Bilbao With Kids – 2 Days Of Fun!

The Guggenheim - one of the top attractions in Bilbao. When you have 2 days in Bilbao with the family what is there to do? You can take the kids on a walk around the city, looking at all the smart architecture, or let the children eat pintxos all day - the prefect place to eat with kids in the city, or let them do kiddie things in Bilbao's best parks.

Bilbao was never going to be great. My sister had visited a few weeks before us and when someone describes a place as nice you know they’re just gently letting you down for a disappointing trip. Still, we had to keep our hotel reservations as our ferry left from there in two days time. However, if the drive up to it through Star Wars appropriate landscape and lush vegetation wasn’t a good enough prequel for the beauty that lay ahead in this Basque city then what is the point of the first few minutes to every Bond or Bourne movie – you know, where you get a 5 minute fight scene in the most picturesque of locations? It turns out my sister just doesn’t have a ton of descriptive words in her vocabulary.

Bilbao – The Perfect City For Kids

Bilbao was our first city break with children. So, obviously the Guggenheim is iconic, San Francisco neighbourhood is cool, and the old narrow streets of Casco Viejo are great to wander but what sealed the deal for us as a family was the way the Bilbaoans eat : I had no idea how much of a cornerstone element pintxos would have on our visit to the city but I think we struck gold with this choice, seeing that all three of our kids are proper foodies, and let me tell you – pintxos are perfect for kids!

We came up with a genius food-crawl concept that we’d have difficulty executing in any other city without needing to sell a lung. Pintxos are small finger foods served in bars in the Basque region of Spain. They differ from tapas in that they are a lot smaller, just one or two mouthfuls and usually held together with a cocktail stick. Often on a piece of bread, although not always, and the idea is that you snack on them when you meet your friends for pre-lunch or pre-dinner drinks. It’s a lovely custom and one that my kids got to grips with straight away! Bars are competitive and strive to produce elaborate mouthfuls so everywhere you go the choice is amazing, and the best bit – they’re so cheap! Most are €1 a piece and so we developed the game; Each person was allowed one pintxo per bar, we’d walk a little, discover more of Bilbao then stop at the next bar for more pintxos half an hour later. Bars start serving pintxos at noon and carry on until about 9pm when most Spaniards start thinking about their official evening meal but by 9pm for us we’d racked up 9 or 10 pintxos (plus a fair few glasses of Rioja for me) and were officially stuffed and with our belts of no further use to us we were ready to resume a horizontal position. Just writing this makes me want to be there right now because this was definitely the best bar-crawl I’ve ever done. Plus, the kids were in tow!

I have put together a little two day itinerary of things the kids enjoyed seeing the most and thrown in a few good Pintxos bar recommendations of places where we had some great food. My aim : to convince you that Bilbao is a great city break for families!

Bilbao - the best city to take kids. Have a read of this guide for Bilbao, the best recommendations of places to take the kids anf stuff to do for families in this city.

A Perfect Hotel For Families In Bilbao

We stayed at the 5 star Ercilla Lopez de Haro hotel in the Abando (or central) district/barrio. Not as expensive as you might think, it cost the 5 of us just under £200 for 2 nights and the family rooms were large with 2 bathrooms. There was also a communal area which had complimentary hot and cold drinks and a few snacks. The concierge also took great interest in the children and they even lined up all of my daughters teddies on her bed and gave them each a chocolate – it’s all about the little things isn’t it. Conveniently, our most favourite pintxos bar was right across the street – Mr MLLH snook out a few times for a solitary beer and mouthful whilst the kids and I were having a rest in the room! I would’ve too but I can’t bare the thought of people thinking I have no friends!

the best hotel for families in Bilbao

Bilbao With Kids – Day One

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo, or Old Town, is the liveliest barrio of Bilbao – the streets are narrow and tall but they’re not cramped on style – it’s romantic and fizzing with energy. This was the area my sister spent her 24 hours in and I can almost see why she wasn’t bowled over – it’s a little run down when compared to other Spanish old towns like Salamanca and Palma, but even so – it’s not a reflection of a lack of investment, Bilbaoans are artists and a bit of Gothic rustic charm is no more appreciated than with the bohemian set. You could easily spend the morning wandering with a plaguing sense of deja vu as you get lost in the maze of a medieval labyrinth. Casco Viejo’s old name meant ‘seven streets’ and this grid used to be inside the old city walls.

Best Places For Food

  • Irrintzi was on a few travel bloggers top 5 lists that I read before our trip and they were right – cheap and cheerful with plenty of choice in their €1 selection, excellent local wine and a laid back atmosphere perfect for kids.
  • El Txoko – more of a dining experience; just a plain door on the outside but a beautiful restaurant indoors. €10.50  for the 3 course lunch menu which will definitely not disappoint.
  • Mercado de la Ribera – Europe’s largest indoor covered market in a very stylish Art Deco building, if you’ve only got time for one meal in Bilbao then make sure you come here – it’s a real must.

find the best pintxos bars in Bilbao

What’s Worth Seeing In Casco Viejo?

Plaza Nueva (or Plaza Barria) is a great place to dodge seagull poo. It’s like a Spanish version of the hunger games – a small enclosed square, framed with arches, that has you trapped save only for a few small (unobvious) exits, with kamikaze seagulls taking aim if you don’t share your ice cream. It’s a hive of activity and if you can find a seat at a cafe in front of the arcades, a great spot for people watching as the gulls cause pandemonium. On a Sunday morning there’s even a flea market, with little birds in old wooden cages and terrapins and other tiny pets to keep the kids amused. Nearby in Plaza del Arenal there’s also a pretty flower market – also Sunday mornings, so if you just want to take in the city don’t miss this square off your travel plans.

What to see in Casa Viejo or the old town of Bilbao

A number of alleys, or cantons, in the Casco Viejo suddenly open up into little squares imposed upon by looming churches and you will pass a few if you’re making your way to the Mercado De La Ribera. Even if you’re not planning to eat here this is still worth seeing for its Art Deco architecture and style but also because the food is so lovingly displayed to a level of high presentation you do wonder about the stall holders Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.

Mercado de la Ribera is one of the best places to eat with kids in Bilbao

Funicular De Artxanda

Once you’ve discovered the maze that was Casco Viejo, it might be worth heading over to the cities funicular for a sit down with some epic views thrown in. There’s always the option of cutting through one of Bilbao’s green spaces on the way too – Etxebarria Park, where the kids can let loose and run free for a while.

Funicular De Artxanda is a 3 minute cable car ride that takes you to the best views of Bilbao. On the weekend the park at the top is busy with locals and their picnics, escaping the hustle and bustle for a while, but don’t worry – there’s plenty of room for everyone. Cable cars depart every 15 minutes from 7.15am till 10pm and you can purchase your return ticket from the station at the bottom for €0.95 each. It’s almost a kilometre long and at an incline of 45 degrees so that bit of mild peril sings every child’s tune – ‘what if the cable snaps!?’.

The best views of Bilbao from the top of the funicular

Zubizuri Bridge

Last stop of the day, the Zubizuri Bridge. Definitely one of Bilbao’s famous landmarks and quite an impressive structure. We do have a thing for bridges in our family but this one is particularly special and looks even more dramatic at night time when it’s all lit up. Some people, the kind who like to complain about twerking and revolving doors, say that the bridge is a health hazard : apparently the glass blocks at the side can get slippery when wet. They should try wrapping elastic bands around their shoes and get back to watching the international darts championships because I think they are missing the point – this is Bilbao, an open-air modern art museum, a place where every corner turns up another splendid sight, where creativity thrives and aesthetics are so important, even if you are looking at them from your bottom on the floor. Big love to the Zubizuri.

The zubizuri bridge in Bilbao is a famous landmark, a sight worth seeing

Bilbao With Kids – Day Two

Things to do with kids in Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum

World reknowned, I would like nothing more than to spend a whole day in this place, but alas, my brood are not yet impressed by Gauguin, Goya and Greco, so unless it was pouring down the whole time you’re in Bilbao, I think I would recommend restricting your Guggenheim experience with kids to just exploring the grounds for free. However, if you really did want to subject your children to some of the world’s best art, tickets are only €10 per adult and children under 12 are free (with an accompanying paying adult) which personally I think is very reasonable.

I mean, this is what attracted you to Bilbao in the first place, right? The Guggenheim really is the top atttraction of Bilbao, if you’re not here for long then be sure to put this place on your list of places to visit – don’t miss it! Outside, you could easily spend an hour taking in the sculptures and fountains. You’ve heard of the flowery dog, yes? Plus the creepy metal spider? But there’s also the bridge which changes colour and emits a dramatic mist every now and then, alongside street performers and souvenir sellers, and don’t forget the actual architecture of the Guggenheim itself. This museum is the epitome of Bilbao and kinda sums up the rest of the city to me. It is a must see.

Top Tips:

  • Beware of pick-pockets, they seem to be more prevalent here than other places.
  • Visit both in the day time and in the evening for the different perspectives – it’s amazing all lit up.
  • For the best photo’s make your way onto the Salbeko Zubia bridge.

where to take the kids in Bilbao

the puppy made of flowers is one of the highlights, tourist spots, of Bilbao

The Abando Neighbourhood

If only my sister had had the time to visit the elegant district of Abando she’d have left Bilbao with a much prettier picture. Tree lined boulevards sit just behind the Guggenheim and supply Bilbao with upscale apartments, hotels, bars and shops. The architecture is much newer than Casco Viejo and kept very pristine and handsome. This was actually the area that we discovered the most cool pintxos bars and to be honest, the area where I didn’t feel so aware of the children’s safety. On an evening we were mingling with other Spanish families and kids were not unwanted at the bars and restaurants, even up to 10pm.

During the day the Torre Iberdrola can be seen from most intersections to give you your bearings, and if you’re heading in that direction to take a closer look then you must visit the lovely park, Doña Casilda de Iturriza, just behind the Museum Of Fine Art (which is free on Wednesdays). This was our favourite park in Bilbao with all the right distractions for kids – a duck pond, pergolas and fountains : the perfect place to enjoy the Basque sunshine. It’s also very convenient for a riverside walk too, following the peninsula back around to the Guggenheim.

what is there to do in Abando Bilbao

what is the best area of Bilba to stay

Best Places For Food

  • Bar El Figon. Situated right opposite our hotel and with one of the best selections in Abando, customers spill onto the street.
  • El Globo, not far from Bar El Figon, is cosy and casual and has a great cocktail menu.
  • Monty, on the corner of Heros Kalea and Calle Juan Ajuriaguerra Kalea, has outdoor seating for a balmy summer evening.

Indautxu Neighbourhood

A continuation of Abando, there isn’t much of a difference in style of buildings here, if just a little less manicured. Shopping is the main focus of this area which admittedly isn’t many children’s idea of fun but one little secret gem of Bilbao that not many tourists seem to have heard of is the Azkuna Zentroa Centre (formerly known as La Alhondiga). A contemporary space which seems to house shops, cafes, a library, swimming pool, movie screenings and offices is definitely worth twenty minutes of your time. The centre regularly hosts events and exhibitions so be sure to check their calendar ahead of your visit.

Philippe Starck is the mastermind behind the amazing design of this centre and there are several aspects which will grab your attention : the swimming pool is on the top floor and has a glass bottom so if you’re standing in the main atrium you will see the swimmers above you – how cool! Downstairs on the main deck are elaborate columns, 43 in total and all very different – great for photographs. And, light boxes which double up as seats and bottom-warmers. It’s a cosmopolitan phenomenon and again, a symbol of this wonderfully dynamic city. Entrance is free and it is open from early till midnight most days.

A hidden gem or secret spot of Bilbao with kids - a place only locals know about

Travel Advice For Families Visiting Bilbao

  • Bilbao is relatively small and if you break up your trip into two sections – north and south of the river – there is no need to have to use public transport.
  • Bilbao’s climate is such that the winters are mild and the summers can be humid. It is also the wettest area of spain so pack accordingly – light cagoules are ideal waterproofs.
  • There are several other museums in Bilbao that I haven’t mentioned here but that get very good reviews; The Basque Heritage Museum and The Maritime Museum are the 2 I would have liked to explore with the children.

 

So there you have it – how to spend a fun 2 days in the easy going city of Bilbao with your family and find something for everyone. Having snack-like food on tap at the pintxos bars and plenty of open space to run around makes it the perfect location for kids and the inspiring modern architecture is surely enough to encourage an enquiring mind and a desire to see more of the world!

Pin For Later…

Discover the city of Bilbao with the kids : A two day itinerary of all the best bits, places of interest, tourist attractions, where to stay and where to eat. A full weekend guide for a trip with kids! #Bilbao #familytravel #Guggenheim

 

Wander Mum
Not Just the 3 of Us

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Jurga says:

    Looks like a beautiful city, one I never even considered to visit, with or without kids. But you had me at pintxos. While I wouldn’t describe my kids as foodies at all, snacks, finger food, and bar crawl would be a big hit with them.
    Just one more question – wasn’t it too hot in summer? I never even considered a city trip in Southern Europe in summer…

    1. Alex says:

      They class it as an Atlantic climate and after spending 3 wks in France, Spain and Portugal, Bilbao was such a relief – it’s wetter which means in the summer it can be humid but the temperatures are much lower than the rest of Europe. I actually had my cardigan on, in August! Plus they get a lot of overcast days.

  2. I’ve always wanted to visit Bilbao. For the Guggenheim, the pintxos, all of it. We almost went to San Sebastian this summer and were saying that the pintxos would have been perfect for the kids! #fearlessfamtrav

    1. Alex says:

      Yes, San Sebastian is next on our list!

  3. Allison says:

    Bilbao sounds like a fascinating city. I love the idea of pintxos. They seem like the perfect way to sample multiple flavors without getting stuffed right off the bat. #fearlessfamtrav

  4. Leona says:

    This looks like the perfect blend of activities for families. Id love to visit the museum #fearlessfamtrav

  5. This city looks very interesting! I never let other people’s opinions change what I want to see. Looks like you managed to have a good time nonetheless! Although I’d be willing to go here to try the Pintxos and compare them to Tapas! #CityTripping

  6. Annabel says:

    This is such an inspiring post! I loved the pintxos when we travelled through the Basque region about 10 years ago (I actually thought they were tapas so I was really disappointed not to find them all over Spain). We didn’t stop in Bilbao so I’d love to go back, esp now I have kids in tow. #Citytripping

  7. I am so hoping to go to Bilbao someday. It looks so cool! #citytripping

  8. What a great guide! We came so close to visiting Bilbao a few years ago when in the Basque region but didn’t have time. We drove past the Guggenheim and that would be absolutely be first on my list – the kids would have no option!! Perhaps a weekend break is in order. Thanks for linking #citytripping

  9. Wow Alex such a comprehensive guide. We have always avoided Bilbao as we didn’t hear very good reports but after this we are definitely visiting next ferry trip. It seems with the visit for the art and out course the pintxos. Yum! #fearlessfamtravel

  10. chickenruby says:

    Sounds a fantastic place to visit, I’ve never been and the kids have now left home, but when we move back to the UK it is somewhere on our list to explore, especially now you’ve explained the pub crawl and pintxos #tweensteensbeyond

    1. Alex says:

      Oh yes, I’d love to go back without kids – it’s such a fun city.

  11. Vicky says:

    This is such a great round up of your trip! I have wanted to go to Bilbao for so long – whilst also visiting San Sebastian – as I am a massive foodie and love this style of tapas. Bilbao looks like such a fab city – will keep this tips to hand! #citytripping

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I think that food crawl idea is brilliant. My son is only two, but I think he’d enjoy little snacks, especially since we’d be moving from place to place pretty constantly! What a great way to keep kids from getting bored! #citytripping

    1. Alex says:

      I know right! He’d love it!

  13. Katy says:

    What a fantastic guide Alex. I’d love to visit Bilbao and northern Spain. I must admit the Guggenheim is the major drawcard for me but I was wondering what family friendly attractions were on offer in the city. We reckon pintxos are the best family travel eating too. They also solve the late dinner problem in Spain as I found these bars were mostly open all day

    1. Alex says:

      Exactly. I don’t know how the Spaniards manage it – forget the kids, I’m starving by 6pm myself! It’s a good job wine has calories 😉

  14. Sharon Parry says:

    What an attractive place (great photos) and the food looks amazing as well! I love city trips with my teens so I’ll be bookmarking this one. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. This is my second read and what a perfect day to read of overseas travel and holibobs! You put so much time and effort into your travel posts Alex and they are always so very interesting. Certainly not a place I would have considered with a kid in tow but it shall now make it on to the Bucket List. I love the pictures and your animated detail in sharing this city with us. Pintxos sound like my kind of snack and I am very envious of the fact that your children are such good eaters. I aspire to this moment with a glass of red in hand. Thanks for sharing with #tweensteensbeyond

    1. Alex says:

      Thanks Nicky, you are always so very complimentary, and it’s especially nice to hear because I feel like my writing style has slumped and I’m never that happy with the finished product, so thanks for your kid praise 🙏

  16. Jane Taylor says:

    Bilbao sounds fab. I hadn’t realised the famous Guggenheim was there. It all looks amazing. I reckon I’d skip the seagull divebombing and either hide in the food court you described or visit the museum with you and leave the kids at home!! I love a good museum, I do!

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