Bilbao, the capital of design
Innovative and path-breaking, traditional and unique, Bilbao has architectural beauty, cultural events and shops that attract the world’s attention
Bilbao has become a major destination in Europe for tourists interested in art and architecture since the opening of the Guggenheim Museum two decades ago and the extraordinary transformation that followed.
You will be amazed at the harmonious coexistence of tradition and modernity, the world-class museums and festivals, the street performances and fabulous theatres. Local and cosmopolitan, the capital of Bizkaia is an open city where diversity is warmly welcomed.
Following the latest trends without abandoning tradition, Bilbao has become a huge showcase for local and international designers. A walking tour of the city’s main fashion districts and modern street markets makes an unforgettable experience.
Open-minded and friendly
Bizkaia likes you just the way you are; here you are free to be yourself
Bilbao is a modern, open-air museum, whose buildings and sculptures have been designed by renowned local and international architects and artists. A walk through Abandoibarra will reveal some of the best architectural projects of the twenty-first century.
Since the opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 1997, the city went through a complete facelift in a few years. From an industrial town, Bilbao turned into a cosmopolitan city that was named European City of the Year at the 2018 Urbanism Awards.
The new image of Bilbao was shaped by its avant-garde, eclectic, ground-breaking buildings. Among them, the Guggenheim Museum and its undulating titanium facade, designed by Frank Gehry; César Pelli’s high-rise Iberdrola Tower; the modern Metro Bilbao underground, by Norman Foster; and the luxury homes behind the glass-panelled façade of the twin towers by Arata Isozaki. In other buildings, architects and designers have given tradition a new twist, as you can see in Azkuna Zentroa and the Biblioteca Foral (Bizkaia’s Library). In Bilbao, there is room for both the old and the new.
The number of cultural venues and events in Bilbao is huge. Together, the Guggenheim and Fine Arts Museums hold an art collection that reviews the history of art until the present day. The Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall offers a long list of cultural events throughout the year. Finally, the Campos Elíseos Theatre, the Arriaga Theatre and the extraordinary Philippe Starck-designed Azkuna Zentroa, with its more than 40 columns each in a different style, are three important venues in Bilbao’s cultural scene.
Shopping in Bilbao
The Casco Viejo (Old Town) and central Bilbao are two of the best areas to go on a shopping spree. Top fashion brands and small boutiques can be found on Gran Vía, in Abando or Indautxu, and in the narrow alleyways in the Casco Viejo. Bilbao is a paradise for shoppers and bargain hunters.
The Sunday Market will take you off the beaten track. Under the slogan ‘Passion for nice things’, it makes a nice plan for a Sunday morning in Bilbao, picking out crafts, vintage clothes, home décor items and delicious food.
Also on Sunday, from 11am to 3pm, in the former premises of biscuit manufacturer Artiach, in Zorrotzaurre, you can visit Open Your Ganbara, a flea market with second-hand items and works by local artists. On the first Saturday of each month, calle Dos de Mayo, in Bilbao La Vieja, is home to a cool alternative street market whose stands offer clothes, accessories and gifts to bring back home. And if you happen to be in Bilbao the first Saturday in May, you can join the big party on Calle 2 de Mayo and the adjoining streets, and have lots of fun listening and dancing to DJ music.
How To Get There
Where to eat
The capital of Bizkaia stands among the world’s top destinations for foodies. Thousands of tourists come to Bilbao in search of a superb culinary experience. The city is dotted with restaurants and bars where you can taste traditional Basque flavours, fine dishes made at Michelin-starred restaurants, and delicious international food.
Do not leave Bilbao without sampling the tiny culinary gems called pintxos, which are usually washed down with a refreshing glass of beer or txakoli, the (usually white) wine made with grapes grown in the region.
Where to sleep
Have you picked your room in Bilbao already? There are numerous options, from one- to five-star hotels to hostels and boarding houses. You will find budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation. Most of them get top marks from tourists for their excellent quality and friendly service.
If you are interested in the many great things you can do in Bilbao by night, book a hotel in a bustling area such as Indautxu, Abando or Casco Viejo. The capital of Bizkaia is home to both hotels with a trendy style and more conservative options where you will feel at home away from home. For a quieter stay, pick a hotel overlooking the Ría or book a room in a nearby town.