At first glance, the industrial Basque city of Bilbao may not appear to have much for families, but take a closer look and you’ll find plenty to entertain the kids. From fascinating museums to boat tours, beaches, parks and aquariums, there’s more than enough here to fill a whole week of exploring.
Explore Doña Casilda Park
Doña Casilda Park is one of the biggest and best parks in the city, and a great spot to take the children. They will love running around in the wide open green spaces, feeding the ducks and geese on the lake or marvelling at the beautiful fountains. There are also a couple of playgrounds and sometimes a merry-go-round with ride-on horses. Take a picnic and you can enjoy a whole day here.
Ride the Artxanda Funicular
The Artxanda Funicular is the old mountain railway that ferries passengers up and down the Artxanda Mountain, high above the city. Kids will have a great time riding up the mountain, and getting the chance to experience a funicular. At the top, as well as spectacular city views, there are various walkways and a couple of restaurants.
Float down the river on a Bilboat
If those little legs get tired of exploring the city on foot, book a Bilboats tour to discover the city from the water. As many of the major sights, such as the Guggenheim and the Ribera Market are located along the river, it makes for a great way to see the city from a different angle.
Make a day trip out to the Painted Forest of Oma
If you’ve seen most of the major sights in Bilbao and feel like getting out of the city for the day, head to the Painted Forest of Oma, approximately a 45 minute journey to the northeast. Your children will love discovering this free attraction and looking out for the colourfully painted trees by the artist and sculptor Agustín Ibarrola, which include images such as eyes, figures and animals.
Discover all the food stalls at the Mercado de la Ribera
If you’re a foodie family, your little ones will be delighted with Bilbao’s Mercado de la Ribera – Europe’s largest indoor market with over 10,000 square metres of space. Teach your kids about various new types of fruit, vegetables and seafood as you pass by the stalls. The market also houses a number of restaurants and cafes, as well as live music sessions.
Learn about culture at the Basque Museum
Help your kids learn more about Basque culture at the Euskal Museoa, housed in an old 17th century church and college. There are thousands of objects on display here that will fascinate children, from old fishing equipment to this wolf trap (below). A particular highlight are the giants, which are used during Basque festivals.
Play on the beach
Bilbao city itself does not have a beach, as it lies inland a little, however they are a number of gorgeous beaches just along the coast from the estuary of the River Nervión. Many are also easily reachable by public transport from the centre of Bilbao. One of the closest is Sopelana, which is accessible via line 1 on the metro. A vast sandy beach, it’s surrounded by huge craggy cliffs – younger kids will have a great time building sandcastles or paddling, while the older ones may enjoy a surf lesson. There’s also a couple of cafes here – just in case anyone gets hungry.
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