The north of Spain doesn’t always enjoy as good weather as the south, so it’s important to have a back-up plan if it decides to rain. Luckily the Basques are used to this, so there are plenty of indoor sights and activities in Bilbao, from world famous art museums and cathedrals to contemporary arts centres and huge indoor markets. Here’s our pick of the best.
When it’s cold and wet, the very best place to head to in Bilbao is the Museo Guggenheim. Designed by the famous American architect, Frank Gehry, this world class contemporary art museum is without a doubt the city’s top sight. Inside you’ll find artworks by the likes of Mark Rothko, Anselm Kiefer and Cy Twombly. Check out our article on the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 10 Amazing Artworks to get a small preview.
If modern art is not your thing, perhaps you prefer fine art instead. The city’s Museo Bellas Artes is another top sight and offers a welcome respite from the rain. A united collection from two of the city’s former art museums, it opened in 1945 and comprises an old palatial-style building with a new and modern one attached. Here you’ll find classic works by artists such as Paul Gauguin, El Greco and Francisco de Goya.
Maritime heritage and fishing were once the most important industries in Bilbao. To get a sense of their relationship to the city, visit the Maritime Museum. Located in the former outbuildings of the Euskalduna shipyard, it displays everything from model boats to exhibits detailing the maritime rescue system.
Come out of the wet and into the welcoming atmosphere of the Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao’s large arts and entertainment centre. Once a huge storehouse for wine, it was redesigned by the famous French artist Philippe Starck. One of the most remarkable things about its design are the 43 uniquely-created columns – each with their own pattern – holding it up.
Offering one of the most elegant roofs over your head is the Bilbao Cathedral, also known as the Catedral de Santiago. Dedicated to the apostle Saint James, it was built in the 15th century and is both Gothic and neo-Gothic in style.
Besides the Cathedral, the Basilica of Begoña is the city’s most impressive looking church. Designed by Sancho Martínez de Arego, it is said that it was built on the site where the Virgin Mary appeared in the 16th century. The church was particularly important to Bilbao’s seafaring community.
If you don’t feel like traipsing from tapas bar to tapas bar in the rain, head to somewhere, where you’ll find all the food in one place. The Mercado de la Ribera is Europe’s largest indoor market and has stalls selling all the tastiest Basque delicacies, as well as a number of bars and restaurants. One restaurant has its own jazz band, so you can make a night of it here too.
There’s nothing better than passing your time waiting for the rain to stop in Bilbao, than learning about Basque culture and history at the Archaeological, Ethnographic and Basque History Museum. Housed in the old Jesuit School of San Andrés and the former Casa de Misericordia, it’s an impressive and elegant space. Here you’ll learn all about the history of the Basques, displayed through various artefacts and models.