The Basque city of Bilbao, once an industrial port, has famously become a site of intense urban renewal. While here, make sure you try bollos de mantequilla (local butter buns), visit the vibrant Ribera Market and the former corn exchange turned cultural centre Azkuna Zentroa. Whether you want to stay in the Casco Viejo (old town), the modern centre, or close to the Guggenheim Museum, we’ve got you covered.
If you’re a fan of vintage movies, look no further. This fabulously quirky boutique hotel will whisk you to the world of cinema through filmmaker-themed accommodation ranging from Almódovar to Hitchcock. The vibe is retro 1950s throughout, but with modern comforts and conveniences such as cloud-effect mattresses and smartphone app access. The Old Town location puts it within strolling distance of numerous tourist attractions and pintxo bars.
This upmarket hotel is the creation of top fashion designer/brand Antonio Miró. There’s a distinct lack of frills and fuss in the chic interiors, with an extensive contemporary art collection adding colour and character. Trimmed down services include a bijou spa and famously good breakfast, but the main attraction is multiple uninterrupted views of the Guggenheim Museum – including from many of the rooms.
You shouldn’t expect much in the way of features and facilities. What you can expect, however, is contemporary design in the guest rooms, together with practical snooze aids such as blackout blinds and top-quality bedding. Free minibars and a coffee machine are nice touches, too, and to top it all you’re just a five-minute walk from the Guggenheim.
As the name suggests, this hotel is a homage to all things Basque. Each of the eight guest rooms is individually, and playfully, styled by local themes in art, music, landscape or language. Plenty of natural wood and exposed brick give it a rough-and-ready feel. The location deep in the old town also means there’s no shortage of buzz and bustle nearby.
Positioned between the banks of the river Nervión and the green swathe of Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park, this upscale hotel scores high for setting – albeit away from the busy city life of Bilbao. Warm reds and salmon tones dominate inside and out, and there’s a scattering of art to ensure it doesn’t feel too corporate. Facilities impress, nowhere more so than the heated indoor-outdoor swimming pool with fabulous mountain views. The Aizian restaurant is also reputed as one of the finest in the city.
The Gran Hotel Domine occupies one of the best spots in the city – right next to the Guggenheim. This modern hotel was designed by the Spanish artist Javier Mariscal, who also designed the mascot for the Barcelona 1992 Olympics. Guests will find the rooms are contemporary and stylish with both bright colours and earthy hues. It also features a sleek cafe and bar, and a spa area.
The Barceló Bilbao Nervión describes itself as eco-urban. Situated right alongside the river, on the opposite side to the centre. It brings together sustainability, design and technology in a luxury hotel experience. The rooms are spacious and are dressed in natural tones of greens and beiges; they also offer all the latest mod cons. Other facilities include a gym, meeting rooms and onsite restaurant, serving creative dishes, pintxos and a wide range of wines.
This iconic five-star hotel is right in the very centre of Bilbao, on the Plaza Federico Moyúa, surrounded by beautiful flower gardens. This place is fit for royalty with its chandeliers, marble columns, elegance and grace. The rooms are big and romantic, decorated in pastel colours and elegant, patterned wallpaper. Guests will also enjoy dining on Basque cuisine at the restaurant, drinking at the bar and enjoying the views and pintxos from the terrace.
The Petit Palace Arana is a great option for mid-budget travellers, offering great value for money. It’s situated on the edge of Bilbao’s Casco Viejo (Old Town), meaning that from here you can easily walk to many of the city’s sights. The rooms are on the small side, but are stylishly decorated in black and white and have everything you need. Added extras include free-to-use iPads, free bicycle rentals and even gifts for kids.
The Hotel Arenal Bilbao is housed in a characterful red building, located at the entrance to the Casco Viejo. It lies within walking distance of Bilbao Cathedral, Plaza Nueva and many pintxos bars. The rooms are spacious, light and simply-decorated with old fashioned wooden furniture. There’s also a breakfast room.
Aliciazzz is a modern and hip bed and breakfast. With a Wonderland-themed interior, its six rooms are decorated with white rabbits, tea cups, eat-me and drink-me labels, and images of the Queen of Hearts. Yet each of these chapters from Alice in Wonderland also represent historic Basque events and significant places within the Basque Country. Breakfast is also served here.
If you’re an art fan and have specifically come to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim, then why not stay in the same hotel the architect Frank Gehry stayed in when he created his first designs for the museum? The rooms here are large and sleek, clad in bold-patterned wallpapers in blacks, whites and silvers. For dinner, book yourself a table at the hotel’s elegant Club Nautico restaurant, and finish up with drinks at the contemporary Le Club bar.
Offering great value for money, the Casual Bilbao Gurea can be found right in the heart of the Casco Viejo near the cathedral and Plaza Nueva. The rooms are light and fresh, painted in whites and blues with original painted artwork. It’s a great place to stay with children, offering lots of family rooms and kid-friendly facilities.
Leon Beckenham contributed additional reporting to this article.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.