Places to visit if you’re spending 2 days in Bilbao
Ready to discover the best of Bilbao in 2 days? Let’s start!
Day 1 in Bilbao
On your first day in Bilbao, I recommend you visit the Guggenheim Museum, take a walk along the Bilbao Estuary and tour the old town.
Guggenheim Museum, a must if you’re spending 2 days in Bilbao
I can’t think of a better place to start your visit in Bilbao than the Guggenheim Museum. This museum was opened in 1997 and has become the great symbol of the city. The building, created by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, draws attention for its spectacular design.
Inside you will find a collection of contemporary art from local and international artists. On the other hand, the museum always has several temporary exhibitions that change frequently.
Outside the museum, you can find several works, like the famous spider (Maman by Louise Bourgeois) and the flower puppy (Puppy by Jeff Koons). You can also see Jeff Koons’ Tulips and Anish Kapoor’s The Big Tree and the Eye.
Guggenheim Bilbao opening hours: Sunday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
General admission costs €16. You can buy tickets through the museum’s website. Another great option is to take a guided tour of the Guggenheim.
Paseo del Arenal
Once you have finished visiting the Guggenheim Museum, whether you’ve visited the outside or also inside, it is time to cross the Bilbao Estuary to head to the next stop, the old town of Bilbao.
To do so, I recommend you cross the Pedro Arrupe Footbridge. You will have to walk a bit more but, in this way, you will pass through the Avenida de las Universidades, a promenade from which you can enjoy beautiful views of the Guggenheim Museum. Don’t be too lazy to walk a little more, it’s worth it!
Continue your way until you get to Paseo del Arenal and keep walking until you reach the Bilbao City Hall. Now you only need to enter Calle de la Esperanza to enter the heart of the old town of Bilbao.
In my case, I walked this specific route on several occasions and it’s delightful. You pass by the estuary, there are numerous trees, benches to rest for a while… I’m sure you’ll love it.
Old Town of Bilbao
The Old Town is one of the best places to visit if you’re spending 2 days in Bilbao. Getting lost in its streets while discovering corners full of charm is one of the best things to do in the city. Among its squares and monuments, do not miss the following essentials: Plaza Nueva, the Church of San Nicolás, Plaza Miguel Unamuno, the Cathedral of Santiago de Bilbao and the Arcos de la Ribera.
If you would like to get to know this part of the city better, I recommend you book this free walking tour of Bilbao. Accompanied by a local guide, you will be able to get to know the history of the historic center of Bilbao in detail. It lasts 2 hours and a half.
If you want to start enjoying Bilbao’s pintxos, I recommend the Motrikes bar or the Bodega Joserra. Another option is to head to the next stop on this route.
The Ribera market is a must-visit place on your trip to Bilbao. It is located between the old town and the Nervión estuary. The market dates back to the 14th century, although the current building was inaugurated in 1929, designed by architect Pedro de Ispizua.
Inside you can find numerous stalls selling various foods: fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese, pickles, etc. There is also a gastrobar with several pintxo bars. If you are hungry, take advantage of your visit to eat something.
One corner of the market that I really liked was the terrace located next to the La Merced entrance. From this place you can enjoy very nice views of the San Antón Bridge and the colored houses located on the other side of the estuary.
Bridge and San Antón Church
Next to the famous market, you will find San Antón Church and the San Antón Bridge. The church was built at the end of the 15th century while the bridge was built many centuries ago. Although the construction of the current bridge dates back to 1937. Together they form part of the coat of arms of Bilbao and Athletic football clubs.
Once you cross San Antón Bridges, head to the right and start walking along the banks of the Ría de Bilbao again, this time on the other side. You will find yourself at the famous Muelle Marzana, one of the best places in the city to have a drink on a terrace. It’s a very charming place with a very lively atmosphere. If you prefer something warm, I recommend Bihotz Café.
Concordia Station and Arriaga Theatre
If you continue your way through the streets after the Marzana Pier, you will reach the old Concordia Station, inaugurated in 1902 and in a modernist style, which connects Bilbao with Santander and other towns.
After passing Arenal Bridge, on your right, you will see the famous Arriaga Theater, where the main plays and concerts in Bilbao are held. The building was designed by the architect Joaquín Rucoba and inaugurated in 1890.
Day 2 in Bilbao
On your second day in Bilbao, I recommend you go up to a beautiful viewpoint, walk through the center of Bilbao, walk through a neighborhood full of color and, if you have time, take a short excursion.
Go up to Artxanda Viewpoint
We start day 2 in Bilbao by going up to one of the most famous viewpoints in Bilbao, Artxanda Viewpoint. The best way to get there is by using the funicular located in Plaza del Funicular. The journey only takes 3 minutes. Once at the top, you can enjoy the views of the city and a very pleasant walk.
The funicular costs €4.30 round trip. However, if you have the Barik, a public transportation card in Bizkaia, it costs €0.65 one way.
The Zubizuri Bridge is one of the most striking bridges in Bilbao, although it is also one of the most controversial. This work by Santiago Calatrava, inaugurated in 1997, has a very striking arched structure. Initially, the entire floor of the bridge was glazed but, due to the continuous falls, a non-slip mat had to be put up.
Crossing the bridge is quite an experience, not only because of the views on both sides, but also because of the curious effect that the structure itself creates as you pass.
Walk in the Center of Bilbao
Once you cross the bridge, head left on Alameda de Mazarredo and start your visit in this part of the city. Do not miss the Albia Gardens, Ledesma Street, the Campos Elíseos Antzokia Theatre, the Gran Vía, the Palace of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa, the Chávarri Palace and the Azkuna Zentroa.
If you want to have some pintxos in the center of Bilbao, I recommend you go to Calle del Licenciado Poza. Here you will find a wide variety of bars and a very lively atmosphere. We went to Gaztandegi, where the cheese pintxos are famous. We also went to the Txirene. I recommend the cheese cake.
You cannot miss the Arrese Pastry Shop, located in the center of Bilbao. There are several scattered around the city. One of the best known products is the chocolate palm tree. delicious!
You can visit part of the places that I have just mentioned for free by booking this free tour of the Modernist Bilbao.
Irala, English neighborhood in Bilbao
This neighborhood is not yet well known but I have not hesitated to include it in this itinerary to see Bilbao in two days. The reason? Its beautiful colored houses of English inspiration and neo-Basque style. To get to this neighborhood, you will only have to walk for about ten minutes from the center of Bilbao
I recommend you go through the following streets: Zuberoa, Kirikiño and Baiona. If you want to know more details about this neighborhood, here you can find more information about its history.
Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park
One of the places that I liked the most, whenever I wanted to take a walk around the city, was Doña Casilda de Iturrizar Park, located very close to the Iberdrola Tower and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. The park was designed by Ricardo Bastida and Juan de Eguiraun. The construction of this romantic-style green space began in 1907. Do not miss the pond, the fountain and the pergola.
La Salve Bridge
I conclude the 2-day itinerary in Bilbao with another of the city’s iconic places, the La Salve Bridge, built in the 1970s. The best thing about this bridge is walking on it and enjoying the view of the Guggenheim Museum.
Day trips from Bilbao
Once you’ve visited every place on this 2-day Bilbao itinerary, you may have some spare time to take a day trip from the city. If you happen to visit during the summer and the weather is favorable, I recommend you go to Sopelana Beach. We enjoyed a day full of sand and sunshine and thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you like nature and still want to walk more, you can walk along the Paseo de La Galea, a path that runs on the Biscayan coast from the Bilbao estuary to Plentzia. You can walk next to huge cliffs and enjoy the incredible view of the sea. The walk is several kilometers long but you don’t have to walk the entire length of the path.
Another very popular option is to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a unique place to see in the Basque Country. Remember that if you are going to visit this beautiful corner of the province, you have to get a permit to enter. You can do it here.
Where to stay in Bilbao
We stayed at the Hesperia Hotel Bilbao for two nights. It is located very close to the center of Bilbao, just on the other side of the Nervión estuary. On the other hand, it is only a ten minute walk from the old town. As you can see, it is a great place to stay if you want to be within walking distance from the rest of the city.
We stayed in a superior double room with a view. We loved it. It’s a very spacious and comfortable room with very nice views. The bed, apart from being huge, was very comfortable. The breakfast is quite complete and the staff was very friendly. I recommend it!
If you need to know more about hotels in the city, don’t miss my article on where to stay in Bilbao.
Map of 2 days in Bilbao itinerary
In the following map I have marked all the places mentioned in this 2 day Bilbao itinerary: tourist attractions, restaurants, cafes and our hotel in Bilbao. You can see the places of the first day marked in blue and those of the second day in Bilbao, in red.
If you are going to visit other places in the country, do not miss my Spain travel guide.
I hope that this article on what to see in Bilbao in 2 days has been very useful to you in planning your itinerary through this charming city in the Basque Country. If you have any question or concerns, do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me. Enjoy your trip to Bilbao!