Information & Facts
The climate of Bilbao is oceanic, rather humid but without wide extremes of temperature. The temperature ranges from an average of 70°F (21°C) in the height of summer to around 46°F (8°C) in mid-winter. The average annual rainfall is rather high, but is spread throughout the year, with the most rain being experienced during spring and autumn. Light snow is possible in winter.
Bilbao has an efficient underground metro service covering numerous destinations in the city between 6am and 11pm (earlier on Fridays), ticketed on a zone system. There is also a bus service, as well as a tram service, covering the city and taxis are freely available. Cars and bicycles are also available for hire.
A trip to the culturally prolific city of Bilbao may not be the most exciting destination to take the family, but upon closer inspection one will find there is plenty to do and see that will hold the attention of young minds. Take the kids to the city's top attraction, the Guggenheim museum, where entry is free for kids under 12 and they will be awed or floored by its design which resembles a gigantic metal flower. The artwork may not appeal to very young visitors, but if cleverly disguised, children will be sure to find their favourite picture inside - maybe even a Picasso! Take the kids on a ride up the Artxanda Funicular to the top of Artxanda Mountain, where the little ones can let of some steam in the park, enjoy the sports complex or simply be swept away by the incredible views over the city. Pack a picnic, some sunscreen and plenty of delicious treats and head off the to the Doña Casilda Iturrizar park where children can feed the resident ducks in the pond, take a stroll over the architecturally interesting Zubizuri bridge.
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.
Spain's official currency is the Euro (EUR). One Euro is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change and major hotels, but banks give the best rates. All major credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and shops. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining money.
Most of the city's shopping is centred round the Plaza Moyúa area, where the streets of Calle Rodriguez Arias and Calle Iparraguirre are lined with stores and boutiques. Head to Gran Via for department stores like Marks & Spencer and El Corte Inglés, or the Calle San Martin for high end fashion stores and boutiques, while the Ensanche and Old Town all the big designer names can be found. The beautiful historic shopping district of Casco Viejo features a good selection of specialty stores, while a visit to the Ensanche Market and Riverside Market is a must for anyone looking for fresh meats, breads, vegetables and other local produce. The Old Quarter of Bilbao is home to the largest covered city market in Europe and makes for a great shopping location for an afternoon. Great souvenirs to pick up while in Bilbao include Basque handicrafts such as linens and Basque dolls. Also a basque beret, known locally as txapelas,and souvenir artbooks from the Guggenheim. Most shops in Bilbao are open from 10am, with many shops taking a long break for lunch during the siesta hours, and reopening round 4pm or 5pm until as late at 8pm. Shopping hours are shorter on Saturdays while on Sundays, most stores are closed.
Bilbao is a fabulous city for travellers wanting to take in the sights, especially during the summer months between May and September when the weather is warm - perfect for spending days outdoors. From cultural and historic attractions to just good old-fashioned fine dining and entertainment, Bilbao has plenty to offer.
Start at the world-famous Guggenheim Museum, if only to marvel at the exterior of the building's innovative architecture with its titanium twists and curves. Art lovers shoulnd't miss the Museo de Bellas Artes, which boasts more than 6,000 works dating back to the 12th century while the Basque Museum focuses on the history and archaeology of the region. For the perfect holiday snaps, climb the Mallona stairs from the Plaza Unamuno to Parque Etxebarria for breathtaking views over the city.
History buffs should check out the Cathedral de Santiago, the oldest building in Bilbao, or the beautiful Gothic Basílica de Begoña which dates back to the early 1600s and whose spires can be seen throughout the city. Travellers in Bilbao who plan on doing lots of sightseeing should look into buying the Bilbao Tourist Card, which is available from all tourist offices around Bilbao and can be used for discounts on public transportation fares, admissions for museums , shows, shops and restaurants.
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October). The Canary Islands: GMT (GMT +1 in summer).