In the last 20 years or so, the Basque city of Bilbao has become a major cultural and economic center – from Game of Thrones locations to the glittering Guggenheim, fine art, and excellent pinxtos. Here are very best things to do in Bilbao.

Marvel at the works of the Guggenheim Museum

Bilbao Guggenheim Museum
Pixabay / ENRIC SAGARRA

When it was inaugurated in 1997, the glittering Guggenheim started Bilbao’s renaissance. Housed in an striking metal ship-like building designed by Frank Gehry, the museum showcases constantly changing works by artists such as Anish Kapoor, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Eduardo Chillida, Yves Klein and Anslem Kiefer.

Read more about the Guggenheim Museum

Explore Bilbao's Art District

Puppy Cat Sculpture Bilbao Art District
Pixabay / oscar platero

Surrounding the Guggenheim lies Bilbao’s Art District, filled with large-scale sculptures by famous artists. Look out for Puppy by Jeff Koons, giant spider Mamen by Louise Bourgeois, and Tall Tree and the Eye by Anish Kapoor.

Read more about the Bilbao Art District

Visit the collection at the Museo Bellas Artes

Imagen De Archivo Fotogr‡fico
CC BY-SA 3.0 / MuseumBBAABilbao

While in the Art District not to be missed is the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao. First opening its doors in 1914, it is one of the most important fine art collections in Basque Country. It houses both Spanish and international art, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Some artists featured here include El Greco, Goya, Murillo and Gauguin.

Read more about the Museo Bellas Artes de Bilbao

Walk the Seven Streets

Bilbao Casco Viejo
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Zarateman

Casco Viejo is Bilbao’s Old Town, consisting of seven main pedestrian streets and many winding alleys. Filled with historic architecture, this district is also home to some of the city’s most important sights: Bilbao Cathedral, Ribera Market, and the Plaza Nueva, surrounded by delicious pintxos bars.

Read more about the Bilbao Casco Viejo

Gaze up at the Cathedral de Bilbao

Iglesia Catedral De Santiago Bilbao
CC BY-SA 23.0 / Mikemod

Dedicated to the Apostle Santiago (also known as St James) Bilbao Cathedral was constructed in the 15th century in both Gothic and neo-Gothic style. Head inside to see the cloisters, the ornate alters and towers, as well as the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.

Read more about the Catedral de Santiago de Bilbao

Browse the stalls at La Ribera Market

Erriberako Merkatua, Bilbo
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Galder Segurola

Europe’s largest indoor market, with over 10,000m² (110,000 sq ft), the art deco-style La Ribera Market simply can’t be missed. Shop for traditional produce, browse fresh fruit and veg stalls or simply stop for a drink at one of the bars – something will keep you entertained. The market also has a few restaurants and its own in-house jazz band.

Read more about the Mercado de la Ribera

Ride to the top of Artxanda's Funicular for fantastic city views

Funicular De Artxanda
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Marco Almbauer

The old mountain railway has been running since the 19th century and shuttles visitors up and down Artxanda Mountain. Admire some of the best city views from here, take a walk around the many nearby paths, or enjoy any one of a number of restaurants.

Read more about the Artxanda´s Funicular

Stop for a drink on the atmospheric Plaza Nueva

Plaza Nueva, Bilbao
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Fred Romero

The Plaza Nueva sits at the heart of the Casco Viejo and is home to a number of cafés, bars and restaurants. Built in the 19th century, it was completed in 1851 and is surrounded by elegant neoclassical portico arches and arcades. On Sundays, locals come here to buy and sell collectables and antiques.

Read more about the Plaza Nueva de Bilbao