Where to Stay in Bilbao First Time: Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Bilbao for first-timers are the neighborhoods of Casco Viejo, Abando, La Vieja and San Francisco, Indautxu, Deusto, and Santutxu. In this blog post, I will help to decide where to stay in Bilbao for first time visitors, for nightlife, couples, families, shopping, and near the train station.

Bilbao, Botxo by locals, in northern Spain, is the largest city in the province of Biscay and in the Basque Country. You can enjoy famous attractions such as Guggenheim Museum, art, architecture, great food, and also take a day trip to San Sebastian which is a smaller resort town in the Basque region of northern Spain.

Bilbao is a diverse and multifaceted city, crammed full of exciting things to see and do. The airport of Bilbao is the main airport in the Basque Country. It is also well-connected with the northern coast of Spain.

The old town Casco Viejo is the best place to stay in Bilbao for first time tourists. This is a stunning neighborhood, filled with beautiful architecture, lush parks, and an array of traditional restaurants, bars, and shops. If you want a central neighborhood with authentic vibe, the Old Town is place to book your hotel.

Apart from the Old Town, the modern neighborhoods of Indautxu and Abando are also best area in Bilbao for tourist with plenty of tourist amenities, tourist attractions right at your doorstep. They both conveniently located close to the famous Guggenheim Museum and home to some of the best hotel in Bilbao.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Casco Viejo (Old Town)
💎 Best luxury hotel:NYX Hotel Bilbao by Leonardo Hotels
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Hotel Tayko Bilbao
💰 Best budget hotel:Petit Palace Arana Bilbao 

Best Areas to Stay in Bilbao for tourist

1. Casco Viejo, where to stay in Bilbao for first time visitors

Where to Stay in Bilbao Spain Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo, also known as Old Town is the historical centre of the city and the best place to visit if you really want to experience the history and culture of the town. Located in the heart of the city with plenty of restaurants, bars, churches, museums nearby, this medieval area of Bilbao is also an ideal base for first-time tourists.

Old Town is home to Las Siete Calles, the seven streets including Somera, Artecalle, Tendería, Belosticalle, Carnicería Vieja, Barrencalle and Barrencalle Barrena. There area many narrow alleys, called cantons, connecting these streets.

At the center of Old Town stands the city’s main square, Plaza Nueva, known as Plaza Barria, a beautiful neoclassical monumental, built in 1821. The square is surrounded by arches, called cuevas, and charming arcaded buildings such as Euskaltzaindia, the Basque language Royal Academy.

Plaza Nueva is a good spot to do people-watching and enjoy a coffee. There are many shops, bars, traditional taverns and restaurants, and cafés that serve traditional Basque cuisine. The square hosts the flea market each Sunday morning. Make sure to try txikitos and pintxos, Bilbao’s version of the Spanish tapas in of its taverns.

Nearby, on the banks of the estuary sits the oldest theatre in Bilbao, the Teatro Arriaga. The historic building is a wonderful place to take in a show and spend an evening experiencing the artistic heritage of Bilbao.

To the north of the theatre is the Areatzako Parkea, a riverside park, lush with trees and fountains. The Café Koiska el Arenal at the center of the park is decorated in a charmingly unique style, whilst the terrace seating area is a lovely spot to take a break overlooking the river.

For more exquisite architecture, take a look straight down Areatza Kalea, to the 18th-century Church of Saint Nicholas baroque church to the northeast. Alternatively, walk south down Calle Bidebarrieta Kalea, past the historic Fountain of Dogs, which is worth taking a look at in its own right, to the 14th century Santiago Cathedral (St. James’ Cathedral).

Nearby you will find the lovely 800 square meters of Portal de Zamudio, and the church Iglesia de los Santos Juanes which was built in 17th century in the classic baroque style. Another important church is the Iglesia de San Antón, built in the 15th century in a Gothic style to dedicated to Saint Anthony the Great.

If you are interested in history, the Bilboko Euskal Museoa, or the Basque Museum, in Unamuno Square that displays a collection of archaeological, ethnographic, collections around northern Spain. There are also the Arkeologi Museoa and Museo Pasos de Semana Santa to explore.

To the north of Casco Viejo is the sprawling Etxebarria Parkea. Once an industrial complex, the area has been completely rejuvenated into a beautiful hillside park, with views looking right across the city. The only hint of its industrial past is the preserved brick chimney, left standing as a monument in the northeast sector of the park.

In the evening, the southwest area of Casco Viejo is full of a variety of bars and restaurants. Perfectly placed on the banks of the Bilbao Estuary, it’s an ideal location for sunset walks along the riverside, on your way to an evening of fine dining and cocktails.

Be sure to visit the biggest indoor market in Europe, Mercado de la Ribera, where foodies will find traditional Spanish fresh products to take a little of the flavor of Basque gastronomy. It covers 10,000 square meters and was built in 1929.

Meanwhile, you can also head to Ascao, Correos, Bidebarrieta, Víctor, and Somera to do shopping. They are the best shopping streets in the historic center.

Casco Viejo is located within walking distance to the world-famous Guggenheim Museum and Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. It has a well-connected public transportation with metro and bus, you can easy travel around. There are many budget-friendly lodging options with bed and breakfast, guest houses, apartments to 4-star hotels.

Stay in Casco Viejo if you’re visiting Bilbao for the first time; you want to stay in the oldest part of the city; you want to savor the cultural heritage of the city, you appreciate historical architecture, you enjoy relaxed walks around beautiful city streets.

Best places to stay in Casco Viejo:

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2. Abando, Downtown Bilbao, best area to stay in Bilbao

Where to Stay in Bilbao, Spain: Abandoibarra
Abandoibarra Alex Corral

Centrally located close to both Old Town and Guggenheim Museum, Downtown Bilbao, or Abando is one of the best areas to stay in Bilbao. This neighborhood is where the most iconic building in all of Bilbao is located, the Guggenheim Museum.

The Guggenheim was built as part of the city’s rejuvenation efforts in the 1990’s and was designed specifically to draw the attention of the global tourist market. It definitely succeeded, almost instantly becoming one of the most significant examples of contemporary architecture. 

If you don’t enjoy museums or don’t have time to venture inside to the exhibits, you can still enjoy the unique façade and the 40-foot-tall west-highland terrier sculpture covered in flowers standing guard at the southern entrance.

Exhibitions in the museum change frequently. Only one exhibit, ‘The Matter of Time’, is permanent, so even returning visitors to the city can benefit from another look around. The museum’s exhibitions all display modern and contemporary art in a variety of forms. 

East of the museum, following the river, is the Eingelesen Landako Park. The network of manicured lawns is home to the university library and the towering glass Torre Iberdrola, Bilbao’s tallest skyscraper, and another beautiful specimen of modern architecture.

Follow the river past the modern shopping center and you will arrive at the Casilda Iturrizar park, a landscaped, tree-lined park, full of fountains, ponds, and stone pergolas. 

If the contemporary art housed at the Guggenheim doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps the more classical works found in the ‘Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao’, at the east end of the park, are more to your preference. Alternatively, head west out of the park, towards the river and the old shipyard, to the Museo Marítimo Ría, a museum dedicated to Bilbao’s history as a port city.

The backstreets of Abando are arranged on a grid pattern, making it incredibly easy to find your way around. They’re chock full of bars, cafes, and fancy restaurants, catering to a wide variety of tastes and cultures.

In this area, you can also find Plaza Moyu. The plaza itself consists of several manicured lawns and flowerbeds, surrounding a grand fountain in the center of a paved oval. It’s set in the middle of a busy roundabout but is accessible to pedestrians via the six zebra crossings at each end of the plaza.

Abando is not only close proximity to the famous Guggenheim museum but also easy reach the Old Town with its historical attractions. There is a wide ranges of accommodation options, here you will find some of the best 5-star hotel in Bilbao.

Stay in Abando if you want a central location; you are visiting the Guggenheim is a top priority; you are a fan of modern art; you enjoy museums in general; you love contemporary architecture;

Best places to stay in Abando:

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3. Indautxu, where to stay in Bilbao for nightlife

Where to Stay in Bilbao, Spain: Basque country
Basque Country/Sergei Gussev

Indautxu is the west end of the central district of Bilbao and bordered with Abandoibarra district. One of the more affluent neighborhoods, Indautxu is home to a variety of upmarket shopping districts and fashionable bistros and cafes.

The district is known for its active, contemporary nightlife scene. Peppered with trendy bars, restaurants, and clubs, the region is ideal for some evening fun. The conveniently designed grid system of roads also makes it easy to find your way home after a night out.

A number of old buildings have been converted into unique entertainment venues. In the old shipyard stands the Palacio Euskalduna, which is now a popular venue for live music concerts.

In the east of the neighborhood, the beautiful Azkuna Zentroa, an old corn exchange building, has been converted into a multifunctional entertainment venue. The center houses a theatre, cinema screen, lecture halls, and exhibition spaces, along with public fitness facilities.

Fans of art will appreciate the easy access to the Guggenheim museum of modern art, or the more classical Museum of Fine Arts. Those who appreciate more niche exhibitions may also enjoy the Benedikto Museoa, an art museum dedicated to the works of the famous Spanish painter, Benedicto Martinez.

To the east, by the river, stands the modern San Mames Football Stadium. With a capacity of over 50,000 seats, this is the largest stadium in the Basque country and frequently hosts important sporting events.

Stay in Indautxu if you value quality nightlife, you enjoy high-end shopping; you want to stay close to the famous museums;

Best places to stay in Bilbao in Indautxu:

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4. San Francisco, budget-friendly area in Bilbao near train station

San Francisco, a budget-friendly area in Bilbao near train station

San Francisco (Las Cortes), is one of the more up-and-coming areas of the city. One of the less affluent neighborhoods, Las Cortes is known for housing Bilbao’s red-light district. But whilst the area may have a darker reputation, it nonetheless boasts a vibrant character and distinct sense of community.

One of the most obvious perks of the neighborhood is the relatively lower prices of both accommodation and entertainment. If you are on a budget, you can find food and lodging fairly affordably here, and the more typical tourist spots are just a short walk away. 

The central region of Abando is just the other side of the Bilbao-Abando Indalecio Prieto train station. Meanwhile, the old town of Casco Viejo is right across the river.

Home to most of Bilbao’s immigrant population, primarily hailing from across Africa, Las Cortes is one of the most diverse areas of the city. The area’s multicultural heritage is reflected in its array of cafes, restaurants, and shops.

If you grow tired of the customary Basque cuisine found across the rest of the city, head here for a little more variety. Most of the main shopping and nightlife venues are situated along the main San Francisco Street. Art lovers may be interested in visiting the Reproductions Museum, which displays replicas of iconic art pieces and sculptures from around the world.

Las Cortes may be an ideal location for anyone traveling to or from the city via train. Convenient for anyone passing through for a quick visit, or who gets anxious about missing their train.

Stay in Las Cortes if you are on a budget, you want to experience the multicultural hub of Bilbao, you want to stay near the train station, you don’t mind staying somewhere with a complicated reputation.

Best places to stay in Bilbao in las Cortes:

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5. Bilbao La Vieja, for young couples and hipsters

Bilbao’s hipster district, Bilbao La Vieja (also known as Bilbi) is the city’s most prominent and trendy party district. Located immediately south of Las Cortes, the diverse culture of the surrounding districts bleeds over into the varied and multicultural dining and nightlife scene of Bilbao La Vieja. 

The rooftop bars, riverside terrace, trendy craft beer bars, Nikkei restaurants with fusion Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, and the Michelin star restaurant of La Mina are some of the great places for couples to enjoy.

During the day, the neighborhood is a vibrant hub of arts and culture, full of independent boutiques and galleries, which display the work of local artists. The art from these galleries spills out of their doors in the form of colorful street murals, which are well worth taking a street art tour to appreciate the best examples of.

The neighborhood is structured around the central Miribilla Park, home to the Bilbao Arena. The Arena is beautifully designed with a cladding of scale-like green tiles in various hues, to blend into the surrounding landscape. 

You can also visit Bilboko Berreginen Reproductions Museum or walk along the Marzana riverbank boulevard.

Primarily known for hosting basketball games, the arena welcomes frequent concerts and performances in the main venue, whilst also providing sports facilities, such as swimming pools and gymnasiums, for public use.

Mirabella park itself hosts markets and open-air events. If you are looking to appreciate the industrial history of the area, the San Luis brick furnace still stands in nearby Saralegi Plaza, preserved as a monument. 

Meanwhile, if you look closely at many of the buildings now used as entertainment venues around the neighborhood, you will notice that many of them are converted from old industrial factories.

Stay in Bilbao La Vieja if a busy nightlife is important, You value independent art and design, You are attending an event at Bilbao Arena.

Best places to stay in Bilbao La Vieja:

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6. Uribarri, a quiet quiet residential district in Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Uribarri is the administrative heart of Bilbao, the district where you will find City Hall and its offices. It is in the northeast of Bilbao, a largely middle-class, residential district. It developed during the 20th Century as the city grew.

There are a limited number of hotels, but rooms are affordable, and you may be lucky in high season when Bilbao is very busy.

The Artxandako Funikularra is a great ride. The route this funicular takes goes through the stunning scenery of Bilbao. Remember before the growth of Bilbao, this was beautiful agricultural land. It then crosses the bridge to provide an aerial view of the Guggenheim Museum. 

Stay in Uribarri if Your preference is to be away from the center of the city and tourist attractions, A quiet residential district suits you fine even though there are fewer accommodation choices, A funicular ride over Bilbao appeals to you.

Best places to stay near Uribarri:

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7. Deusto, where to stay in Bilbao on budget

Deusto, best area to stay in Bilbao on budget

Deusto is the district north of the river, best known for being Bilbao’s student neighborhood, due to the local University of Deusto. The university itself is directly across the river from the Guggenheim museum. Be sure to take a moment to appreciate the fantastic views of the iconic building across the water.

Deusto is connected to the city center by several bridges, which bring you directly into the parks surrounding the Guggenheim. Just minutes away from the main shopping and nightlife districts, the area is conveniently close to all Bilbao has to offer, whilst typically remaining quieter than the more crowded tourist hubs. 

The neighborhood is home to several popular arts and exhibition venues. The Deusto Expo Centre hosts a variety of exhibitions and shows throughout the year.

The La FuNdicIOn theatre, on the banks of the estuary at the end of Botica Vieja park, puts on excellent contemporary, independent theatre performances.

Being slightly further from the city center than other neighborhoods, hotel prices in Deusto are also generally lower than more central locations, which is ideal for anyone on a budget.

Deusto also offers a convenient route in and out of the city for hikers and backpackers. Being closer to the city’s perimeter, there are a number of designated hiking trails leading to the surrounding areas.

If you are travelling to Bilbao by car, Deusto is connected to a major highway into the city, allowing you to drive into the heart of the city without the rammed traffic of the city centre.

Stay in Deusto if you are on a budget, you are interested in visiting neighboring Barakaldo, you are visiting the university or a student, you are traveling to Bilbao by car, you are hiking around the Basque Country, Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, you are interested in hiking out from the city to explore the surrounding area.

Best places to stay in Bilbao in Deusto:

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8. Santutxu, where to stay in Bilbao for families

Santutxu is a residential part of Bilbao south of the Old Town, but it is also the gateway to the hills that surround the city. This is a family-friend neighborhood with a lot of green spaces and activities for kids.

You can hike around Parque Larreagaburu’s hills to get lovely views of Bilbao starting in Santutxu.  It is also a neighborhood where you will get a real feel for the Basque country.

The Museum of Sacred Art in Santutxu provides a great insight into the history of religion in Europe. Families will love the calmness of the area and better still if the kids enjoy an educational aspect to their holiday.

The 16th Century church, Iglesia de la Encarnacion, is close to the Museum and the indoor carnival, Tximipark, will certainly entertain the kids. There is not a huge amount of nightlife, but you will find bars and restaurants. 

Stay in Santutxu if you’re a family with young children; You want to avoid tourist crowds, Hiking in the surrounding hills appeals to you, You are interested in history and religion.

Best places to stay in Bilbao in Santutxu:

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Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Bilbao in this video:

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Bilbao has blossomed into a destination full of world-famous attractions. Whether you want to sample the distinct Basque cuisine in the region’s capital city, appreciate the mix of historical and world-class contemporary architecture, or shop at the city’s modern commercial districts, Bilbao is the perfect place to spend a long weekend.

If this is your first visit, I recommend to stay in Casco Viejo, Indautxu, and Abando neighborhood because they has a central location and the widest choices of accommodation. Booking hotel in these areas, you will be located within walking distance to the most famous tourist attractions as well as tourist amenities.

Hopfully, after reading this long post about where to stay in Bilbao, you will get the answer for where to stay in Bilbao. All you need to do now is to book your hotels and ready to go.

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