Bilbao: What you need to know before visiting

All the city information you need to know before visiting Bilbao in Northern Spain.  

This travel guide will include helpful tips and info covering: 

  • Bilbao facts 
  • Arriving in Bilbao 
  • Getting around Bilbao 
  • Bilbao neighbourhoods 
  • Bilbao attractions 
  • Basque language basics 
  • Average food & drink costs 
  • Things to be aware of 
  • Useful websites 

What you need to know before visiting Bilbao, Spain. A travel guide by Seeking the Spanish Sun blog www.seekingthespanishsun.com

Bilbao facts 

  • Bilbao is in the Basque Region 
  • It is the largest city in Northern Spain 
  • Norther Spain is often referred to as “Green Spain” 
  • The city sits 16 kilometres south of the Bay of Biscay 
  • The language spoken is Basque and Spanish  
  • Bilbao is the 10th largest city in Spain 
  • Located in between two mountain ranges the weather expected is usually high rainfall and low sunshine 
  • Bilbao is home to the famous Guggenheim museum designed by Frank Gehry 
  • The local football club is the very patriotic Athletic Club de Bilbao who only have Basque players on the team 

Arriving in Bilbao 

By Plane  

Bilbao airport is a mid-size airport connecting with 38 destinations throughout Spain and Europe. For flights from further afield you would need to connect in either Madid, Barcelona or London. When you arrive at the airport you can get to the city centre by bus or taxi: 

  • Airport bus: The airport bus A3287 runs every 20 mins to the city centre. You can buy a ticket from the small booth located in the arrivals hall and the bus stops just outside. The end destination in the main bus city station called “termibus” or you can hop off at 3 central stops on route. 
  • Taxi: There is a taxi rank outside arrivals and the metered journey into the city centre is approximately €25. 

By coach 

If you arrive into Bibao by coach from another Spanish city it will likely be an Alsa bus and will stop at the city bus station on Gurtubay Kalea. There are regular routes available from Madrid, Barcelona and various cities in Northern Spain. 

By train 

Unfortunately, the Bilbao train line does not offer a highspeed service. So, traveling in and out of the city by train is very slow. Reaching nearby San Sebastian can take over 3 hours. 

By car 

As we’ve mentioned before, hiring a car and driving yourself is a great way to explore Spain and driving to Bilbao is relatively easy. It is well connected on the country’s vast motorway network. But does get congested in the city centre, there is a busy one-way system and some streets are pedestrian only. Be sure to follow parking rules and pay at the machines to avoid parking fines. 

*RELATED article: If you want to hire a car read – Traveling by car in Spain 

What you need to know before visiting Bilbao

Getting around Bilbao 

Walking 

Walking in Bilbao is the best way to explore the city. 

Bus 

Public buses run a good service if you need to take public transport from one side of the city to another or want to explore the outer urban districts. A single ticket is €1.30. 

Metro 

The metro service is great for getting out the beach areas. A single ticket is €1.60. 

Taxi 

Bilbao registered taxis are white with a red stripe on the door. You will find taxi ranks at busy spots in the city or you can flag one down on the street. 

What you need to know before visiting Bilbao

Bilbao neighbourhoods 

The main “distritos” or neighbourhoods of Bilbao that you are likely to visit as a tourist are: 

  • Casco Viejo 
  • Abando 
  • San Fransisco 
  • Indautxu 
  • Bilbao la Vieja 

Bilbao attractions 

The sights you just cannot miss in Bilbao are: 

  • The Guggenheim museum 
  • Fine Arts Museum 
  • The Old Town (Casco Viejo) 
  • Zubizuri bridge 
  • Funicular Artxanda 
  • Museo Vasco 
  • Cathedral de Bilbao 
  • Plaza Nueva 
  • Mercado de la Ribera 
  • Gran Via 
  • The Alhondiga   

*RELATED article: For a full 2-day itinerary and sightseeing information read this guide – A weekend in Bilbao 

What you need to know before visiting Bilbao

Basque language basics 

In Bilbao locals will speak Basque, a language unique to this region of Spain which is also called Euskera. It’s a complicated language and quite difficult to learn but here are a few key words. 

Kaixo – Hello 

Egun on  – Good morning 

Arratsalde on – Good afternoon 

Barkatu – Excuse me 

Mesedez – Please 

Eskerrik asko – Thank you 

Bai – Yes 

Ez – No 

Ezdakit – I don’t know 

Gerro arte – see you later 

Agur – Goodbye 

Average food and drink costs 

We found Bilbao very reasonably priced for food and enjoyed grazing on pintxos during our trip. Prices will vary from place to place but this is a rough guide to give you an idea of the approximate costs.  

Small bottle of water = €0.50-€1

Ice cream = €2-3

Croissant and coffee = €2

Small beer = €2 

Glass of local wine = €3 

Gin & tonic = €6-8

Pintxos (pinchos) = €2-4 each (depending on the size and ingredients) 

Raciones (a bigger portion of tapas) = €6-10

*RELATED article: To learn all about pintxos check out – A guide to ordering pinchos and tapas in Spain 

Wjat you need to know before visiting Bilbao in Northern Spain

Things to be aware of in Bilbao

  • Pintxos are the local alternative to tapas and are the norm here for snacks and meals. Try different types in different bars as there is a huge selection of yummy flavour combinations 
  • People from Basque Country consider themselves as a separate nationality to the Spanish and are very proud of their traditions and culture 
  • The weather might not be great to pack waterproofs and umbrellas but don’t let that stop you from exploring 
  • The best views over Bilbao are from Artxanda, so make sure you take the train ride up 
  • Walk around the outside of the Guggenheim to see all the installations 
  • The Basque region is known for its fine dining and there are a few Michelin star restaurants in Bilbao 
  • The coast is not too far away so head via metro to La Salvaje Sopelana if you need some beach time or want to watch the surfers 

Useful websites 

Tourist information

Airport information

Metro information

Airbnb discount

I hope this info will be useful for visiting Bilbao, its a lovely city and well worth exploring. Have you been to Bilbao, how did you find it? Tell us about your experience in the comments box below ↓↓

More practical guides and information from Seeking the Spanish that you may find useful… 

A weekend in Madrid 

Common misconceptions about Spain 

A quick guide to the different regions of Spain 

A day exploring Toledo 

Check out the other Spanish cities covered in our “need to know” series…

Granada

Valencia

Madrid

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