What to Do in Bilbao for 3 Days: A Perfect Itinerary

Situated in the heart of Spain’s Basque Country, Bilbao is a city that effortlessly blends tradition with modernity. Spending 3 days in Bilbao promises an adventure filled with stunning architecture, world-renowned art, and delectable cuisine. In this guide, we’ll explore the must-see attractions, hidden gems, and culinary delights that will make your short stay in this vibrant city truly unforgettable. So, is Bilbao worth visiting? Absolutely – and here’s why.

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How to Get to Bilbao

By Air

Bilbao Airport (BIO) is the main gateway to the city, with numerous domestic and international flights. The airport is located about 12 kilometers north of the city center. From the airport, you can take a taxi which costs around Euro 30, bus, or shuttle service to reach your accommodation in Bilbao.

By Train

Bilbao Abando Station is well-connected to major Spanish cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastián. Renfe, Spain’s national railway company, operates regular services to and from Bilbao, making it an accessible destination for travelers coming by train.

By Bus

Bilbao’s Termibus station is a hub for regional and international bus services. Companies like ALSA provide frequent connections to cities across Spain and beyond. The bus station is conveniently located near the city center, ensuring easy access to your final destination.

By Car

Driving to Bilbao is a scenic option, especially if you’re coming from nearby regions. The city is well-connected by highways, making it easy to reach by car. Parking can be challenging in the city center, but there are several public parking garages available. Book your car with DiscoverCars here.

Is Bilbao Worth Visiting?

Bilbao is a city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and innovation. Its transformation from an industrial hub to a cultural hotspot is nothing short of remarkable. The city’s world-class museums, vibrant culinary scene, and picturesque landscapes make it a must-visit destination. Whether you are an art enthusiast, a foodie, or simply seeking a new adventure, Bilbao will exceed your expectations.

What to Do in Bilbao for 3 Days

Day 1 in Bilbao: Embrace the Art and Architecture

The Guggenheim Museum

Kickstart your 3 days in Bilbao with a visit to the iconic Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Frank Gehry, this architectural masterpiece is home to contemporary art that will leave you in awe. Spend your morning exploring the extensive collections and temporary exhibitions. The titanium-clad structure itself is a sight to behold, reflecting the city’s innovative spirit.

As you wander through the museum, you’ll encounter works by artists such as Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein and Yves Klein, each contributing to an immersive artistic experience.

Museum tickets can be bought at the entrance or online in advance. I strongly advise to pre-book your tickets, especially for short visits, to avoid long lines during peak seasons. An online ticket allows you to bypass the ticket line and head straight inside, saving valuable time. If you prefer to visit the museum with a guide, I recommend booking the Guggenheim Museum Tour with Skip-the-Line Tickets.

Take Photos with The Puppy

The “Puppy” by Jeff Koons is a beloved landmark located at the entrance of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This enormous floral sculpture, standing over 40 feet tall, is shaped like a West Highland Terrier and is adorned with a vibrant array of seasonal flowers.

The “Puppy” adds to the charm of the museum’s exterior, making it a favorite among visitors and a perfect spot for memorable photos. Twice a year in May and October, the sculpture is closed off for a few days for maintenance to change the flowers, ensuring a fresh and colorful display throughout the year.

La Salve Bridge

La Salve Bridge, officially known as the Princes of Spain Bridge, is a notable structure in Bilbao, located next to the Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Juan Batanero and opened in 1972, the bridge spans the Nervión River and features a striking red arch added by French artist Daniel Buren in 2007. This arch, known as “Arcos Rojos” (Red Arches), enhances the bridge’s visual appeal and complements the nearby museum. The bridge is an essential part of Bilbao’s urban landscape, symbolizing the city’s blend of modern art and engineering.

Street Art: THE KEY

Located just across from the Guggenheim Museum, under the Puente de la Salve in Bilbao, “THE KEY” is a striking piece of street art accessible via the Moyúa Metro stop.

This large mural depicts two women of different ages engaging in a friendly conversation, symbolizing the importance of dialogue in conflict resolution. Covering almost a thousand square meters, the artwork invites reflection on themes such as memory, the future, understanding, and tolerance. Created in collaboration with various associations to commemorate No Violence Day on January 30, 2012, the mural adopts the key as a symbol of free expression and the fight for coexistence and understanding. Its vibrant presence not only beautifies the city but also encourages a deeper contemplation of peace and mutual respect.

Walk Along the Nervión River

Colorful houses across from the Mercado de la Ribera

Take a leisurely stroll along the Nervión River. The riverbanks are adorned with modern sculptures and beautifully landscaped parks. This walk offers picturesque views and is a perfect opportunity to capture stunning photographs of the city’s skyline.

Zubizuri Bridge and Isozaki Towers

Continue your exploration by crossing the Zubizuri Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava, a renowned Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter, celebrated for his distinctive and innovative designs.

Some of his most famous projects include the Turning Torso in Sweden, the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City. His designs are characterized by their white skeletal forms and dynamic shapes, blending functionality with artistic expression.

Isozaki Towers, two modern skyscrapers

The white, arching pedestrian bridge is especially striking and offers lovely views of the river and city. Nearby, you’ll find the Isozaki Towers, two modern skyscrapers that add to Bilbao’s contemporary architectural charm. Take a moment to appreciate the contrast between the old and new as you make your way towards the city center.

Visit the Mercado de la Ribera

Head to Mercado de la Ribera for lunch, an essential stop for any food lover visiting Bilbao. This bustling market, located in the old town along the riverbank, is one of Europe’s largest covered markets dating back to the 1300s.

Here, you can sample a variety of local produce, meats, cheeses, and seafood. The market’s vibrant atmosphere, combined with the aroma of freshly prepared dishes, will tantalize your senses. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the market’s eateries, where you can indulge in traditional Basque cuisine.

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Dedicate your afternoon to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which offers a comprehensive collection ranging from medieval art to contemporary pieces.

This museum provides a deep dive into the cultural heritage of the region, featuring works by Spanish masters such as El Greco, Goya, and Zurbarán, as well as Basque artists. The museum’s diverse collection ensures that there’s something for everyone to appreciate (It is currently under renovation and only some areas of the exhibition is open to the public).

Take a Boat Tour in Bilbao

Exploring Bilbao by boat offers a unique perspective of the city’s rich history and modern architecture. Several boat tour options are available, each providing a different experience along the Bilbao Estuary.

These tours typically last between one to two hours and provide audio guides in multiple languages. As you cruise, you’ll see iconic landmarks like the Guggenheim Museum, the Zubizuri Bridge, and the city’s modern and historical architecture from the water. The tours are designed to give you an in-depth understanding of Bilbao’s cultural and architectural evolution while enjoying a relaxed boat ride​

Take the Funicular de Artxanda

For breathtaking views of Bilbao, take the Funicular de Artxanda up to Mount Artxanda. The short ride rewards you with panoramic vistas of the city and its surrounding landscapes.

At the top, you can enjoy a peaceful walk or a picnic while taking in the scenery. The viewpoint offers a fantastic perspective on Bilbao’s urban layout, nestled amidst rolling green hills.

Explore Casco Viejo

Immerse yourself in the charm of Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s old town. Wander through its narrow, cobbled streets lined with colorful buildings and historic landmarks. Visit the Santiago Cathedral, a stunning Gothic structure dating back to the 14th century. The Plaza Nueva, a neoclassical square, is the perfect spot to relax with a coffee or a glass of txakoli, a local white wine.

Evening: Pintxos in the Old Town

No visit to Bilbao is complete without indulging in pintxos, the Basque version of tapas. As evening approaches, head to Casco Viejo, where narrow streets are brimming with lively bars and restaurants. Each bar offers its unique variety of pintxos, small bites that range from simple to sophisticated. Pair these delectable treats with a glass of local Txakoli wine or cider while soaking in the local atmosphere.

Day 2: Day Trip Options from Bilbao – Rioja or Guernica

On your second day, you have the option to either explore the famous Rioja wine region or visit the historic town of Guernica. During our stay here we opted to visit the Rioja wine region.

Option 1: Day Trip to Rioja

Morning: Depart for Rioja

Start your day early with a scenic drive to the Rioja wine region, approximately 2 hours from Bilbao. This area is renowned for its vineyards and wineries, offering a delightful experience for wine enthusiasts. If you have rented a car and someone in your company doesn’t drink you can drive there yourself, alternatively I recommend taking an organized wine tour and spend your day hassle free. We joined Local Expert Tours and visited two wineries, you can read all about our trip in my blog post Explore Rioja In A Day: Top Wine Tour From Bilbao.

We visited a small and medium sized winery, and had a tasting of around 9 wines paired with local cheeses and jamon. In the afternoon we headed to the picturesque medieval town of Laguardia where we wandered through its narrow streets, and enjoy a traditional Basque lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Bilbao.

Option 2: Day Trip to Guernica From Bilbao

Morning: Depart for Guernica

Guernica, a town with profound historical significance, is about a 45-minute drive from Bilbao. Start your day early to make the most of this historic visit. Known worldwide due to Pablo Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica,” the town represents a poignant chapter in the Spanish Civil War.

Mid-Morning: Peace Museum and Assembly House

Begin your exploration with a visit to the Guernica Peace Museum. This museum offers a deep dive into the tragic bombing that occurred on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, and its devastating impact on the town. The exhibits are moving and educational, providing insight into the events that inspired Picasso’s powerful anti-war masterpiece.

Next, head to the Assembly House (Casa de Juntas) and the iconic Tree of Guernica. The Assembly House is a symbol of Basque identity and democracy, where the traditional laws of the Basque Country were made. The Tree of Guernica, an ancient oak, symbolizes the enduring spirit of the Basque people. Standing beneath its branches, you can reflect on the town’s resilient history and cultural significance.

Afternoon: Basque Country Coastal Exploration

After immersing yourself in the history of Guernica, take a short drive to the nearby Basque coast. Your first stop can be the beautiful fishing town of Bermeo. Stroll through its quaint streets, lined with colorful houses, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this coastal gem.

From Bermeo, head to the dramatic San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a small island connected to the mainland by a narrow stone bridge and 241 steps. The climb to the top is well worth the effort, offering breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the chapel dedicated to John the Baptist. The site’s natural beauty and serenity provide a stark contrast to the history of conflict you learned about earlier in the day.

Late Afternoon: Return to Bilbao

As the afternoon winds down, make your way back to Bilbao. The scenic drive offers a final glimpse of the stunning Basque landscape. Once back in the city, you can spend your evening indulging in pintxos in the old town or dining at one of Bilbao’s many excellent restaurants.

Day 3 in Bilbao: Uncover More Hidden Gems

Depending on your pace and interests you may also split the activities mentioned in Day 1 into two days. Otherwise if you enjoy a full schedule, here are a few more suggestions on things to do in Bilbao.

Morning: Athletic Club Bilbao Stadium Tour

For sports enthusiasts, start your third day with a tour of the Athletic Club Bilbao Stadium. The tour includes a visit to the team’s museum, the changing rooms, the press room, and the pitch. It’s an insightful experience into the history and passion of Basque football. In order to save time, you can book your tickets online here.

Mid-Morning: ITSAS Museum

The ITSAS Museum, Bilbao’s maritime museum, offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including historical ships and stories of the city’s port past. It’s an excellent visit for families and maritime history buffs.

Late Morning: Bilbao Abando Train Station

While not a major tourist attraction, Bilbao Abando Train Station is worth a quick visit for its beautiful stained glass windows depicting scenes from the city’s history.

Afternoon: Ruta de los Murales

For art lovers, exploring the street art in the La Vieja neighborhood, known as the Ruta de los Murales, is a must. The vibrant murals add a splash of color and creativity to the area, showcasing Bilbao’s artistic spirit. You can also join this Bilbao: Street Art Walking Tour with Local Craft Beer.

Early Afternoon: Vizcaya Bridge

A short trip from Bilbao, the Vizcaya Bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s oldest transporter bridge. Visitors can ride the gondola across the river or take an elevator to the top for stunning views.

Late Afternoon: Chillida Leku

End your cultural tour with a visit to Chillida Leku, a museum dedicated to the works of renowned sculptor Eduardo Chillida. The museum, located in a beautifully restored farmhouse, features an impressive collection of Chillida’s sculptures, both indoors and in the surrounding gardens.

Practical Tips for Your Visit

  • Getting Around: Bilbao is well-connected by public transport, including buses, trams, and the metro. Walking is also a great way to explore the city.
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and early autumn offer pleasant weather, perfect for sightseeing.

Where to Stay in Bilbao

Nyx Hotel

Bilbao offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. I would recommend that you opt for a centrally located hotel to maximize your time and minimize travel.

For a luxurious stay, consider the The Artist Grand Hotel of Art, located just across from the Guggenheim Museum. This five-star hotel offers stunning views, contemporary design, and top-notch amenities.

The Nyx Hotel Bilbao is a trendy, modern option in the city center, offering vibrant decor and a lively atmosphere, perfect for those looking to stay close to the action.

For those on a budget, Pensión Boutique Caravan Cinema in the Casco Viejo (Old Town) offers unique, cinema-themed rooms in a central location.

Alternatively, the Barceló Bilbao Nervión offers comfortable, mid-range accommodations with easy access to major attractions and public transport.

Where to Eat in Bilbao

Bilbao is renowned for its rich Basque cuisine that features fresh, high-quality ingredients and innovative cooking techniques. The city is famous for pintxos, small bar snacks typically served on bread, topped with a variety of ingredients like seafood, cured meats, and local cheeses. Seafood is a staple, with dishes like bacalao a la vizcaína (cod in Vizcaya sauce) and chipirones (baby squid) being local favorites. Traditional Basque dishes such as marmitako (tuna stew) and piperade (a Basque pepper and tomato dish) are must-tries.

Bilbao also offers excellent txakoli, a slightly sparkling white wine from the surrounding Basque Country, perfectly complementing the region’s flavors. Whether you’re indulging in pintxos or savoring a hearty seafood stew, Bilbao’s cuisine promises a delightful gastronomic adventure.

Best Pintxos Bars and Restaurants in Bilbao

Café Bar Bilbao – A historic venue in Plaza Nueva known for its classic pintxos and lively atmosphere.

Bar Txepetxa – Famous for its creative anchovy pintxos, offering a unique twist on traditional flavors.

Gure Toki – Located in Plaza Nueva, it blends traditional pintxos with innovative, gourmet presentations.

Sorginzulo – Located in Plaza Nueva, Sorginzulo is renowned for its exceptional pintxos, blending traditional Basque flavors with innovative culinary creations.

El Globo – Popular for its delicious and beautifully presented pintxos, including their renowned crab tartlet.

La Vina del Ensanche – A must-visit for top-quality Iberian ham pintxos and an extensive wine selection.

Taberna Basaras – An 84-year-old tavern in Casco Viejo, known for its extensive wine selection and delicious pintxos in a cozy, historic setting.

Barista’s Club in Bilbao

Barista’s Club, located at Dendarikale 30 in Bilbao’s Casco Viejo, is a haven for coffee enthusiasts. This specialty café is dedicated to serving high-quality coffee with total traceability, ensuring each cup is crafted with care.

Alongside their exceptional coffee, Barista’s Club offers a variety of homemade treats, including vegan options, and serves brunch items, sandwiches, bowls, and smoothies. The café is not just about great coffee; it also provides a cozy atmosphere with free Wi-Fi, making it an ideal spot for both relaxation and work. If you are staying in the Old town – Casco Viejo and your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast this place opens at 8AM, even on the weekends.


In just 3 days in Bilbao, you can experience its cultural treasures, culinary delights, and scenic beauty. From the awe-inspiring architecture of the Guggenheim Museum and the historic charm of Casco Viejo, to the mouth-watering pintxos and the serene landscapes of the Basque coast, Bilbao offers a captivating blend of old and new. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant markets, savoring traditional Basque cuisine, or simply strolling along the picturesque riverbanks, Bilbao’s unique character and warmth will leave a lasting impression, ensuring you take home unforgettable memories of this dynamic city.

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