Traveling around Spain is easy—and there's so much to see, it's smart to take in a few cities while you're there. You might discover a hidden jewel along the way. Adding a trip to Bilbao if you're in Barcelona is just such a jewel.
Architect Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, built of titanium, glass, and limestone, is at the top of the list of must-sees in Spain, for its architecture, its magnificent art collection, and its sculpture. Architecture is also on display along the River Nervion, where you will see three stunning and unusual bridges.
If that's not enough to lure you, there are 40 Michelin-starred restaurants in Bilbao and the Basque country surrounding it. So if you like food and art, this city is not to be missed. If you are in love with tapas, called pintxos in the Basque Country, well, this place is definitely for you.
Barcelona to Bilbao Travel Options
There are several ways to get from Barcelona to Bilbao. You can go via public transportation via train or bus for an affordable ticket or rent a car if you don't mind driving in a foreign country. The car will cost quite a bit more, but it gives you the freedom to control your schedule, make interesting stops along the way, and get around quickly once you arrive in Bilbao.
The train from Barcelona to Bilbao takes about six hours and 45 minutes and is very affordable. There are usually three departures per day from Barcelona's Sants station in the Sants-Montjuic district (a little bit west of the city center). Book train tickets in Spain with Rail Europe in advance to cut down on time spent in lines at the station.
If you have some time to spare and prefer taking the bus, you can easily find regular buses throughout the day. The journey takes seven to nine hours and also is affordable. Buses from Barcelona to Bilbao depart from both the Sants and Nord bus stations.
You can book most bus tickets in Spain online at no extra charge. Just pay with a credit card and print out the e-ticket.
If you're up for a leisurely drive across the beautiful La Rioja landscape, rent a car, fire up the GPS, and hit the road. The 600-kilometer (373-mile) drive from Barcelona to Bilbao takes about 5.5 hours, traveling mainly on AP-2 and AP-68. (Note that AP roads are toll roads). A good road trip stop is Zaragoza, which is known for its medieval landmarks, or the wine-producing city of Logrono.
If you're a foodie, you have every reason to make this journey by car. One of the main appeals of the Basque Country is its tapas, and there is one city on the way to Bilbao that you need to check out if eating delicious food is high on your list of priorities: Logrono. If you have time during your trip, you can also book a tour of the breathtaking vineyards the area has to offer. There's so much to see (and eat and drink here) that you might want to make it an overnight stay at a nearby hotel.