12 Very Best Locations to See in Casco Viejo (Bilbao)
The old town, known as Casco Viejo, in Bilbao, is the birthplace of the city. It's famous for its nightlife, food, shopping and sightseeing. Check out the 12 very best must see locations in Casco Viejo, Bilbao.
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At the end of this article a map of the locations has been attached if you'd like it for a reference. It includes a walking route that will make sure you see all the spots listed in this article. It will make your journey more direct and efficient. It is strongly recommended that you DO NOT use it. Take your time, get lost, enjoy.
The bandstand is located next to the playground in Areatza Park. If you're walking over the Areatza Bridge towards Casco Viejo it will be on your left hand side. This bandstand has stained glass windows, a small moat that surrounds it and a café underneath. The surrounding park is lined with the large oak trees that the province of Biscay is famous for.
San Nikolas Cathedral
The San Nikolas Cathedral is across the street from Areatza Park towards the Casco Viejo Metro station. This gothic era cathedral has two beautiful bell towers and a functioning clock tower. Construction began in 1743 and took 13 years to complete.
The Cathedral is open from 10:00-13:00 and 17:30 to 19:30. Admission is free.
Plaza Nueva is one of the main focal points of Casco Viejo if you are venturing into the old town. The plaza itself is surrounded by apartments that overlook the square and restaurants below.
Though eating in the plaza is often more expensive than in other areas, the energy here is unparalleled. It's worth sitting down for a glass of wine and a pintxo while you let yourself be immersed in the architecture and ambiance.
Joan Santuen Church
This is the smallest of the churches in Casco Viejo but may also be the most charming. It doesn't have any tall bell towers but rather some understated columns at the front that make it feel more part of the neighborhood rather than a castle-like fortress.
Miguel Unamuno Plaza
The Miguel Unamuno Plaza is one of the more active areas in the old town region. It has an entrance to the Metro Bilbao Subway systems for lines 2 and 3. It hosts many pubs and restaurants with good sized patios as well as a couple of museums.
San Anton is located on the far side of Casco Viejo along the Nervion River. If you have ever looked at the crest of Bilbao you will see this church gracing it. For this reason, San Anton is the most famous place of worship in the city. The tall bell tower is the most prominent feature which is worth studying.
Next to the church is the San Anton Bridge which also plays a dominant role on the city crest. Look out for the two stone dogs that guard the city from unwelcome visitors. Just to be clear, the two dogs are statues!
The Ribera Market is a spot that everyone should end up at at some point. Here there are a ton of different establishments to eat and drink at.
Recognized as the largest indoor city market in the world you will definitely be entertained; or at least your eyes and stomach will be. Whether you want meat, vegetables, pintxos or poultry, you will find it here.
This cathedral is located in the Done Jakue plaza, which features the beautiful Santiago fountain and a couple lovely dining patios. Smaller than the other churches in Casco Viejo, this one is one of the most elegant. The thin white steeple rising to the heavens is particularly stunning.
Wander Casco Viejo's Seven Streets
Wandering the seven streets is pretty much the point of being here. You'll come across everything you need to see if you just take your time to get lost. Casco Viejo has lots of quirky places to pop into along with high end shopping. There is a Basque Cultural Centre, dozens of fabulous restaurants and it's all to be discovered down the narrow streets of this more than 500 year old neighborhood.
The Stone with the Compass Rose
At the intersection of Andra Maria Kalea, Txakur Kalea and Pilota Kalea there is a large engraved stone on the ground with a compass rose on it. If you were not looking for it you would probably never see it.
So what's it about?
If you stand on the compass rose and look above the rooftops of Casco Viejo you are able to see the bell tower of Begona Basilica. It is the only location in the Old Town where this is possible.
The Arriaga theater is a true jewel. The detail put into the 19th century construction is phenomenal. The stairs heading down to the plaza in front of the cathedral often double as seating to the many live events that take place out front.
Inside the theater does not disappoint. It is quite ornate and the acoustics are on point. There are a variety of productions that are staged here that are worth seeing. If that's not your thing you can also book a guided tour.
The Public Library
The Library of Casco Viejo might be the most underrated attraction in the Old Quarter. Located on Bidebarrieta Street it houses more than 100,000 books. It is free to enter and may be one of the nicest libraries you step into. The large windows, vaulted ceiling and chandeliers are lovely.
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