ROL Cruise recommends…
1. Get acquainted with the city’s history in Casco Viejo
Bilbao’s Old Quarter, known as Casco Viejo, is an ideal starting point for discovering the city and its culture. Walk along narrow streets as you browse the charming cafés and shops that occupy the lower floors of its lofty, multi-storey buildings. Admire landmarks in a variety of architectural styles, such as the mostly Gothic Cathedral de Santiago (St. James), the Neo-Baroque Teatro Arriaga opera house and the Neoclassical Plaza Nueva.
2. Walk along the river
Take a relaxing stroll along the Nervión River, past converted warehouses and quaint eateries. Right on the waterfront you’ll find the Art Deco La Ribera market and the lovely San Anton church. Catch the nearby funicular to the viewpoint of Mount Artxanda for panoramic views of the bustling city.
3. Be astounded by art
The striking Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is the city’s most popular draw. A masterpiece of urban architecture, its contemporary limestone, glass and titanium form is credited as reinventing the once-dilapidated industrial city. Step inside the riverside building to view some of its 19 galleries leading off of the soaring atrium. Admire an array of modern exhibits including sculptures, paintings and photography by famous artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein. For medieval works, head past the elliptical Torre Iberdrola skyscraper to Museo des Bellas Artes in the city centre.
4. Venture further afield
Beyond Bilbao city are numerous charming towns that deserve a visit if you have time. Enjoy the scenic Basque countryside as you head for Bermeo, on the north coast. This quaint fishing village has a couple of picturesque churches and an eighteenth century town hall, while nearby Guernica suffered an aerial bombing that inspired Picasso’s painting of the same name. Slightly further afield is the wonderfully lively seaside town of San Sebastian and medieval Hondarribia.
5. Go sightseeing in Getxo
Around 12 miles outside Bilbao is the seaside town of Getxo. Beyond the cruise port and yacht harbour, you’ll find sandy beaches and ample attractions to fill an afternoon. Make sure your sightseeing list includes the impressive Vizcaya Bridge, the quaint Neo-Gothic Santa Ana chapel and the stately mansions of Biscay’s wealthiest residents. Head north to Algorta and Punta Galea for fantastic cliff views, as well as monuments such as the Prince’s Castle, an eighteenth century windmill and the Baroque Andra Mari church.