Olé! You’re in Bilbao, Spain! But it’s raining non-stop since you got here. Or there is some heavy rain in the forecast. What can you do in Bilbao when it rains? I list the best indoor activities in Bilbao that are fun and will make you forget about the rain!
When you planned your trip to Bilbao, you probably found all the amazing things to do in Bilbao. You probably checked out Instagram and saw blue skies and happy people wandering around the town. With impressive views from the Mount Artxanda viewpoint and walking tours of the city, it seems Bilbao is a sunny weather destination.
Because after all, Bilbao is in Spain, and Spain is a sunny weather destination, right? But that’s not always the case: it actually rains quite a lot in Bilbao!
So what are some fun things to do in Bilbao when it rains? Here are some indoor activities in Bilbao to entertain you on those rainy days in Bilbao.
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What to do in Bilbao when it rains?
When you find yourself in a short rain shower, you just postpone your plans for an hour. Or you’ll bring an umbrella and rough it. But when it rains for hours on end, soaking the streets, your jacket, and your shoes, it is a whole different story.
But how can you enjoy the charm of a city when it is grey and you can’t even see the other side of the street? You need to find some activities in Bilbao for rainy days, to still enjoy what the city has to offer.
Are you visiting Bilbao and is rain in the forecast? Don’t despair, with these 12 rainy day activities in Bilbao, you’ll still have a great time!
1. Visit the amazing Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
Let’s start with the obvious thing to do in Bilbao, especially when it rains: visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Museums are always a good idea for indoor activities when it rains, but the Guggenheim is also a must-do when in Bilbao. I was amazed by the art, the installations, and the experiences at the Guggenheim Museum.
I think I spent a good portion of the morning wandering the exhibition rooms, getting lost in the artwork installations and enjoying a very good pintxos lunch at their café.
A lot of the charm of the Guggenheim is also located outside, but save that for a sunny day or when it’s no longer raining. Focus on the interior to escape the rain!
Consider booking a guided tour of the museum. Included are skip-the-line tickets, and a live guide, and after the tour of 2 hours, you can stay as long as you want (or until the rain stops).
2. Dive into Pintxos culture with a Food Tour
Bilbao is home base for Pintxos or Pinchos. These are bite-sized snacks, usually served on a slice of bread, with some delicious gourmet food pinched on top.
It seems to be a national sport in Bilbao, hopping from one pintxos bar to the next, having a drink and a pintxo, before moving on to the next pintxos bar. You can do it for lunch, pre-dinner snacks, or as a whole evening-filled program.
Although people spill out of bars on a balmy warm evening, eating pintxos is very much an indoor event, perfect for those rainy evenings in Bilbao.
But it can be difficult to find the right bar, the kind of pintxo that you might like best, and squeezing yourself into a crowded bar (especially when it rains) can be quite a challenge. That is why I highly recommend this food tour in Bilbao which I enjoyed very much.
Read all about my evening of pintxos eating in Bilbao in this post.
DIY self-guided Pintxos tour under covered arched walkways
Don’t feel like joining a tour? Or are there none available on your desired dates and times? Don’t worry. Head to the Plaza Nueva.
This lively square in the middle of the old town of Bilbao has a covered archway surrounding the square. Along the covered walkways you’ll find some of the best and most popular pintxos bars in Bilbao. Hop from one to the other and stay covered from the rain, while filling your tummies with delicious Basque food.
3. Visit La Ribera covered market hall
Another great foodie place for a rainy day is the La Ribera food market. This covered marketplace is home to some of the best grocers, butchers, and fishmongers in town.
But they also have great charcuterie, cheeses, and pintxos bars. It can be packed during lunch hours, but at any time of the day, your senses will be tingling with colors and textures, smells and sounds. Dig in!
4. Head indoors at other museums
Bilbao has a surprisingly wide range of museums, and they offer great shelter from the rain. If you’re not a museum or art fan, or you’ve already visited the Guggenheim, then it might be a bit much.
But if the rain is coming down non-stop, Bilbao’s museums offer a great opportunity to learn and see new things. Here is a selection of some great Bilbao museums that are great for indoor activities.
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
The Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao is located not far from the Guggenheim inside the Doña Casilda Iturrizar. However, the Fine Arts Museum offers a more contemporary approach to art.
With works from El Greco and Gauguin and rotating exhibitions, it offers an insight into the art scene from the Middle Ages til today. They mainly focus on works from Spanish, Basque, and European artists.
Archeological Museum of Biscay
I like archeology, that is why I’d like to include the Archeological Museum of Biscay. Here you’ll find the findings of excavations work done in the Biscay region dating from the Palaeolithic till the modern day.
A fun thing to notice is the museum is housed in an old Railway station building.
Itsas Museum in Bilbao
The Itsas Museum is Bilbao’s Maritime Museum. It is located in the former Eukalduna shipyards and it tells the history of maritime life on the Ría de Bilbao and its port. You’ll also find stories and objects about maritime culture in general.
The museum has both an outside and inside area, so check the weather before heading outside. Buy your tickets for the Itsas Museum in advance via this link.
5. Pray for better weather at one of Bilbao’s cathedrals and churches
Even if you’re not religious, you can wish for the weather to change. What better place to seek shelter from the rain than in Bilbao’s Cathedral and churches?
This is the main Cathedral of Bilbao, located in the old town. This 14th-century church was only declared a cathedral in 1950. The name Santiago Cathedral derives from the Spanish name for Saint James the Great, Santiago.
As Bilbao is connected on the Camino Norte, to Santiago de Compostella, this can be very confusing. The Cathedral is open Monday to Saturday for visits.
A combination ticket to visit Bilbao Cathedral and the San Antón Church is €6 for adults (at the time of writing). Buy your tickets in advance here.
This could very well be the most important church in Bilbao for the people of the city. Named after the Virgin of Begoña, this church is located on a hill outside the old town.
You can walk up the stairs, or take a convenient elevator from the San Nicolas de Bari church. Pay special attention to the arch above the main entrance and stick around for the ringing of the (26!) bells.
6. Visit La Catedral – San Memés football stadium
If you ask locals in Bilbao to guide you to the Cathedral, they will not give directions to their church. Instead, they will point at the San Mamés football stadium, also known as La Catedral dél Futbol.
Home to the local pride, Athletic Club de Bilbao, you can visit the impressive stadium. Even if you’re not a big fan of football/soccer, it is a nice way to avoid the rain and learn some things about Bilbao’s history!
7. Take a tour of the Arriaga Theatre of Bilbao
If you enter the old town of Bilbao, the Theatre is hard to miss. The Arriaga Theater was built in 1890 as Bilbao’s opera house and theatre. It was inspired by the Paris Operahouse and was built by the same architect who designed the town hall of Bilbao.
Of course, you have to be lucky to catch a performance, but there are also regular 50-minute tours (mostly on weekends) of the building and stage. Check out the options here.
8. Go on a La Rioja Wine Tour
A part of the famous Rioja wine region is located within the Basque country. Maybe the weather is better there, as it is located some 115 km inland, near Logroño.
Take a guided tour from Bilbao and head out to the Rioja wine region. Tour the vineyard (weather permitting) and the winery (indoors).
And of course, the tour isn’t complete without a nice lunch and sampling some of the best wines of the Rioja wine region.
9. Take a day trip to a different region
Of course, make sure to check the weather forecast. But the weather might be better if you head away from the coast and take a day trip to other interesting cities like Pamplona or Burgos.
Day trip from Bilbao to Pamplona
Pamplona is located some 150 km (93 miles) inland. I don’t know if Pamplona needs any introduction, because it is so famous for running with the bulls.
But even if you don’t visit in July, there is plenty to see in this charming old town. From Bilbao, there are regular buses that will take approximately 2 hours. This leaves you with plenty of time to explore Pamplona in the Navarre region.
Burgos day trip from Bilbao
Another major town, Burgos located in the Castile and Léon region. It is famous for its impressive cathedral and main hub of Camino walkers.
You can reach Burgos, located 160km (100 miles) from Bilbao by bus. It will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Basque Country Day Trip to San Sebastian
Of course, you can take your chances and see if the weather is any better in San Sebastian. Donostia- San Sebastian is also located on the coast, 100 km (60 miles) from Bilbao.
I was lucky, that the weather was gorgeous on my day trip, as we visited San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the Basque Country with sunny weather. By the time we arrived in San Sebastian, the day had turned into a glorious sunny day.
10. Relax at the Cat Cafe of Bilbao – Café de Gatos
Would you rather stay in Bilbao, relax, have coffee, and just be comfortable? Did you know Bilbao has a real cat cafe?
Relax and hang out and let the foster cats come to you for some petting, cuddling, or just some amazing (Instagram) pictures of the little felines!
The Café de Gatos is located not far from the old town. But book in advance. For full details, check their website.
11. Pamper yourself with a spa day in Bilbao
Whenever the weather turns grey and cold, I love to snuggle up and keep warm. What better way to relax on your vacation or city break than to pamper yourself with a spa day in Bilbao?
Relax, get a massage, float around in the indoor pool, get a mani & pedi, and feel the stress of travel on a rainy day melt away. This is really the ultimate indoor activity, and you don’t even mind that you’ll get wet!
But where to go? Here are some options:
Hotels with a wellness center in Bilbao
There are not that many, but here are a few of Bilbao’s hotels that offer Spa and wellness facilities. Always check the rules and regulations and call ahead for treatments.
- Radisson Collection Bilbao has a fitness and wellness center (sauna)
- The Occidental Bilbao has a small spa and indoor and outdoor pool
- Catalonia Gran Via Bilbao has a spa and wellness center, with a solarium and steam room
- Hotel Mercure Jardines de Albia has different treatment services and a Hamman
Spa Jardines de Albía
If you’re not staying in any of these above-mentioned hotels with spa and wellness services, then you can still go to the Jardines de Albía Spa. This is open for day guests too.
They offer different types of massages and treatments and a full wellness ritual. The website is in Spanish, but you can check for more details here.
12. Go shopping in Bilbao’s shopping centers
Stay indoors, hide from the rain, and do some retail therapy. Go shopping! Bilbao has several big shopping malls that are perfect for those rainy days in Bilbao.
Don’t expect quirky little bookshops and vintage boutiques, but mainly big chain stores of big brands, food courts, and cinemas multiplexes.
- Zubiarte Shopping Mall, located in the center of Bilbao is conveniently open till late at night
- El Corte Ingles, the famous Spanish warehouse brand is always fun for a visit
- Megapark Barakaldo, is HUGE! It is the 4th largest shopping mall in Spain and will be very busy on a rainy day. It is located in the Barakaldo area and you’ll need a tram and bus ride to get there
Bonus Tip: Hibernate indoors and read blogs
If you don’t feel like going out because it’s raining. Or if you have followed all my other tips about things to do in Bilbao when it rains already, then I have one last bonus tip for you.
Just stay inside. Pick a nice café or bar, grab a book, or keep on reading this blog! Here are some other inspirational posts:
- Is Bilbao Worth Visiting? 6 Reasons To Visit Bilbao Spain
- Ultimate Basque Country Day Trip from Bilbao Spain
- Why A Pintxos Food Tour In Bilbao Spain Is An Absolute Must-Do
- Barcelona Off The Beaten Path – 7 Barcelona Hidden Gems To Discover
- 11 Persuasive Reasons To Visit Andalucia, Spain this year
- 9 Fun Things To Do in Porto When It Rains
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Bilbao and it’s raining non-stop, or you have a trip planned and rain is in the forecast. With my 12 things to do in Bilbao when it rains, you keep dry and see the city of Bilbao!
Let me know, what is your go-to activity when it rains? Drop a comment in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.