Vivid, stylish and ruggedly handsome, Bilbao is a titan of culture on the northern Spanish coast. The largest city in the Basque Country has inspired visitors since Museo Guggenheim was built in 1997. Since then Bilbao has become a top culture destination inspired by its modernist architecture, galleries and surreal public monuments.
Furthermore, the Basque city has some of the best pintxos in northern Spain and its love affair with art and food make it a sensual experience for young travellers.
Still a bustling port, the industrial city gave birth in the estuary of the Nervión river, which splits Bilbao into two distinct sections: the Old Town (Casco Viejo) on the right bank; modern districts on the other side.
With its modern architecture chiming against its industrial heritage, Bilbao is a city of resurrections and contrasts. Just wandering around the Basque city you’ll find yourself inspired by the energy of its people and incredible public art.
What to see in Bilbao
Most visitors to Bilbao come to visit the Museo Guggenheim. It’s a truly extraordinary museum and one of the finest in Europe, inspiring art pilgrims from across the world. Despite of its obvious allure, Frank Gehry’s architectural masterpiece isn’t the only reason to visit the Basque Country.
Philippe Starck’s Alhóndiga Bilbao is a 1909 wine warehouse transformed into a culture centre, which includes a glass-bottomed swimming pool, exhibition space and an art house cinema.
Bilbao’s love of modernism has touched every corner of public life. From the Norman Foster designed Metro stations, which are called Fosteritos by locals, the city’s architectural landscape is a fascinating experience for all backpackers.
Where to eat and drink in Bilbao?
Walking along the streets of Bilbao’s Old Town (Casco Viejo), there are some fantastic pincho bars and gorgeous Basque restaurants to be savoured. Pintxos are the Basque equivalent of Spanish tapas and they are baby toast snacks topped up with salt cod, goat’s cheese or chorizo.
Some of the best places to enjoy a txikiteo in Bilbao, a bar crawl involving eating lots of pintxos, include the avante-garde bar Zuga (Plaza Nueva), Sasibil (Calle Jardine) and locals favourite Bar Gatz (Calle Santa Maria).
Best hostels to stay in Bilbao
Like many post-industrial cities, Bilbao has an affordable range of hostels available. With its boutique hostels matching the city’s art galleries for style and imagination, staying overnight in Bilbao is always a visual experience.
Basque Boutique offers eight themed rooms in beautifully designed conditions and is close to the Museo Guggenheim. Rooms are available now from €39 per night.
Casual Hostal Gurea is a refurbished boutique hostel in the Old Town and is perfect for any traveller wanting to head out on a txikiteo bar crawl.
With its bright clean rooms and pure minimalist design, the Bilbao residence is like staying in an upmarket hotel and paying ridiculously low hostel prices. Rooms are available from €23 per night.
Botxo Gallery Hostel lies directly across from the Museo Guggenheim and offers its guests a funky social experience. Creatively designed for modern travellers, this hostel allows backpackers to enjoy the sweet life while on vacation. Dorms are available from €12 per night.
*Now you are ready to explore Basque Country.