With a population of over 300,000, Bilbao is the capital city of the Basque country and 10th biggest city in Spain. It is located on the northern coast and is important both culturally and economically due to the high number of tourists visiting regularly.
The origins of Bilbao have not been determined exactly, but settlements on the banks of the river Nervion were apparent well before its supposed foundation in the 14th century. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries Bilbao consolidated its commercial position, becoming the most important economic centre of Biscay. In this period the area opened its trade with the American colonies, which resulted in the continued increase in the population and expansion of the city. In the early 20th century, Bilbao was the great economic resource of the Basque Country and one of the largest in the state. Its spectacular growth was accompanied by a significant cultural development that was only interrupted by the Civil War (1936-1939). However, following the city's recovery, its capacity to create wealth helped to make it a great attraction for many immigrants looking for work within its flourishing economy.
Through a major urban renewal which began with the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, Bilboa has been placed in the spotlight of national tourism. Bilbao was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew World city prize in 2010, which is considered the Nobel Prize of urbanism. One of the biggest tourist attractions Bilbao offers is the cuisine, which is world-renowned since many of the best chefs and restaurants in the world are in the area.
Bilbao Airport is located 12 km from the Biscay capital and is the 13th busiest airport in Spain with over 4 million passengers serviced in 2014. The airport focuses on both domestic and international travel with the most important routes being Madrid, Barcelona, London and Paris.
Getting from Bilbao Airport to the City Centre
The only option to access the city centre by utilising the public transport system is by bus. Taking just 15 minutes, the Bizkaibus line A3247 runs all day and cost only €1.45 for a single trip. Taxi’s are also available for passengers arriving at Bilbao Airport who wish to access the centre. These can be found outside the main entrance and approximately 100 taxis make the journey every day. The cost of the taxi is between €21 to €26, and will take no longer than 15 minutes without traffic. For those wishing to reach the city by car, follow the BI-631 which will take you to the centre in 15 mins.
Also known as North station and Bilbao Abando, Abando Prieto is the biggest train station in Bilbao and services over 6 million passengers annually. It is a terminal station with a classical character and was officially opened in 1948 by RENFE, the national rail provider for Spain. The station focuses on long distance and suburban travel.
Getting from Bilbao Abando Indalecio Prieto to the City Centre
Bilbao is equipped with an extensive Metro service; the two lines which can take passengers from the central station to the city centre are the L1 and L2. Eight different bus lines can also take passengers from the station to the centre. Catch either the 40, 72, 77, 58, 30, 7, 75 or 83 bus leaving every 10 minutes and lasting just 6 minutes. Outside the station, there are a whole host of taxi options that are readily available 24 hours a day. The station is located in the city centre, or it is a 6 minute drive the actual central square. You can get there by driving via Calle Henao/Henao Kalea where you will also find a number of parking facilities usually costing around €15 euros for the day.
The main bus station in Bilbao first opened in 1997, with the intention of being a provisional location. However, due to its great central position it seemed logical to improve the already constructed station rather than start from scratch elsewhere. The main companies serviced by the bus station include Alsa, La Union, Bilman Bus and Vibasa, and focus mainly on domestic routes within Spain
Getting from Bilbao Termibus Station to the City Centre Unsurprisingly, 16 buses depart from Termibus station to the city centre. The buses doing so are numbers A0651, A3247, A3341, A3342, A3343, A3512, A3513, A3523, A3915, A3916, A3918, A3923, A3926, A3927, A3930 and A3933. An additional two metro lines also pass the bus station - L1 and L2 - as well as a tram. The Bilbao Termibus is located in the same neighbourhood as the city centre and takes just under 20 minutes to walk the 1.5 km. Driving from the bus station is possible via AV. Sabino Arana/Sabino Arana Etorb, which should take no longer than 10 minutes. Once in the city centre, there are plenty of parking facilities to take advantage of.
Spain has one of the most sophisticated road networks in the world and the ease of accessibility to Bilbao only reflect this. All of the north coast of Spain has easy access to Bilbao via the A-8 motorway. Connecting the east and south of the peninsula with Barcelona, Madrid and Zaragoza is the Vasco-Aragonesa highway, and connecting Spain and Bilbao with continental Europe is the AP-8 toll highway.
The public transport system is made up of an underground metro system with two lines and over 43 stations. The metro covers 43 km and is used by over 150,000 passengers daily and almost 90 million annually. Other public transport facilities include a bus and a commuter train service that connects all corners of the city and the surrounding areas.
There isn’t a massive bike culture in Bilbao, however the amount of people opting to cycle as oppose to the public transport system is increasing due to the introduction of the municipal bike service. The majority of the cycle lanes in the city are located next the river where there is more space.
Taxis are extremely prevalent in Bilbao with over 7 companies offering their services. However, taxis in Bilbao are not usually circulating the city for customers. Instead, you have to either go to a taxi stop or book one.
National speed limits of Spain apply when driving in Bilbao, which are 120 km per hour on motorways and 90 km per hour on single carriage roads. It is not recommended to drive in Bilbao due to limited parking spaces and the heavy traffic. There are more convenient times travel by car, and these are usually either early in the morning or late at night, avoiding rush hour.
Bilbao is a relatively small city, therefore travelling entirely by foot is completely possible. This is reinforced by the fact that much of the centre is pedestrianised and the areas that aren't have wide pavements.