Metro Bilbao has turned into one of the most characteristic symbols of the city. Transparent structures that remind us of shells–named ‘fosteritos’ after their designer, the influential British architect Norman Foster–give access to its stations and are now recognised as a sign of the city’s architectural identity. On the inside, its bright cavernous stations perfectly combine aesthetics and architecture in an original and functional way. In 1998, Metro Bilbao deservedly received the prestigious Brunel Award due to its railway architecture in general and the design of Sarriko Station in particular.

Metro Bilbao‘s network layout consists of a shared central railway that runs across the city, forking in two different lines to service the towns on both sides of the Estuary of Bilbao and the coastal Bizkaian towns up to its last stop in Plentzia. Besides, there is an additional third line that connects the outermost neighbourhoods to the city centre.

A few minutes trip gives Metro Bilbao users the opportunity to explore the Biscayan capital and the major landmarks of the Bilbao Metropolitan Area. These are the stations that will take you close to the most important attractions:

Zazpikaleak / Casco Viejo. As you leave the station, you will find yourself in the historic centre of Bilbao, the place where the city was born, in which you can find the bridge and church of San Antón, La Ribera Market, Santiago Cathedral, the medieval Siete Calles¸ the Plaza Nueva, the Basque Museum, palaces that belonged to the nobility, fishermen’s houses, the Arriaga Theatre, and the Paseo del Arenal. Apart from being home to all these interesting landmarks, Casco Viejo is the perfect place for having a pintxo in any of its bars or going shopping either at traditional or fashionable shops.

Abando. Just in front of the station, a building particularly outstanding because of its impressive stained-glass window, we will see the Plaza Circular and the statue of Diego López de Haro, the founder of Bilbao. A short distance away are the Albia Gardens, a little green oasis in the middle of the city. Walking along the neighbouring streets, among shops, bars, and restaurants, we can discover a number of interesting buildings. The modernist facades of the Campos Elíseos Theatre and the Guridi Building, the modern Biblioteca Foral and the Biscay Foral Delegation Palace–the seat of the executive branch of Government of Biscay–are some of the most prominent ones.

Moyúa. Always full of flowers, this square is situated in the middle of Gran Vía, the main commercial street of the Ensanche, and flanked by the bourgeois Chavarri Palace and the Carlton Hotel. Close to Moyúa are the eye-catching Montero House in Alameda Recalde and the curious fountain located in Jado Plaza. Walking down Alameda Mazarredo, we get to Isozaki Atea, the Zubizuri Bridge and the Ibaigane Palace. The adjacent Calle Iparragirre leads to Puppy’s territory, the lovely dog that guards the entrance to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Up Gran Vía is the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and Doña Casilda Park, the greenest lung of the city.

Santimami/San Mamés. An essential stop for those who want to visit one of the most recognisable symbols not only in Bilbao but in the whole Biscay: San Mamés, home to Athletic Club–a football club with a unique philosophy. Apart from taking us to the modern stadium and its museum, this underground station gets us near Abandoibarra, the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall and the Itsasmuseum Bilbao.   The Plaza del Sagrado Corazón and its huge sculpture the centre takes us to Olabeaga, our ‘Little Norway’, which preserves a fishing atmosphere and picturesque fishermen’s colourful houses. Finally, right opposite Olabeaga is Zorrotzaurre, the ‘island’ where the vestiges of the city’s industrial past coexist with alternative cultural spaces.

Areeta. Crossing this beautiful neighbourhood in Getxo towards the Estuary of Bilbao, you will get to the Vizcaya Bridge, a colossal iron structure that has connected both banks for over 125 years by means of a gondola that transports people and vehicles over the waters of the River Nevión. Additionally, the Vizcaya Bridge, which was the first transporter bridge in the world, has a platform at the top that offers impressive views over the Bilbao Abra Bay–if you look towards the sea–, and over the Bilbao Metropolitan Area–towards the interior. From the station, you can take a pleasant walk next to the sea, get to the Paseo de las Grandes Villas and admire the most spectacular palatial homes, erected by the Biscayan bourgeoise at the end of the ninetieth century and the beginning of the twentieth.

Algorta. From this station you can easily get to the best corners in Getxo on foot: the Puerto Viejo–with its characteristic colourful and narrow streets and its maritime atmosphere–, the rehabilitated Galerías Punta Begoña, and the nice Ereaga Beach. Walking along sheer cliffs you will find out the exceptional geological wealth of the area.  Along this route, you will be surprised by outstanding places like the Aixerrota Windmill, built in 1726; the Church of Andra Mari, which treasures Romanesque remains from the 12th century; La Galea Fort, in charge of guarding the entrance to the Estuary from the 18th century, and the beaches of Gorrondatxe/Azkorri and Barinatxe/La Salvaje.

Sopela. This town on the Biscayan coast is a true paradise for sea lovers. You can calmly walk from its station to three of the most well-known beaches in Biscay, each one with their own personality. Arrietara and Atxabiribil are large and sandy, open to the sea and surrounded by towering cliffs, and one on the ebb tide, they become a single beach. Meñakoz, on the other hand, is an unspoiled beach located in a small bay, a heaven for surfers.

Plentzia. At the end of Metro Bilbao Line 1, this stop takes us to one of the most emblematic seaside resorts in Biscay, formed by the towns of Plentzia and Gorliz. Crossing the bridge over the Butrón Estuary with its little boats we get to Plentzia’s old town, which is full of lively bars and restaurants. Following the seafront, we reach the harbour and its breakwater. On the other side lies the Bay of Plentzia and the beaches of Plentzia and Gorliz, quiet sandy beaches where you can spend a wonderful day with your family or friends. The Lighthouse of Gorliz, from where you can see how the sun sets over the sea, stands a little further on.

Portugalete. Also called ‘La Villa Jarrillera’–after the name of the clay jugs used to serve txakoli wine in the past–, this town is one of the gems of the left bank of the Estuary. Located right in the centre of the town, Portugalete Station gives us access to its historic neighbourhood and two distinctive landmarks: the Gothic Basilica of Santa María and the medieval Torre de Salazar. Its cobblestone streets, steeped in history, lead to the Estuary, the seafront, the Rialia Industrial Museum and, of course, to the UNESCO World Heritage Vizcaya Bridge, locally known as ‘Puente Colgante’.

Santurtzi. The fishing port is the soul of this town. It has managed to preserve the town’s maritime essence to this day. Apart from looking at the fishing boats that are moored to its quays, you can visit the Agurtza Fishing Boat Museum, and the Museum of the Sea–the latter housed in the former fishermen’s guild headquarters. Trying the delicious sardines that have brought widespread fame to the town is strongly recommended. And the harbour is the perfect place to go to for those who want to explore the Estuary by boat or to embark on a whale watching adventure while sailing the Cantabrian Sea. On land, Santurtzi and its surrounding have plenty to offer, too. Mount Serantes, for instance, makes an excellent vantage point for watching the sea and the Estuary, always protected by the Serantes Fort and the watchtower on its summit.