What to do with 48 hours in Bilbao Spain

Have you been to Bilbao, Spain?  If not, you should add to your travel list. It’s fantastic, and while there’s so much to see, you can absolutely see the highlights in a couple of days. Bilbao is a neat and compact city, tucked neatly into surrounding hills on either side of the river. Getting around is easy and the ‘must-sees ‘are all within walking distance.

bilbao spain

Basque Country is famous for its food, and Bilbao is no exception. This is the place to be if you want to experience pinxtos, a unique Basque twist on tapas.  Here are things you can see and do with 48 hours in Bilbao, Spain!

Sample the Pintxos Bars

We learned quickly that people in the Basque country don’t just go out for dinner, instead they bar-hop, sampling small plates and house wine as they roam around with friends. We loved it! It’s cheap and cheerful, and a great way to mingle with the locals.  Costs are about 2 Euros per plate and you shouldn’t ever pay more than 2 euros for a delicious glass of Rioja either.

pinxtos bars bilbao

Mercado de la Ribera

Built in 1929, the marketplace is perfect to experience the everyday life of Bilbao. It’s found in the heart of the Old Town on the water, and this 10,000-square-meter space is Europe’s largest indoor marketplace. The architecture of the building features a bright and cheerful space with skylights, and a floor made of clear, translucent material, allowing natural light to flood the building. This is the best place in Bilbao to find high-quality pinxtos, seafood, and other gourmet foods.

pinxtos bars bilbao

Visit the Guggenheim

guggenheim museum bilbao

Most tourists who visit Bilbao head straight to the Guggenheim Museum. The building is a spectacular work of art and is considered one of the most influential examples of 20th-century architecture.

van gogh in guggenheim museum in bilbao
Vincent van Gogh | Field with Poppies
The Richard Serra exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
The Richard Serra exhibition

It was designed by famous architect Frank Gehry, using advanced aerospace industry software, and was built between 1993 and 1997. You cannot help but gasp when you first glimpse this iconic sleek structure, setting the stage for a memorable experience of art appreciation.

guggenheim museum bilbao with kids

Inside the building, there’s about 24,000 square meters displaying artwork in unique surroundings. Giant windows allow natural light to showcase the art and there’s a beautiful winding staircase in the center where light bounces depending on the the time of day.

jeff koons The Puppy in bilbao
Puppy: Jeff Koons

We LOVED the famous nine-meter-tall spider sculpture outside called ‘Maman’ by Louise Bourgeois, and the gigantic topiary dog full of flower blossoms called ‘Puppy’, by Jeff Koons. However, I think our favorite part of this museum was the four dimensional floor filled with incredible interactive pieces of modern art!

interactive art in guggenheim museum

Explore Old Town Bilbao, Spain

old town bilbao

Old Town is full of charm, and linked by five bridges with the New Town. The heart of the old quarter is formed around the Siete Calles (Seven Streets). We spent a few hours exploring this area filled with narrow alleys lined with modern shops and traditional Pinxtos bars.

Julian enjoyed Churros con Chocolat for the first time and claimed it was magical!

old town bilbao spain

Catedral de Santiago

 

cathedral in bilbao spain

In the center of the Old Town, you’ll find the 19th century Cathedral of Santiago. Pilgrims on the Route of Saint James stop at this chapel on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The original church was damaged in 1571 by a fire and rebuilt in the 19th century in Neo-Gothic style. The cathedral has an impressive interior with beautiful choir stalls and stunning Gothic details. The cathedral is open to the public daily, and guided tours are available by appointment.

Wander across the Bridges of Bilbao, Spain

La Salve Bridge - Picture of La Salve Bridge, Bilbao

Some of the most stunning views of Bilbao are from the bridges connecting the Old and New Towns. We spent time walking back and forth across these bridges and enjoyed picture-perfect views of the Guggenheim and Old Town. There are fantastic sculptures and pieces of art sprinkled throughout the city, so keep your eyes peeled.

We love Spain, and especially love Northern Spain and Barcelona. Bilbao is one of those cities where you just ‘feel’ the vibe and need to spend a few hours exploring.  We absolutely loved every part of Bilbao Spain and would love to experience it in the summer next time.

churros con chocolat bilbao spain

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About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital and brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two active boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising feral wolves teenage boys, family life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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