Bilbao by land, sea, and air
On foot, by bicycle, by boat, or seen from above, there are many ways to get to know Bilbao and to discover each of its corners.
The capital of Biscay is a very accessible city and it’s easy to get around on foot.
Its main attractions are within walking distance of each other, so strolling through the streets, parks, and avenues is the best way to soak up the atmosphere that permeates every corner of the 'Botxo', as we affectionately call our city.
But, for those who want to get to know the city from a more unique angle, there are plenty of other ways to move around it. To accomplish the 226.22-metre ascent to neighbouring Mount Artxanda, for instance, you can take a hundred-year-old funicular that will allow you to see the city spread out at your feet. From the viewpoint installed on the heights of Artxanda, you can understand why Bilbao is known as the 'Botxo'. The city seems to be nestled between green mountains in a narrow valley that follows the course of the Estuary of Bilbao to the Cantabrian Sea.
The official tourist bus service Bilbao City View also offers a unique perspective of Bilbao. A single ticket gives you access to this double-decker bus, which you can hop as many times as you want for one day to comfortably explore the city and its streets. Its stops are strategically located near the city’s most important landmarks: the Mercado de La Ribera, the Arriaga Theatre, the City Hall, or the pedestrianized Casco Viejo –the true historical and commercial heart of the city–, to name a few.
Within the cosmopolitan and lively Ensanche area, Bilbao City View’s circular route has stops in Plaza Circular, in Plaza Moyúa, and next to the impressive Azkuna Zentroa. From there, the bus heads towards San Mamés, the brand-new modern Athletic Club Stadium, and then towards the Itsasmuseum, where you can learn all about the relationship between Bilbao and its Estuary throughout history. Next to the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Abandoibarra and in front of Artxanda Funicular station, across the Estuary, there are two more stops.
Sailing along the Estuary of Bilbao, on which the city’s development has largely depended since its foundation in 1300, is also an unforgettable experience. Bilboats offers a service with regular departures aimed to discover the most genuine side of Bilbao. On their one-hour water rides, full of anecdotes and other interesting stories, you will enjoy the unique panoramic views of the neighbourhoods and buildings that sit on the banks of the Nervión. The two-hour route called ‘Sailing to Sea’, does not only allow you to see you Bilbao, but also other towns that lie on both sides of the estuary as you get near the sea: Erandio and Leioa on the right bank, and the once industrial towns of Barakaldo and Sestao on the left; not forgetting Getxo and Portugalete, both linked by the proud Bizkaia Bridge, an iron colossus and a World Heritage Site.
If what you are looking for is an adventure in the waters of the Nervión, you should put on your life jacket and go on a canoe or paddle surf trip. Bilboabentura offers different routes along the estuary: across Bilbao’s city centre, around La Peña neighbourhood, or up to the Bizkaia Bridge. There is even an evening crossing where you can admire the most emblematic buildings of the ‘Botxo’ and their lightings.
Apart from all that, you can of course conduct active visits to Bilbao on land. It is possible to get to any point of the city quickly, safely, and sustainably thanks to the many guided bicycle routes available. If you prefer riding freely at your own pace, companies like Tourné Bilbao, Bilbao Xperience, Deskonecta or Motor Verde give you the option to rent different types of bikes, including a party bike for seven people.
To see Bilbao in a way you have never done before, nothing beats the experience of getting on a helicopter and flying among the clouds over the capital, reaching the Biscayan coast, with TransOcioTaxi, or even becoming a pilot for a day by taking the controls of a light aircraft.
Getting around by public transport
Bilbao has an excellent public transport network, so you can get almost anywhere in the city or get to the nearby towns in a matter of minutes. The modern Metro Bilbao has kept the different areas of Bilbao well-connected since it was inaugurated in 1995. In addition to being a comfortable and efficient transport system, together with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, it has become a clear symbol of the change the city has undergone in recent decades.
The glass and steel canopies that give access to its stations, called 'fosteritos' in honour of the architect who designed the innovative Metro Bilbao, Norman Foster, and its logo, designed by Otl Aicher, are already part of the image of Bilbao. On the inside, simplicity, functionality, and aesthetics is what prevails. Steel, glass, and concrete are the essence of its spacious and bright stations. In 1998, its project won the Brunel Prize both for its railway architecture as a whole and for a remarkable Sarriko Station in particular.
Bilbao has also opted for implementing a tramway system as a means of effective and sustainable urban transport. Bilbao Tram connects Atxuri Station, in the historic neighbourhood of the same name, with La Casilla, passing by some of the most prominent places in the city: The Old Town, the Ensanche, or Abandoibarra.
It is equally easy to navigate through the city and its neighbourhoods thanks to Bilbobus, its urban bus network, as well as you can reach almost any town in the region thanks to Bizkaibus. The new Garellano Intermodal Station, next to San Mamés Stadium, and Abando Indalecio Prieto Station, dominated by an imposing 20 metres wide by 15 metres high stained-glass window that gathers the more typical of the society of Bizkaia, are two other key stations. The lines in Renfe, Metro Bilbao, Tranvía Bilbao, Bilbobus and Bizkaibus are all connected among them as well as with other bus lines and taxis.
Adjacent to Abando station is the beautiful Concordia Station, popularly known as Santander station, which connects Bilbao with places like Balmaseda and Karrantza. Inaugurated in 1902, a modernist facade designed by Valentín Gorbeña and Severino Achucarro faces the Estuary and overlooks the Old Town.
Bilbao Bizkaia Card
An excellent idea to comfortably get around Bilbao and the rest of the territory is to get a Bilbao Bizkaia Card. Once activated, a Bilbao Bizkaia Card allows you to travel free of charge for 24, 48 or 72 hours, depending on the card you buy, and reach many of the tourist destinations accessible by Metro Bilbao or Bilbao Tram. You can also take Euskotren tours of Biscay, use Bilbobus and Bizkaibus services, or ride Artxanda and Larreineta funiculars.
In addition, a Bilbao Bizkaia Card offers multiple advantages for those who wish to fully enjoy their stay in Bilbao and Biscay, giving access to free guided tours that will show you around the Old Town, the Ensanche, Abandoibarra, the Bizkaia Bridge and its surroundings, the Punta Begoña Galleries in Getxo, or Agurtza Fishing Interpretive Center in Santurtzi. Plus, it includes a fast pass for two of the great museums of Bilbao: the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Museum of Fine Arts. All the activities, advantages, discounts and promotions that it offers, and which will make your trip a unique experience, are described on Bilbao Bizkaia Card’s website.