Bilbao is a city in the heart of the Basque Country, in the north of Spain. Originally a purely commercial and industrial city, in the 90s it began its rise in the world of tourism and today it is a modern and avant-garde city, visited by many people every year.
Its location is ideal for discovering both the Basque coast and the hinterland, including the La Rioja wine region. And its gothic cathedral is also one of the stages of the Camino de Santiago.
Let's see together what are the best day trips around Bilbao.
- Portugalete, Las Arenas and the Vizcaya bridge
- Loyola Sanctuary
- Getaria and Zarautz
- San Sebastian
- San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
- Sanctuary of Arantzazu, Oñati and Elorrio
- User questions and comments
1 - Portugalete, Las Arenas and the Vizcaya bridge
It is a city just 17 kilometers from Bilbao, it will take you only 20 minutes by car to reach it. But the best means of transport is the subway: from the metro station in the Abando district of Bilbao you can take the direct metro to Portugalete station, reaching your destination in just 30 minutes.
City that still retains some of its medieval charm, especially in the historic center, one of its most beautiful parts. Here is the Basilica of Santa Maria, in Gothic and Renaissance style. Climbing on its Mirador you can admire a beautiful view of the city.
One of the main attractions is the Vizkaya Bridge, a transporter bridge that connects the city to that of Las Arenas, crossing the Nerviòn river. By the inhabitants it is also called "Puente Colgante", or Suspended Bridge. IS' the oldest transporter bridge in the world, it was in fact built in 1893, and in 2006 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Las Arenas is a residential neighborhood of Gexto, a city directly overlooking the sea, in Abra Bay.
- 17,5 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in 20 minutes by car or by metro from Bilbao-Abando metro stop to Portugalete metro stop, journey time 30 minutes - Get directions
- cities are always open to visitors
- Bilbao: Portugalete, Getxo, & Santurtzi cruise
2 - Sanctuary of Loyola
It is located 73 kilometers east of Bilbao. The best way to reach it is by car, as it will only take you 55 minutes. With public transport, times are considerably longer: the journey time exceeds 2 hours and you will have to make several changes.
The Sanctuary is located in the valley of the Urola river and is an architectural complex built around the Loyola family's Casa Torre. Today it is a real pilgrimage center: this is the birthplace of the saint Íñigo López de Loyola and, also here, his conversion took place in 1521.
One of the central parts of the Sanctuary is the beautiful Basilica, whose construction began in 1689 and ended with its inauguration on July 31, 1738, the feast of St. Ignatius. From the outside, one of the first things that catch the eye is the imposing dome, 65 meters high. Having become a real spiritual center, the sanctuary opens its doors every day to the faithful, pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
- 73 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in 55 minutes by car, by public transport there are various options ranging from 2 to three hours of travel and which include several changes - Get directions
- open every day of the year, from November to June from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 15:30 to 19:00, from July to October there are different times for the various parts of the Sanctuary: the Basilica is open from 10:00 to 19:30, the birthplace of San Ignazio from 10:00 to 18:30
- admission is free
- Tour to Loyola, Getaria, Zarautz and San Sebastian from Bilbao
3 - Getaria and Zarautz
They are two places located on the Basque coast, about 82 kilometers from Bilbao. Between them they are just 5 kilometers away. The best way to reach them is by car, as it will only take an hour. With public transport, times double, almost triple: the journey time exceeds 2 and a half hours and you will have to make several changes. Moreover, these two locations are about 30 minutes away from the Loyola Sanctuary, therefore a solution could be to organize the visits on the same day, perhaps by inserting the Sanctuary in the morning and the two cities in the afternoon.
Getaria is a fishing town and it is the birthplace of some famous Spanish characters, including Juan Sebastián Elcano and Cristóbal Balenciaga. To enjoy it to the fullest, we recommend that you stroll through the streets of the historic center, with its characteristic houses, and follow the road to the port and, finally, to the lighthouse.
Zarautz, on the other hand, is a modern and elegant seaside resort. In addition, it stands out for its gastronomy, in fact here you can eat some of the best dishes of all the Basque Country. Originally this place was a whaling settlement, but over time it has developed into an important tourist resort.
- 82,5 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in an hour by car, by public transport there are various options ranging from 2 to three hours of travel and which include several changes - Get directions
- cities are always accessible; the Getaria Lighthouse is always open
- Txakoli Winery Visit and Getaria and Zarautz Villages Tour From Bilbao: San Sebastian and Gipuzkoa Coast Tour
4 - San Sebastian
If you are not interested in visiting the Sanctuary of Loyola, you can combine the visit of Getaria and Zarautz with that of this city. It is 101 kilometers from Bilbao and can be reached in about an hour and 10 minutes by car or in two hours by public transport. If you want to visit the three cities on the same day, we recommend that you rent a car, in order to be more autonomous and be able to manage schedules as you see fit. Or, you can take part in a Tour to Loyola, Getaria, Zarautz and San Sebastian, which combines all four destinations.
San Sebastian is a tourist resort in the Bay of Biscay. It is famous above all thanks to the beautiful beaches of Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta and their picturesque promenade, packed with world-famous restaurants. Not by chance, it is considered the pearl of the Basque Country and the Cantabrian Sea, is a true paradise both for lovers of water sports and for those who love to relax and sunbathe. In addition to the beaches, we recommend that you stroll through the historic center, the Parte Vieja, and visit the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro. In addition, you cannot miss a visit to Monte Urgull, a 123 meters high hill from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Concha and the whole city.
- 101 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in an hour and 10 minutes by car or by bus A3247 from the Bilbao Termibus to Bilbao airport, and from there take the DO50B bus to Donostiako bus station Geltokia bus in San Sebastian, journey time of one hour and 50 minutes - Get directions
- the city can always be visited; the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro is open from Monday to Sunday from 10:15 to 13:15 and from 16:45 to 19:40; Monte Urgull is open from 1 May to 30 September from 8:00 to 21:00, from 1 October to 30 April from 8:00 to 19:30
- admission to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro costs € 3,00; the entrance to Monte Urgull is free
- Tour to Loyola, Getaria, Zarautz and San Sebastian from Bilbao From Bilbao: San Sebastian and Gipuzkoa Coast Tour
5 - San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
One of the most famous resorts on the Basque coast, it is located just 35 kilometers from Bilbao. The best way to reach it is by car, in just 49 minutes of travel. You can also take public transport, for example by taking the train to Bermeo and from there take the bus to Gaztelu Begi. Travel times, of course, get longer, exceeding 2 hours and a quarter.
It has become very famous in recent years as it is one of the locations of the television series "Games of Thrones", and appears in the seventh season under the name of Dragonstone. The landscapes you will admire are truly incredible. We advise you to take the staircase overlooking the ocean, a path of 231 steps overlooking the sea, which will lead you to the islet of Gaztelugatxe, where the hermitage of San Giovanni is located. Once a place of pirates and witches, today it is a destination for pilgrims and fishermen. The walk is challenging but the view will pay off the energy expended. And, once you get to the top, ring the bell three times, it is said to bring luck!
- 34,9 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in 49 minutes by car or by train from Bilbao station to Bermeo station, from here take bus A3517 to Gaztelu Begi, travel time of two hours and 15 minutes - Get directions
- always accessible
- Gaztelugatxe and Guernica: Tour from Bilbao From Bilbao: Game of Thrones Guided Tour
6 - Guernica
From San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, going back you can take a small detour and stop in this beautiful location, about 27 kilometers away. From Bilbao, however, the city is only 35 kilometers, about half an hour by car. To reach it by train you will have to take the one going to Bermeo, the same to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, and get off at the Gernika stop. Or you can choose to take part in an organized tour from Bilbao.
This is a small town that, unfortunately, has become world famous for being the scene of one of the worst bombings in Spanish history. The event was painted by Picasso, in his famous Guernica painting. And, as you can imagine, many of the city's attractions are dedicated to this sad event.
But the town also has much more to offer: one of the most important sites is the Gernikako Arbola, or the sacred Guernica Tree. During the years when the city was the religious and historical capital of the Basque country, this tree was the meeting place of the Assembly of Biscay and its meetings. Even today, the mast is represented on the Guernica flag, as a symbol of the traditional freedoms of the Basque people.
- 35,8 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in 30 minutes by car or by direct train from Bolueta-bilbao station to Gernika station, journey time 45 minutes - Get directions
- always accessible; the recommended tour departs at 8:30 am with pickup directly from the hotel and has a duration of 5 hours
- free; the recommended tour costs € 65,00 per person (minimum 2 participants required) - book online
- Gaztelugatxe and Guernica: tour from Bilbao
7 - Vitoria-Gasteiz
Unlike the other resorts proposed, this one is located inland, 63 kilometers from Bilbao. You can reach it in just 45 minutes by car or by bus from Bilbao to the Vitoria-Gasteiz bus station in just one hour.
In 2012 Vitoria-Gasteiz was awarded the attribute of green capital of the Basque Region, thanks to its 40 different parks! It is estimated that there are 150.000 trees in all and that for each inhabitant there are 42 square meters of greenery.
This city is waiting to be discovered, starting from its historic center, considered one of the most beautiful in the whole region, where there is also the Spanish Steps, the heart of city life. Furthermore, you can still see the defense walls that surround it, dating back to the th century.
Not far from Vitoria-Gasteiz is the La Rioja Region, a famous wine region full of cellars and vineyards. If you travel by car, we recommend that you also visit this area. Or, you can take part in an organized Rioja 1-day wine tour from Bilbao, which combines the two destinations in one day.
- 61,9 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in 45 minutes by car or by direct bus from Bilbao station to Vitoria-Gasteiz Bus Station, travel time one hour - Get directions
- always accessible; the recommended tour departs at 8:30 am with pickup directly from the hotel and has a duration of 8 hours
- free; the recommended tour costs € 75,00 per person (minimum 2 participants required)
- From Bilbao: Sea and Mountains Full-Day Tour Vitoria: Rioja Wine Full-Day Tour from Bilbao
8 - Sanctuary of Arantzazu, Oñati and Elorrio
Another nice hike in the hinterland of the Basque Country is this sanctuary, just over 70 kilometers away from Bilbao. The only way to reach the destination is by car, in a journey of about an hour. There are no direct connections with the city of Bilbao.
The landscapes that you will see in this part of the Basque Country are completely different from those admired along the coast: here you will find yourself facing rural villages, mountains and immense valleys. The dominant color in this area is undoubtedly green.
This Franciscan sanctuary is located in Oñati, a village that develops in a valley surrounded by mountains, where to the south you can see the limestone mountain of Aloña. For its monumentality, the painter Ignacio Zuloaga defined this area as "the basic Toledo". It is dedicated to the Virgin of Arantzazu, the main cult figure and patron saint of the province together with Ignazio Loyola.
Elorrio, on the other hand, is one of the most interesting villages from an architectural point of view, full of palaces and noble houses built in natural and worked stone. On the walls of these buildings, you can also see the heraldic shields of the noble owners engraved. Throughout the country there are 69 of them, making it the country with the largest collection of coats of arms.
- 73,8 kilometers from Bilbao; reachable in an hour and 3 minutes by car, the only way to reach the destination - Get directions
- cities are always open to visitors; the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu can be visited through guided tours that take place from June to September every day at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 16:00 and 17:00, in the remaining months of the year Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 10.30, 11.30 and 12.30, while from Monday to Friday only on request from 8:00 to 14:00
- free admission
- Elorrio, Oñati and Arantzazu Sanctuary from Bilbao
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