What to do in Bilbao in one day
Ready to get to know the best of Bilbao in a day? Let’s start!
1. San Antón Bridge, start of the Bilbao itinerary
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.
2. 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
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.
4. Plaza Nueva, one of the best places to visit in Bilbao for a day
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
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.
6. Zubizuri Bridge
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
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
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 guide, where I recommend more tourist attractions in the city, such as Mirador de Artxanda or Irala neighborhood.
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 sleep 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:
– Affordable: Hotel Ria de Bilbao.
– Average: Hotel Bilbao Plaza.
– High: Hotel Tayko 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.
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!