A city in transformation
Stretching for some 8.5 miles (14km) beside the Río Nervión, Bilbao (Bilbo) is a large city that seldom feels like one.
Even though its urban sprawl now fills the narrow valley, you can always see the green slopes of the mountains to either side beyond the high-rise buildings of the city center. You can make Bilbao a stop-off on your MSC Cruises holiday in the Northern Europe.
The biggest city in the Basque Country, serving as the capital of Bizkaia province, it has plenty to offer, from its exuberant cutting-edge architecture and stimulating museums to its friendly inhabitants.
Despite its name, the Casco Viejo (“old town”), is not in fact the oldest part of Bilbao. The city started out as a cluster of small fishing villages on the left bank of the river, whereas the Casco Viejo grew up across the river between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries. All the oldest buildings that still survive, however, are now concentrated here, and during a shore excursion it’s the most enjoyable area to explore on foot.
This tight-knit labyrinth of old stone lanes, filled with bars and restaurants and cradling the delightful arcaded main square, the Plaza Nueva, also holds some interesting museums.
Frank Gehry’s astounding Museo Guggenheim looms over the left bank of the Río Nervión, ten minutes’ walk west of the Casco Viejo. Completed in 1997, it was hailed by architect Philip Johnson as “the greatest building of our time”.
MSC Cruises also offer excursions to San Sebastián, which ranks among the great resort cities in Europe. While the superb sheltered beach on its very doorstep is the biggest attraction of all and an ideal cruise excursion, San Sebastián also boasts a charming old-town core, the Casco Viejo, squeezed up against the foot of verdant Monte Urgull.
Excursions & Activities
Reach the Port
From the centre of Bilbao, starting from Plaza Moyua, take the Recalde Zumarkalea and then Salbeko Zubia roads to and through the Artxanda-Salbe tunnel north of the city. Exiting the tunnel, take the N-637 (Txorierri) north-west to the junction with the BI-637, taking the exit for the BI-637 towards Avavanzada and Getxo. At the Artatza roundabout, take the second exit, signposted "Kruzeroen kaia / Cruise pier".
After 600 metres, turn right, following the same signposting, and position yourself in the left-hand lane. After a further 67 metres, you will come to a junction where you need to turn left.
After 650 metres, you will reach a roundabout. Take the second exit towards the Marina and 400 metres down this road you will reach the entrance to the Cruise Terminal, with a parking area alongside.
The main Train Station in Bilbao is Abando Station on Plaza Biribila, 2, 48008, Bilbao. The station is served by long-distance lines from all over Spain and offers direct access to the Abando Bilbao Metro station, which you can use for your onward journey to the port. Take line 1 towards Bidezabal and Plentzia and get off at Gobela or Neguri station, which are 1 km and 1.5km respectively from Getxo, where the Cruise Terminal is located. You can take a taxi from either of these Metro stations to the cruise terminal. Alternatively the port is a 20-25 minute walk from the stations. You can also take a taxi from the taxi rank outside the station direct to the Cruise Terminal.
Bilbao airport is located just 5 km from the city centre and offers several convenient options for you to complete your journey to the port.
There is a taxi rank immediately outside the terminal and a bus service into the centre. The 3247 bus service to Bilbao goes to Plaza Moyua in the city centre and Bilbao Bus Terminal every half hour between 6:15 and 24:00. You can then take the Metro to finish your journey to the Cruise Terminal.
If travelling by bus from the Airport to the Cruise Terminal, you can take the Metro to finish your journey, whichever of the stops you get off at on the 3247 bus route in Bilbao City Centre (see above). The Metro will take you to Getxo where the Cruise Terminal is located. Take line 1 towards Bidezabal and Plentzia and get off at Gobela or Neguri station, which are 1 km and 1.5km respectively from Getxo. The port is a 20-25 minute walk away, but you can also take a taxi from either of these Metro stations to the Cruise Terminal.