When planning your next trip, why settle for humdrum attractions or big city busyness when you can experience one of the most enchanting—yet often overlooked—cities in Europe: Bilbao. Nestled along Northern Spain's scenic coastline, this charming city offers unique and off-the-beaten track experiences that will leave you with indelible memories for years to come.
With its exciting culinary scene, stunning architecture, and fascinating cultural heritage – there is so much more than meets the eye. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of our favorite Bilbao hidden gems and best-kept secrets - from the mysterious origins of Basque country delicacies to romantic walks along tiny streets showcasing dazzling architecture. From the best-kept secrets to some exclusive local spots that even locals don't know about –we have compiled this list of 11 must-see Bilbao Hidden Gems to help make your adventure even more special! Ready to explore all that Bilbao has in store? Dive into this inspiring journey full of unexpected experiences as we embrace the beauty and history of this vibrant city with its unmissable hidden gems!
Visiting Bilbao wouldn't be complete without visiting the Basque Museum.
Nestled between the city's formidable Guggenheim and iconic Cathedral, the museum stands as a tribute to the country's oldest people, taking visitors through a journey of local history and traditions. It offers an interactive journey through time that sheds light on why and how the Basques have made a huge impact on their surroundings and beyond.
With collections featuring archeological pieces, music, art and so much more, this cultural haven celebrates the resilience and spirit of one of Europe's oldest ethnic groups with fascinating artifacts that tell the story behind their heritage. When visiting Bilbao be sure to carve out some time amongst its museums; there's no better way to discover how far back its collective memory stretches!
Atxurri and Abando Train Stations
Visiting Bilbao is like visiting two different worlds. On one hand, there is the modern metropolis of Abando - a bustling train station with multiple transport options connecting regions in and around the city. Here you can find your way to many of Bilbao’s most exciting spots and attractions - all while soaking up its vibrant bustle. On the other hand, there is this beautiful old train station at Atxurri, where you can experience a flashback to the past.
Atxuri station is quaint and artistically designed with its modern steel and glass roof remaining the same since 1927 when it was created, while in stark contrast, Abando offers a more modern-day experience with its brightly lit hallways and polished surfaces. Together they welcome tourists from all corners of the globe with their sleek grandeur creating a sense of wonderment and anticipation for all who visit Bilbao for the first time.
Atxurri and Abando Train Stations both offer unique experiences to visitors visiting Bilbao - no matter where you choose to go, there's sure to be plenty of adventure waiting for you!
Bilbao’s Museum of Reproductions
Visiting Bilbao is an inspiring experience, and visiting the Museum of Reproductions is a great way to make that experience even more memorable. Located in the city center, the museum has beautiful galleries filled with classic sculptures and paintings. The works on display come from all over the world, with everything from ancient Greek figures to Spanish masters like Velázquez represented in its collection.
Not only can visitors appreciate these stunning artworks up close and personal, but they also have access to detailed information about each piece. Whether learning about a beloved masterpiece or discovering something fascinatingly new, visiting Bilbao's Museum of Reproductions is sure to be an inspirational experience for anyone visiting this striking city!
The Azkuna Zentroa Swimming Pool
This state-of-the-art facility includes an Olympic-sized swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and SPA, plus a range of facilities such as saunas and steam baths.
Located next to the Guggenheim Museum, this amazingly designed pool complex offers a perfect venue for an eye-catching dive. With its glass walls that catch the sunlight and offer beautiful views of the skyline and its striking concrete roofs, The Azkuna Zentroa Swimming Pool provides a unique sightseeing experience unlike any other.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing afternoon or an exciting swim session in one of Europe's most modern facilities, what to visit in Bilbao has no better option than The Azkuna Zentroa Swimming Pool.
The Neighbourhood of Irala
The Neighbourhood of Irala in Bilbao is a beautiful place to explore and discover. It is home to one of the oldest cathedrals in the Basque Country, the Iglesia de San Antolín de Irala, which has been protected since 1995 as a Bien de Interés Cultural (cultural asset). Full of culture, history, and architecture, visitors are sure to be inspired as they wander its cobbled streets and take in what it has to offer.
The Basilica de Begonia is an especially stunning example of the city's rich cultural heritage, and sights such as this promise to enchant all who visit. Further afield, San Mamés Stadium makes for an interesting stop-off from Irala – what better way is there to get stuck into the atmosphere of Bilbao? And no visit would be complete without spending some time browsing the wares at Mercado de la Ribera; a fantastic selection of fresh produce awaits at one of Spain's largest food markets!
The Chill-Out Zone in Zorrotzaurre
Bilbao offers an incredible number of exciting activities and sights to visit. One of these local attractions that shouldn't be missed is the Chill-Out Zone in Zorrotzaurre. Located on the east side of the Nervion River, the Chill-Out Zone features a unique blend of modern architecture and nature, creating what is often described as an oasis in one of Spain’s great cities.
Walking along the chill-out zone's paths, visitors can enjoy stunning views while being enveloped by freshly cut grass, extensive flowerbeds, and a variety of beautiful nature surrounding them. It’s no wonder this spot has become a popular area for both tourists and locals alike who are looking to spend the day surrounded by beauty and tranquility.
Explore Bilbao by canoe
Exploring Bilbao via canoe is a remarkably inspiring experience. Meandering through the city's majestic canals, you will find yourself in awe of its vibrant culture and architecture. From Park de Doña Casilda to Plaza Moyua, you can soak up what Bilbao has to offer from the unique vantage point of the water. Along your paddle down the river, don't miss out on what makes Bilbao so unique - its iconic Guggenheim Museum and funicular crossing into the old town!
Canoeing in this Spanish port city offers an unforgettable adventure that should not be missed.
A hotspot of Spanish culture, one must-visit while visiting the Basque country is the Café Iruña. Established in 1899, this café has served as an important gathering place for Spanish dramatists, politicians, philosophers, and many other figures in the worlds of literature and art. The ornate décor within these historic walls makes you feel like you’re stepping back into a bygone era and offers a unique perspective of Spanish culture. Enjoy classic Basque performances in Spanish and explore a menu of Michelin-Star-worthy offerings in a lively atmosphere that brings together locals and visitors alike. Be sure not to miss out on visiting this iconic cafe to complete your trip to Bilbao!
Mercado de la Ribera
Visiting Bilbao wouldn't be complete without visiting the Mercado de la Ribera. This bustling market encompasses a lively and welcoming atmosphere, drawing visitors from all over the world. In its vibrant stalls, visitors can find local produce, proudly displayed alongside products from various parts of Spain. Meat and fish fresh from the markets is a specialty here, as are signature dishes like patties with vegetables or anchovies on toast.
The Mercado de la Ribera has something for everyone visiting Bilbao, and its cheerful atmosphere makes it an inviting place to explore.
Visiting the city of Bilbao isn't complete without visiting Sua San, an old part of town that has withstood the test of time. There one will find more than just interesting architecture and captivating street art; they will also find a vibrant culture full of love, warmth, and humor. Over the years it has become a meeting place for locals and tourists to shop, sample delicious food, drink a glass of wine, and learn about its rich history.
Watching the sunset over this grand river and feeling the cool breeze brush against your face while you take in all of its beauty leads to an unforgettable moment. As one of the most recognizable symbols of Bilbao, visiting the Sua San allows tourists to get close to the true roots and culture of this amazing city. Taking a walk along the banks of this historic river can open your eyes to all that the city holds and make visiting Bilbao something that you will remember forever.
Playa de Sopelana
Visiting Bilbao is the perfect opportunity to experience Playa de Sopelana, one of the most breathtaking and picturesque beaches on the Bay of Biscay.
Located off the city's coastline, this beautiful beach stretches out over 6 kilometers of white sand shoreline.
Whether you enjoy strolling along its expansive shores or taking in the smell and sound of waves crashing against the sand, a day spent at this beach will be forever remembered as a truly inspiring experience. While visiting, don't forget to check out the nearby restaurants and cafes that offer iconic Basque dishes and vibrant atmospheres. There's truly something for everyone at Playa de Sopelana!
There's something incredibly special about Bilbao and its hidden gems. From its iconic beaches to the restaurant tucked away in the old library, you can find culture and delicious food around every corner. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a returning one, you really won't be able to get enough of all this city has to offer and its hidden secrets.
Come on down and discover the city on your way, no matter what season it is! When going out and having new experiences, don't forget to take along our deck of cards with 50 creative travel ideas that will help maximize your Bilbao experience – from cycling around town to sampling pintxos. Get out there and explore all that this fantastic city has to offer!