Begin by choosing which area of the city our want to stay in. If you like bars and nightlife and want to be near the action, then stay near the Casco Viejo (Old Town), or if you want to be close to all the best museums, then stay in the central Abando or Indautxu districts. Here’s our neighborhood guide to the coolest areas in Bilbao to help you get to know them a little better. If you’re looking to meet other travelers, a hostel is a good meeting place, but if you’d prefer something a bit nicer or more private, then take a look at our article of The Best Luxury Hotels in Bilbao or The Top 10 Cheapest Hotels in Bilbao—whichever suits your budget.
A great way of getting to know other travelers and meeting people is to go on a group tour. There are loads of great tours in Bilbao, from boat tours and foodie tours to historical tours and art tours. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s sure to be a Bilbao tour for you. Those with a small budget might want to try Free Tours Bilbao, while those who want to stay active may choose a running tour or a city cycling tour. Read our list of the Top 10 City Tours in Bilbao to find out which ones might suit you.
Visiting museums is always a great solo activity, and Bilbao is packed with some excellent choices. At the top of everyone’s list is of course the Guggenheim Museum—the world famous contemporary art museum designed by Frank Gehry. Artists who have their work featured here include Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, Mark Rothko, and Eduardo Chillida, among others. Another great art museum to visit is the Bellas Artes or Fine Arts Museum. If art is not your thing, you’ll find plenty of other museums to explore, such as the Maritime Museum, the Archaeological Museum.
Instead of a tour, meet others by joining in a group activity. One of the best in the city of Bilbao is learning how to make pintxos and local cuisine, with some of the Basque Country’s excellent chefs. Basque Taste offers a five-hour cooking workshop with an award-winning chef, where you’ll visit Bilbao’s famous market, La Ribera, to pick up some ingredients and then head back to the school to learn how to make Basque pintxos.
Bilbao’s Casco Viejo district is one of its most atmospheric. Made up of seven main streets, it’s perfect for exploring and getting lost in. As well as many pintxos bars and souvenir stores, you’ll find some stunning old pieces of architecture, including the Catedral de Santiago de Bilbao, the Arriaga Theater, and the beautiful Iglesia de San Antón church.
Learn more about the city of Bilbao and Basque culture before you go, as it will help you to mix more with the locals. Impress them with your knowledge of the local lingo by reading our essential Basque phrases—be aware though, not all locals speak Basque, so you’ll need to brush up on your Spanish too. When you’ve arrived in Bilbao, make your way to the Museo Vasco to learn more about the local culture and history of its people.
Maybe you don’t want to spend time with others and meet fellow travelers—maybe you came to the city to simply get away from it all and enjoy being alone. If this is the case, then head up to Mount Artxanda to truly have some space for yourself and admire the city from above. To reach the mountain, ride the old funicular, inaugurated in 1915.