Bilbao airport is the main hub for airlines flying to the Basque Country (though there are now a few flights to San Sebastian airport). The airport is close to Bilbao city center, making connections easy, while there are also regular buses to take you straight to San Sebastian
Which destination is better? Most visitors to the Basque Country spend more time in San Sebastian, due the the beach and pintxos (tapas) culture. Bilbao has pintxos too, but they in most bars they are only served cold. However, Bilbao is better for culture, as the Guggenheim museum is here.
Bilbao Airport to Bilbao City Center Bus Transfer
There is a well-established bus transfer service from Bilbao airport to the city center which runs throughout the day and is very cheap (around 1.50€). The service is run by Bizkaibus and starts early in the morning, in time for the first plane of the day. Many websites say the service starts at 6am but, in fact, there are buses earlier (starting around 05:20) to coincide with the early Vueling flights.
Catch the bus from the following stops:
- Termibus (Bilbao bus station)
- Plaza Moyua
- Gran Via 79
- Alameda Rekalde 14
But if you'd rather be taken straight from Bilbao airport to your hotel (or vice versa), you should consider a private airport transfer:
Bilbao Airport Transfer: Airport to Hotel
Bilbao Airport Transfer: Hotel to Airport
Direct Bus from Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian
There are three ways to get from Bilbao airport to San Sebastian - convenient, cheap and scenic. The latter two have the possibility of visiting the Guggenheim museum as part of your journey. Check out your options and decide which suits you best.
The bus from the airport to San Sebastian departs throughout the day, taking you to San Sebastian bus station in under an hour and a half. Note that the bus says 'Donostia' on the front, the Basque name for San Sebastian.
- Advantages It's quick and the services are frequent.
- Disadvantages It's expensive (around 17€ at the time of writing). And the company that runs the service, Pesa, has an awful website with no mention of the airport service, so it's difficult to find out the departure times. The journey is mainly by motorway and misses some of the beautiful Basque countryside.
From Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian via Bilbao Bus Station
The cheapest way from Bilbao airport to San Sebastian is to change at Bilbao bus station (Termibus). The service to the bus station costs around 1.50€ and runs throughout the day (every 20 minutes or so). Then you'll need to catch a bus from Bilbao to San Sebastian, which costs under 7€. Check the timetable at movelia.es.
- Advantages This way is much cheaper than going direct. It also gives you the possibility of visiting the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao for little extra fuss. There is a tram from Bilbao bus station direct to the Guggenheim and you can leave your luggage with the museum staff while you explore.
- Disadvantages There won't always be a well-timed connection. If you don't want to visit the Guggenheim, you might need to wait for your bus to San Sebastian. Again, this is not the most attractive journey as it goes by motorway. For the best experience of the Basque countryside, check out the next option.
The Scenic Route
If you have a lot of time on your hands, you could take the scenic Euskotren service. It costs around the same as the cheaper bus route above, but it takes you through some of the beautiful Basque countryside.
- Take the Bizkaibus from Bilbao airport to Bilbao bus station.
- Take the tram towards the city center (direction 'Atxuri'). You will pass the Guggenheim, which for many is most impressive from the outside. Get off here or continue to the end of the line.
- At Atxuri, take the Euskotren service to San Sebastian.
- Advantages This way is cheap (total cost is under 9 euros) and lets you see the Guggenheim and some of the beautiful scenery.
- Disadvantages This option takes a long time (in excess of three hours).