Bilbao is located on the eastern edge of Spain’s northern border. It’s lined by the beautiful blue water of the Bay of Biscay and is just a couple hours away from France’s southern border. Cruises to Bilbao, Spain, take you into the heart of Basque Country. During your time in the Bilbao cruise port of call you can do shore excursions and other activities that will introduce you to the Basque culture, which gives this region of Spain its own unique vibe.
You’ll find mild weather in Bilbao even in the summer months. The city’s location to the Bay of Biscay helps it to avoid the oppressive heat that often sweeps through the rest of Spain, making it a popular port of call during Mediterranean cruises in the summer.
One of the top sites to see on cruises to Bilbao, Spain, is the Guggenheim Museum, an impressive museum of modern and contemporary art housed in a building designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. The museum is especially known for its large-scale works and on-site installations by contemporary artists.
You don’t want to miss a walk through the historic quarter of Bilbao, Old Town. The area’s cobblestoned streets are referred to as the Seven Streets due to the way they criss cross through the neighborhood, some of which run perpendicular to the river. Old Town Bilbao was settled 700 years ago. The river played a prominent role in the city’s success as a means of transportation and to fuel the fishing industry.
Zubizuri Bridge is a stunning bridge designed by architect Santiago Calatrava that has a gleaming white color and modern curves that stretch across Nervion River. The pedestrian pathway along the bridge offers beautiful views and a unique ambiance from the geometric design around the pathway.
Take the Funicular de Artxanda from downtown Bilbao up to the summit of Artxanda Mountain for a spectacular view of Bilbao’s cityscape stretching out below you.
Nearby Bilbao is the industrial river town of Getxo. It’s a great place to visit to see the Vizcaya Bridge, which is the oldest transporter bridge in the world. It crosses the River Nervión and provides excellent views.
Bilbao is in the Basque region of Spain and is on the beautiful Biscay Coast. You can visit the town of Bermeo and learn about its maritime past that dates back to 1236. It is known for its old fishermen’s houses designed in a prominent Basque architecture style. Head to Mundaka Viewpoint in Urdaibai for gorgeous panoramic views. At the beach, look for local surfers catching some waves along the Biscay Coast, a world-renowned surf spot. While exploring the Biscay coast, you can also visit Cantabria, which is located on the Bay of Biscay and is known for the Gothic Santa Maria de la Asunción church and its castle that dates back to the Middle Ages.
The wine region of the Basque Province produces some excellent vintages and has some beautiful wineries where you can do a wine tasting. Don’t miss out on trying the Txakoli or Chacoli, which are dry, sparkling white wines with high acidity that are popular aperitifs in the region.
For a ritzy day in port, head to the glamorous resort town of San Sebastián, which was once frequented by Queen Regent Maria Christina and is still visited by Spanish aristocracy today. It is also a frequent haunt of celebrities since it hosts an international film festival every fall. Some of San Sebastián’s top sites include the Cathedral of Buen Pastor, the Town Hall, and the Palace and Gardens of Miramar. Walking along the streets of San Sebastián’s Old Town also can’t be missed thanks to its historic squares and buildings that house restaurants and shops.
The food you can’t miss trying while in Bilbao is pintxos, which is similar to tapas, but on a smaller scale. Though you won’t always see them served this way, pintxos are traditionally served on a toothpick alongside a piece of bread (pintxos is a play on the Spanish word “pinchar” which means to poke or stab).
The best way to get pintxos are at one of the many pintxo bars located in Bilbao. To find a popular one, head to Calle Ledesma where bars serving pintxo line the street and offer a plethora of outdoor seating.
The origins of Bilbao date back to 1300 when it became a city-state. The Old Town area of Las Siete Calles flourished over the centuries, particularly after trade began with the Americas. Basque fishermen and merchants created strong ties to New England, and the city became a focal point for iron and steelworks, shipbuilding, and chemical plants. In 1937, Bilbao became part of Franco and Basque nationalists were punished. This created an economic decline that continued throughout the 1900s, but recent decades have seen the city’s economy flourish again, largely thanks to the banking and tourism industries.
Bilbao is a vibrant city that embraces its Basque heritage while also proudly moving into the 21st century, with a strong influence in architecture and design. When visiting the Bilbao cruise port of call, you’ll find that two languages are largely spoken: Basque and Spanish, with Basque being the first language of many locals.
Cruises to Bilbao, Spain, will actually dock in Getxo, which is located about a 20-minute drive from Bilbao’s city center. Your ship will dock in the cruise terminal, which is adjacent to a leisure marina, a beach, and a pretty promenade.
Bilbao has a city center that is fairly easy to walk around and see all the main sights. You can also save your energy by taking the metro or bus system around the city. Taxis are easy to recognize with their white exterior that features a red stripe on the side. You’ll find them at taxi stations throughout Bilbao as well as lined up outside the cruise terminal in Getxo. River cruise boats can also get you between sights, such as to the Guggenheim Museum.
For clothing and souvenirs, you’ll find plenty of shops in which to browse in the Gran Via shopping district. Located on and perpendicular to the street called Gran Via, you’ll find high streets and designer goods from some of the most popular brands around.
If you want to bring home some local spices and other foodie finds, head to Mercado de la Ribera, a bustling food market located by the river. Even some of the city’s top restaurant chefs find their produce for the day’s menu at this market.
The Euro is the official currency in Bilbao, just like in the rest of Spain. You’ll find ATMs all over the city that dispense Euro notes.
Tipping isn’t compulsory in Bilbao, but it is appreciated. The amount to tip is completely discretionary, but generally 5-10% to taxi drivers is given. Small change is a typical tip for cafes and bars, while nice restaurants likely deserve a 10% tip.