Hotels in Bilbao
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In the Basque city of Bilbao, the Nervión river is the place to begin. You’ll find the shimmering Guggenheim Museum on its banks, as well as contemporary sculpture, the beautiful arching Zubizuri bridge by Santiago Calatrava, and the city’s university. The riverbank is also home to the interactive Maritime Museum, which reflects Bilbao’s heritage in fishing and shipbuilding, before it became a mecca to modern architecture. Today, in addition to Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim, there’s a Metro railway designed by Norman Foster, the Azkuna Zentroa cultural centre by Philippe Starck, and imposing twin towers by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. To reach everything easily, including the Euskalduna Conference Centre, base yourself at the stylish NXY Hotel Bilbao, one of the best-located hotels in Bilbao city centre.
Get your bearings
The Bilbao Art District contains plenty to see and do. As well as the Guggenheim, the Sala Rekalde and the Museum of Fine Arts, you can admire striking outdoor sculptures by Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons, and explore the many riverside parks and promenades. In the old quarter, to the east, there is the Basque Museum in a historical 17th-century building, the 16th-century Basilica di Begona, with its vaulted ceiling and gold altarpiece, and the elegant Teatro Arriaga opera house.
Bilbao has become a magnet for food-lovers and you’ll find everything from Michelin-starred cuisine at DOMA restaurant to Bilbao’s famous bite-sized savoury snacks called pintxos. The neighbourhoods of Ledesma and Plaza Neuva are packed with popular pintxos bars, including the iconic Victor Montes. The oldest part of Bilbao should not be missed, either. Casco Viejo contains charming streets, lively bars, fragrant bakeries and unique shops, as well as the vast covered food market, the Mercado de la Ribera.
While you’re there
Exchange the vibrant streets of Bilbao for breathtaking views from the top of Mount Artxanda via the historical funicular railway. Or jump onto the Metro and visit the picturesque coastal towns and fishing villages nearby: you could be surfing in less than an hour.