Bilbao

Modern. Arty. And more.

On Spain’s northern coast, just a few miles inland from the Bay of Biscay, Bilbao is richly Basque – and proud of it. Once mighty and industrial, today it’s been reborn as a civilised and cultured service city, with regeneration and optimism at every turn.

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Shopping

Bilbao’s main shopping street is Gran Vía, which has lots of big-name, high-street brands as well as the huge 10-floor department store, El Corte Inglés (Gran Vía 20), which sells clothing, accessories, homewares, leather products and more. There are other interesting shops in the surrounding streets, including the stylish jewellers Sa’d Joyas (Elcano 11). In Bilbao’s charming historic quarter, Casco Viejo also contains big high-street names and a great selection of independent boutiques. You can stock up on jamón ibérico and Basque idiazábal at historic delicatessen Víctor Montes (Nueva Plaza 8), which is also a restaurant.

Food & Drink

Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas, and locals tend to graze on these between around 7pm and 9pm. Great places to try in Bilbao are much-recommended, old-school Café Iruna (Calle Berastegui 5) and the restaurant-deli Victor Montes (Nueva Plaza 8). Basque cooking has many other distinctive dishes, particularly based around seafood, and there’s a fine choice of restaurants, ranging from Michelin-starred Zortziko (Calle Alameda Mazarredo 17) under the stewardship of chef Daniel Garcia, to cheap-and-cheerful places such as La Deliciosa (Jardines Kalea 1). If you’re planning on dining, rather than plumping for pintxos and beer, make sure you have reservations as places get booked up.

Events

Saint Agueda's Day
4 February
This historic festival features parades of children's choirs performing on the city streets, dressed in traditional costumes.

Semana Santa
March-April
Holy Week is celebrated with many solemn parades accompanied by bands of drummers and trumpeters as well as re-enactments of Christ's final days, and there is bull running in the nearby fishing village of Zumaia.

Bilbao BBK Live
July
Bilbao’s three-day answer to Glastonbury has a great line-up, balmy camping spots in a great green expanse, cheaper tickets, and more assured weather conditions. Headliners such as Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode and Green Day, and plenty of DJs get the party started.

Aste Nagusia
August
Attracting huge crowds, ‘Big Week' sees 10 days of cultural events and festivals throughout Bilbao, including traditional music, concerts, dancing, bullfighting, boat races, sporting events and fireworks.

Festival Internacional de Títeres
November
This famous local storytelling festival attracts puppeteers from countries including Africa and Russia, bringing displays of local traditions and beautifully made puppets, and spectators from all over the world.

Hotels

The Basque city of Bilbao, with the breathtaking Guggenheim Museum at its heart, has a great range of hotels, including, at the top end, the gorgeous Silken Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao (Alameda de Mazarredo 61), with a rooftop terrace overlooking the shimmering metallic curves of the Guggenheim, and the fantastic Meliá Bilbao Hotel (Lehendakari Leizaola 29). There are many elegant four-star properties too, such as the Sercotel Coliseo Hotel (Alameda de Urquijo 13) housed in Bilbao’s former opera house, with the original facade and contemporary interiors, as well as lower budget places, such as Sirimiri (Plaza de la Encarnación 3), with attractive rooms in the Old Town.

Essentials

  • Language

    Spanish

  • Currency

    Euro

  • Time zone

    GMT+1 (BST+1 in summer)

  • Flight time

    3 hours 10

  • Holiday type

    Summer sun, City break

Weather

  • 01/11/2014 -

    Sunny skies

    24°C max 14°C min
  • 02/11/2014 -

    Partly cloudy skies

    25°C max 13°C min
  • 03/11/2014 -

    Partly cloudy skies

    21°C max 11°C min
  • 04/11/2014 -

    Patchy rain possible

    15°C max 11°C min
  • 05/11/2014 -

    Patchy rain possible

    14°C max 10°C min
  • 06/11/2014 -

    Sunny skies

    19°C max 11°C min
  • 07/11/2014 -

    Partly cloudy skies

    19°C max 13°C min
  • Jan
    14°C max 5°C min
  • Feb
    15°C max 5°C min
  • Mar
    15°C max 7°C min
  • Apr
    18°C max 8°C min
  • May
    22°C max 11°C min
  • Jun
    22°C max 14°C min
  • Jul
    15°C max 15°C min
  • Aug
    26°C max 15°C min
  • Sep
    25°C max 14°C min
  • Oct
    21°C max 12°C min
  • Nov
    16°C max 8°C min
  • Dec
    14°C max 6°C min