Bilbao beyond the Guggenheim Museum


There’s more to Bilbao than the Guggenheim Museum. Not long ago, Bilbao was known only as an industrial city in the north of Spain. Only a few people knew about the city and even fewer came to visit it. The opening of the Guggenheim Museum marked the arrival of travellers from all over the world. Many spoke about the “Bilbao effect” as an example of a city that has reinvented itself.

But apart from the Guggenheim Museum, there are many other interesting places to visit in Bilbao:

(1) The city center: This is the core of the city where everything started. A charming neighbourhood around 7 streets and the Cathedral of Santiago, which interestingly hides in its walls… a local jewelry shop! Do not miss local boutiques such as Ah! (Carnicería Vieja 18) or Vas hecha un cuadro (Belostikale Kalea 6).

(2) The Ensanche district: This is the best area for shopping. You can find well-known brands such as El Corte Inglés, Swarovski, and Zara.

(3) The port area of Getxo: This was the area where wealthy factory owners came to live at the end of 19th century. Many of the grand houses in this area were constructed for them.

Where to stay in Bilbao

(1) Hotel Carlton: This was the only 5-star hotel in Bilbao before the Guggenheim was built. Today there are more luxury hotel options but it’s still an excellent hotel.

(2) Hotel Silken Gran Domine Bilbao: This is another great place to stay. Right in front of the Guggenheim, but more than this, the terrace for breakfast (or just for a pintxo or a drink in the afternoon) is one of the best places to stop.

(3) Hotel Miro: This is a 50-room boutique hotel close to the Guggenheim. Modern design (by Barcelona designer Antonio Miro), convenient location and friendly service.

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This article was contributed by Aitor Delgado, a Basque private tour guide based in Bilbao.


About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.