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bilbao en un dia

What to do in Bilbao for a day

It is possible that visiting Bilbao for a day isn't enough since the city has many places to see and things to do. However, thanks to this travel guide on what to see in Bilbao in one day, you will be able to enjoy the best possible experience in the city.

In this article, I detail the essential places in Bilbao, those that cannot be missed on any trip to the city of any duration. At the end of the post I have included a personalized map of Bilbao, in which I have marked all the places I mention. It will be very useful when planning your itinerary.

Table of contents

How to spend one day in Bilbao

Ready to get to know the best things to do in Bilbao in 1 day? Let’s start!


  • San Antón Bridge.
  • Ribera Market.
  • Santiago Cathedral.
  • Plaza Nueva.
  • Paseo del Arenal.
  • Zubizuri Bridge.
  • Guggenheim Museum.
  • Gran Vía Street.

1. San Antón Bridge, start of the 1-day Bilbao itinerary

what to do in bilbao for a day
San Anton Bridge

I suggest you start your visit in Bilbao at the San Antón Bridge, located next to the San Antón Church. Both are several centuries old. If you cross the bridge and stand on the Ría de Bilbao, you will have Bilbao’s Casco Viejo on one side and the Las Cortes neighborhood on the other.

On this side of the river is the Muelle Marzana, a very popular and charming place to have a drink on a terrace. The facades of the houses located on the banks of the estuary are very colorful, creating a very beautiful landscape.

Once you see the Church of San Antón from the bridge, finish crossing it to head to the next stop on this day trip in Bilbao.

🎟️ During your stay, you can join this free walking tour in English. It is a great and affordable way to get to know the history of this beautiful city. Plus, it is one of the best free walking tours in Bilbao!

2. Ribera Market

bilbao for a day
Ribera Market

Next to the Church of San Antón you will find the famous Mercado de la Ribera, one of the largest covered food markets in Europe. Both the exterior and interior of the building are lossless

I encourage you to go inside and stroll among its fruit, vegetable, meat, cheese, bread, etc. stalls. If your stomach already asks for something to eat, don’t hesitate to go to the gastrobar, where you will find numerous pintxo stalls.

Although the current building is from 1929, the origin of this market dates back to the 14th century. Visiting the Mercado de la Ribera will not only be a journey for your senses, but also a trip to the past

Before continuing to the next stop, there are two places outside that you cannot miss. One of them is in the same market. I am referring to the terrace located next to the La Merced entrance. Go there to enjoy beautiful views of the estuary.

Once outside the market, go to the Arcos de la Ribera. The arcaded houses located next to the market have a great appeal that you can only appreciate if you look up at the sky. That’s right, the ceiling of the porticoes have incredible paintings that you will love to appreciate.

3. Santiago Cathedral, in the old town

santiago de bilbao cathedral
bilbao for a day

Now yes, it’s time to enter the historic center of the city, a place that you cannot miss if you visit Bilbao for a day.

In a short time you will arrive at the Cathedral of Santiago, located in the heart of the Old Town. This Gothic-style cathedral is the largest cathedral of its kind located in Bizkaia. It is consecrated to the apostle Santiago, patron saint of the city since 1643. The Santiago Cathedral was completed in the 16th century

You can settle for the exterior or also visit its interior. General admission costs €6 and also includes admission to the Church of San Antón.

🛏️ If you haven’t booked a place to stay yet, I recommend you the hotel we stayed at: Hesperia Bilbao. Our room was very spacious, the breakfast was very good and it is close to the center and the old town. Below you will find more recommendations!

4. Plaza Nueva, one of the best places to visit in one day in Bilbao

bilbao for a day
Plaza Nueva

Continue strolling through the beautiful historic center of the city until you reach Plaza Nueva, one of the most beautiful and lively places in this part of Bilbao. The Plaza Nueva was built in the 19th century and is neoclassical in style. It has a rectangular shape, with 15 arches on two of the sides and 18 arches on the other two sides.

The arcades are home to numerous bars and cafes, therefore, apart from being a nice place to pass through, you can take advantage and sit on one of the terraces.

Before or after your visit to this famous square, I recommend you visit the Plaza Miguel de Unamuno, located nearby. This illustrious writer and philosopher was born in the city in 1864, specifically at number 14 Calle Ronda.

If you prefer to get to know the Old Town of Bilbao accompanied by a guide, you can book this free tour through the historic center of Bilbao.

5. Paseo del Arenal

Arenal Boardwalk
Paseo del Arenal

After wandering around the historic center a bit more, it’s time to head towards “Paseo del Arenal”, a charming park located next to the estuary. The path runs from the Arenal Bridge to the Zubizuri Bridge, which you can cross to go to the other side of the estuary. Next to the Arenal Bridge, you’ll find the Arriaga Theater. Don’t miss its exterior.

Don’t be in a hurry to walk along this promenade as it is very pleasant and full of benches. If you need to make a short stop to rest before continuing, this is the place to do so.

🏥 Remember it is very important to purchase travel insurance for Spain if you don’t have medical coverage in this country. I always use and recommend the company Heymondo, where I can offer you a 5% discount on your travel insurance.

6. Zubizuri Bridge

Puente Zubizuri
What to do in Bilbao for a day

The Zubizuri Bridge is one of the symbols of the city and, of course, one of the best places to visit in Bilbao for a day. This work, by Santiago Calatrava, draws people’s attention for its metallic structures, which give an appearance similar to that of a sailboat

This famous bridge was inaugurated in 1997. Since then, there have been several controversies that have affected Calatrava’s creation. One of the most popular was the glass walkway, in which many people fell as it was very slippery. The solution was to place a carpet over the glass.

As you cross the Zubizuri Bridge, be sure to admire the view from both sides. From here, you can see the La Salve Bridge in the background.

7. Guggenheim Museum, what to see in Bilbao in one day

guggenheim museum bilbao

Once you cross the bridge, walk along Paseo de Uribitarte until you reach the Guggenheim Museum, one of the most beautiful places in Bilbao. This museum stands out for its striking and incredible design, created by the architect Frank Gehry. It was opened in 1997.

It is possible that due to your short visit in the city, you will not have time to visit the interior of the museum. Even if you leave this pending for your next visit to Bilbao, don’t hesitate to come and see the outside of the museum as it is well worth it.

You will be able to take a close look at the museum building and see the works located outside the museum: Maman by Louise Bourgeois, Puppy by Jeff Koons), Tulips by Jeff Koons and The Big Tree and the Eye by Anish Kapoor.

If you are going to take the time to enter the museum, you can purchase your tickets in advance on the Guggenheim Museum website, so you will save some time. You can also book a guided tour of the museum.

At the end of your visit to the museum, you can go up to the La Salve Bridge to look out from it and enjoy this architectural work from another perspective.

8. Gran Vía Street in Bilbao

bilbao in one day

To end your visit to the Biscayan capital, I recommend you walk along the Gran Vía de Don Diego López de Haro, the main street that runs through the center of Bilbao. Walking along this street you will see some of the main attractions of the city center, such as Plaza Moyúa, Chávarri Palace and the Palace of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia.

If you feel like having a good coffee, during your journey between the Guggenheim Museum and Gran Vía, you will pass by the Arvo Coffee & Plants and Cokooncafé coffee shops. I went to both and I really liked them. On the other hand, on Gran Vía you can find the main store of the Arrese pastry shop, especially known for its chocolate palm trees.

If you have time to visit more places in Bilbao, I recommend you read my Bilbao in 2 days travel itinerary, where I recommend more tourist attractions in the city, such as Mirador de Artxanda or Irala neighborhood.

🚗 Do you need to rent a car for your trip to the Basque Country? I recommend checking out Discover Cars, a highly-rated car rental search platform. I have used it several times and it has always been great!

Where to stay in Bilbao

If you are going to spend the night in Bilbao, you will be interested in knowing which are the best areas to stay in Bilbao. The city is not very big, therefore, wherever you stay, you will have no problem getting to the city center. Even so, my recommendation is that you stay in the historic center or in the center of Bilbao.

We stayed at the Hotel Hesperia Bilbao. This hotel is located next to Paseo Campo de Volantín, very close to the Zubizuri Bridge. We were very comfortable as the room was very spacious and the hotel was close to the main tourist attractions in the city.

Other recommended hotels in Bilbao according to budgets:

If you need more recommendations, you can check this post about the best hotels in Bilbao.

Map of the places to visit in Bilbao for a day

In the following map of Bilbao I have indicated the places that I recommend visiting in a day in the city. You can find them in order of visit.

💳 To get cash in the local currency of your destination or pay by card, I recommend getting the N26 card. With the free version you can withdraw cash from ATMs with a very low commission and pay in another currency with the best exchange rate and no commissions.

If you are going to travel more around the country, do not miss my Spain travel guide.

I hope that this article about what to do in Bilbao for a day has been very useful for organizing your route around the city. If you have any questions or contributions, do not hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email. Enjoy your trip to Bilbao!

↠ Book free tours and guided visits on Civitatis or GetYourGuide. I always use these platforms to check what organized activities there are at my destination.

↠ To pay with card in foreign currency or withdraw money from ATMs, I always use this card (there are free and paid plans). It works the best!

↠ Traveling with travel insurance to a destination where you don’t have healthcare coverage is a must. Get your insurance 5% cheaper with this link.

↠ If you want to have cellphone data at your destination from the moment you land and don’t want to waste time, there is nothing like this eSIM. Use the code “comeamaviaja” for a 5% discount.

↠ Check out Booking’s offers, a platform I always use, as I always find very good options thanks to its search engine with filters.

↠ For destinations where I need to rent a car, I always check Discover Cars and Auto Europe search engines. I recommend them!

↠ If you still need to buy flights for your trip, there is no better search engine than Skyscanner (although I always recommend booking the flight on the company’s website).

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