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If you have limited amount of time in the Basque city of Bilbao, rest assured it’s still possible to see the sights in 24 hours. From must-visit attractions such as the Guggenheim Museum to strolling around the Casco Viejo and visiting Europe’s largest indoor market, here’s what we recommend.
Visit one of our 10 best breakfast and brunch spots in the city, then take a stroll around the Siete Calles (Seven Streets) of the old Casco Viejo area. The Old Town is packed with interesting and historic sights, such as the Catedral de Santiago de Bilbao, the Iglesia de San Antón, the Plaza Nueva and the famous La Ribera Market – the largest indoor market in Europe. Take a look art the beautiful Art Deco building and stop to buy some local Basque produce before you continue.
La Ribera Market – Erribera Kalea, 20, Bilbao, Spain, +34 946 57 54 74
Have your main meal for lunch as the locals do, and choose one of our picks for the best local restaurants in Bilbao. Go for a menu of the day and you can get a great-value three-course meal of local dishes, from between €10-€15.
After lunch, head into central Bilbao to visit one of its most celebrated sites – the Guggenheim Museum. Housed in a gigantic titanium metal structure designed by the American architect Frank Gehry, it features work by some of the most prominent artists of the modern day, including Anish Kapoor, Eduardo Chillida, Mark Rothko and Jeff Koons. Don’t forget to visit the Art District around the outside of the museum, where you’ll see some of the most well-known pieces of art, including Louise Bourgeois’ Maman giant spider sculpture and Jeff Koons’ Puppy.
Guggenheim Museum – Abandoibarra Etorb., 2, Bilbao, Spain, +34 944 35 90 80
After your visit to the Guggenheim, go for a walk around central Bilbao, to see some of its most interesting pieces of contemporary architecture. Some of the best include the Azkuna Zentroa, redesigned by Philippe Starck, and the Ministry of Public Health building, which looks like glass and steel origami.
Azkuna Zentroa – Arriquíbar Plaza, 4, Bilbao, Spain
Ministry of Public Health – Recalde Zumarkalea, 39, Bilbao, Spain
Ride the Funicular Artxanda up to the Artxanda Mountain, high above the city. Here you’ll get to enjoy some of the best views of Bilbao, as well as taking walks around the top of the mountain. The old funicular mountain railway has been running since 1915 and is great fun for kids.
Funicular Artxand – Funikularreko Plaza, Bilbao, Spain
Head back into the Casco Viejo area for a Basque pintxos experience. Pintxos are the Basque Country’s answer to tapas – small pieces of bread, topped with various local ingredients, and held together with a cocktail stick. You’ll find them lined up along the bars, and the idea is to help yourself to as many as you want. At the end of the night, staff will count up your cocktail sticks to see how much you owe. Pintxos may be topped with anything, from goat’s cheese and asparagus to Spanish omelette (tortilla), ham and peppers or even fish. Take a look at our list of the best pintxos bars around Plaza Nueva to see where to go.
You have just a few more hours left in this amazing city, so make the most of your time by visiting another of Bilbao’s excellent museums. If you haven’t had your fill of art, head to the Fine Arts Museum, where you’ll able to see works by artists from El Greco and Goya to Francis Bacon and Antoni Tàpies. Or instead of more art, you can discover all about the city’s shipping and fishing industry at the Maritime Museum.
Fine Arts Museum – Museo Plaza, 2, Bilbao, Spain, +34 944 39 60 60
Maritime Museum – Ramón de la Sota Kaia, 1, Bilbao, Spain, +34 946 08 55 00