Welcome to the port of Bilbao, Spain!
Set in a beautiful mountainous landscape and surrounded by lush green mountains, the city of Bilbao is the capital of the province of Biscay (Vizcaya in Spanish; Bizkaia in Basque), one of the seven historical provinces of the greater region of the Basque Country (Euskadi). Located in the north of Spain, near the border with France, Bilbao is the tenth-largest city in Spain, one of its major ferry and cargo ports, the industrial hub of the north and the political capital of the Basques.
With its legendary Guggenheim museum, charming old town and numerous landmarks, Bilbao has become one of the frequent stops in the Mediterranean cruise itineraries.
In this article, read about:
- Bilbao cruise port (Bilbao cruise terminal, getting around)
- 7 best things to do in Bilbao port, shore excursions, useful tips
Port of Bilbao
Bilbao cruise port is located in Getxo, a town in the Bay of Biscay nestled along the Estuary of Bilbao (Ria de Bilbao), approximately 15 km/9.5 miles or a 20-25 minute drive north of Bilbao city center.
Bilbao cruise terminal consists of 3 berths that can accommodate large cruise ships and features a modern, 2-story terminal building where you can find a tourist information desk, free wi-fi and embarkation/disembarkation facilities such as check-in counters and luggage area.
Port Bilbao is the largest cargo port and one of the busiest ones in Spain. It is also an important ferry port that serves the city of Portsmouth, UK via Brittany Ferries.
When your ship docks in Bilbao port, you can either choose to go to Bilbao or explore the beautiful town of Getxo and surrounding areas.
How to Get from the Port of Bilbao (Getxo) to Bilbao City Center?
There are several ways to get from Getxo to Bilbao:
Most of the cruise lines provide shuttle bus service from the port of Bilbao to Plaza Moyúa (Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa) in Bilbao city center. The ride takes around 25 minutes one-way. Plaza Moyúa is located a 15-minute walk from Casco Viejo (Old Town) and a 10-minute walk (800 meters) from the Guggenheim museum. The shuttle bus is available for a fee, usually 10-12€ per person round-trip.
Bilbao boasts an excellent metro connection from Getxo to Bilbao (Line 1, from Plentzia to Etxebarri). Cruise terminal port authorities provide a free shuttle service from the cruise terminal to Getxo city center with stops at Areeta and Algorta train stations that run on the same Line 1. The shuttle buses run every 20 minutes. Alternatively, it takes around 30-35 minutes walk from the cruise terminal to reach these train stations (Algorta is north of the terminal and Areeta is to the south).
If you decide to walk to the nearest train station, you can also catch the train at Neguri or Gobela metro stations located a 20-25 minute walk from the Bilbao cruise terminal.
Metro Line 1 runs from Plentzia (Getxo) to Etxebarri town and serves Bilbao city center. To get to the Guggenheim Museum, you should get off at Moyúa metro station (Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa) and if you want to go to the Old Town (Casco Viejo), you can get off one or two stations later (Abando train station and Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo train station). The train ride from Getxo to Bilbao downtown takes around 20-25 minutes one way and trains run every 5 minutes.
On the way back to the port Bilbao, make sure you catch the train that runs on Line 1 to Plentzia (Getxo). The ticket fares are cheap and make sure you purchase a 2-zone ticket. For more information, metro map and ticket fares, check out Bilbao Metro’s official webpage
Taxis are available outside the cruise terminal and the ride to Bilbao takes around 25-30 minutes one way. The cost is approximately 30€ per vehicle, which may be very convenient if you share the vehicle with other passengers.
Cruise lines and independent tour operators offer a great variety of shore excursions to Bilbao city center and Guggenheim museum. If you want to be on the safe side and have a professional guide with you, a shore excursion is always the best option.
- The currency in Spain is EURO (€). Credit cards and local currency are widely accepted. ATMs are available in the cities of Getxo and Bilbao, as well as on most cruise ships. See the currency converter
- For the best shopping in Bilbao, head to the Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa (Moyúa metro station) where you’ll find a large number of shops, department stores, cafes and restaurants. Casco Viejo (Bilbao old town) located a 15-minute walk from Don Federico Moyúa square is another great shopping location.
- The majority of shops are closed from 13:30 through 16:00/16:30 due to the siesta time in Spain. This normally doesn’t apply to department stores and shopping malls. Museums and attractions are usually closed on Monday.
- Bilbao Airport (Bilboko Aireportua) is located 14 km/8.7 miles (a 20-minute drive) east of the port of Bilbao.
- Check out the best hotels in Bilbao (Getxo)
8 Best Things to Do in the Port of Bilbao
Before I share with you the best things to do in the port of Bilbao, I invite you to sign up below and get my exclusive, insider Shore Excursion Guide for FREE!
If you decide to stay in Getxo where your cruise ship docks, there is a wide variety of things to do and see.
Getxo is renowned for its legendary Vizcaya Bridge (Bizkaia Bridge), a massive hanging bridge that connects the two banks of the Nervion Estuary between the towns of Portugalete and Getxo. Vizcaya Bridge is the oldest transporter bridge in the world dating from 1893 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006. It is one of the most iconic structures in Bilbao representing the industrial era.
The bridge can be crossed via a pedestrian walkway that can be reached in the 50-meter high panoramic lift. Once you’re up, you’ll admire the most amazing views of the Bilbao port, neighboring mountains, Portugalete and Getxo. The admission fee to the walkway is 9.50€.
Vizcaya Bridge can also be crossed on the gondola hanging from a 25-meter long, 36-wheel carriage that moves along the rails from one end to another. The ride lasts around 90 seconds and the price is symbolic, 0.50€ per person. Find more information on Vizcaya Bridge (Puente Bizkaia) official website
As your cruise ship will be docked in Getxo, you can choose to spend a day exploring the town’s Old fishing port (Puerto Viejo), walk along the waterfront promenade overlooking Ereaga beach, enjoy a coffee with a view over the town’s marina, or discover the town’s landmarks.
If you are looking for scenic views, La Galea cliffs offer a real treat for the eye with dramatic cliffs, inlets, beautiful beaches and landmarks such as Aixerrota Windmill, La Galea Fort and Faro La Galea Lighthouse. You can either opt for a panoramic coastal ride or go hiking, cycling or sailing.
You can walk into the Getxo town center from your ship (it takes about 20 minutes), but the best option is to take a free shuttle bus provided by the port authorities to the Getxo downtown from where you can explore the city.
2. Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum is the icon of Bilbao and home to an outstanding collection of the 20th and 21st centuries’ art masterpieces. Nestled on the banks of the Nervión River, this architectural wonder consists of a massive complex of interconnected buildings made of silver titanium and glass, of shapes representing the sea and the city’s maritime tradition. Guggenheim Museum was designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and was officially opened in 1997.
The two most famous sculptures of Guggenheim are Jeff Koons’ 12-meter tall “Puppy”, entirely covered with flowers and plants, guarding the entrance to the museum, and Louise Bourgois’s “Maman”, a 10-meter tall sculpture of a spider made of marble and stainless steel. The museum consists of multiple floors and takes a few hours to visit. You will also find a tourist information desk and two restaurants where you can go for lunch or snacks.
To get to the Guggenheim Museum from the port of Bilbao, the best way is to either take a cruise line shuttle bus that will drop you off at Plaza Moyúa, from where you can walk 10 minutes to the museum, or take a metro and get off at Moyúa train station.
The admission fee to Guggenheim Museum is 12€ for adults, with some exceptions. Guggenheim Museum is wheelchair-accessible. Find more information on Guggenheim Museum’s official website
3. Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo is Bilbao’s medieval old town, a lively area nestled along the Nervión River filled with narrow streets and old buildings.
Built in the 14th century in the Gothic and Gothic Revival architectural style, Santiago Cathedral is one of the main landmarks situated in the heart of the city. It is dedicated to Saint James the Great (Santiago in Spanish), the patron saint of Bilbao since 1643, and features a remarkable interior with a rib-vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows and arches. You can visit the interior and the courtyard for 6€ (audioguide and the visit to the Church of Saint Anthony the Great are included in the price). Find more information on https://catedralbilbao.com/
Another church in the old town to visit is the Church of San Nicolás, dating from the 18th century, featuring a beautiful Baroque facade.
Casco Viejo is also known as Las Siete Calles (“Seven Streets” or “Zazpikaleak” in Basque) after the seven streets that form the heart of the old town. Here, you’ll find Plaza Nueva (also known as Plaza Barria), the neoclassical square filled with tapas bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as numerous narrow old streets packed with taverns and shops.
If you look for authentic food and local experience, head to La Ribera Market, the main food market in Bilbao where you can taste the “pintxos”, small finger food served at bars and taverns, a specialty of Basque cuisine.
4. Bilbao Museums
Besides Guggenheim, Bilbao has a few other amazing museums that are within walking distance from Casco Viejo and the city center.
Bilbao Maritime Museum (Itsasmuseum Bilbao) – It is located a 15-minute walk along the Nervión riverside walkway from Guggenheim, in the former Eukalduna shipyards. The museum is dedicated to shipbuilding, maritime culture and the history of maritime activity on the Ría de Bilbao and its port.
Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao – It is situated a 5-minute walk from Guggenheim and 10 minutes walk from Maritime Museum. Fine Arts Museum is the second-largest museum in the Basque Country after Guggenheim and features outstanding works by Basque artists, Goya, Velasquez, Picasso, El Greco and other renowned Spanish and international artists. Find more information on https://museobilbao.com/
Archaeological Museum of Bilbao (Arkeologi Museoa) – A small, 2-story archeological museum showcases the history of Bizkaia through collections of artifacts, objects and exhibitions. It is located in Casco Viejo, only a few minutes’ walk from Plaza Nueva.
Basque Museum (Museo Arqueológico, Etnográfico e Histórico Vasco) – Located right across Arkeologi Museoa in Casco Viejo, this unique museum is housed in the 17th-century building that was the Church and College of San Andrés de la Compañía de Jesús. The museum boasts an impressive collection of more than 20.000 objects and artifacts that illustrate the archeology of Vizcaya and the ethnohistory of the Basque Country. Read more on https://www.euskalmuseoa.eus/
5. Artxanda Cable Car
To enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Bilbao, head to the Funicular de Artxanda (Artxandako funikularra), situated on the opposite side of the Nervión River from the Guggenheim Museum, on Mount Artxanda. The old funicular was opened in 1915 and is one of the major tourist attractions that allows visitors to enjoy incredible panoramic views and experience Bilbao from a different perspective.
At the top, you can enjoy a beautiful park, a few restaurants, a hotel and a sports complex. The funicular’s lower station can be accessed from Casco Viejo and Guggenheim in less than 15 minutes walk (the station name is Funicular de Artxanda-ko Funikularra) and the ride to the top takes 3 minutes. The Artxanda cable car runs every 15 minutes and the admission fee is 2.50€ for a one-way trip and 4.30€ for a round trip. Find more information on Artxanda Funicular’s official webpage
6. San Sebastián
San Sebastián is a beautiful resort city located 109 km/69 miles (a 1-hour 20-minute drive) east of the port Bilbao.
Tucked in the picturesque La Concha Bay (Bahía De La Concha), this coastal town is known for its gorgeous sandy beaches, upscale Michelin-star restaurants, tapas and pintxos bars, beautiful Old Town (Casco Viejo de San Sebastián), a charming marina and rich historic and cultural heritage.
While there, you can enjoy a walk along a beautiful seafront promenade overlooking the two most popular beaches, Beach of la Concha and Ondarreta Beach, take a coffee in the picturesque town marina (Puerto de San Sebastián), wander around the streets of the old town (Casco Viejo), visit Motako Gaztelua-Castillo de la Mota, a medieval castle dating from the 12th century offering incredible views of the bay, or indulge in the delicious Basque Country specialties.
Located 40 km/25 miles (a 40-minute drive) east of the Bilbao port, you can visit the historic town of Guernica, famous for the aerial bombing by the Nazis during the Spanish Civil War on April 26, 1937.
Guernica’s tragic events inspired Pablo Picasso’s painting “Guernica” where the famous artist depicted the suffering and tragic destiny of the town and civilians.
The majority of Guernica’s architecture was destroyed in the bombing, however, the Biscayan Assembly House and the Guernica Tree (Gernikako Arbola) survived. Both landmarks offer an insight into the history of the Basque people and recent historical events, such as the Basque independence movement.
In the town, you can also visit a beautiful Parque de Los pueblos de Europa, the Peace Museum (Museo de la Paz de Guernica), Euskal Herria History Museum (Euskal Herria Museoa) and a few other monuments and attractions. The town is relatively small and everything can be visited on foot.
8. Rioja Wine Tasting
While in Bilbao, make sure you taste the authentic local food and exquisite wines from the La Rioja wine region. La Rioja is a province and autonomous community in the north of the Iberian Peninsula south of Bilbao, renowned for its local wine industry. This beautiful winemaking region is dotted with vineyards and numerous wineries where you can taste Spain’s premium Rioja wine.
Some of these wineries boast outstanding architecture such as the prestigious Marqués de Riscal chateau (Bodega de Los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal) and winery, or Bodegas Ysios. Besides excellent wines, the region offers beautiful natural sceneries, historic towns and wine estates boasting incredible architecture.
Depending on where you want to go, it takes at least a 1-hour 30-minute drive to get to the La Rioja wine region and wineries. If you choose to go, probably the smartest idea would be to book a private tour.
To Wrap Up
To make the most of your day, make sure you plan ahead your day in the port of Bilbao!
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