Guggenheim and wine: day trip from Bilbao to Rioja

Bilbao, in northern Spain – with its centrepiece Guggenheim Museum and a Michelin-star-packed restaurant scene – pairs up perfectly with a Rioja wine tour, just a short journey away.

In Bilbao, the Guggenheim is famously home to works by Kandinsky, Picasso and Chagall, and people flock from around the world to visit this cultural gem. It transformed the once-humble Basque city of Bilbao into a dazzling destination when it opened in 1997. The building itself is a showpiece, designed by renowned architect Frank O Gehry, and constructed from titan, sandstone and glass, it rises spectacularly from the waterfront of the Bay of Biscay.

Gehry created the building in his typical deconstructivist style with corners and edges replaced by waves, arches and curves. It’s a sight to behold and makes the perfect accompaniment with a visit to the Marques de Riscal vineyard in Rioja, with a spectacular winery and hotel building also designed by Gehry.

There is no best time to visit Bilbao – as a cultural city, there are exhibitions and events all year round, and the Guggenheim is open all day (10am – 8pm) and every day apart from Mondays. So whenever you’re planning your visit to the north of Spain, you can easily add a Rioja wine tour from Bilbao to your itinerary.

When you’ve drunk in all that art and architecture, it’s time to experience Bilbao’s fine dining and tapas scene. Here follows some of our favourites…

Best Bilbao restaurants

Eneko Atxa Azurmendi has to be the chef of the city, with no fewer than three restaurants, all with Michelin stars, in and around Bilbao:

Azurmendi

This restaurant has three Michelin stars and takes a unique approach – you start your visit on the rooftop garden to inspect the freshly grown vegetables that will be incorporated into your meal. Then it’s down via the kitchen to an indoor greenhouse for some tasters before you take a seat in the spectacular dining space with floor-to-ceiling windows providing gorgeous views.

Eneko

Eneko is a new addition to Bilbao’s dining scene, located in the heart of the city in the Euskalduna Palace and has already gained a Michelin star. Enjoy the elegant surroundings as coffees and cocktails are prepared in front of you, or opt for the terrace with stunning views of Bilbao.

Eneko-Bilbao

Beautifully located above its sister restaurant, Azurmendi, as well as the Gorka Izagirre winery. Eneko-Bilbao has a Michelin star for its menu that draws from traditional Basque cooking.

Etxebarri

Set in a dramatic landscape on the outskirts of Bilbao, the Michelin-starred restaurant Etxebarri is headed up by chef Victor Arguinzoniz. He’s known for cooking everything over a grill, so all courses – even dessert – have the taste of fire. The restaurant was voted 3rd best in the world in the Restaurant Top 50 Awards in 2019.

Mina

Mina takes its name from the former mine that lies beneath it on the riverside in Bilbao. The dining spaces are beautifully designed with rustic details and views of the kitchen. Here you can tuck into tapas dishes that are all crafted with locally sourced ingredients.

Bilbao’s pintxos bars

Bilbao is a brilliant city for eating pintxos – the Basque Country’s take on Spain’s well-known tapas. The city abounds with pintxos bars dedicated to them and it’s a great way to sample various regional delights. Or why not try out a few different bars and stop off for a dish or two of pintxos as you wander the city.

The best place to start is Calle Ledesma, in the city centre – a vibrant street of pintxos bars with their al fresco tables lining all the way down the middle.

You can easily reach the Rioja wine region on a day trip as part of your holiday in Bilbao – simply contact us to plan your dream trip.