How To Spend 3 Days In Bilbao For First Timers – What to do in Bilbao for 3 days in 2024

Ready to fill your itinerary for 3 days in Bilbao? You’ve made it to the right post!

Known for its incredible gastronomy, cutting-edge art scene, the natural beauty surrounding the city, and a buzzing ambiance with welcoming locals, Bilbao – the largest city in northern Spain, is the perfect place to kick off your adventures through the Basque Country. 

I first went to Bilbao in January, and I had an incredible time exploring its fascinating history, listening to locals speak their native language (Basque/Euskera), and trying all types of Pintxos, amongst other things. 

It was one of those cities that caught me off-guard (in the best way) that I ended up loving more than I thought I would.

I’m already planning my next visit!

I spent 6 days exploring Bilbao’s incredible museums, admired the history-drenched Old Town, and even took a day trip or two to explore the rest of the Basque Country. 

Now, I feel confident to share with you what to do in Bilbao, whether you’re searching for what to see in Bilbao in one day or 6! 

To fill out your 3 days in Bilbao itinerary, I’ve created this post to help you get some ideas and take inspiration from how I spent 3 out of my 6 days in Bilbao.

I hope this 3 day in Bilbao itinerary helps you plan and understand how to manage your time in this beautiful northern Spain city and you come out with more ideas on what to do in Bilbao for 3 days. 

Let’s get started! 

How To Spend 3 Days in Bilbao For First Timers

Day 1 – Do a free walking tour of the Casco Viejo (Old Town) + eat some Pintxos and other local delicacies

The streets of the historic center of BIlbao with historic fountain, cobblestone streets, and historic apartments
Casco Viejo/ Old Town of Bilbao


Kick off your 3 days in Bilbao with a Free walking tour! Get the lay of the land and gain insight into Bilbao’s rich history and culture while learning about the Basque County. Plus, don’t forget to get some local food and travel recommendations from your local guide!

I opt for free tours, which function based on tips. Although they’re not 100% free, you get to put a price on the tour, making it a budget-friendly and great activity that will tremendously enrich your time in Bilbao. 

Free tours usually last around 2-2.5 hours long, so be sure to pack comfortable clothes, shoes, and other essentials you may need, like an umbrella, as Bilbao is known to be one of the rainiest cities in Spain. 

 📍Free Walking Tours in Bilbao


Seek out a restaurant offering a “Menu del Día,” which is like a lunch special offered by some restaurants mainly throughout the weekdays (some restaurants offer a Menu del Día during the weekend, too). 

💡 Pro tip: What is a Menu del Día? It’s a set menu offering a starter, main entree, and dessert (or coffee) with a drink (typically water) and bread for a fixed price (usually between 14-18 euros in Bilbao). 

It is rich, delicious, and very filling, plus it gives you a good opportunity to try different local dishes that maybe you wouldn’t try if it wasn’t part of the selected Menu del Día options. 

I went to Las Cepas Jatetxea twice because it was that good. The restaurant’s atmosphere and service were beautiful, so I recommend this restaurant in central Bilbao. 

a classic Spanish menu del dia meal at a restaurant called Las Cepas Jatetxea  in Bilbao
Menu del Día at Las Cepas Jatetxea – so delicious!

Address: Calle Juan Ajuriaguerra Kalea, 22, Abando, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

Other great local recommendations to check out for lunch and heavier meals include 

  • Rio-Oja Restaurant – Family-run traditional fish and meat dishes from the region, amazing pintxos variety, and great service.
    • Address: Txakur Kalea, 4, Ibaiondo, 48005 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain
  • La Viña del Ensanche – Traditional food, bar, and expansive menu of local dishes at reasonable prices, plus a tasting menu availability and terrace seating. Make sure to book ahead of time online. They are closed on Sundays, Mondays, and holidays.
    • Address: Diputazio Kalea, 10, Abando, 48008 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain

Explore the Ensanche area

Walk across the river (ría) to the Ensanche area from Old Town and explore Bilbao’s main shopping street, Gran Vía (yes, Bilbao has a Gran Vía like Madrid). 

Shop European and Spanish brands all throughout Gran Vía, but specifically, scope out local Basque brands, such as:

Aside from local shopping, take a leisurely walk through Doña Casilda Park (Iturrizar Park, Casilda Iturrizar Park), Bilbao’s largest park, featuring tons of green space, walking paths, various tees from cedar to palm trees, maples, and connects two areas of the city – Ensanche and Abandoibarra.  

Try the traditional and local baked goods in Old Town

Make it back to Old Town, and check out these incredible and traditional bakeries for the best of regional pastries and breads. 

  • Arrese – Traditional bakery with local pastries to try like Pantxineta (caramelized puff pastry, cream, and crunchy almonds). 
  • Gure-Toki – Another gem for traditional baked goods and pastries, make sure to try the Basque cheesecake, one of the best in the city!
  • Bizkarra – Another traditional and delicious bakery, known to have seasonal delicacies like Txintxortas (sweet torta de chicharrón typical of January/February) and year-round treats like:
    • Trufas Vascas (Basque Truffles)
    • Pastel de Arroz (Rice Cakes)
    • Pastel Vasco (Basque Cake)
    • Carolina de Bilbao (a merengue and custard pastry on a crust tart named after the baker’s daughter who loved this pastry)

Walk around the Catedral de Santiago de Bilbao or the Cathedral of St James of Bilbao, and do some people watching, or the Plaza Unamuno. Plop down on one of the steps, enjoy a pastry and the sight. 

Early Evening/Night:

Have pintxos at the Ribera Market (Erribera Merkatua) at one of their stalls, and if you’re up for it, grab a drink at a cerveceria (brewery) or a local bar in the city.

  • La Terraza del Yandiola has a chill-out atmosphere and amazing views of the city right in the middle of the city.
    • Address: Azkuna Zentroa (building), Arriquíbar Plaza, 4, Abando, 48010 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain
  • Antigua Cigarreria – There is a great variety of drinks and champagne, occasionally hosts live music, and closes at 3 AM.
    • Address: Astarloa Kalea, 5, Abando, 48001 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain
  • Cerveceria Cobetas – A brewery located on the mountain but accessible via public transport from the Old Town in 40 minutes. See all of Bilbao with a cocktail in hand and a great food menu. It’s known as the best brewery in the region – you can be the judge of that! If you’re traveling with family, this brewery is family-friendly, with a kid’s playground for the kids to unwind as the parents drink up the views and beverages. 

Address: Kobeta Mendia, 40, 48002 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain

Day 2 – Walk around the Ribera Market + wander into the fine arts museums, cultural spots, and parks

Stained glass windows at the Ribera Market in Bilbao, art inside the BIlbao fine arts museum, and the tree of life, the salvage bridge, and Guggenheim museum on a sunny day.
Ribera Market (left side) – Bilbao Fine Arts Museum (middle) – sculptures outside of Guggenheim Museum (right side)

Morning: Tantalize your senses at Ribera Market

Head back to the Ribera Market, Bilbao’s largest market, and at one point, the largest covered food market in the world, to explore it in action! 

The morning time is the best time to visit Ribera Market, as it’s when all the stalls are open (all 180 of them!) and in action, with the locals doing their shopping. 

Get an eyeful of local ingredients, from fish, fresh meat, and dairy products – for which the Basque region is richly known, and maybe sample some Basque foods yourself or buy some local produce for a snack or lunch later! 

Although dating as far back as the 1920s, take in the Art Deco style of the market’s exterior, renovated in 1929, with beautiful stained glass windows and views from the top floors overlooking the river, and quaint Old Town streets.

📍Click here to book a food tour at the Ribera Market

Afternoon: Explore the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

If you’re a lover of modern art, visiting the world-famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is a no-brainer!

With various other Guggenheim Museums all over the world, including New York, Venice, Abu Dhabi, and Bilbao, this world-renowned museum is a hub for creativity, new ideas, and modern art at its finest. 

Some art pieces and artists’ works you’ll find at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao:

  • MetMetaphysical Box by Conjunction of Two Trihedrons (modern art sculpture) by Jorge Oteiza, a Basque artist
  • Villa Borghese (painting) by Willem de Kooning, a Dutch artist who fled to the U.S after WWll
  • Barge (pop art) by America painter Robert Rauschenberg 
  • The Matter of Time by Richard Serra (painting), exhibiting the evolution of the creation of a sculpture 

It’s a great museum if you’re truly a fan of modern art, or you want to get into modern art with a professional guide at one of the best museums in the world to explore the art style. 

I didn’t go inside because I wanted to see other things throughout the day, and it was also a spectacular sunny and warm day in January – I took it as a sign to stay out.

If you don’t go in, the outside of the museum has plenty to see and even experience, including: 

  • Maman AKA the giant bronze spider created in 1999
  • Puppy created in 1992, which pays homage to European gardens, and known as the world’s largest flower sculpture
  • Tall Tree & The Eye most recently unveiled in 2009, and illusion piece of art with reflective and metal spheres, that almost blends in with space because of its form.
  • Fog Sculpture built outside on the pond in front of the Guggenheim, which plays with shadow and light, especially when the light, white mist disperses from the pond, which goes off every hour during the day.
  • Fire Fountain (Fuente de Fuego) lastly is another work of art not to miss, especially at night when 5 fountains shoot out flames from the water/pond. The times to see the Fire Fountain in action are 7 PM-8 PM during the winter and 9 PM – 10 PM during the summer.

Step inside the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum – Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

Lovers of fine art, you must visit the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, featuring thousands of beautiful pieces of artwork, from paintings to sculptures, and art installations, drawings, and even letters. 

Dating back to 1914, the most popular art pieces inside the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum include:

  • Lucretia by Lucas Cranach “the Elder” which is a depiction of Lucretia committing suicide while being known as one of the most “on-demand” painting subjects of the time.
  • The Rape of Europa by Martin de Vos – a painting based on Greek mythology, in which Zeus falls in love with Europa, and to take her, he disguises himself as a bull to take her away to Crete.
  • The Annunciation by El Greco – a religious painting that depicts when Mary accepts a message from an Archangel.
  • San Sebastian cured by the Holy Women by José de Ribera – another religious painting that shows Lucilla and Irene tending to a dying saint, with angels hovering over his head with a crown and palm of martyrdom. 
  • Kissing the Relic by Joaquín Sorolla – a famous painting that depicts the image of religious followers awaiting the priest and an image so that they can kiss it, in Valencia, Spain.

It’s a very interesting museum that I did go into, and if you also want to visit it (and for free) plan on stopping any day between Wednesday and Monday after 2:00 PM.

Explore other cultural sites

Bilbao City Hall – standing on what was previously the land where the San Agustin convent used to stand, the Bilbao City Hall is a stunning building that captures everyone’s attention as you walk a bit outside the historic center.

Today you can go inside and see all the artwork, but make sure to book your entry and tour in English or Spanish on their website with plenty of time, as they only open on certain days. 

Step inside the Plenary room, and take in the grandeur of the staircase and the halls, as well as the reception area. 

If the Bilbao City Hall is not available to tour when you’re visiting, check out the Zubizuri Bridge! With the river crossing a city known for contemporary art, you know the Bilbao is going to add some pizzazz to their bridges.

The Zubizuri Bridge (White Bridge) is a modern steel cable bridge built in 1990 by the architect Santiago Calatrava (the architect behind the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia) and connects the Ensanche neighborhood with Calle Campo de Volatín, which is a great river walkway (Estuary Walk) that you should take!

People walking across the Zubizuri Bridge in Bilbao on a sunny day
The Zubizuri Bridge in Bilbao

Though with a few changes from the original construction, which included a glass walkway that had a cool light effect at night, and cutting one of the metal bars for local construction, today the bridge remains and is a pretty cool spot to see the city from the river. 

It’s also known as the Calatrava Bridge and the Campo de Volantín pedestrian bridge. 

Night: Dinner at Plaza Nueva (New Square)

the restaurant filled Plaza Nueva/ New Square in Bilbao on a partly sunny day
Plaza Nueva/ New Square in Bilbao

Stop by Plaza Nueva, the city’s “new” plaza, unveiled in 1851 in the historic district, and built with Roman neoclassical architecture. Depending on the day you visit, if you’re there on a Sunday or any other holiday, you may see local pop-ups, markets, and other stalls appear in the middle. 

Otherwise, Plaza Nueva is also the home of some of the best restaurants in Bilbao, including 

  • Sorgínzulo is a great option for those looking for traditional (and delicious) Pintxos. Visit a bit earlier before dinner time, and get some Pintxo-Potes – a pintxo and a glass of wine for a good deal!
    • Address: Pl. Nueva, 12, Ibaiondo, 48005 Bilbao, Biscay, Spain 
  • Gure-Toki, which I already mentioned is one of the best bakeries in town for Basque Cheesecake, and is located in Plaza Nueva.
    • Address: Pl. Nueva, 12, Ibaiondo, 48005 Bilbao, Biscay, Spain

Ghost/Mystery Night Tour

If you’re still looking for more activities to do in Bilbao, consider a ghost tour or mystery tour in Bilbao! 

Bilbao, and the whole of the Basque Country is a rich and historic region of Spain, and Europe as a whole, that has existed since the 1300s. 

Needless to say, there are a few mysteries and legends that still haunt the city, and make for not only a spooky time but a fun and interesting way to learn the history and curiosities of the city. 

📍Click here to book your spot on the Crime and Punishment ghost tour 

Day 3 – Day trip to San Sebastián or of your choosing!

La Concha beach in San Sebastian on a cloudy day and people sitting on the beach, a girl standing in front of the The Basilica of Santa Maria in San Sebastian, Spain
A day trip to San Sebastián from Bilbao – very recommended!

There are tons of great day tours from Bilbao that you can (and should) squeeze into your 3 days in Bilbao itinerary if you can. 

The most popular day trips include:

Even though deciding on where to go was hard (and we were in Bilbao for 6 days!), we decided to go to San Sebastián one day and Vitoria-Gasteiz another because it worked out with our schedule, and the time of the season we went (January). 

But you can very much plan your first time in Bilbao to be 3 days in Bilbao and San Sebastián if you’re looking for an example. 

Another question I’ve seen floating around is how many days in Bilbao and San Sebastián you need, which is why I am also suggesting that with three days in Bilbao, you can squeeze in a trip to San Sebastián. 

Reasons to visit San Sebastián:

  • Rich food scene – pintxos were invented in San Sebastián, and they are the city with the most Michelin-star restaurants in the Basque country.
  • Gorgeous beach – La Concha 
  • Beautiful views of mountains and coves
  • Charming pier with a giant Ferris wheel and merry-go-round 
  • Stunning old town and unique traditions

I went in January, and it was busy with locals and visitors. People were surfing and playing beach volleyball (it was an unusually warm January day).

I got a sense that San Sebastián was one of those places where wealthy Spanish families vacationed during the summer.

Maybe it was the luxury hotels with sea views or award-winning restaurants, but still, I think that the prices were very reasonable.

How to plan your day trips from Bilbao

You can either opt for a tour that conveniently picks you up from a main point in the city, or even your hotel, and organizes the whole experience for you, including stopping at more than a few towns on this list in one day. 

📍Check out day trip tours from Bilbao

If you have more time, or prefer to plan your outing your own way, you can also take a bus or train to most of the day trip towns and cities, which is what I ended up doing a few times. 

📍Find TRAINS around Bilbao and day trip destinations

📍Find BUSES around Bilbao and day trip destinations 

Bilbao’s Most Popular Sights

The Guggenheim Museum, the La Salve Bridge also known as the Prince and Princess of Spain Bridge, the Nervion River on a sunny day in Bilbao
  • Guggenheim Museum
    • Puppy
    • Giant Spider
    • Tall Tree & The Eye 
    • Fog Sculpture 
    • Fuente de Fuego (Fire Fountain) 
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Casco Viejo (Old Town)
  • Azkuna Zentroa (Culture Center)
  • San Mamés Stadium
  • Plaza Nueva (New Square)
  • Ribera Market
  • Iturrizar Park 
  • Zubizuri Bridge
  • Biboko Donejakue Cathedral
  • Artxanda Funicular
  • Artxanda viewpoint
  • Arriaga Theater 

Explore Bilbao’s Most Popular Neighborhoods // Where to stay in Bilbao

Something I loved about Bilbao was that everything was pretty closeby, even on foot. 

The main neighborhoods are so close together, that unless you have a specific requirement, any of these areas should be a great fit if you want to be a good distance from all that Bilbao has to offer. 

Casco Viejo (Old Town)

People walking the streets of the historic center or Casco Viejo in Bilbao, Spain
Bilbao’s Casco Viejo/ Historic District is the heart of the city

If you’re looking to stay central to the city and all the major things to do, you can’t get any more central than the Casco Viejo (Old Town). With a few hotels and Airbnb options available, Casco Viejo has tons of Pintxo restaurants, bars, bakeries, and of course the culinary crown jewel – the Ribera Market. It can get a bit rowdy at night with the bars, but if you want to be in the heart of it all, or you also want to join in on the fun, Casco Viejo is it! 

Hotels in Casco Viejo

NYX Hotel Bilbao by Leonardo Hotels – Located in the heart of Casco Viejo, this hotel features a buffet breakfast, a 24-hour front desk, and a great restaurant and bar in-house as well as a fitness center. It’s very modern and offers beautiful views of the historic district. 

“Location is perfect, the staff is multilingual and very friendly. The room was clean and has everything you need, even free bottle of water and capsules of coffee with the coffee machine.” – Michael (read more reviews here)

Petit Palace Arana Bilbao – Stay at the Petit Palace Arana Bilbao, situated inside a historic 19th-century building, and all the modern amenities and commodities you need for a comfortable stay. Only a few moments away from the city’s main sights like the Guggenheim and Santiago Cathedral, the hotel offers a breakfast buffet with a few gluten-free options!

“Everything about this hotel was amazing. Location. Friendly staff, great breakfast. Comfortable bed.” – Francisco (read more reviews here)

Hotel Tayko Bilbao – Also central to the city’s main sights, Hotel Tayko features great and modern comforts, and even a little bit extra with 2 Michelin-starred restaurants located in-house, great breakfast options, and a 24-hour reception desk to help you or offer advice. 

“Courteous and helpful staff at the front desk. We received a free room upgrade and 2 free drinks at the bodega. Excellent location in old town Bilbao. The room was modern, clean, quiet and comfortable. Highly recommend!” – Jamie (read more reviews here)

Indautxu/ Ensanche 

This neighborhood is a great option with tons of quality hotel options, and is in great proximity to the city’s sites, while still feeling a bit residential. It is home to the Azkuna Zentro culture center and the Guggenheim Museum, great shopping, and is a very central area to the city and its things to do and see.

Hotels in Indautxu/ Ensanche 

Catalonia Gran Vía Bilbao – Enjoy a stay at the 4-star Catalonia Gran Vía Bilbao, only a few minutes away from the San Mamés stadium, the best fine arts museum, and great shopping. The hotel features a filling breakfast buffet and gorgeous views of surrounding buildings – both modern and historic. 

“Great location, lovely modern hotel. the spa was great. Staff were super friendly also. no real complaints about this one.” – Phil (read more reviews here)

NH Collection Villa de Bilbao – Stay a few nights at the NH Collection Villa de Bilbao hotel, also very centrally located to the city’s main sites like the Guggenheim, and the city’s most interesting bridge, the Zubizuri Bridge and Doña Casilda Park. Decorated modern with fine art, and stunning views of the city, you’re in for a great stay at this hotel! 

“It is in a good location for the sites in Bilbao. Easy access from the airport. Very comfortable and an amazing breakfast!” – Jane (read more reviews here)

Hotel Ilunion Bilbao – Stay close to Bilbao’s main bus and train station, while also being close to sites of interest like the Iturriza Casilda Park and the Guggenheim. The historic center is also a quick walk away on foot, or even faster on the metro, which is located nearby. Start your day by having a Basque breakfast at La Kedada Bar & Restaurant inside the hotel. Traveling with pets? Your furry friends are welcome to stay at this hotel! 

“The beds and pillows were fabulous. The staff was amazing. Loved the large comfortable room and bathroom. It was a fantastic stay in Bilbao!” – Diane (read more reviews here) 


People walking around the streets of the Uribarri neighborhood in Bilbao, Spain
The Uribarri neighborhood is close to all major sites, including the historic center

A mainly residential area in Bilbao, but very well connected to sights like Casco Viejo, the Guggenheim Museum, Ribera Market, and other famous sights, on foot. The main bus station is a bit further away, but the metro close by can take you there, easily. I stayed here, and can only say great things about it. 

Accommodations in Uribarri

Uribarri Home Bilbao – Perfect for a friend group or family of up to 5 people, this apartment in the heart of Uribarri is a great option to enjoy a quiet neighborhood feel while being very close to the historic center. With many grocery shops nearby, as well as pintxos restaurants, you’re sure to get the best of both worlds when staying here! 

“The host was very nice and helpful. Spacious apartment and close to main areas of town. It has an elevator.” – Cathy (read more reviews here)

Uri Hotel BilbaoLooking to stay under a certain budget? Don’t sacrifice quality for it when you stay at the Uri Hostel Bilbao! Located in Uribarri, you’re sure to enjoy a mix of residential and action. Highly rated for its cleanliness, and modern spaces – you can choose between mixed bedrooms, gender-specific rooms, and even private rooms. 

“Incredibly clean and modern. Huge shower heads, comfortable beds with privacy curtains, a small kitchenette. I didn’t see another person my entire stay. Was able to drop off my suitcases in a locker before check-in .” – Faith (read more reviews here)


This neighborhood is a short walking distance from the Guggenheim and the Abando train station, which if you’re traveling to the city via train, Abandoibarra could be a great area to stay in! There are plenty of parks, interesting bridges, and even a few playgrounds for families traveling to Bilbao. 

Hotels in Abandoibarra 

Guggenheim Apartment – only a few minutes away from the San Mamés Stadium, the Calatrava Bridge, the Guggenheim Museum, and other major sites, this Guggenheim Apartment is a great option for those traveling in larger friend or family groups, who want to stay in the city! 

“Spacious and modern – very central and great value for money if you’re a large party traveling together.” – Jeremy (read more reviews here)

City Centre & Museum by Next Stop Bilbao – Enjoy the bright space of this apartment rental, right in the middle of the city! Only a 3-minute walk from the city’s most famous fine art museums, and the historic center, the airport is only a few minutes away on the shuttle or via taxi, making it a no-brainer for a stay with a group of 2-3! 

“Very safe, clean, and well set up apt. Wonderful Hosts that provided great information for the area, attractions, restaurants, Nite life, and museums.” – Linda (read more reviews here)

Great Location & 130m2! Guggenheim & ParkingStay at this highly rated apartment rental, with all the amenities from a washing machine, full kitchen, flat-screen TV, 2 bathrooms, and towels and linens provided for a clean and comfortable stay, in the city! Parking is also included in a covered garage for those driving! 

“Location was excellent! The apartment is spacious and comfortable, perfect for wandering around Bilbao. Very much appreciated that there is an included parking space. Good showers and hot water. Bedrooms were comfortable. SmartTV for streaming….” – Laura (read more reviews here)


A tree on a street lined with historic building apartments in the Deusto neighborhood in Bilbao.
The Deusto neighborhood in Bilbao is another great option to stay in

Located near Bilbao University, Deusto is very youthful and has great budget-friendly restaurants and bars, and only a 15-20 minute ride to Las Arenas Beach. It’s also really well connected to the city, whether on foot or the metro. Check out street art, murals, and other public art displays here!

Hotels in Deusto

NH Bilbao Deusto – Enjoy proximity to the Guggenheim Museum, the Iberdrola Tower, and other major sites when you book your stay at the NH Bilbao Deusto. Enjoy a filling breakfast or dinner at the on-site restaurant, Txipiron, or check out the multiple great restaurants nearby offering the best of Basque cuisine. 

“Delicious breakfast. Staff was very attentive and friendly. The room was spacious, bright, and peaceful.” – Ana (read more reviews here)

Hotel Artetxe – For an even more peaceful stay, check out Hotel Artetxe, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the city center, offering amazing views of the city that not very many get to enjoy. Enjoy a delicious drink or coffee on the terrace, walk the quaint gardens, and start your day with a hot breakfast made to order. 

“The location was close to nature, with views of Bilbao, and a peacefulness at night. The cleanliness of the property was great.” – Jose (read more reviews here) 

Deustown Apartment – traveling with a group of up to 8 people? This place is for you! Enjoy being close to the city, including its famous museums, bridges, and historic center. The apartment comes with access to the washing machine, a kitchen, great wifi, and a coffee machine to start your day off right! 

“Very beautiful and well-organized space! We had a metro stop right in front of our apartment, and it was very helpful to move around Bilbao. The house is very clean, and the kitchen has everything it needs.” – Carla (read more reviews here)

Bilbao La Vieja (Bilbi) 

Bilbi is a great neighborhood offering proximity to great eating spots, and art centers, near the Casco Viejo and the Ría (river). It’s a great place to go on a walk, and still be closer to major city sights. 

Accommodations in Bilbao La Vieja

Apartamentos Líbere Bilbao La Vieja – Traveling with a larger group, or looking for more privacy? Opt for staying at an apartment in the beautiful area of Bilbao la Vieja, only a few minutes from the city’s main sights, incredible dining, and picture-perfect points to capture the city’s beauty. 

“The apartment is lovely – great modern design, clean and tidy, with two spacious bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s also dog friendly!” – Anna (read more reviews here)

Hotel Bilbi – Stay close to Ribera Market, the Arriaga Theater, and the quaint streets of the Historic Districts when you stay at Hotel Bilbi. Get a room with the city, mountain, the Nervíon River, or the courtyard, as well as numerous Pintxos restaurants nearby. This hotel is rated highly for its customer service and great value!

“Great bed! Helpful staff. The parking arrangement was convenient and a good price for in a city.” – Robert (read more reviews here)

Kaixo Bilbao Apartments – Another great option for those who want a bit more space in the city, check out this apartment rental, fully renovated, with a full kitchen, washing machine, and heating available. Working while traveling through Bilbao? This apartment also has high-speed internet, and if driving, parking is also available. 

“Modern, comfortable and spacious apartment. You can visit the Old Town, Guggenheim Museum etc by foot.” – Jonas (read more reviews here)


Where many locals live, while still being only a few minutes walk from Bilbao’s main sights.

Hotels in Santutxu 

Barceló Bilbao Nervión – Wake up and enjoy a new day exploring Bilbao when you book your stay at Barceló Bilbao Nervión, a hotel that features traditional Basque breakfast and American options at their restaurant, Ibaizabal. Only a few minutes away from Old Town, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Calatrava Bridge, this hotel is a sure winner! 

“All was lovely! Staff helpful, clean, great beds, great location.” – Russ (read more reviews here)

NYX Hotel Bilbao by Leonardo Hotels – Stay a few moments away from the historic center, and major sites like the Ribera Market and the historic Arriaga Theater. Enjoy beautiful city views, an impressive breakfast buffet, and all the comforts of a modern hotel, near the historic district! 

“The room was huge with a lot of light. The location is great, it is close to everything 🙂” Alexandra (read more reviews here)

La ConcordiaWith tons of sites nearby, plus close to most tour group meet-up spots, a stay at La Concordia is a great option to be near all the must things to see and do in Bilbao! The apartment is perfect to accommodate 2-3 people, with 2 bedrooms, high-speed internet, kitchen, private parking, and is even pet-friendly! Enjoy the amazing views from the hotel, and helpful host communication for anything you’d need. 

“Host was very helpful. The flat is great and in nice location. Very comfortable. Easy to reach subway to city center.Nice and calmed neighborhood” – Gildardo (read more reviews here)

What to Eat in Bilbao

Pintxos in Bilbao consisting of a buger slider with bacon, a fried egg on spanish chorizo on a piece of bread, fried chicken and mustard on a skewer, and a clara con limon drink, and a meat skewer with peppers and padron peppers.
Pintxos in Bilbao

One of the things that Bilbao is known for is its food scene, and for good reason. 

Though what I tried in Bilbao is not only traditional Bilbao, but part of the rich gastronomy of the Basque country, in which Bilbao is the largest city in said region, I will share some of the most notable dishes, drinks, and deserts you can try while visiting Bilbao.

Main Plates

Mainly known for Pintxos – small dishes made of various ingredients like chorizo, chicken, peppers (not spicy), sauces, fish, beef, potato, and more, Bilbao cuisine, also includes great quality seafood, especially their star seafood dish – Bacalao Pil Pil, which is a salted cod cooked with garlic and olive oil. 

💡Pro Tip: What’s the difference between a Tapa and a Pintxo? A tapa is more common in southern Spain, which are small plates of food, typically of Spanish tortilla (Spanish omelette), bread with Spanish ham, burger slider, croquettes, patatas bravas, etc.

Tapas, which means cover in Spanish, comes from the old tradition of using a piece of bread to cover your drink to avoid flies from falling in.

Pintxos are a similar concept in northern Spain, except the food is held together by a toothpick, and is comprised of small sandwiches with lots of fillings, skewers with fish and peppers (not spicy), olives, Spanish jam skewers with beef, caramelized onions and cheese, etc.

Both a tapa and Pintxo-Pote are a drink and a small snack/dish combo.

Basque Beverages 

Kalimotxo Basque drink and a clara con limon drink in Bilbao
Kalimotxo (left side) – Clara con Limón (right side)

When it comes to drinks, I loved learning (and trying) the different drink mixtures that originated in Bilbao, from the traditional Mariano (or Vermú Preparado), which is a mix of Campari, vermouth, and angostura, traditional Baque wine called Txakoli, where the grapes are grown in a high altitude vineyard close to the sea, Basque Cider, that when served, must be poured from a certain height because of the gas content (which is cool to see!), and my personal favorite that I will remake at home, Kalimotxo (a red wine and coke mix). 

Basque Traditional Desserts and Pastries

Traditional Basque cheesecake on the beach and a slice of pastel de arroz or rice cake in Bilbao
Basque Cheesecake (left side) – Pastel de Arroz/ Rice Cake (right side)

Bilbao delivers a good mix of baked goods and pastries to try, and backstories to learn. Start sinking your sweet tooth into delicacies like Carolina, which is a tart with a pretty meringue top covered in chocolate and yolk cream. 

It was named after the baker’s daughter who wanted a pastry with meringue, so he concocted this now-traditional pastry and named it after his daughter. 

There is also Pastel de Arroz (Rice Cake) which has Philipino origins and was introduced to Spanish locals in the 19th century. It is a pastry crust with pastry cream in the middle. It almost looks like a Portuguese Pastel de Nata. 

Pastel Vasco (Basque Cake) is a small cake slice that comes from the French Basque Country in Lapurdi, so technically it’s French, but has a stamp of the Basque Cross (Iauburu) on top of it. 

Another delicious dessert you have to try while in Bilbao is Basque Cheesecake

Those who are lactose intolerant, go to a pharmacy and get what you need so you can enjoy this slice of cheesecake heaven – it has a burnt exterior with caramel notes, but the inside is creamy, thick yet light, and subtly sweet. It’s what cheesecake should taste like in my humble opinion. 

That’s something that struck me while I was in Bilbao learning about the cuisine, that so many of the dishes, drinks, and desserts had unique stories and were many times accidentally created. 

Learning about food and its history, in my opinion, only enriches your experience of it. It’s like doing a walking tour of the city. It makes you see beyond what’s in front of you, or other people’s recommendations to truly enjoy it. 

I didn’t have time to do a food tour, and it is one of my only regrets because I truly think that a food tour in Bilbao would be worth it. It’s just one of those places. I did one in Málaga, and now have a deeper appreciation for their unique and delicious cuisine. 

If you’re spending 4 days in Bilbao

One of my tour guides asked me how many days I’d be staying in Bilbao and when I said 6 days, they said: “oh, you’ll definitely see the whole city, twice!” 

After actually spending 6 days in Bilbao, I think you can see the city and its attractions in 3 days. Still, if you’re also looking to do a few day trips, which in my opinion are very worth it, you won’t have a problem filling up 4 days in Bilbao, or even 6 like I did!

A few other sites/activities to consider doing/seeing in Bilbao

  • Hop on the Artxanda Funicular
  • See all of Bilbao from Mount Artxanda
  • Look up at Iberdrola Tower – you can’t go inside as it’s a corporate office, but it is one of Bilbao’s most modern “landmarks”. 
  • Visit San Mamés Stadium – any soccer fans? Check out a game at San Mamés Stadium, and cheer on the locally beloved Athletic Bilbao team (colors are red, white, and black), or check out the behind-the-scenes on a stadium tour of San Mamés!
a balcony in the historic center of Bilbao with the flag of the Athletic Bilbao soccer team that says Aupa Athletic!
The soccer passion is visible in Bilbao’s historic center/ Casco Viejo

What to do in 3 days in Bilbao with family

There are plenty of activities for travelers of all types and itineraries to fill up their travel plans in the city, especially if you’re in Bilbao with family. 

For epic views of the city, check out a ride on the funicular de Artxanda (cable car). Kid tickets start at 4,30 euros roundtrip; children under 6 are free. Just check out the opening hours, as they vary season by season. The ride is 3 minutes long.

The city also has tons of kid parks all around, even in the city center, including Park Abandoibarra, and Doña Casilda de Iturriza.

Enjoy a walk along the river, and don’t forget to stop by the sculptures outside the Guggenheim, including the bronze giant spider, the Puppy, and the mist that envelopes you as you get closer to the museum. 

For a culture stop, check out the exhibitions, and shops inside the Azkuna Zentroa Center, a multi-use venue in the city center with interesting installations, and art that are everchanging. Plus, it’s free entry! Step inside the shops at the center selling unique Bilbao art and items designed by local artists. 

Another thing to do in Bilbao with family that’s conveniently free is checking out Bilbao’s street art at Iralako Parkea. Although it’s a 20-minute walk from the historic district, if you’re in Bilbao with older kids or teenagers, this might be a cool thing to see with them.

What to do in Bilbao for 2 days

If you have two days in Bilbao, I hope that this guide has helped you see some of the most popular sites to see, and experiences to have, so you can fill up your Bilbao 2 day itinerary as you’d like. 

I recommend, especially if it’s your first time in Bilbao to focus on exploring the city. 

Whether it’s walking around, signing up for tours, visiting the museums, and of course, eating your fair share of pinxtos, enjoy what the city has to offer, and the next time you’re in the city, you can explore the different day trips from Bilbao. 

3 Days in Bilbao For First Timers Q&A

Why is Bilbao Spain famous?

Bilbao is famous for its recognizable monuments and sights. 

From the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum to the sculptures outside the modern-art museum like the spider and Puppy whose images are some of the first to come to mind when thinking of Bilbao. Plus all the other sights mentioned throughout the post. 

However, as someone who has visited 11 Spanish cities and lived for a year within the community of Madrid, my experience exploring Bilbao left me with my own take on this city, and why it’s famous (to me), which is:

  • The deeply rooted traditions like Aste Nagusia (The Big Week), 
  • Its rich port history 
  • Its charming, narrow, and often uphill streets with impressive views of the city and mountains in the background 
  • Historic and important language (and the local pride when speaking it)
  • The Basque flag waving almost everywhere in the historic district 
  • Regional desserts with fascinating backstories for their creation and names 
  • Kalimotxo and pintxos 
  • Music groups playing music as they walked down the old town like a parade
  • Older men wearing berets 

These are just a few reasons why the city is famous, according to Google, and of course, according to me, as someone who genuinely enjoyed her time in Bilbao.

Why do people go to Bilbao?

Bilbao often attracts visitors via its major art and cuisine scene, and because it is the largest city in the Basque region. Its tourism has been growing by a lot since the 70s, with its lively culture, nightlife, and family-friendly activities. 

As I’ve shared before, the reason why I went to Bilbao was because it was often recommended to me, and I love cities either in the middle of nature or a short distance away and you can appreciate both the city and nature. 

On another personal note, I was very curious to visit Bilbao and northern Spain for a while, ever since I was studying abroad in Greece

The first Spaniards I ever met while I was studying abroad were from Bilbao. They shared some of the interesting things their region and city were known for, and I instantly felt intrigued. 

Then when I was living in Spain as an English teacher, my co-workers always recommended visiting northern Spain (after recommending their hometowns and cities, of course) but it was always a “must” whenever I’d ask for places to visit in Spain. 

I was surprised with not only how cool and interesting the city was, but also how much I loved it. It has become one of my favorite Spanish cities, and I will always want to go back.

Is 3 days in Bilbao enough?

Yes! If you want a good introduction to Bilbao’s most popular sites, enjoy the rich gastronomy, and learn a bit about their history, with a day trip there, 3 days is a good amount of time to see Bilbao, especially for first-timers!

Is Bilbao worth visiting?

If you’re a fan of stunning nature (the mountains can be seen from the city, and the sea is a short distance away from the city) modern art, an amazing food scene, a fascinating language, visible tradition, welcoming people, all in an extremely walkable city, then absolutely, Bilbao is worth visiting!

Though Bilbao is a city that has recently become much more visited by people from all over and is recognized for its cultural taste, Bilbao is also the largest city in the Basque Country, and in all of northern Spain, so of course, it requires a spot on your list of places to see in Spain!

What is the best time to visit Bilbao?

Bilbao, Spain in the morning as the sun comes up and shines on the historic buildings by the Nervion River
Sunny and mild days when I visited Bilbao in January

Though Bilbao ranks as one of the rainiest cities in Spain, it’s not all gloom and rain (at least as much as other cities in the world). 

Summer may be more crowded, and hot (it can reach up to 80 degrees and is very humid), but it’s also the season with less rain throughout the year, making it perfect to enjoy the local nature of the Basque region. 

To avoid crowds, fall and winter are the best times to visit Bilbao. It’s low travel season, and it’s not as hot as it is in the summer months.  

Though the fall season does see more rain and wind, the temperature cools down to the high 60s, so just bring your best travel essentials to keep dry and comfortable.

Winter, which is the season I went to Bilbao, was warmer than I thought it would be. As someone from the midwest (Illinois), the winter was not at all cold, in fact, the weather was mild, with temperatures in the 50s and even reaching the 60s, with a few sunny days. 

Definitely bring your umbrellas, as winter tends to be the rainiest season, but of the 6 days that I was in Bilbao (middle of January), I only got 1 to 2 days of rain, and only partially throughout the day. 

What to do in Bilbao?

Older Basque men wearing berets and playing instruments as they walk the streets of the historic center of Bilbao
A band of older Basque men playing music in the streets of the historic center of Bilbao

The best things to do in Bilbao include enjoying the food scene, attending local traditions and events that are happening during your visit, going on a day trip, and getting into the local culture with visits to the museums. 

Is Bilbao expensive to visit?

A girl looking happily at a spanish jam sandwich and coffee breakfast with croissant.
Breakfast in Bilbao – café con leche with a jamón sandwich and croissant

In comparison to Madrid, the capital of Spain, and the most expensive city in Spain, Bilbao was definitely on the affordable and reasonable side in my opinion. 

A latte was 2-3 euros, a pastry was 1-3 euros (depending on if it’s a croissant or a specialty pastry), pintxos were 6-9 euros, and a beer (caña) or wine was 3-4 euros at a restaurant. 

Depending on your budget, visiting Bilbao can definitely be experienced well even on a small budget. 

How many days do you need in Bilbao?

It depends mostly on what you want to see in Bilbao, but I’d say a good amount of time is 3-4 days. 

I stayed 6 days, and even though I found plenty of things to do in Bilbao, I also included 2-day trips in my Bilbao itinerary. 

If you just want to see the city, you can do it in 3 days. However, after you’ve seen all the things to do in Bilbao in 3 days, how many days in Bilbao do you think you’d plan? 

Which is better Bilbao or San Sebastián?

The sun coming up from the mountains to the city of Bilbao Spain in the morning, and La Concha beach in San Sebastian on a cloudy day with people sitting on the sand.
Both Bilbao and San Sebastián are amazing cities worth visiting, and not far from each other

I loved both cities a lot, and while both have different things to offer, different ambiances to enjoy, and similar high-quality and delicious food options to offer, it really depends on what you’re looking for.

For city vibes and culture, Bilbao is great, for a seaside escape with plenty of nature, lovely ambiance, and access to the beach, San Sebastián is it! 

The good thing is that it’s super easy to get to San Sebastián from Bilbao, whether you go on a tour, or decide to take the bus, the train/bus stations are very central in each city and quite easy to navigate. 

How to get from Bilbao to San Sebastián?

The best ways to get from Bilbao to San Sebastián include either a bus or a tour, which includes bonus stops in other nearby cities worth checking out. 

If you have time to explore, I’d probably go with a tour from Bilbao to San Sebastián which also includes a stop in the gorgeous islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, where parts of Games of Thrones were filmed and is overall a beautiful islet on the northern region of Spain. 

I didn’t have time to do this, so I opted to take the bus to San Sebastián to explore it for the afternoon, which was also great! 

How long is the train journey from Bilbao to San Sebastián?

The train journey from Bilbao to San Sebastián is approximately 3-4 hours, depending on the train you choose. 

However, if you’re looking for a faster public transportation option to get from Bilbao to Santander, I recommend the bus, which takes 1.5 hours. 

Is Bilbao a day trip from San Sebastián?

Yes! A bus ride from Bilbao to San Sebastián will cost around 6-8 euros, and is only 1.5 hours away, with multiple buses traveling between both destinations throughout the day, all week. 

Alsa Buses is the name of the company that transports people frequently between both cities. 

Getting To and Around Bilbao

The main ways to get to Bilbao are by flying, and landing at Bilbao Airport, taking a RENFE train to Abando Idalecio Prieto (Bilbao-Abando or Estación del Norte) train station in Bilbao, or Alsa bus, and arriving at Bilbao Intermodal bus station. 

If you’re arriving from the airport, you can either pre-book an airport transfer for ease and convenience, or you could also opt for the airport shuttle bus. 

If you arrive via the train or bus station, you could just take the metro, as these stations are closer to the city center. 

Bilbao’s public transport includes:

  • Metro –  one of the best and cleanest in Spain I’ve gotten on, and reasonably priced.
  • Tram
  • Bikes
  • Buses

I only rode the metro and walked while visiting Bilbao, and then took the bus when taking day trips to San Sebastián and Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Is Uber in Bilbao?

Yes, there is! If you need a ride anywhere in the city or a little outside, you can book an Uber as easily as you would anywhere else in the city. 

Though walking or using public transport is the best way to get around, and explore Bilbao, having the option of Uber is good to know. 

💡Pro tip – unless you’re carrying a lot of luggage, you don’t need Uber or a taxi to go to the airport. Simply hop on the local airport shuttle that departs from the central bus station (Intermodal) to the airport, and vice versa. The name of the bus company is Bizkaia – you’ll see them around town a lot. 

Is Bilbao a walkable city?

Cathedral of Santiago in the historic center of Bilbao, and a few restaurant tables with umbrellas nearby, and the Estuary Walk with historic buildings in Bilbao
Bilbao is such a walkable city – from the historic center to the modern neighborhoods

Absolutely! Walking from the historic center, and the different districts and neighborhoods of interest is doable on foot. 

Although if you do get tired, or are short on time, the city has a great public transport system that includes buses, trains, and a metro. 

I enjoyed walking around Bilbao because, in my opinion, it was the best way to get acquainted with the city and the best way to see it and enjoy it. Plus, it felt very safe.

Is Bilbao safe for solo female travelers?

A girl with glasses standing in front of the Puppy and Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
I felt very safe as a solo female traveler in Bilbao

I arrived in Bilbao 1 day before my sister, who joined me on the trip later on, and spent a total of 6 days there. 

Bilbao felt very safe to me, whether it was day or night. The city has a low crime rate, and I did see quite a presence of police on the streets. I can’t say what it’s like later in the evening, or early morning for those who want to go out, but overall, Bilbao felt very safe to me.

I also found the city welcoming to travelers, and the people from Bilbao (Bilbaínos) were very warm and helpful people, with great hospitality. Overall, I’d say that Bilbao is very safe for solo female travelers

Is it OK to speak Spanish in Bilbao?

Euskadi Basque Country sign on the tourism office in Bilbao, Spain
Euskadi is the Basque name for the Basque region of northern Spain

People speak Basque (Euskera) and Spanish in Bilbao, which is one of the things that personally interested me to visit in the first place when it came to exploring the local culture. 

However, I didn’t feel the need to know how to speak Basque if I was ordering food, or asking a question, as most people spoke Spanish and you could also get away with English, especially in the historic center. 

Now, that’s not to say that you can’t learn a few keywords in the local language (you always should), as a way to not only enrich your experience of the destination but also as a sign of respect for the culture and locals. 

Some key words to learn in Basque:

  • Hi – Kaixo 
  • Bye – Agur
  • Good Morning – Egun On 
  • Good Afternoon – Arratsalde On
  • Good Evening – Gabon 
  • Help – lagundu
  • Cheers – Topa
  • Thank you – Eskerrik Asko / Mila Esker
  • Please – Mesedez
  • My name is – Nire Izena Da

The Wrap-Up: How To Spend 3 Days in Bilbao For First Timers

I hope that this guide has helped you get a better idea of how to plan your trip to Bilbao and which day tours from Bilbao to take advantage of to discover the rest of the Basque Country, whether you’re going for 3 days, 4 days, or even just 1 day.

As I repeatedly said throughout the post, I truly enjoyed my stay in Bilbao, which has become one of my favorite Spanish cities. 

Let me know what your plans are for Bilbao! Will you take a day trip? Will you try a Kalimotxo? Basque Cheesecake? Will you go to the Guggenheim? I’d love to know!

To more travel moments like this.

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