The industrial Basque city of Bilbao sits on the northern coast of Spain, in between San Sebastián and Santander. Known for its contemporary art, modern architecture and its distinctive Basque culture, there are many unique experience to have in Bilbao. Here are some of our favourites.
Visit the Museo de Reproducciones Artísticas
You can find art museums in many different cities across the world, but in Bilbao you’ll find the Museum of Artistic Reproductions, meaning that you can see some of the most famous and historic pieces of artwork on the planet, all in one place. Some of the most celebrated pieces you can see here include the Venus de Milo, The Altar of Zeus in the Pergamon, Aphrodite and Dione, and Hemes of Olympia.
Caravan Cinema Hotel Bilbao | Courtesy of Caravan Cinema Hotel Bilbao
The Caravan Cinema is a unique boutique pension in the heart of Bilbao’s Casco Viejo district (Old Town). It’s set around the theme of cinema and movies, and features just five rooms and one apartment. How about staying in the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired apartment, decorated in bright 1970s-style wallpaper, with birds flying across the ceiling and a shadow painted across the shower door? Or perhaps you’d prefer the Pedro Almodóvar room with its exposed wood, bare-brick and old movie posters splashed along the walls?
This one is not actually in Bilbao city, in fact it actually lies around a 40-minute drive to the east near the town of Kortezubi, but it’s so unique and unusual that we had to include it in our list. An enchanted wood in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, the Painted Forest of Oma was created by the artist and sculptor Agustín Ibarrola, who painted colourful geometric shapes, figures and animals onto the trees. There are 47 different works scattered across the forest for visitors to discover.
The Azkuna Zentroa was once the city’s old wine exchange, built in 1905 to store thousands of bottles in its vast cavernous rooms. Today, however it has been redesigned and has become Bilbao’s premiere culture and leisure centre. Re-imagined by the French designer Philippe Starck, it is now an amazing and unique space, held up by 43-individually designed columns. A buzzing and happening place, com here to simply look around and explore, eat out, go to the cinema, visit an exhibition or enjoy live music.
You can find Celtic-themed bars all over the world, but the quirky Residence Café offers something a little different. Run by the eccentric moustachioed local, Manu Iturregi, the bar is filled with odd curios brought in by customers from around the world. Named ‘The Most Unusual Bar in Town’ by Hendricks Gin, it’s also a great place to watch live music and often hosts both local and international folk bands.
There are walking tours, foodie tours and even boat tours, but how about a running tour? Running Tours Bilbao offer visitors a way to keep fit and explore the city at the same time. Choose between 10km (6.2 miles) or 15km (9.3 miles) and get the chance to see buildings such as the Azkuna Zentroa, the Guggenheim, the Campos Elíseos Theatre and the Concordia Train Station, while improving your fitness levels at the same time.
Marvel at the unique artworks on display at the Guggenheim
The Guggenheim Bilbao may be the city’s most famous spot, but it’s also one of its most unique. Housed in a strange-looking metal ship-like building designed by the American architect Frank Gehry, it is an amazing sight along the Bilbao skyline. The contemporary art museum showcases works by some of the greatest modern artists of our day including Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Eduardo Chillida, Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons.