1. The Guggenheim – The heavy hitter of museums in Bilbao. You can’t visit the city without seeing Frank Gehry’s titanium monster. In my opinion, the outside of the museum is just as impressive (if not more) as the inside, and if you aren’t a fan of modern art, you won’t miss much if you don’t go in.
Walking around the Guggenheim is one of my favorite ways to pass rare sunny days in Bilbao. There is a café outside that features live jazz music, and people watching is at a premium.
There are also several art installations outside of the Guggenheim which are as iconic as the museum itself. My personal favorite is “Puppy” (or Poopy, as the locals call is), by Jeff Koons. The massive sculpture is made of thousands of colorful flowers that are changed to fit the season. The exhibit was originally supposed to be temporary, but the locals fell in love with the puppy, and begged the museum to keep it on permanently.
2. The Fine Arts Museum is one of my favorite museums in Spain. It’s a very simple building, but it houses a huge collection of art. They always bring in fascinating exhibits, and every Wednesday the museum is free.
Another cool thing that the museum does is host special talks about the work that the museum is doing in the art community and the paintings that the museum is restoring. During these presentations they offer complimentary snacks and txakoli (Basque white wine), so make sure you stick around for that! After checking out the museum, you can stroll through Parque Doña Casilda, a picturesque space right next to the museum that hosts a variety of bird life, from peacocks to ducks.
Museo Plaza, 2.
3. Basque Museum of Bilbao – If Basque culture interests you at all, you must visit the Basque Museum. The Basque Country is quite different from the rest of Spain, and this museum does a good job of explaining why. There are permanent exhibits that tell the history of the Basque people, and their struggle to preserve their culture. The gift shop is great, and you can buy replicas of the exhibits. You can also purchase traditional Basque music and clothing. While this museum isn’t as big or well known as the Guggenheim, culturally, it’s very important. If you’re in Bilbao, make sure you put this museum on your list.
Plaza Unamuno, 4
Liz Pitt is a Wisconsinite who transplanted to Bilbao, Spain. You can check out her stories and photos on her blog, http://www.lizenespana.com/p/who-is-liz.html