Discover characterful bars, historic architecture, colorful independent stores and much more amid the largely pedestrianized streets of Bilbao’s atmospheric heart.
During your time in Bilbao, you may hear the city’s Old Town referred to by a range of different names. It’s often known as the Casco Viejo, but sometimes also called Las Siete Calles (in Spanish) or Zazpikaleak (Basque). These latter two nicknames, meaning “Seven Streets,” refer to the medieval streets that make up the core of the neighborhood.
Whatever you decide to call it, Bilbao Old Town is a wonderful place to spend time. Lose your way amid its maze of pretty, mostly pedestrianized streets, and you are sure to stumble across many interesting sights.
Head to Plaza Nueva on a Sunday morning to browse for one-off souvenirs at the flea market. This public square is one of the most popular spots in the Old Town, on any day of the week. It is a beautiful example of Neoclassical design, and is also known for its cafés, bars and restaurants. Sit outside and sample some pintxos, the northern Spanish take on tapas.
Walk south from the square for less than 5 minutes to reach the magnificent Catedral de Santiago, aka St. James’ Cathedral. Admire its beautiful exterior, a prime example of 14th-century Gothic architecture. Step inside for a moment of peace in its tranquil interior.
Within just a few minutes’ walk are several museums worth visiting. Learn about local history in the Bilboko Euskal Museoa and see the area’s past brought to life through archaeological artifacts in the Arkeologi Museoa. A little further to the east is the quirky Museo Pasos de Semana Santa, dedicated to religious art and Easter.
The Bidebarrieta Liburutegia Zentrale (Bidebarrieta Library) is one of the area’s most exceptional buildings. This grand 19th-century building is beautiful enough from the outside. Head inside, however, to truly appreciate its opulence.
The highlights of Bilbao Old Town sit on the eastern bank of the Nervión river. Make your way east from the main train station on foot for just under 10 minutes to reach Plaza Nueva, which is usually considered the hub of the neighborhood.