers locals and visitors alike.

The Ría can be explored from both the left and the right banks. Both walks are most enjoyable, offering views of Bilbao’s futuristic architecture, modern cityscape and medieval past. They will also reveal the key role played by the bridges across the river, which can be negotiated on foot, by bike or on roller skates.

In addition, you can do exciting water sports in the Ría, such as canoeing, kayaking, rowing, paddle boarding or paddle surfing. Sporting activities are a good way of enjoying the Ría at your leisure: You choose how long to stay and where to go, towards the river mouth in Portugalete-Las Arenas or upstream to La Peña, at the edge of town. Some operators offer night services as well.

A boat ride along the Ría is an experience that will appeal to all your senses. Even taste. No wonder: you are in Bilbao! Some of the boat rides include pintxo (Basque-style snack) and txakoli (Basque wine) service, so that you can taste the city’s bite-size delicacies and local wine before reaching the Bizkaia Bridge, an icon of Bizkaia’s industrial might. Past Portugalete, in Santurtzi, you can go whale watching or sailing in the Cantabrian Sea.

Routes

When coming to Bilbao, spare some time for a boat ride along the Ría. Bilboats offers three types of tours, departing from the Pío Baroja quay, in front of the City Hall. Navegando por Bilbao (Sailing Bilbao) is a 60-minute tour of central Bilbao, from the City Hall to the newly developed district of Zorrotzaurre. You will see some of Bilbao’s most popular attractions, such as the Isozaki Towers or the Guggenheim Museum.

The boat rides along the Ría show Bilbao’s landmarks – the Guggenheim Museum, the Iberdrola Tower, the Bizkaia Bridge – from a different perspective

Navegando al mar (Sailing to Sea) is a 120-minute ride to the mouth of the estuary. The boat sails past Zorrotzaurre and by Bilbao’s industrial districts: Barakaldo (Arrontegi Bridge), Sestao (La Naval) and Portugalete-Las Arenas, where you will see the majestic Puente Colgante (Bizkaia Bridge).

Finally, Itsas Jaia is a 75-minutes tour of central Bilbao for celebration groups (birthdays, hen or stag parties, anniversaries, and so on). The boat has a bar (drinks at an extra charge) and dancing music. Bilboats also has a rental service for à-la-carte private parties or events. 

How to get there

All boat tours begin at the Pío Baroja quay, in Plaza Pío Baroja, next to the Ayuntamiento Bridge. The quay can be easily accessed from any point in town by several means of transport.
 

  • Train

    Get off at Abando Station and walk for 500m along Calle Buenos Aires, Plaza Venezuela and Calle Acebal Idigoras to Paseo Uribitarte, where you will find the Bilboats dock.

  • Metro underground

    Get off at Abando and walk for 500m along Calle Buenos Aires, Plaza Venezuela and Calle Acebal Idigoras to Paseo Uribitarte, where you will find the Bilboats dock.

  • Tram

    Get off at Pío Baroja. You will be a few steps away from the Pío Baroja quay.

Gastronomy

Where to eat

Some of the boats include a bar where you can have pintxos and drinks (wine, txakoli, beer or sodas) as you take a look at the wonderful buildings and sculptures overlooking the Ría.

After your one- or two-hour tour or water sports session, you will probably be hungry. In the vicinity of the Pío Baroja quay, the starting and returning point of all boat rides and canoeing or kayaking routes, you will find several restaurants for a traditional meal, signature cuisine, raciones (servings) or pintxos with a view of the Ría in Abando or Abandoibarra, as well as in the Casco Viejo.

Accommodation

Where to sleep

Bilbao is a top travel destination, offering all types of accommodation: one- to five-star hotels, hostels, boarding houses, holiday apartments, etc. Find the right place to stay according to your needs and budget in the Old Town, Abandoibarra or central Bilbao.

In the peak season, you should book your room in advance to secure your top choice.