The 10 best things to do in Bilbao as a student

31 Aug 2021

Bilbao is a city of wonders, simultaneously cutting-edge and timeless. Nestled between the green of the surrounding mountains and the blue of the Bay of Biscay, this metropolis really does have something for everyone. Be it hiking or mountain biking, surfing or sunbathing, visiting the modernist Guggenheim Museum or catching a play at the Teatro Arriaga Antzokia, there is never a dull moment in this vibrant city. There is so much choice that it can be hard to know where to start, so we thought we’d give you a helping hand in identifying the 10 best things to do in Bilbao as a student.

1. Get to know the city with a boat trip along the Ría Bilbao

Bilbao sits on the banks of the Ría Bilbao as it winds towards the sea, and many of the major sites in the city are right on the river’s edge. Take a guided tour in style along the river to learn all about Bilbao’s heritage, history and culture, or for those of you who like adventure, why not take a kayaking tour instead!

2. Visit the sinuous Guggenheim museum

One of the buildings you’ll pass on your boat tour is the Guggenheim Museum. There is no building in Bilbao quite as captivating as this one. With its daring modernist architecture by Canadian-American Frank Gehry, its titanium cladding reflects the Sun’s rays, making it the perfect place to visit for budding photographers. Inside, you’ll find various exhibitions of contemporary art, with tickets for students aged 18 to 26 costing just 8 euros if you buy online.

3. Hit the waves with your surfboard

Learning to surf is great fun, and a brilliant way to put your Spanish to the test. Dip your toe into this exciting sport and take a trial lesson with one of the many surfing companies along the coast surrounding Bilbao.

4. Enter the world of Game of Thrones

It’s not just Bilbao that’s known for its glorious coastline. There are stunning beaches and clifftops all along the Bay of Biscay. Game of Thrones lovers will be delighted to hear that Bilbao is just one hour’s bus journey away from Dragonstone Island! The real location, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, is a rocky island outcrop linked to the mainland by a winding stone pathway, making it seem like a real-life fairytale. This gem of a site is well worth the visit!

5. Put your Spanish into practice at the Biblioteca Central de Bidebarrieta

We couldn’t have a list of the best things for students to do in Bilbao without suggesting at least one place of study. If you’re in need of a quiet moment, why not pop to the beautiful Biblioteca Central de Bidebarrieta to read a few Spanish novels and texts. This is the perfect way to unwind in a calm, relaxed environment away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

6. Have a picnic with your new friends on Mount Artxanda

If you’re looking for a laid-back day out instead, make the most of the sunny days by taking in the panorama of Bilbao from atop Mount Artxanda. This picturesque park offers great views of the city below and can be easily reached by the cable car that runs up the mountainside. You could make a day of it with the friends you’ve made during your time at the Instituto Hemingway!

7. Enjoy Bilbao’s exciting nightlife scene

Extend your fun day out with friends by heading to one of Bilbao’s many bars and restaurants in the evening. How about a cocktail at the up-and-coming Mula de Moscú bar, just 10 minutes from the Instituto Hemingway.

8. Txikitear

As the saying goes, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. One particularly fun way of exploring Bilbao is by following the Basque custom of txikitear - that is, hopping from bar to bar having a glass of wine (a txikito) and some of the pintxos (the Basque country’s form of tapas) on offer. There is literally no better way to get a flavour of Basque culture than with txikiteo.

9. Practice the Spanish you’ve learned in class at the Mercado de la Ribera

If you’re looking to practice your Spanish in daily interactions, the Mercado de la Ribera is the perfect place to pop into. At just six minutes’ walk from the Instituto Hemingway, you can buy some fresh ingredients for making dinner when you get home.

10. Explore the Casco Viejo

The Mercado de la Ribera is part of the Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s Old Town. This enigmatic area of the city is full of little shops, cafés, restaurants and bars, making it an ideal area of the city to take the time to explore. And best of all, it’s just a short walk over the bridge from the Instituto Hemingway!

We hope this article has helped you get a few ideas of all the wonderful things you could do during your stay in Bilbao with us! The Instituto Hemingway offers many of these activities for free as part of our cultural activities. Why not check out our calendar to see what fun events our students are getting up to each month!

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